If you’re playing Project Zomboid, the early-access zombie apocalypse simulation by The Indie Stone, then you’re probably wondering how to do, well, anything. The game is notorious for not telling players a damn thing about how to survive. Not only are you stranded in the zombie apocalypse, but you’re also stuck in Kentucky, and isn’t that bad enough?!
Along with the need for shelter, clean water, and protection from zombies comes a need for food. Eating is pretty essential for most humans, and your make-believe character in Project Zomboid is no different. When it comes to procuring food in the most frustrating game known to humankind, there are several options.
Scavenging for food is easy at the beginning of the game, and you’ll have a survivalist’s stock of canned food built up in no time. But you’ll power through them quicker than you think, and while they offer nutrition and reduce hunger, they don’t do much for boredom or happiness.
Farming is another option, but farming sucks. You only get vegetables, it takes a month in-game to grow, and you have to protect them from multiple hazards the whole time. It’s tedious and a pain in the ass.
Foraging isn’t a bad option, as you can find all sorts of items. You can find food–berries, nuts, wild vegetables, insects, and dead critters–but you can also find stones, tree branches, and sometimes car keys.
And then we come to trapping.
Trapping is a great way to obtain some of the best meat in Project Zomboid passively. Rabbits and squirrels not only feed you but can also reduce your boredom and unhappiness, which will eventually become a problem if you stick to canned goods and stale bread.
In this Project Zomboid Trapping guide I will teach you the ins and outs of being a legendary trapper and hunter during the Knox Virus outbreak.
Key Info Up Front
To trap the best animals in Project Zomboid, you’ll need materials to build your trap, bait to set the trap with, and patience. Place your trap far enough away from places where you frequent, then wait. Check your traps once a day or so, and see what Mother Nature gave you.
Who Knows How to Trap?
So you’ve decided to go with a trapper, huh? Good choice. Fresh meat will be hard to come by during this twisted open world environment, so being a trapper will make you a valuable person to have on multiplayer teams. But what profession do you choose on the perk screen? There is no trapper career, so what do you do?
Pick the Park Ranger career; it’s the best profession for an outdoorsy character. The Park Ranger starts with two levels in the trapping and foraging skills and knows all the trapping recipes right off the bat. This negates the need to find the hunting magazine that teaches trap recipes.
If you don’t want to pick the Park Ranger profession for odd, contrarian reasons, you can also choose the Hiker and Hunter traits. The Hiker knows the simplest traps, the Hunter knows all the traps, and both start with one level in trapping.
The hunt for materials and woodland critters will be hard enough, so don’t make it harder on yourself by not selecting any of these traits.
The Types of Traps
There are five different kinds of traps you can build in Project Zomboid and one kind you can only find on the map. I’ll explain each one, how to make them, and why you might want a few different traps set up in your backyard.
The Snare Trap
- Materials – 1 plank, 2 twine, 1 saw, level 2 trapping skill
The snare trap is a super simple trap in Project Zomboid and one of the first traps you’ll build. You don’t need many materials to craft them; they catch the best critters in the game: squirrels and rabbits.
The Stick Trap
- Materials – 4 sturdy sticks, 2 twine
The stick trap is the easiest trap to make in Project Zomboid. You don’t even need any skill in trapping to make it. Fashion yourself some sturdy sticks, grab some twine, and you’re sitting pretty.
The downside is that stick traps can only catch birds, not small animals. They are also the most fragile traps in Project Zomboid and will break after only 2-3 days of use.
The Trap Crate
- Materials – 3 planks, 5 nails, 1 saw
The trap crate is my favorite trap in Project Zomboid. You will need more materials than others, but you don’t need trapping skills. And trap crates are made just for squirrels and rabbits. You also get some of the most trapping exp for using them, so two thumbs up.
The Trap Box
- Materials – 4 planks, 7 nails, 1 saw, level 2 trapping skill.
Now we’re getting into the more advanced traps. The trap box is a highly sophisticated way of catching small animals and therefore needs the most materials and intelligence. I don’t like trap boxes since they don’t offer any extra benefits from trap crates.
In fact, your chances of catching squirrels declines when using the trap box. They have the same durability as crates and catch the same animals, yet they take more to build—hard pass.
The Wire Cage
- Materials – 5 wire, level 3 trapping skill
Alright, no more messing around with the carpentry skill and playing woodworking class. We’re upgrading to the professional league of trapping now. The wire cage has the highest chance of catching animals and boasts the most robust durability.
It’ll take some time to reach the appropriate skill level, but it’s worth not walking out and finding your traps destroyed all the time.
The Mouse Trap
- Materials – NA
You cannot build mouse traps in Project Zomboid. You can only find mouse traps. Find them in department stores, houses, garages, and sheds. I have not run into many mouse traps during my tenure in Project Zomboid, but they do exist.
If you’re looking for even smaller animals than rabbits and squirrels, or you know you won’t find them in your location, try switching to mouse traps. Mouse traps will only catch mice and rats, but after cooking them up, they won’t taste any different than rabbits and squirrels.
Know Your Enemy – I Mean Food
If you want to build the right trap, you need to know what animal you’re aiming for. If you like birds, make a stick trap. If you want rabbits and squirrels, build different traps.
But building the trap is only half the battle. Not even! It’s, like, a third of the battle. So you fashioned a wooden box; whoopdie do. Do you know where to place it? Do you know how to set it? Do you know the best kind of bait to put in it? Do you?!
If you don’t know the answers, then you’re not a master trapper yet.
Let’s break down the different kinds of animals you’ll be eating in Project Zomboid and how to attract each one.
One of the smallest animals to be found in Project Zomboid, the mouse is a meager meal at best. You won’t find them much in forests or out in the wild; instead, you should look in urban areas; trailer parks, motels, farms, in the middle of town.
Mice can only be caught with mouse traps, so don’t waste your time setting up snare traps by the old motel–they won’t work. I didn’t waste my time on mice in Project Zomboid. They are meat and meat is good, but they’re tiny. And since I often spent my time outside of the city in rural areas, mice weren’t a plentiful source of food.
If you want to set your trap with the most attractive food for mice, ensure you have cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, and tomatoes on hand.
Rats are no different than mice. They’re just uglier. Seriously. Have you ever held a mouse in one hand and a rat in the other? A rat is like the rugged, outdoorsy cousin of the mouse. Rats in Project Zomboid are found in the exact same places as mice and are only caught with the same trap. The same kind of food also attracts them, so you don’t have to change much.
I felt the same way about rats as I did about mice. After all, who wants to eat a rat? Anyone? I know it’s the end times and all, but you can eat birds, squirrels, and rabbits. Who’s going for the rats? Not me.
Contrary to what Project Zomboid would have you believe, small birds do not make good meals. They have way too many bones, there’s barely any meat, and you must do something about all those damn feathers.
In Project Zomboid, birds are a good snack, not so much a full meal. And since stick traps break all the time, you’ll find yourself more frustrated trying to catch birds than most other animals.
Thankfully, birds aren’t isolated to one specific area of Kentucky; you can find them from rural to urban areas. If you’re looking to lure some birds down to your traps, be sure to have bread, bread crumbs, cereal, corn, or insects as bait.
Squirrels might be cute and spunky as they dart around nature, but they are also good eating during the zombie apocalypse. They’ll lower your hunger, boredom, and unhappiness with each bite. You won’t find squirrels in urban areas; you’ll only find them in wooded places.
If you want to increase your chances of catching them even more, head to a heavily wooded area with dense trees. One of the few ways where Project Zomboid departs from reality is with squirrel mechanics; the game lists squirrels as nocturnal, which means you’ll only catch them at night.
That’s bullcrap as I watch my dog watch a family of squirrels dart around my backyard right now, 2:31 pm.
I am calling shenanigans on you, Indie Stone developers.
Squirrels are open to eating most kinds of bait–bread, cereal, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Just make sure there’s fresh food in the trap, and you’ll probably catch a squirrel.
It’s rabbit season in Kentucky, which means it’s time to get out there and see what you can rustle up for dinner. Rabbits last a long time before going stale, they offer the most nutrition, and they reduce your unhappiness by a lot.
When you’re in the trapping business, rabbits are the pinnacle you aim for. Rabbits are only caught in the woods, like squirrels; the deeper you are in the woods, the higher your chances of catching them. Rabbits aren’t fans of processed people food, so avoid bringing out any cereals or slices of bread. Instead, set your rabbit traps with any fruit or vegetable.
Trapping Basics to Keep in Mind
As with anything in Project Zomboid, there is still much more to go over with trapping. Yes, we’ve covered the basics, but skills in Project Zomboid are like icebergs. The basics are only what you see above the water, the rest of the skill is waiting under the water, and there’s more under the water than above.
Remote is Good
Let’s say you’ve got a great base set up on the edges of town and acquired plenty of materials to build traps. You head into your backyard, place a few traps just beyond the tree line, and start twiddling your thumbs.
You head out every morning for the next week and never find food. Not once does a single trap catch anything.
What are you doing wrong?
In Project Zomboid, traps are rendered useless if you place them too close to human interaction. You need to set traps far away from anywhere you might frequent. Specifically, you need to put them 75 tiles away from any area you walk around.
So rather than dropping a few traps in your backyard, walk at least 75 tiles away from your house and then place your trap.
Use Your Map
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost track of traps in the wild. If you’re placing traps in thick forests, the trees will often obscure where you place your trap. So even if you think to yourself, “I know where this trap is, it’s right behind the gas station.” You’ll likely be running laps behind the gas station, trying to find your trap.
This is where your map comes in handy. Make sure you have a pen or pencil in your inventory when you head out to place your traps. Always mark on your map where you put your trap. You’ll never lose a trap again.
Extra Materials on Hand
Traps are not invincible. They will break. Often. They only last a few days before they break, and then you’ll be back to acquiring supplies and building new traps. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
To make things easier on yourself, leave extra materials beside where you place your trap. So, you’ve just set a trap crate in the woods. Good. Now leave a few planks and nails on the ground right next to the trap. Nothing will happen to the materials; it’s not like the zombies will steal your planks and build their own traps.
This way, the next time your trap breaks, you can make a new one right then and there and deploy it. No more running back into town, back to your base, gathering supplies, building a trap, then running back into the woods to place the new trap.
Is that a Zombie?!
So your last supply run took a few more days than you expected, and it’s been a while since you checked on your traps. Heading out into the woods you find, to your horror, a small horde of zombies has amassed around your traps.
Yeah, it can happen.
Traps hold meat, and if you don’t get it quickly enough, zombies will smell it and come searching. For this reason, you should never let your guard down when moving through thick trees in the woods.
Always have a weapon handy when checking your traps and be ready for a fight. And always check your traps as frequently as you can. If you leave your base for a day or two, you’ll most likely be greeted by some zombies upon your return.
Why Even Bother with Mice and Rats?
In Project Zomboid, some traps check for animals every hour on the hour, and some traps only work at night time. So how do you know the difference?
Squirrels and rabbits are considered nocturnal in Project Zomboid, which means they can only be caught at night. So checking the trap throughout the day makes no sense. Set the trap, put out some bait, and come back tomorrow to see what happens.
But when it comes to birds, mice, and rats, the game checks for those animals every hour. If you have a stick or mouse trap out, you should check it constantly throughout the day, as the game will calculate if they’ve caught anything once per hour.
In this way, if your character is starving and can’t wait days to catch squirrels and rabbits, they can aim for birds, mice, and rats and most likely be rewarded in just a few hours.
Again, I never messed around with birds, mice, or rats. True, you can catch them quicker, but they aren’t all that meaningful. I thought ahead enough that I could wait a day or two to catch a juicy rabbit for dinner. But if you’re surviving in the middle of the city and can’t make it to the countryside, birds, mice, and rats are your only option.
The Pitfalls of Trapping
There is one other option for getting fresh meat in Project Zomboid, and that’s to go fishing. Fishing isn’t passive the way trapping is; you’re working for your food the whole time. But fishing works like foraging because you can find plenty of other items besides fish. You can find clothing, boots, socks, and other random items while fishing.
So which is the better choice when it comes to catching fresh meat?
I always preferred trapping as it allowed me to do other things with my time. After I set my traps out, I walk back to my base and work on a different project for the rest of the day.
I tailor all my clothes, I work on my car to increase my mechanic skill, or I tend my garden and ensure my vegetables are okay. I like that trapping gets meat for me passively while I’m free to do other things.
However, it must be noted that fishing can produce more meat.
Squirrels and rabbits can only get so big. You won’t find a rabbit afflicted with gigantism in Project Zomboid that feeds you for two days straight. They only remove so much hunger at a time. As your trapping skill increases, the chances of you catching animals increases. So although you won’t catch bigger rabbits and squirrels, you will catch more of them.
With your fishing skill, however, the higher it goes, the bigger the fish you can catch. Not only will your chances of catching fish increase the higher your skill, but you can land some absolute monsters at the end of your line. I’m talking fish that will satisfy you for more than a day. This exponentially increases how much meat you have on hand.
In my longest life in Project Zomboid, I could see the value in both professions. Trapping was essential for me initially, as it allowed me to catch fresh meat while still leveling up other skills. And at the beginning of Project Zomboid, you need as many skills as possible.
Building traps is also a great way to increase your carpentry skill, so I’d build about 20 trap crates, set them all up, and check them first thing every morning. It provided fresh meat and the free time needed to make my ultimate survival character.
But once I’d leveled up enough of my skills, once my base was established, and my vehicle prepped, I realized its shortcomings. Though my trapping skill was level six and my fishing skill level three, spending the morning catching fish produced more meat than setting out 20 traps to catch woodland critters.
Trapping is an excellent–and almost necessary–skill to survive at the beginning of Project Zomboid. But as your character gains proficiency in multiple skills and you’ve killed enough zombies to feel a little safe, you should look at other options for catching meat.
Question: Should I Spread Traps Out or Group them Together?
Answer: There are no penalties for grouping traps together. As long as the traps are at least 75 tiles away and you’ve put the right bait out, they will do their job. You can even deploy batches of traps simultaneously, like a deep-sea fisherman. It only means you’ll catch more food.
Question: Can Traps Catch more than One Animal at a Time?
Answer: They cannot. No need to be greedy. You can always make more traps and use them to catch whatever you need.
Question: Can You Trap Insects?
Answer: Negative. If you want to finally eat a cockroach and feel like a true survivor of the apocalypse, you’ll have to go foraging. Sometimes you can find insects inside cabinets and closets, but your best bet is to go foraging outside for them.
Trapping can be an easy way to get a consistent supply of meat during the end time. Of all the different choices you have for finding food in Project Zomboid, trapping is one of the most effective and easiest choices.
You can catch meat passively, unlike any other food source in the game. And that meat will come in mighty handy during your survival journey.
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