Special thanks to Rich Faler and Ralph Scherder with the American Trapper magazine for allowing me to reprint this article. The following was printed in the July/Aug 2020 edition. If you are not a member of the NTA, please consider joining.
Shon Ingram, 47, hails from Sevierville, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains. Although he enjoys trapping multiple species, he specializes in trapping raccoons with dog-proof traps and has developed his own line of coon lures and baits which are sold through his business English Mountain Lures. He is also a full-time firefighter and does animal damage control work.
Ralph Scherder: How did you get started trapping?
Shon Ingram: I’m a transplant from Alabama. I used to be in the healthcare management business and just woke up one morning and decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. I came to this area of Tennessee and really liked it, so I decided to stay. I became a firefighter and started trapping. That was about 10 years ago.Being from Alabama, I was a big deer hunter. But here in east Tennessee, the deer population isn’t like in other places, and I got tired of hunting and not seeing any deer. I decided I needed to find another hobby, and that’s when I discovered trapping. I found something I liked with the dog-proofs (DPs), and I just immersed myself in it from the beginning.
RS: What was it about dog-proof traps that you really liked?
SI: We have a lot of coon hunters where I live that have high-dollar hunting dogs. In that area, there’s a dislike for trappers who use coilspring traps and snares. A lot of it is lack of education about these traps. They don’t understand them and how they work, and they think the coilsprings will hurt their dogs. I wanted to avoid any conflict, so I started using dog-proofs and just fell in love with them.I enjoy trapping other animals, too, and I like using cable restraints. But I’ve really put all of my ducks into learning how to use dog-proof traps. In my animal damage control business, I don’t do much urban stuff. Most of what I do is for farmers, controlling beavers, snaring coyotes, or setting DPs for coon in their barns. Those are the types of trapping I like best.
RS: Are you running mostly dryland sets or trapping around creeks?
SI: This is mountain country, so there are a lot of creeks and high ridges and everything in between. I have a lot of agricultural fields to trap, too.
RS: When trapping different types of terrain, how do your techniques change?
SI: They change, but mainly it’s just getting a raccoon to work the trap. They have to want to eat whatever bait you put in the tube. When trapping the ridges, I lure things differently. That’s where most of your big boar coon live or are traveling, especially during mating season, so I use more gland-based lures. In the creeks and agricultural areas, I definitely use more food-based lures.
RS: When you say gland lures, are you referring to raccoon gland lures or from other species, too?
SI: I use a lot of raccoon gland lure, and I’ve also had great success with beaver castor. Just about any animal is attracted to castor. It works great for everything, even coyotes. One of the trapping lures we offer has a hint of beaver castor in it, and it’s probably one of our best sellers.
RS: How important is it to use bait that raccoons find tasty and want to eat? When I’ve used DPs, it just seems like they work the trap harder when I’m using bait that tastes good to them.
SI: That’s a definite. For instance, if you’re using just a straight gland lure in the DP, they’re really not going to reach into the tube. They’re reaching in because they’re trying to get something to eat. If I’m using a gland lure, I use bait, too. The gland lure is just to get them in the vicinity, get them to stop and actually work the trap.
RS: Do you find much difference in how raccoons work a DP during the early season as opposed to late season?
SI: I do. Early season, I think they’re more focused on lures and baits that are fruit- or berry-based. Late winter, they’re more into protein-based, meat-type baits that provide an opportunity for more than what’s available in the woods that time of year. By then, a lot of their food sources have dried up and they’re looking for something substantial.
RS: During the early season, when food is more available, you’re also competing with those food sources for a raccoon’s attention. How do you get them to work the trap even though so much other food is available?
SI: If I’m trapping a cornfield, raccoons already have all the corn they want to eat. If coons are coming into the cornfield to get food, they’re not going to be interested in a bait that also has corn in it, so you have to use something completely different. And I do that no matter what food source I’m trapping around. I always use a bait that smells different than whatever food is nearby.
RS: How did you get interested in making your own lures?
SI: When I first started trapping and got into some of the trapping groups on Facebook and other social media, people would say that you can catch a coon on anything. All you had to do was go to the store, buy a bunch of candy, throw it in a DP, and you’ll catch a coon. And that’s how I started out. I was getting store-bought stuff and having some success. So yes, you can catch a coon that way, but can you catch as many coons as you could be with better baits and lures? No. I started reading about lure formulation, experimenting with ingredients like all lure makers do. It’s really just trial and error. But once I developed a few lures and baits that were really working for me, I started giving them to other people to try on their traplines, and the feedback was great. People really liked the stuff. The business is growing, but it takes a lot to get your name out there. I focus mainly on lures and baits to use with dog proofs, and it’s been good.
RS: Raccoons can be awfully snooty at times, and I’ve seen them walk by a lot of sets, especially since I started using trail cameras so much. It often amazes me how many raccoons walk by a set. When we have a coon in the trap the next morning, we’re happy with the result, but we don’t ask ourselves how many walked by before we caught one of them.
SI: If a lure doesn’t catch their attention, they keep walking. I think they’re more finicky than people give them credit for. I use a lot of trail cameras on sets, too, and it can humble you. It shows you the importance of a good lure or bait, even when using DPs. Sure, just about anything will catch a coon. But it takes a good lure or bait to catch a lot of coon.
RS: Do you use many trailing scents?
SI: I do. I use a lot of oil-based trailing scents, and I use one that smells completely different than whatever bait I’m using in the tube. I’ve had the most success with anise oil. Raccoons love anise oil. They’ll walk a trail or roadway and hit that trailing scent and go right to the DP. Smoke oil is also extremely effective as a trailing scent.
RS: How do you stabilize and anchor your DPs?
SI: It depends on if I’m working creek bottoms or along a ridge. If I’m on the four-wheeler on a ridge, I already have my DPs baited and set and a cable on the chain so that all I have to do is look for a tree to attach it to. That’s the most efficient way to set a bunch of traps in a hurry. If I’m in a cornfield and there’s no tree to attach to, I use a cable stake. I’ve tried a number of ways of using these traps. I’ve dug holes and stuck the DPs in there to make a sort of pocket set. I’ve used rocks piled up around the traps. DPs are very versatile, which is what I like about them. You just need to make sure the trap is stabilized, either sticking straight up or angled in the ground. If it starts to lean too much, or falls on the ground, your catch rates really go down.I’ve used pretty much all types of covering on the traps that you can think of, everything from golf balls to aluminum foil to Styrofoam cups. But I don’t use them unless the weather’s going to be bad, such as heavy rain or snow.
RS: How do you prepare your traps?
SI: At the end of the season, I take all of my traps up to the carwash and pressure wash them, and then take them home and hang them up to dry. Make sure everything is cleaned out of the tube. Sometimes stuff can get stuck in there and prevent the triggers from moving adequately. Then I’ll either dip them or spray paint them. Once they’re done, I use a tiny bit of silicone spray to lubricate the springs.How I paint them depends on where I’m trapping. If I’m on public land, I use brown spray paint or camouflage, but if I know I’m the only trapper on a piece of property, then I like to spray them white. Studies have shown that raccoons see the white better at night, plus they’re easy to see when I’m checking traps on the four-wheeler. In high traffic areas, though, you have to camouflage them.
RS: Where do you see the future of trapping?
SI: I think the act of trapping itself has not changed a whole lot, but everything else has changed. NAFA has gone under. Prices are down. Not many trappers are actually making money fur trapping, unless they’re species-specific and put up huge numbers. But do I think that it’s going to come back? Yes. It always does. The big question is when. Nobody can predict the future as far as when fur prices will go back up. Sooner or later the market on raccoons will come back. They’ve got to. And when they do, I hope to be here to see it.I’ve had a lot of great people help me get started in the lure business. But I’ve also had others say that I’ll never “make it big” in the lure business because all I focus on are raccoons, and there’s not much money to make right now in coons. One very well-known lure maker, in particular, has been a great mentor to me, and he told me that you have to make your own niche in this business. You can’t be everything to everybody, so find something that you love and focus on that. For me, that has been trapping raccoons with dog-proof traps and making lures and baits that help other trappers enjoy it more, too. •