My novel, The Mrs MacKinnons, involves a poacher and mantraps, in a small way, so I looked into what the law was on these subjects at the beginning of the 19th century.
The rural poor in England could, at one time, legally graze cows or sheep on common land, or take the occasional rabbit. Some resorted to poaching game on private land to feed themselves or to sell the game for profit. During the Regency period and earlier, man-traps were one of the inhumane methods used to trap poachers on private land.
There were many laws introduced over the centuries aiming to prevent the poor taking game from private land. For example, an act passed in 1671, in the reign of Charles II, decreed that the following people were not allowed to have guns, bows, hunting dogs or ferrets, nets etc:
“..all and every person and persons, not haveing Lands and Tenements or some other Estate of Inheritance in his owne or his Wifes right of the cleare yearely value of one hundred pounds per ann. or for terme of life, or haveing Lease or Leases of ninety nine yeares or for any longer terme, of the cleare yearely value of one hundred and fifty pounds, other then the Sonne and Heire apparent of an Esquire, or other person of higher degree”