This is not to denigrate his cunning. He was an astute observer of wildlife and studied his quarry closely. He had the patience to keep going when he thought he was on the right track, and the sense to change the plan when it was not working. He was also ruthless when it came to chucking out poor-quality traps. As he reasoned, his time was too valuable to waste on using inefficient tools. Add to this the fact that near-misses result in trap-shy animals that get progressively harder to catch, and it’s clear that only the best will do.

One of Dad’s particular bugbears was that some people set traps too lightly, with the result that they go off before the victim is properly in. I remember going with him on his rounds during holidays and being impressed when a Fenn trap set for grey squirrels had caught three mice at once. As he pointed out, it indicated that he had set it at the right trip pressure, for even two mice had failed to set it off, but then, “Their mate climbed on, and killed all three!”

Even when a trap is well made and has a good mechanism, it still needs fine tuning. Too many people fail to check traps before setting them. Whether your trap is new or well used, it still pays to adjust it so that it goes off crisply at a suitable trip pressure.
The magpie trapping season is now upon us, and multitudes of old, shabby Larsen traps will be brought out of dark recesses, dusted off and deployed in the usual place without much thought as to how efficient they are. This is a pity, because I am convinced that many a crow or magpie has had a fright when a shabby old Larsen has gone off in its face and become trap-shy.

Today I exclusively use weld mesh traps like the Rhemo model pictured. With its dull-green, frameless construction, it seems far less off-putting compared with wood and wire. Also, the trip mechanisms are much more reliable than the usual split perches. It may not be cheap, but then there is always a difference between price and value for money. The Rhemo Larsen, available direct from Rhemo Products, costs £98.50 plus VAT; call 01425 621283 or email Rhemo Products.

Mike Swan is head of education at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.