Our land served more as a disc-golf course than a farm while Jimmy and Christine Moore were visiting.  Jimmy and I ended up playing 27 rounds, which means we walked more than 27 miles during the week he was here.  Not bad, considering it was very hot and humid until Thursday, his last full day here.

There were some reminders during the week that in addition to disc-golf baskets, there are animals occupying the property.  Sara received a visit from a local goat expert, who coached her on catching and harnessing her goats so they can be trained … although we’re not expecting them to do tricks or anything when the 4-H fair rolls around.

Sara’s other 4-H project is to raise 25 chickens and auction off five of them.  Now she’s down to 21 chickens.  For the third time since we moved here, a predator discovered one of our coops and decided to treat it as a takeout restaurant.  This time it was the coop behind the house.

Chareva walked out to her garden one morning a few days ago and noticed some chicken feathers stuck to the fence next to the coop.  When she counted the chickens, there were only 22 left.  No other clues.  Since she didn’t find any McNuggets or other recognizable pieces of chicken, I thought perhaps the killer this time was a fox.  Raccoons tend to leave body parts as evidence, from what I’ve read.

I set the same trap that caught a raccoon a couple of years ago, but when I checked it the next morning, the can of cat food I used for bait was gone even though the trap door was still open.  So I baited it again and pointed my trail camera at it, hoping to at least get a mug shot of the perpetrator.

The next day, Chareva found that some critter had ripped open the tarp that covers the hoop-house and killed another chicken – most of the carcass was still inside the coop.  So I checked my trail camera and saw that a raccoon had knocked the trap over on its side, then (or so it appeared in the fuzzy night shots) simply reached through the wire mesh and pulled out chunks of the cat food.  Pleased with the appetizer, it apparently then ripped open the tarp and killed a chicken for the main course.

I don’t believe this, I grumbled to myself.  I’m being out-smarted by a raccoon. (In the picture below, you can see how Chareva reinforced the coop where it was torn.)

Figuring the moving parts on the trap might be getting rusty, I took the thing into my workshop and fussed with it until a light tap with a dowel would trip the spring.  Then I wrapped some wire around the mesh at the bait end so the raccoon wouldn’t be able to reach through and grab the cat food.  After baiting the trap yet again, I secured it to the ground with a garden stake.  Now if Rocky Raccoon wanted the cat food, he’d have to go inside the trap to get it – although I figured he might just be smart enough to know better.

Nope.  As Jimmy and Christine were packing to leave on Friday, Chareva came in from the garden to inform me a raccoon was inside the trap.  To get an idea of how powerful these critters are for their size, take a look at the picture below.  See that bit of tin on the floor of the cage near the middle?  That was a full can of cat food.  And the trap door that’s slammed shut was straight, not bent like it is now.  The raccoon gave it that shape trying to bang its way out.

The last time I sent a chicken-killer to the Great Chicken Coop In The Sky, I tossed the carcass in an empty field.  That drew a few comments from readers about how raccoons make a good stew and I’d just wasted some wild game.  Point taken.  And of course, there’s the rebate factor:  by eating the critter that ate Sara’s chickens, we get some of our own chickens back.

So after Jimmy and Christine left, I took a .22 out back and dispatched the raccoon with a clean shot to the head.  Unlike his predecessor, he didn’t flail around inside the cage and force me to take body shots at a moving target.  He hissed and growled at me, then raised his snout to meet the barrel, probably intent on biting it.

With that unpleasant task out of the way, Chareva and I set about skinning and gutting the raccoon after watching some instructional videos on YouTube.

After that, we let it sit overnight in a pot of water, vinegar and salt, as suggested in still more instructional videos.

In the evening, we took the girls to a Fourth of July concert/fireworks celebration at an outdoor amphitheater in a local park.  The band was excellent, the fireworks were awesome as always, and the weather was the best I remember for a July evening in Tennessee – 62 degrees by the time we left the park.  It was all so pleasant and civilized … which is probably why Chareva turned to me during the drive home and said, “I can’t believe we killed and gutted a raccoon today.”

“Yeah, I guess we’re true hillbillies now.   I’m looking forward to your possum pie someday.”

We’ll settle for raccoon stew for now.  On Saturday, Chareva parboiled the raccoon parts to make it easier to separate the meat.  (That’s Coco standing watch and offering to take care of any unwanted parts.)

The meat went into a big pot with some onions, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and spices.  I named it Chicken-Killer Stew.  The meat was a little on the chewy side, but other than that, I could hardly tell it from beef stew.

47 Responses to “The Farm Report: Chicken-Killer Stew”
  1. Mindy says:

    That’s hardcore dude. I always shot them and buried them….and then the dog would dig it up a few days later and roll around on it in the garage. I’ve heard it’s good eating but never could screw up the courage to skin it and clean it, mostly because hubby was dead set against it. Hmm. I might just tell him it’s beef next time.

  2. Mindy says:

    By the way, is Splenda a relatively healthy sweetener?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I haven’t seen any convincing evidence that it’s harmful.

    • Cindy says:

      just stay away from any packets of sweeteners. All the ones I’ve seen have sugars masquerading as fillers – even the ones that say sugar free. They don’t add the same fillers to the larger containers.

  3. Elenor says:

    O! M! everlovin’ G! Farmer Tom, you are AMAZing! Not so much of that-there LA-sidewalk-hikin’ city-boy left anymore, eh? I am truly impressed. I could kinda imagine doing the farm thing and I’ve done the brush-clearin’ thing — but skinnin’ and guttin’ a coon for stew? I am impressed! I am sure-‘nough impressed! Good on yer!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Let’s just say when I was living in big cities and working as a standup comedian, this isn’t the lifestyle I imagined myself having at age 55. I’ve gone country.

      • Kristin says:

        I’m with Elenor on this one. I live in the burbs and still hunt in the farmer’s markets and local farms that just do that work for me. Coons in the stew pot are…well, okay I suppose since I don’t have chickens they don’t introduce themselves. I joke about the abundance of non-indegenous gray squirrels around here that could make good eating. Since my dad used to shoot them for dinner when he was twelve that must be true. Of course shooting a squirrel in the burbs would probably not go over well.

        You have really swan dived into the information you uncovered in LA doing Fathead. I can only imagine how much work that was and therefore how intense the transformation. Ya know, you are fortunate that Chareva is not only okay with all this but is a powerful ally. Trophy wives are ultimately boring. You did so much better. And I look forward to seeing how your daughters mature in such a setting.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Yeah, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind when we were living in L.A. It’s better, and it was primarily driven by Chareva.

  4. Dave says:

    Looks like a decent return on your investment! So, what about the coonskin cap? If Wikipedia is to be believed, it was a popular form of headgear among European settlers to Tennessee. Naturally, back then any kind of meat was fair “game.”

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Taking off the pelt in once piece appeared rather difficult in the videos we watched, so we elected not to bother this time. But since our chickens seem to draw raccoons, I suspect we’ll get another chance.

  5. Firebird says:

    Other than the Malto-Dextrin in some brands, harmless, I think.

  6. Firebird says:

    Those look like some mighty fine vittles, Uncle Jed.

  7. Kathy in Texas says:

    ” rebate factor ” LOL LOL LOL

  8. Bruce says:

    I tried raccoon once. It was from a guy at work that was reheating it at work. I asked what smelled so good. He offered me a piece. It was roasted, I think. Tasted like a hunk of my moms pot roast, without the gravy.

  9. velvet says:

    Hell yeah! I’m so impressed by ya’ll. I have never eaten any, but there’s an underground market here for raccoon. The feral hogs have divided some of the interest, more meat for the effort, but many folks east of Htown consider raccoon a comfort food, if not a delicacy.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I wouldn’t consider it a delicacy, but the flavor was nowhere near as gamey as I expected. It just tasted like meat.

  10. Casey says:

    Should you worry about rabies when eating a raccoon?

  11. Kerstin says:

    My mom made a beaver edible by fixing it like Sauerbraten, if you want a different recipe next time. Still marinate it, but I don’t know that you have to parboil it to fix it…and the beaver was delicious!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Parboiling the raccoon was optional. I’m not sure if made separating the meat easier or not; Chareva still had to slice most of it off with a knife.

  12. We did the same with fox, pretty tasty but it took ages to skin.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Doesn’t surprise me. Wild animals seem to have tough skins.

      • It was way tougher than deer, when you go totally native you can have all the fun of skinning squirrels. Skinning squirrels is where my kids learnt the true breadth and colour of English!

        • Tom Naughton says:

          My girls expand their vocabulary when I do carpentry. Skinning a squirrel is probably in our future because Sara is determined to take up hunting, and I told her she’ll have to start with rabbits and squirrels. I’m not letting her shoot anything besides her single-shot .22 until she’s older, so that limits it to small critters.

          • Tim says:

            Rabbit probably isn’t the best idea. You wing it and it cries like a baby..

            • Tom Naughton says:

              True, but if she wants to be a hunter, she’ll have to get used to that. I’ll probably start her with a squirrel. We see plenty of those around here.

  13. Curtis says:

    Okay this is another meat I want to try. And I do believe you are right Tom your family has joined the Hillbilly clan.:)

  14. Vic says:

    I haven’t prepared raccoon in a coon’s age. (couldn’t resist) However, as I recall we did the marinade, and then used a crockpot. It always came out very tender and tasty, and was used in any beef recipe, noodles and beef being my husbands favorite.
    Just as a disclaimer, we don’t hunt. Not because we object, but because we are not skillful, but a friend of ours was like a mountain man and always had excess we were happy to help him with.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I wouldn’t seek out a raccoon just for the meat, but I figure if I’ve got to kill them when they go after the chickens, best to make use of it. The crockpot is a good idea. Take away the chewiness of the raccoon meat, it would have been a perfect stew.

  15. Jason Bucata says:

    Wait, so that’s you doing the skinning? The facial hair makes you look very Amish in that shot! I didn’t think it was you at first. (Now I half expect to hear you’re selling portable fireplaces in the magazine section of the Sunday newspaper… 😀 )

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yup, that’s me sporting the Amish beard, which I’ve been letting grow at the request (and near-insistence) of my daughters. When I shave and trim the sides, they surround me at the bathroom sink to make sure I don’t snip the chin hairs.

  16. Tim "Tatertot" says:

    You would fit right in here in Alaska!

    Good job! I ate many raccoons, possums, and muskrats growing up in Ohio.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      We’ve seen possums on the property, but I’ll never eat one unless I’m starving. They’re just too butt-ugly and disgusting to be appetizing.

  17. Pierson says:

    Looks like a good stew from a great catch! A question though; would this work with meat that’s been frozen for a prolonged period of time? One of my dogs dispatched a woodchuck over a year ago, and it’s been sitting in my freezer ever since. While I’ve finally decided that I want to eat it instead of bury it (I’ve never had woodchuck before), I’m not sure if it’s still safe (or palatable) after so long in the deep freeze. Since you now have some experience with this sort of thing, would you be willing to share any thoughts?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      No idea how long a killed critter is considered safe to eat if frozen. My guess would be a long time — I hope so, since we have most of our half-cow still in the freezer.

  18. Stephen says:

    Very nice, great use of the animal. But I wouldn’t eat the stew unless it was served over rice! 🙂

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