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.