If I had a buck for every time I’ve been awakened by the sound of tiny hands fiddling with my cookware when I’m out camping, I’d have enough to buy a nice motorhome and keep the cookware inside. Unfortunately, I’m still on the ground these days and that’s just fine with me. But I think I might become a raccoon hunter pretty soon.

I remember visiting my cousins in Minnesota when I was a kid. We’d catch a bunch of catfish at night and put them into a cage that we hung off the pier. Those darn raccoons soon learned how to pull the cage up and manipulate the latch. We lost a lot of catfish that summer. We tried to wait for the coons to come on the pier so we could ambush them but they always outwitted us.

Now I know that raccoon has been a staple in the Deep South for a couple hundred years or more, but here in the west, we consider them pests and many people mistakenly think they all carry rabies. Actually, I’ve never met anyone around here who’s ever hunted them, but that’s all about to change if I get woken up one more time.

Every spring they invade my little farm and creep around on my porch at night. My two dogs patiently wait till I get up and let them take chase. They always come back empty handed. The masked bandit wins again!

I found out that there’s actually a raccoon season here in California. In my area (Northern California), it opens November 16 and closes at the end of March so I still have a chance to legally take one. Another thing about the legalities of hunting raccoon is that you can hunt for them at night. That’s a good thing considering that’s when the little thieves are lurking around.

One thing to consider is that you can only use a .22 caliber or a shotgun if you hunt at night and you can’t use lead ammo. You are also allowed to use a dog so that makes it easier (maybe).

Hunting the little rascals can be challenging though and it depends where you are. If you’re out camping and you’ve been fishing, try putting the fish guts down by the shore of the lake. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll see them at night.

Remember that you can’t shoot over water (unless it’s a shotgun) and be sure to know where your neighbors are — you might scare the heck out of them if you shoot at night. Personally, I’d avoid this unless I was alone.

Remember that raccoons are considered furbearers and they can be taken with traps too. I won’t get into trapping but my point is that you can bait them. Many raccoon hunters (yes, they exist) have good luck with baiting and calling. Apparently they respond to the same calls as coyotes. A distress call (like a rabbit or other small game squealing) has been known to attract raccoons. If you have a dog that hunts, you are likely to tree a coon. My dogs have treed quite a few. Once again, be darn careful shooting in the air.

So while I’m no expert at hunting raccoons, I do see them a lot and could have taken quite a few. As for the idea of eating one, many folks say they’re quite good. One thing to remember is that although few of them have rabies (actually you’ll probably never encounter one), they do carry some of the same pathogens as rabbits. Most people boil them for a couple of hours before they roast them or put them in the crock pot. I found a guy that actually makes me want to try it and he swears that sweet potatoes are the key. I’ll let you know!

© Carol Kelpin | Dreamstime.com – Raccoon on rooftop