Pine Marten trapping basics
Trapping Pine Marten in the high Rockies is one of the most challenging and rewarding trapping experiences. Pine Marten have beautiful fur that is always in demand and they are easy to catch if you follow a few simple principals.
As in business the three most important aspects of Marten trapping are location, location and location. Pine Marten like high conifer forests, and rarely will you find them elsewhere. Although they will eat any small prey species the marten's main food source is the pine squirrel. So when scouting possible trapping areas look for pine squirrels. You will want to look for areas deep with shredded pine cones; these areas will have cone refuse several inches deep where squirrels are abundant.
Another way to locate Pine Marten is to look for tracks in the winter. This is the technique I personally use most. I have found that Marten tend to use roughly the same routes when traveling their hunting area. When you come across a set of tracks that look like someone set two fifty cent pieces side by side in the snow you know there are Marten about. What I do then is go up trail and make a set and then go down trail and make a set maybe 50 yards apart.
If all else fails, look for steep cuts or ravines going into the north slope of a hill. I know a trapper that catches a lot of Marten who only sets these areas.
Pine Marten are far from trap shy, this is why they are so easily caught by those who are in their range.
The cubby set on the ground seems to be real popular with writers, and I have seen others use them. But they have a couple of disadvantages you should know about. First if it is set on the ground it is easily covered with snow and put out of commission. This is a real concern in Marten country as most of it gets very much snow. Second is if the Marten is on the ground when caught it is vulnerable to other animals like foxes who will kill it or even voles who will chew the fur if it is dead.
The best set for Marten is some form of the leaning pole set. This puts the Marten up off of the ground above the snow and keeps the fur safe from destruction. To make a leaning pole set all you need is to find an old tree branch that will lean against an evergreen tree. This makes a ramp for the Marten to run up. (This set is also called the running pole set) Put the bait on the tree just above where the pole touches it, and then add your trap. You can put many kinds of traps on this pole. I just drive a finish nail into the pole and hang the trap on that using the little hole in the trap frame. You can also wire a wooden cubby onto the pole with a 110 or 120 conibear in it, or just set a conibear at the top of the pole with some bait on the trigger. All of these will catch plenty of Marten.
-Bait and Lure
After finding and then setting a trap for them you need to get the Marten to step in it. This is where your choice of bait is important. Beaver meat has been the absolute hands down winner for me. I have tried others but nothing works near as well. Beaver meat has a lot fat in it, so it resists freezing. (Very important in Marten country) It also has a musky smell to it that adds to its mouth watering appeal. A chunk the size of your fist is about right. (A leg, tail, head or just a chunk of meat scraps) When it comes to lure something skunky is the best. Marten can smell it from a long ways off and they will drop by your set to investigate.
Trapping Pine Marten in the high country is trapping at its finest.