The dimensions pictured are by no means the only way to go about making this trap, but they seem to work well for me. All of the fancy carvings on the sticks aren't really neccesary, but I find them helpful in allowing me to adjust the length of cord on-the-fly by wrapping it around the top-piece, as well as securing the cord better on the bottom foundation piece. Below is what the trap looks like once it's set (here, you can see more clearly how I used the carvings):You'll notice that, to complete the trap, I had to (1) find a rock with a nice flat bottom and wide base and (2) attain a long, thin bait stick to thread underneath the rock. Obviously, if I was actually setting this trap to procure an animal, I'd have speared some bait onto the bait stick before setting, such as local wild plants that a small animal might like -- maybe pinyon pine nuts, seed heads of various grasses -- or food I might have with me as trail snacks, such as raisins or peanut butter. Mice seem to really love raisins. Although no rodents came along after I set it, to my good fortune (and perhaps to the benefit of the more squeamish readers of this blog), this particular trap attracted a wild desert tangerine!
Ouch! As you can see, when the bait stick is tugged at or nudged in any way, the trap is triggered and the rock falls abrubtly, leaving very little time for the animal (or, in this case, fruit) to escape. The main components of the Paiute deadfall spring neatly into the air and out of the way of the rock, allowing the rock to lay perfectly flesh with the ground (or, ideally, a hard, flat rock underneath) -- only the thin bait stick, along with the bait, actually receives the impact. The unlucky creature who happened to trigger the trap is instantly crushed to death. Squish! Mouse pancakes!
For brevity's sake, I'm going to leave a more detailed discussion of this trap to Jim Riggs, one of the great influences of the primitive skills movement and a man with a lot of "dirt time." His article "Rocking On with the Paiute Deadfall" is by far the most thorough and well-written piece I have seen on this subject. Those of you out there in cyberland who want to experiment with a Paiute deadfall will benefit greatly from Mr. Riggs' description of the trap.
Also, a very good explanation of the Paiute deadfall is given in this video. I've never met the man who made this tutorial (Mark Lummio of Bushcraft Northwest), but he seems to really know what he's talking about. Absolutely fantastic video.
In the next post, I'll get into the nutritional and caloric details of small game animals that a person might find underneath his or her deadfall rocks day to day; and I'll evaluate the realities inherent in living off of such fare as Matt Graham did: processing, cooking, and eating trapped animals to thrive -- not just survive -- in the wilderness primitively.
Thanks to my good pal, Jeff Macdonald, for helping with the pictures.