How to Build a Small Game Survival Snare For Rabbit

In Outdoors by M.D. Creekmore

Reading Time: 11 minutes

trap-basic-power-snare-setby SurvivorDan

Before we begin with a discussion of the construction of the most basic primitive/minimal* tension trap; a quick look at the ethics of primitive trapping.

Modern trap use is legal as long as you obey the local laws, licensing, seasons, limits, etc.

Primitive trapping is illegal in most places and definitely in my neck of the woods…er…desert. Exigent circumstances may negate that illegality.

It is to be used in an extreme emergency survival situation only. It is only for keeping you and yours alive in an all-out emergency survival situation. Even practicing setting your traps may run you afoul of the law.

Last year I took Mrs. Survivordan into a national forest and taught her to make a variety of traps. I had her cut the pieces of stick we would need in advance from private property with permission. Any saplings we used in the National Forest for tension were not stripped of ancillary branches and leaves. In other words, we left everything the way we found it.

All traps were sprung after completion, then disassembled and re-bagged. Nothing in that riparian area was disturbed. Still could have ended up having to do some fast talking with the local game warden or ranger. So be careful where you practice these techniques.

And pre-cut whatever devices you need for your traps. Even simply chopping and/or slashing greenery in a state park, National Park or National Forest may land you in a more modern trap. The local hoosegow. The lock-up. Jail. So obey the law and when walking that fine line betwixt legal and illegal while practicing primitive trap building, be law abiding………….and discreet.

Pre-Trapping Strategy

First, I rig up a shelter and build a small fire and put on some water. I dig a little slit trench. Then I sit down and prepare a cup of coffee or tea or some chow. I listen and observe while I work. Usually, while my food or java is heating I walk around the area and reconnoiter a bit. Look for critters and sign. Then I go back to the campsite and eat and drink. Gives me a chance to think about the lay of the land. Did I spy any critters?

Where were the game trails? Did I see any scat? Rub marks and wallows and such? Tracks down by the water (if any water)? If I determined there are game and what kind, for instance, rabbits, then I decide what kind of traps I am going to make and where I might put them.

For rabbits, I usually make a giant crossbow thingy that fires a great big eight-foot spear capped by a massive trident with exploding tips made from .357 magnum shells……….

I’m just kiddin’! The rabbits will get fixed snares (if I have wire) and tension snares on the ground. In this article, I am mainly dealing with traps constructed with string, vines or paracord. Assuming primitive/at-hand materials – no wire. If you do have wire….wire is good. I go where I figure the rabbits ain’t and cut the pieces of stick I’ll be needing.

When I’ve got them whittled up and partially rigged with cord, I usually try to rinse them off with water or wipe some dirt and such on them to get some of my scent off. But I’m getting ahead of myself…..

Making The Trigger Stick

Cut a small simple cylinder of wood, about 5 – 6” long and 1 1/2” – 2” thick. This is the simple trigger for many traps. This is a fundamental piece that you need to learn to make. It is very simple to fabricate. As is the second part of our first trap, the anchor which looks and functions much like a tent stake. That and some cord and we can build our first spring or tension snare.


Basic Snare Trigger

Back to the trigger…..cut a small 5 – 6” length of wood 1 ½” to 2” thick and about a third of the way from an end, score it about 1/8” deep all the way around with your camp saw or drywall saw. (You can do all this with a knife but why? Cruder but easier with the camp saw.

Either way, watch out that you keep all your fingers so you don’t have to practice one-handed first aid.) That will be a good place to anchor your paracord or another line that goes up to your tension pole. Tie it on good ‘cuz if anything pulls loose you have no dinner and something may smack you in the face while you are setting your trap. But first, let’s cut another notch.

At approximately a third of the way from the other end of the stick, you need to make a mark across it. Cut straight down at that center line mark and alternately shave from the middle of the stick towards the mark until you have a nice ½ to ¾” deep flat surfaced notch. That is where you will catch your trigger stick on its anchor stick. Sounds more complicated than it is. It’s easy.

The Anchor stick

The Anchor stick

The Anchor stick

Find a spot where a branch forks off and cut a stick roughly shaped like this longish stick pictured above. Twelve inches to the fork would be good. If your trap will be set in soft marshy ground in a riparian area, then make it a bit longer.

You want a long strong piece as it will be pounded into the ground. Leave a couple of inches above the forked area as that will be the head of your ‘nail’ when you pound it into position. The fork that you cut off has to be shaped to match up to your trigger so bear that in mind when you cut it originally as it can save you some sawing and filing.

Anyway, this ain’t about mil specs. When you set your trap you can make last-minute adjustments to the interlocking surfaces of the trigger and anchor sticks. Line up the trigger and anchor sticks. It is simpler than it sounds.

The Power Pole

 twitch-up rabbit snare.

How the two go together for a twitch-up rabbit snare.

The power pole should be very close to the actual noose placement. It can be a sapling or a large overhanging branch. If saplings and such are not located where you want to site a trap then you can cut a strong branch and place it vertically in a hole and brace it with rocks.

You could even throw a line over a big overhanging branch and tie it securely to a good size rock or log for your power source. Hoist the rock up and set your tension on your trigger. It’s a fairly simple concept so I will assume common sense will guide you to figure out what to use for a power source.

Once on site, find a good tension pole (rooted sapling or branch) that bends down to about a foot from your trap site with enough tension (power) to hoist your dinner aloft. Bend the tip of the power pole down to where you want to site the trap. Line it up. Pound your anchor stick in with a rock or small log.

Out of respect for the environment and fear of the law, I would not strip the ancillary branches and leaves but in exigent circumstances (ie: you are hopelessly lost and hungry) you can strip the sapling, reducing the weight, and thus increase its power. (For these photos I am using a fishing pole for a power source) You will tie a paracord (Use green, tan or camo cord.- I used this multi-color easy-to-see cord for illustration purposes) to the end of the sapling and allow a foot or so of free cord until you fasten it securely to your trigger stick.

If you can’t tie a basic knot then get on Google and learn as there are all kinds of knot loving sites. Climbers and sailors I reckon. I can only tie about 6 knots and they serve me well. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a reef knot and the Flemish eight. But I got my little arsenal of idiot proof knots and they work. Get yours.

The Noose

Basic power set noose

Basic power set noose

Assuming you only have the paracord or other strong line and no pre-made wire nooses then you must form a noose from your line. Pretty straightforward. Tie a little loop in the end of a 3-5 foot piece of cord and feed the end of the line thru it (Don’t make the loop too tight so, when sprung, the noose cinches up quickly without binding).

Now you have a nice snare loop (make it 6 – 8 inches across) you can position it horizontally atop of 3-4 small forked twigs, so your future dinner guest steps in it.

Or you can prop it up vertically so your bunny or what-have-you walks into the loop. For bunnies have the bottom of the loop about 3-4 inches off the ground. In my experience, vertical orientation tends to be more productive.

Note: I don’t like set (non-powered) snares with cordage as the critter is likely to chew off the line before expiring or may suffer for a prolonged period of time. There are examples of set snares (no power pole) that are reasonably efficient even with cordage and I may address them in the future.

Modern snares have a one-way device that continually constricts as the animal pulls to get loose and are more likely to effectuate a ‘clean’ kill. Herein I am only addressing primitive powered snares using cordage or vines.

Powering The Snare

DANGER! CAUTION! First, you need to tie the free end of the noose to the trigger stick and set it under power. Now you need to set your loop vertically or horizontally but very gingerly, very carefully so you don’t lose an eye or some teeth if you inadvertently trigger the trap while setting the noose.

Sounds a bit scary but I have never been hurt though I have experienced premature triggering (No jokes please. I’m sensitive.) of my traps while setting them. Keep your head back and your hands-free of the noose while setting. I was wearing safety goggles while setting this trap. You need to have a healthy respect for all traps you set.

The Trap site

Assuming you are a natural-born trap builder and can extrapolate the basic design into a dozen different sure-fire can’t miss critter-killer primitive traps, that doesn’t mean you are going to eat! You could put up 50 traps hither and thither and get nary a bunny for your efforts.


Rabbit hole

The cardinal rule that applies to retail locations, restaurant sites, hotels, survivalist retreats, gas stations, hunting camps and just about everything else you could want to build or locate somewhere consists of three principles, “Location. Location. Location.” You have to place your traps along the routes between where the animals eat, sleep and drink.

Where do they sleep? Well, a lot of little critters sleep in dens. Holes in the ground (don’t reach in and feel around…ya might find claws, fangs and maybe even some venom), hollowed out logs and tree trunks, nests in the trees ( squirrels ), etc. Larger game like deer, elk, and horses tend to bed down in the grass when they can get it.

You will notice large flattened out areas in the bush. These are not your trapping sites. Wild pigs tend to bed down deep into a thicket and will have scraped away the ground cover down to the dirt, in fact, if you can stand and see their bedding area you are not looking at their bedding area.

You would usually have to crawl back into it and you do not want to meet a feral hog in that position. It would get ugly.

Of course, the type of trap in this article is not designed to take out a large animal. But by understanding the signs for large animals you will not waste your tension trap there. Your target critter is most likely going to be a bunny. Typically you can find bunnies in many environments.

They will den in holes, usually inter-connected to form warrens so watch out as there will be more than one way in and out. You can locate a few holes and place a snare at each one. You should look for runs which are the flattened out paths through the bush that the rabbits use to get from their dens to their feeding and watering areas.

The rabbit runs often exhibit sign like bits of grass clipped off and rabbit ‘pellets’ (scat/poop) scattered along the run.


Rabbit run

If the run is very large and you see large hoof prints then you are probably looking at a pig run and need to build a bigger trap! I suggest that if you are a new survivor trapper, you should stick to bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels and such until you get a bit more confident and a bigger repertoire of traps.

Besides, you need snare wire and cable for the big critters like feral hogs. Back to the bunnies …. some species of rabbits sleep in the dense thickets and thorns rather than underground.

You will set traps for all types of rabbits on their runs and catch them coming and going. {By the way, if you’ve got a slingshot or smoke pole you might just lurk somewhere and pop off a bunny around sunset or dawn when they’re on the move along one the rabbit runs.

I’m just saying that two layers of critter harvesting is better than one.} Be aware that rabbits don’t stray to far from where they den up as they have many enemies.

If you have had little luck finding the rabbit’s runs for some reason and you have located a water source such as a small stream or a pond you will need to backtrack from there. Many critters doubtless come to that water to drink eventually.

If there is small game in the area you will find runs and bigger game trails leading to and from the water. Pick the ones that seem to have your target critter using them (meaning if there are huge hoofprints or paw prints and you can’t discern any little tracks, find another game trail or run) and set your traps.

Remember….look for tracks and scat (poop). Site your traps in the narrowest part of the runs. You may need to place some sticks or brambles in such a way as to funnel the rabbits to your noose. While you are doing that and when you are setting your traps try to avoid leaving too much human scent on everything.

At least don’t be wearing any deodorant, cologne, hairspray/gel, soap residue, hand lotion, bug spray…..well, you get the picture.


Rabbit pellets

Try not to stink up the bunnies world cuz they will know something is not right. If setting your snare or noose vertically then you want the bottom end only 3-4 inches from the ground. We are aiming for the bunnies head.

Speaking of his head, bring a big stick when you go to check your traps. Cordage snares don’t always dispatch your critters. Make it quick. And on that note, check your traps often (every 5-6 hours). You don’t want the little critters to suffer and you want a coyote to steal ‘em neither.

Those of you more sensitive to killing and field dressing an animal, I want you to know that I am not a natural-born hunter. Some of my friends enjoy the kill. I really don’t. It’s for meat. To survive. It’s a necessary task in order to keep yourself and comrades fed. You don’t have to enjoy it. Just do what you have to do.

Get Your Hands Dirty

You think you’ve got all this down? You can do it when you need to? Photographic (eidetic) memory? Practice now when you don’t need this skill. When you need to do it for real it will seem so natural and you will build your traps easily and correctly so they are effective.

Lives may depend on it. You don’t want on-the-job training and have your dinner get loose from a defectively constructed tension trap.

So cut some sticks. Make a couple of basic traps until you are comfortable and confident in building them. Securely prop up a fishing pole in the backyard and use it for a power source (wear safety glasses) to practice your trap building skills. (In my backyard I buried a 14″ PVC pipe with a removable cap to put my power stick in for teaching purposes) You will come to realize that you could fashion a half-dozen such traps in an hour and set them in another hour or two.

Trigger your practice traps immediately so you don’t snare/kill Fluffy. Don’t run to get Momma to show her your neat-to new trap cuz, for sure and for certain, that’s when Fluffy will find it! Anyway, that’s 6 traps out there working for you 24/7. Think about that. Much more productive than chasing fast-moving rabbits with your tire iron in hand. Smarter too. Good trapping!

Practice your trapping skills. Be a survivor.

* As we are utilizing manufactured cordage one could argue these traps are not truly ‘primitive’ traps. For instructional purposes and simplicity here we will designate such traps as primitive as opposed to ‘humane’ modern manufactured traps.

M.D. Creekmore

Owner / Editor at
Hello, I’m M.D. Creekmore. I’ve been interested in self-reliance topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find at as well as Barnes and Noble. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about prepping, homesteading, and self-reliance topics through first-hand experience and now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
M.D. Creekmore