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Understanding the Deadfall Trap and Passive Survival Food Sourcing

Understanding the Deadfall Trap and Passive Survival Food Sourcing

The Survival Food Fantasy

Squatting behind a large fallen oak, you stand at the ready with your hand-carved bow and cedar arrows. You are a marble statue and the woods hardly notice you. Neither does the giant whitetail deer. You pull back your bow and prepare to fire on what will become your first survival meal. Your mind couldn’t be further from the thought of a deadfall trap.

In this fantasy, you are actively hunting and sourcing your food. Whether you are carrying a .22 rifle, a crossbow or a compound bow, you are still actively hunting.

In this position, you are going to be burning a lot of calories to, somewhat, “hit the hunting lottery” on wild game that is large enough to feed you and those in your party. It’s not to say that it doesn’t work. People do it every year.

However, you must be present, and you cannot decide that suddenly the shelter needs attention or you need more firewood. All of this must happen after the fact. Therefore, active hunting in a survival scenario can be a very bad decision.

Unless you know the area well and you are versed in hunting with a ton of experience.

For the bulk of people in the wilderness, you are going to want to employ some form of passive food procurement. This could be fishing or trapping. Either way, if set up properly, you can gather food while working on more important tasks, like being rescued or planning your next move.

It’s time to think more conservatively and consider passive food procurement over active hunting in a survival situation

Passive Survival Food Sourcing

One of the first things you will do when you start to understand passive food sourcing is reevaluating your survival gear. While you will still need a trusty survival knife, you might also want to add things like frog gigs and traps to your kit.

More of an emphasis will be put on those things that can be used as traps or used to build traps. You can even pack a DF-4 deadfall trap in your bag. This is a deadfall trap that is always ready to go. All you need is bait for it.

Bushcraft skills translate well into the world of trapping. They are important parts of the Bushcrafter’s toolkit. Your survival gear will help you but it’s going to require you have some skills. Learning how to make traditional traps is a worthwhile pursuit.

There are dozens of traps that can be made from minimal cordage, trees, and a good survival knife, like a Morakniv. With these three ingredients and some practiced skill, you can start passively sourcing food in the wild.

If you have limited time to dedicate to bushcrafting and traps, you should focus on these three:


Snares are traps that are designed to do just what it sounds like. They snare prey. A simple sapling, some cordage, a trigger, and a slipknot is all you need to create a rudimentary snare.

Snares often use external force to pull a line taught which snares the prey.

Snares are indiscriminate and they will tighten on legs, arms, bodies, and necks. They are not often killing traps. This means a few things. It means that your prey will be alive when you arrive to check that trap. It also means that the animal could have the ability to chew itself free.

Working with cordage and wood will always present this risk.

The size and location of your snare can make it more likely to snag the game more effectively.


The deadfall trap is very different than the snare in that it's designed to kill the animal. It’s in the name.

The deadfall is built around a large weight, usually a rock, that is triggered to crush the animal. This heavy rock must be large enough to asphyxiate its prey. The best practice is to find a rock that is three times the weight of the animal.

Deadfalls are a great trap to practice because you must create a trigger system from wood. This will test your skills with your Mora or other survival knives.

That is one of the motivations behind the DF-4 Deadfall trap. This is a metal trigger system that doesn’t require any carving.


A variety of traps can be made for fish. Weaving complex basket traps for fish and crawfish to setting up a simple fishing weir or maze style trap that makes it hard for a fish to find its way out.

Fish will always be the easiest source of protein to acquire. They are captive and unlike squirrels or other small game they cannot run up trees or into burrows.

Passive fishing tackle can be tied to sticks on the bank and are another very effective method for passively sourcing food.

Metal Traps over Crafted Wood Traps

Trapping is old. It’s likely the first way our ancestors were eating.

We didn’t start off with bows in our hands. It would have been spears and then atlatls to kill food to begin but before that humans surely used primitive trapping methods on land and in the water.

Being of European descent, my ancestors would have been using metal leg traps since the 1300’s. That is astounding! We have been using metal traps to catch food and furs for over 700 years!

There is a reason the native Americans went crazy when they saw metal for the first time. Imagine staking your life on bones and stone for millennia and then running into something that is incredibly durable and doesn’t lose its edge as fast.

Metal changed everything.

When it comes to food procurement, focusing on trapping makes sense and the best version of that is using metal traps. Metal traps are going to get the job done for you repeatedly.

Forget about spending time carving new triggers and that type of thing. If you invest in a 220 conibear you will have everything you need to catch small game and put food on the table. This is not conjecture. Its how trappers make their living today!

Most fur trappers depend on clamping snares so that the fur is not compromised. That is not the best way to procure food. Metal killing traps are the most efficient way to passively acquire food. Dead animals cannot shake loose, and you also don’t have to kill them when you happen upon those traps.

Metal is far superior. Let no one tell you differently. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have some bushcraft skills and know-how to make traps from wood and cordage. You are going to want to depend on metal.

Using a DF-4 Deadfall Trap

The only downside to carrying metal is that it is heavy. In other words, if you fill your pack full of large metal traps, you are going to be weighed down tremendously. The metal traps combined with the rest of your gear might require that you have some serious endurance and strength.

For smaller people, this might not be an option. The sizable metal traps could be too much for some people to even consider carrying.

Made of 6000 series aluminum, the DF-4 Deadfall trap is not only light, but it folds up into a minimal footprint. You will hardly notice it in your pack.

This is the most compact, durable kill trap that you are going to get your hands on. It is designed to mimic the efficient figure four deadfall.

Of course, this trap eliminates the need to carve those figure four triggers. The DF-4 opens using aircraft-style rivets. It features a type III hardened finish that makes it even more durable.

There are serious limitations to a wooden figure 4 deadfall trap trigger. The biggest issue is the fact that it will break under serious weight. This limits the size of the rock you can prop up. Of course, that limits the size of the prey that you can kill.

With the DF-4 Deadfall Trap, you can prop substantially larger rocks. This is because the trap is made from metal and not wood. We are back to the story of metal in survival. You are dealing with a base resource that will last much longer than wood and is much more durable.


To use the DF-4 Deadfall Trap you are going to need to consider your traps location. There is nothing stopping you from propping up a large rock in the middle of the field and bating the trigger. This would require your prey to move out into the open and take a serious risk.

Most animals don’t like to run out in the open, even at night. So, you are already asking a lot of your prey.

Instead, you should observe your area and look for several signs before setting your trap in any location.

  • Food
  • Tracks
  • Droppings
  • Water
  • Burrows
  • Paths

Each one of these is a sign that there are animals in the area. By using these signs, you can develop the very best trap placement possible. This will increase your chances of catching prey.

It's important to note that animals do not gravitate towards a trap like magic. The trap must be set with cunning, camouflaged and baited.

Place your DF-4 Deadfall Trap near a burrow or along a path that leads to water or food. Be sure to pile up leaves or other debris around the trap area so that it is concealed. With the DF-4 be sure that you don’t pile debris beneath the rock.

This could prevent the full weight of the rock from pressing down on your catch. It would make it easy for the animal to wriggle out and that could cost you dinner!

If the animal takes the bait it will trigger the rock to fall on top of it and that will then end of that creature. Be sure you check your traps daily, more often in hot weather, as they will start to rot, and the meat will spoil.

Process and smoke or cook that meat soon after catching it. Good fresh meat can be smoked and preserved for days or weeks if you know what you are doing. Try your very best not to live in a feast or famine lifestyle.


The deadfall trap is not the only means of gathering passive food in a survival situation, but it will get the job done! Snares, clamps, metal traps and even live traps are all great options. These traps are each unique and require a bit of a learning curve. You might want to invest in a good book that you can take out into the field.

While hunting and fishing are typically active means of getting food, we need to shift our mentality when it comes to efficiency. The more passive we can be with gathering resources, the better.

Here is one final example. Imagine you are collecting rain. You wouldn’t stand outside with your bottle in your hand to catch the most rain.

Instead, you would use hollowed-out trees, tarps and other mechanisms for catching, and holding, as much rain as possible. These things are working for you while you are working on other things. This is a vital piece of the survival puzzle.

If we are talking about a true survival situation, we need to factor time and effort into the rescue! That is a pretty high priority, right?

If you are crouched inside a bush with a hunting rifle, you are doing the exact opposite of getting rescued. You shouldn’t spend a lot of your time hiding if you are trying to get rescued. It is just common sense.

Change your mentality and look at food procurement as something that happens while you are doing other things. Of course, this takes some practice and a measure of faith. You cannot head into the woods without experience and expect to craft perfect traps and be successful.

In bushcraft and survival, everything is practice and experience. The wild tells very few lies. Either you will eat, or you won’t but that is up to you.

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