For quality pelts, target well-fed, well-sheltered raccoons that love the easy farm life
By Jason Houser
In order to be a successful raccoon trapper, you have to follow their stomachs and figure out where they shelter. Early in the season coons can be found hunting for crawfish, frogs and fish along ponds, lakes, rivers and creeks. Or they might be in farm fields eating corn, whether it is still standing corn, or corn leftover after the harvest is completed. Maybe they will be in timber searching for acorns, berries, wild grapes, and other edible plants.
Without question the food options available for raccoons are very high. When one food source is no longer available, coons will find another food source to feed on.
Farms attract and hold coons every months of the year. They have plenty of food to offer raccoons in the form of garden vegetables, fruits, livestock feed, pet food as well as table scraps. The list could go on and on as to what coons love about living on a farm smorgasbord.
Once a coon begins to live on a farm it will be around for some time. When the food runs out in the wilderness, some of those coons will migrate to the farm to share in the luxuries. What might be a few coon in July could be many when December arrives.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a farm as being, “area of land and its buildings used under one management for growing crops, rearing animals, etc.” Rearing animals in that definition could easily apply to raccoons. Raccoons are not true hibernators, but when the weather turns cold they will stay held up in their dens until the nights get warmer. For the coons that live on a farm they have everything they need: shelter and food.
Some farms I trap are abandoned; others are only a couple of years old. Raccoons can be found in old traditional barns with haylofts and corncribs, as well as new barns with tin metal. Even grain bins can hold coons that are scavenging for loose grain. Livestock might be the main function on one particular farm. It might be grain on the next farm. Whatever the farm produces, it will probably hold coons.
Farms can come in two forms. Neat and tidy, or run down and barely functioning, if they are even functioning.
I have had the best luck catching coons in barns that did not look safe to step foot in. The older the wooden barns, the better for catching coons. The majority of my farm coon catches come from those types of farms. But I have also caught plenty of coons in newer, well-tended farms.
Old farms are great for the coon trapper. Throw a farm into the mix that has livestock and then you really have something to write home about. Livestock such as cattle, hogs, chickens and sheep have to eat—usually grain such as corn. It just so happens that raccoons love corn, too. Raccoons will eat just about anything being an omnivorous animal. One thing I do at my house is feed my table scraps to my dogs every evening after supper, which is something else that coons love as well. It is not uncommon for me to walk outside any time of the year to find raccoons devouring the food I set off for my dogs.
Farms provide the trapper many coons that are available to catch. They might be singular coons or a whole family. Once the coons figure out where the food is located they will come from North, East, South, and West and every point in between to get to the food.
To catch coons quick on a farm it is best to gang-set the area. Many farms you trap will not be your own. You are probably doing a favor for a friend or for a farmer who was given your name. All the farmers want is for the coons to be gone. Some do not care if it takes the entire trapping season to rid their backyard of the coons. Others want it done yesterday. Personally, I want to get in and out as quick as possible. There are three reasons I like to get the job done quickly.
1) The sooner I can remove the coons from one farm I can begin to concentrate on other farms. There might be times I am trapping four or five farms at a time and often there is a waiting list. So the sooner I can finish up on one farm I can move to the next one. Trapping coons on the farm is something that can be done from day one of trapping season up until the last day, with the most coons being caught late in the season. All a trapper has to know is how and where to find the land to trap.
2) Most coons show up late in the season when food sources are dried up. This does not give a lot of time to trap before the season is over.
3) I do not want to be in the way of the landowner and the work he has to do.
It is important to set as many traps as you can. Early in the season if you do not catch a coon on the first warm night you will have many more warm nights to catch him. If you miss a coon on a warm night towards the end of the season you might not get another chance.
Good public relations is a great way to find new farms to trap. When one farmer realizes the good you are doing for him, he will tell another farmer. One thing about farmers is that they are always talking to other farmers. Before you know it, you will have farmers waiting for your help.
The reason you are trapping a particular farm is because the owner wants the coons removed. Stop by and show the farmer a couple of coons you took out of traps that morning. As I mentioned earlier, even though the coons are extinct from the farm when trapping season is over, they will be back soon. Much to the displeasure of the farmer. Do not be surprised to be able to trap the same farm year after year as long as you do what is expected of you during the season.
Know what pets are around. Nothing will anger a landowner like finding his beagle in a coil spring. If there are pets around never use killer traps. The only time I would use a conibear is when I have been told that there are no pets around. But I would still let the landowner know the style of trap I am using. When I do use a conibear I will only use it in a cubby set with a sweet lure. The best choice of traps would either be a cage trap or a dog-proof trap.
Sweet lures are love by raccoons but dogs and cats are not interested in them. Using a sweet lure like Plum Loco from Night Owl Lures is a good choice if you have to set a foothold. It is sure to greatly reduce the number of accidental pet catches. However, the best way to keep from catching a pet in a foothold is not to use a foothold.
Inside verses outside. I say inside is the best place to trap for coons on the farm. Coons are inside for two reasons. Shelter and food. Coons often live in the hay lofts, around machinery and the junk piled up in the corner.
Food is probably the biggest reason coons are attracted to the barns. Every year it is a battle between the coons and myself to see who gets the seed. I normally win. I am sure this is common with farms everywhere. Whether it is seed, feed or any other food source that is available.
When I have coons eating cat and dog food or table scraps, or when coons are searching through my garbage I will set some traps in these areas to try and ambush the coons.
Whether I am trapping indoors or outdoors my preferred trap is a live trap. I use an ear of corn as bait and use a sweet lure. That way I do not have to worry about catching Fluffy the Cat.
Another good area to position a trap is on their trails. Raccoons will enter and exit a building using the same route each time. Find that route and set a trap on or very near that trail.
Because of the two things that attract coons to a farm, food and shelter, they are usually bigger and have a thicker fur than the coons living in the forest.
Because of all the trouble they pose to farmers, they are an easy animal to obtain permission to trap. Coons will live on a farm 12 months out of a year but when the food sources dry up out in the woods, be ready for the raccoon invasion on the farm.