This topic always gives me a chuckle. So, here is a blanket statement that is sure to incite some disappointment.Beginning trappers are most likely incapable of determining what lures "work best" on their lines.
A beginning trapper is at the very bottom of the learning curve. He has so many things going on (and going wrong
that's it is gol-darn near impossible to tell which of these to blame for the inherent lack of success in a beginning trapline. But, invariably they go looking for that "Magic in a Bottle". If the lure they select doesn't fill their shed with fur it's "no good!" And on to the next bottle they go until finally (after a few years) they seem to hit upon the "right" lure and they start catching animals. What most of these trappers fail to take into account is that over that period they actually have learned to trap. I've made this challenge before and I'll make it again, I think if many of these trappers would go back and again try one of the lures they thought was "no good" -- it would now work for them.
(I just thought of a good analogy here. This is like learning to ride a bicycle. If you followed the same process in learning to ride a bicycle as described above, every time you fell of the bicycle you would declare that bicycle to be "no good". Then, you would have to find a new bicycle and try again. Pretty soon, you would find the "right" bicycle and you would be able to stay upright on it.
But, that doesn’t answer Ric's question. So, here's what I do when I'm testing a lure. Generally, I find a relatively clear area that I know the animals are frequenting. (This is called "location" and selecting location is the first point at which many beginning trappers fall down. If you put your lure where there ain't no animals, it ain't gonna work.) Usually I scratch out three test circles about three feet across, I scratch this down to bare dirt and below. Then I sift a layer of dirt over the test area to give me a good medium in which to read tracks. Then I make an artificial flat set. I place my attractor right in the middle of the circle. Consistency is the name of the game here, or you could skew the results. Make sure all your visual attractors are the same. If you are using pieces of wood use all the same size and type of wood. Frankly, I prefer to use rocks all of the same general shape an size. This way, I can be fairly sure that one rock itself is not more attractive than the other.
Place a little bit of the lure on the side of the rock, then place some on a lure holder and put it underneath the edge of the rock. On the trapline a lot of times, I use wool for a lure holder. For these tests I use a cotton ball. Some animal might be attracted to wool itself, but cotton holds very little attraction for any animal. Go look at your test plots on a regular basis, the tracks in the bare dirt will tell you what the animals are doing. I suggest you do these test in the fall, close to trapping season. You can do them through the summer, but remember hot summer weather can have a deleterious effect on many lures, as well as the critters themselves, these lures might otherwise prove just fine in the fall.
The above is what I do when I am testing a lure formulation. I start with the base and use the three plots to test different ingredients or combination of ingredients against one another to see which is the most attractive. But there is no reason it couldn't be done to test three different kinds of lures.
So what I recommend is that a beginning trapper by $100 worth of lure and test them. Yeah, right. The beginning trapper is ordinarily hard pressed to turn loose of the money to by a few traps, let alone $100 worth of lure. (And god forbid that he should spend $12 on a book :rolleyes: )
So here is what I really recommend for the beginner. Buy a couple of bottles of lure from a reputable dealer, and don't worry about it. If and when you finally learn to trap, then you can go back and analyze your choice of lures. Don't get the cart ahead of the horse.