The raccoon is one of the most iconic animals of North America. With its telltale bandit mask reminiscent of a bank robber and the striped tail that calls to mind prison uniforms, the raccoon certainly looks like trouble.
Anyone who’s had to tangle with an unwanted raccoon on their property likely already knows how easily these predators and scavengers can live up to their reputation.
People who hunt raccoon frequently run into a number of issues along the way. These small critters are actually quite survival savvy, so you’ll need all the help you can get if you want to successfully hunt one (or more) of them down in the near future.
There are certain raccoon hunting tips to keep in mind when you’re chasing down local ringtails. Understanding your prey and being equipped with the right gear means having a better chance.
0. Legal Regulations
Laws about hunting raccoon vary from state to state, and even city to city. Utah, for example, allows raccoon hunting year-round and without a permit. On the other hand, Washing D.C. forbids the killing of all animals who do not depend on humans for survival. Some states allow hunting raccoons within designated hunting season and/or with proper permits. Laws for handling raccoons might also vary depending on whether the raccoon is living inside the walls of your house or not.
1. Where to Find Them
For many modern homeowners (and renters alike), the raccoon is a source of constant annoyance. Once they determine that your home or neighborhood is a good source of food and water, they will keep coming back. Some favorite water sources for coons are ponds, creeks, and even backyard bird baths. Unlike some other pests, the raccoon has deft little hands and excellent problem-solving abilities. Unlike wild boar, they can outsmart many kinds of live traps. People have long hunted these savvy mammals.
While raccoon are common in rural areas, they can also make homes for themselves in urban and suburban areas as well. They are opportunistic and smart, so they can create a habitat just about anywhere minus hotter climates and deserts where you are more likely to see other varmints like coyote or other small game.
2. Don’t Underestimate Them
A single raccoon can kill off a flock of birds in less time than you might imagine. He or she can set up shop in a tall tree on your property or inside your attic, causing loud noises during mating season and general mayhem all year round. Trash bins, gardens, and even pets or small farm animals could end up endangered by the presence of a raccoon on your property.
Raccoon are relatively small but big enough to cause trouble. They can range in weight from seven to 20 pounds and may be up to 55 inches long if you include the tail. Their overall diminutive stature makes it possible for raccoon to access all kinds of inconvenient places, while their dexterous fingers help them pry open coverings and rip into containers.
The truth is, however, that once one raccoon realizes your property has everything they want (such as a safe place to live and a source of food), that raccoon is likely to bring a mate or have some babies, resulting in a full-blown infestation.
3. Where There’s One, There’s More
A group of raccoon, also called a gaze, can cause a lot of trouble in a very little time. They can and will tip over trash cans, emptying the contents into your driveway or yard. They will manipulate the latches and closures on chicken coops and other poultry buildings, often with fatal results for your flock. They are also very observant, and quite likely to toddle off to darkness and safety whenever you’re nearby.
A single-family unit can include two adult raccoon and a pair of babies, which quickly grow into maturity. Even at young ages, these robust critters have great skill at climbing and getting into trouble. Their parents will quickly teach them everything they have already learned about manipulating your property, from latches to locations of trash bins or compost piles.
For the average homeowner, a gaze can be a source of annoyance and lost sleep. For farmers, they can decimate laying flocks, devour meat birds, and destroy gardens.
In some cases, farmers will offer to pay local hunters to come and remove the raccoon from their property. Other times, hunters will offer the service for free in return for hunting access for other animals, like rabbit, deer, or turkey.
4. Plan Carefully If You’re After Pelts
Even if you don’t find the local raccoon population to be pesky, you may still be interested in hunting them. After all, hats made from raccoon pelts and tails are iconic and much envied by children. You can even mount the pelts themselves as a display, or the whole raccoon, if cleanly killed, could be turned into a hunting trophy through taxidermy.
It’s also possible for these common reasons to hunt raccoon to intersect. People can want to retain pelts of raccoon they’ve hunted due to nuisance issues. Whether you’re a hobbyist looking to add to your trophy collection or a frustrated individual, learning how to hunt raccoon can help you improve your chances of success in obtaining a clean, visually appealing raccoon pelt.
5. Look for Prey During Mating Season
If you’re hoping to catch some raccoon toddling around in the open, mating season is one of the best times to go looking. Raccoon mating season typically starts in January. It can last for a few weeks or longer, depending on the density of the local raccoon population. When raccoon populations are mating, they are more likely to be out and exploring for potential mates and den sites.
In late January or February, the males go into rut. You may want to try using “squaller” calls that mimic the noise creating by fighting animals. Any males in earshot are likely to come over to assert their dominance.
6. Check Dens During Nesting Season
After successfully mating, pregnant raccoon females look for someplace warm, dry, and hard to access. They will hole up in all kinds of places, from attics and crawl spaces to haylofts and inside hollow trees. Raccoon nests in chimneys are also relatively common.
They will stay in these dens for months, sometimes until June, when the babies are big enough to move around freely.
Signs of nearby nests or dens include food scraps, raccoon scat or bathroom sites, and minor damage to roofing, fencing or siding. If they get into your home, you may hear thumping sounds in the evening and at night as they move around.
You can use calls to draw whole family groups to you. Chittering and purring calls will sound like the noises made by juvenile raccoon. That can draw the attention of parents and youths alike, making it possible to catch an entire family infesting your property in a short period.
7. Consider Leaving Bait
You can use bait in one of two ways. You can place bait directly in a live trap, allowing you to catch and cleanly kill local raccoon. You can also place the bait in an area you monitor as you wait for your prey to show up. Whichever way you go, you should make sure to use the right bait to increase your chances of attracting the right animal.
Many old timers will recommend that you use wet cat food as a bait. It’s certainly got a strong smell, sure to attract anything nearby looking for a quick meal. However, raccoon are omnivores that will eat just about anything they can get their paws on, including trash.
People also report good luck with hard-boiled eggs or, believe it or not, marshmallows. Waiting at the closest source of water is also a good option.
8. Test Your Traps
Many people enjoy placing live traps and catching raccoon that way. The chances are good that with patience, good placement, and the right bait, you’ll have at least one trash panda end up in your live trap. However, you need to take care when selecting your live trap, as not all brands are created equal.
Some medium-sized life traps, intended for predators like raccoon and possums, have wire mesh over the back of the trap, while others are simply made of welded wire. If the gaps in the welded wire are larger than a half inch, you could end up losing your bait to clever raccoon. Pick traps that have very small or reinforced gaps near the pressure plate, or you may not catch anything.
9. Use Dogs to Help
Specially trained hunting dogs can make finding and catching elusive prey like raccoon or even fox much simpler – in fact, there are dog breeds called “coonhounds”, which were bred specifically for this purpose. Dogs can scent and locate these animals even while they are holed up in their dens. When properly trained, hunting dogs can alert you to nearby raccoon or lead you right to them. If the raccoon attempts to flee, your dog can give chase through areas where you would struggle to follow.
Once treed by a dog, a raccoon will be much easier to shoot. You don’t have to worry about any sudden movements or escape attempts. Your dog can also help protect you if a rogue raccoon decides to try charging you instead of running away when confronted.
10. Get The Right Firearms
Despite what you may have seen in horror movies, killing an animal with a shovel is neither quick or clean. Blunt trauma from larger calibers will damage the pelt, and you run the very real risk of injuring but not killing the raccoon, potentially making it harder to catch and kill in the future. A gun is the only real solution to quickly and efficiently dispatching a rogue raccoon.
Generally speaking, smaller caliber rifles are better options for hunting smaller animals like raccoon. This is especially true if you’re looking to turn the pelt into a trophy. Most people prefer rifles, as opposed to shotguns, for hunting raccoon. If you’re only worried about dispatching a raccoon already cornered or in a trap, however, a shotgun may well serve that purpose.
One of the simplest mistakes made by first time raccoon hunters is using the wrong kind of bullet or cartridge. Simply put, the generic ammunition you use in your gun may not be the best option for putting down a raccoon. You should look specifically for predator and varmint cartridges, designed to take down even the toughest predator. Hunting bows or compound bows like these are usually not recommended for any type of small game.
Raccoon may not have the thick skulls of possums, but that doesn’t mean that they are easy to kill. You want bullets that will offer accuracy for a clean shot while penetrating the tough hide and protective fat of the raccoon’s body. A specialized scope could help you improve your accuracy when hunting raccoon, especially if you’re hunting at night.
If you’re hunting for sport, you’re likely to locate raccoon easily by offering to take out annoying animals on local classified boards or social media pages. There is no shortage of these four-legged bandits, and many people dealing with them will jump at the chance to have the local raccoon population removed. A single hunt may be sufficient for you to find and eliminate a raccoon.
If you’re trying to address an infestation on your own property or farm, however, you can’t just roll in for one night and expect the problem to go away. Even if you successfully locate and kill one raccoon, there could very likely be more nearby. You will need to continue monitoring the area for signs of raccoon activity, including scat, food scraps, and disturbances to birdhouses or trash.
While many people think of game cameras (like these here) as tools for deer hunting, they can also help with raccoon elimination as well. These cameras, which are usually motion-activated, record in night vision. They can help you determine where raccoon are coming from and how many you have wandering around your property.
It’s important to remember that more raccoon may move into a vacant area when you remove the ones who were already there. Unless you address what attracts them to your property, there will almost certainly be more of them in the future. Just because you’ve read about how to hunt raccoon doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed success in getting rid of these intelligent little pests.
Setting traps out routinely, securing trash containers, and regularly checking your home and any outbuildings for signs of incursions are all good ways to deter raccoon infestations. Of course, when they do show up, if you know they’re there, you can put your raccoon hunting skills to good use.
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