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Raccoon hunting is a practice that has been with us for a very long time. Raccoons are vicious and can weigh up to 50 pounds with razor-sharp teeth and claws. Albeit small, when you corner a raccoon, it becomes a formidable opponent. Before things changed to what they are now, hunting raccoons was for sport, meat, and fur. Today, demand for raccoon meat and fur has significantly dwindled, making the raccoon population peak and become pesky pests to many homeowners.
If you have experience with a raccoon problem, you probably understand why you must hunt them down. However, both seasoned and beginner hunters should all be wary of this intelligent and ferocious scavenger.
If you are an environmental enthusiast and love the outdoors, coon hunting will be enjoyable for you. The rising raccoon population leads to damage to crops and the spread of rabies every year. The best solution for controlling it is to go on a raccoon hunt. And this among many other reasons are as good as any to read this extensive beginners guide to coon hunting!
What is Coon Hunting?
The first thing you tell a beginner hunter is to start with a small game as they rise to the big game hunt challenge. It does not get any smaller than going coon hunting. Besides hunting for fun, raccoons provide traders and manufacturers with a hide for making shoes, clothing, hats, rugs, and other ornamental items.
Modern coon hunting is a form of population control. Coon hunting, as we know it today, originates from a sports competition in the 20th Century. Scent hounds are popular for tracking and hunting down raccoons since then. In the 1970s, it was the peak for the highest recorded number of raccoon kills at 5.2 million in one season. Afterward, the market was saturated, and the demand for raccoon fur and meat collapsed.
Since the 90’s the raccoon population has exploded until today when the sport is gaining popularity again. Modern coon hunting involves the use of sophisticated hunting equipment. Like any other hunting experience, to hunt raccoons successfully, you must study their behavior and adaptations.
What You Should Know About Raccoons
Raccoons are nocturnal animals that vary in size, and adults can weigh over 35 pounds. They feed on almost anything and can claw their way anywhere. Coons lack a natural predator, and this advantage gives their young more chances of survival.
1. Where to Find Raccoons
Raccoons like both rural and urban settlements, and they prefer areas with a dense vegetation cover. In rural areas, they will settle near trees and water sources like rivers, lakes, and streams. They can quickly adapt to the human population. In some urban areas, raccoons are a common menace that makes its den near human settlements. They feed on the garbage and trash cans and sometimes break into homes and eat whatever they find.
Raccoons are persistent, and once they discover a particular source of food, they settle nearby. They quickly move dens and sometimes spend a single day in one den. But when they want to mate, they look for a more permanent shelter, like in attics, hollow trees, and abandoned cars.
Raccoons are opportunistic mammals that have adapted to being hunted by humans. They are savvy and fierce when defending their territories. They can survive anywhere, save for hotter climate areas like deserts where there are other varmints and predators like coyotes.
2. Coons Love Food
A starving coon is a dangerous one as it can do almost anything to feed itself. Despite the tiny figure, areas with raccoon infestations record-high number of dead pets like cats and small dogs. They are a danger to you and your family members and pets.
The presence of trash bins will attract raccoons in your home. They are intelligent animals that can use their hands to lift garbage can lids while looking for food. Some forms of raccoon hunting include setting traps using food as bait to lure raccoons in the trap zone.
3. Where There Is One Coon, There Is Probably More
Raccoons drift between being social and solitary animals. In places where the coon population is high, they will live and hunt in groups, but when food is scarce, each coon fends for themselves.
Because they are scavengers and feed on both plants and animals, raccoons thrive near the human population. They are a nuisance, and every raccoon you see is a sign of a looming explosion of their population.
4. People Hunt Raccoons for Their Pelts
Raccoon pelts and tails are useful as hats and trophies. If you have a raccoon problem and finally trap it, you may feel the need to remain hidden. Most people like trapping raccoons to get a clean kill that leaves the fur undamaged.
Rules and Regulations for Coon Hunting
Many areas have an open season for raccoon hunting, which means you can hunt and trap all year round. Before you set out hunting, you must know and understand the hunting laws of your region. Some areas have different day and night hunting regulations. For instance, you should hunt raccoons at night in most areas.
· Hunting Methods
Hunting any game using an automatic firearm is prohibited by most states that allow hunting. However, if you own or lease private hunting land, then hunting rules do not apply to you. The use of poisons, chemicals, and explosives is also prohibited.
· Artificial Light for Hunting Raccoons
Check if the area you live in permits the use of artificial light for hunting raccoons. In most states, landowners can hunt with artificial lights. But they or a person in their presence should not possess a bow, firearm, or any weapon that can take the life of wildlife.
Artificial light should not also disturb or harass other wildlife populations that you are not hunting. You may also not hunt using thermal and night vision using a firearm, bow, or weapons that can take life.
· Hunting Ethics
All hunters must obtain a hunting permit and all documentation from both public and private landowners. After getting the license, you should scout the area to establish yourself with the boundaries and terrain. Note the presence and location of livestock.
If you fail to kill the raccoon instantly, track the wounded animal, and administer the killing as fast and painless as possible. Always clean after each hunt, including collecting any spent ammunition. A conservationist rule is always to leave an environment better than you find it.
How to Go Coon Hunting
Ensure that you prepare well for the hunt. Part of successful hunting is to understand the prey. Know the difference between a male raccoon and a female raccoon. How can you tell the difference between the two?
You must also understand the behavior and adaptations of different types of raccoons. There are seven known species of raccoons in various locations across North and South America continents. Each species adapts differently to different environments and will have different survival instincts.
You must also ensure that you get all the documents and permits needed for the hunt. If you are hunting with dogs, your hounds must have a collar with your contact address.
2. Scout the Location
You should also know more about the area you wish to hunt or trap the raccoons. The law of the land is different for every region. Use the environment to predict the movement of the raccoon population.
The terrain will also determine the method of hunting you will apply. If it is a bushy terrain, you may prefer to trap than to track and kill. When hunting in a clear and open field, traps are the best because you lure the prey to your hunting zone.
Scent hounds are perfect for hunting in thick and dense forest vegetation areas. The hounds will track and tree a raccoon as you move in for the kill with your bow or gun.
3. Use the Right Hunting Equipment
There are lots of ways to hunt and trap raccoons. Some more successful than others since raccoons are also intelligent mammals. When hunting at night, you need to prepare differently than when hunting during the day.
You must understand that raccoons are nocturnal animals, and hunting during the day means tracking down their dens. When hunting at night, you will need more equipment like flashlights and hunting lights.
When hunting in different weather conditions, you need special gear for each. Hunting in water or on snow can be more challenging than hunting during summer.
The Complete Raccoon Hunting Gear
· Night Hunting Lights
Hunting coons at night without a reliable source of light is challenging. You want to navigate the woods easily and also spot raccoons much faster. Kohree CREE 80000 LUX LED is the best when you want to spotlight a coon or your hound from a distance.
Modern lights like Kohree CREE 80000 LUX LED lights eliminate the need to carry a battery when going hunting. Sometimes a secondary gun light is all you need when tracking a raccoon up a tree as you try to make an elusive shot.
· Coon Hunting Boots
When you are hunting a raccoon, be prepared to follow it through a nasty terrain. When a coon is distressed, it will wade through water and murky areas that you cannot access easily with a protective boot.
The best boots are waterproof hunting waders that get you through shallow streams and water pools. The boots will keep your feet dry and also protect you from dangerous sharp objects like thorns and twigs.
I have always had a special eye for Muck Wetland Rubber Premium Men’s Field Boots when going Coon Hunting as they’re very easy to move around in while still being able to walk in shallow waters.
· Raccoon Sqaull Call
Sometimes tracking raccoons is difficult, especially if you are not using a dog. A good coon squall call mimics the sound of raccoons and will call them to your location. They are also useful when you are hunting with dogs. The raccoons find the squall calls agitating and may rouse them to move from their dens, exposing their locations.
Other times you may use different animal sounds to lure coons from their dens. Birds in distress and mouse squeals are useful for this purpose.
· GPS Tracking Device
It is a piece of essential equipment when hunting that serves two purposes. First, you can use it to track your hounds when running in the dark after a raccoon. And second, you can use GPS to locate your track if you move deep into the woods.
A GPS tracking device is useful at night and day as it pinpoints exact locations of the terrain, and you can use it to steer your hounds from dangerous areas. I have always been using Garmins products for my hunting dogs and right now I’m really into Garmin PT10 Dog Device Red Collar.
· Hunting Knife
A hunter’s knife is useful for protection as well as going in for the final kill. You will need a sharp knife to skin a raccoon once you catch it or cut through ropes and entanglements in the woods. We don’t really have an extensive guide on Raccoon hunting knives, but meanwhile you really should have a look at our guide for the best hog hunting knives on the market. I hope we one day will write an article just about coon knives, then I will update this article.
· Raccoon Hunting Guns
When hunting coons, the best firearm to use is a rimfire. When you use centerfire that is above .204 Ruger, you will appear suspicious to law enforcement. Bigger guns with long barrels are cumbersome and tricky to run within the woods. Avoid all deer rifles if you can.
The best guns for coon hunting are
- The lightweight.22WMR
- Youth model .22Mag
- The .22lr experts gun
- Oldschool .38 revolver
- Plain Jane .38
Bigger guns will chew the meat from the raccoon on impact.
· Raccoon Hunting Protective Clothes
When hunting in cold areas, you need clothes that can keep you warm through the night when it gets cold. A coon hunting vest is protective clothing. You can have coon hunting hats with camouflage clothes that let you stalk prey while avoiding detection. While I’m not sure it’s specifically a coon hunting vest my absolute favorite hunting vest is the ALPS OutdoorZ NWTF Long Spur Hunting Vest.
When hunting in wet areas where it is most likely to rain, waterproof coon hunting clothes will keep you dry.
· Raccoon Traps
When you decide to use traps, never compromise on the hardware. A trapped raccoon has no patience and is extremely volatile. A skimpy trap may put you in harm’s way from the coons claws and bites.
Different Methods of Catching Raccoons Without Dogs
It refers to making a trap to catch your raccoon. Done correctly, it is the most efficient and easiest way of catching coons. If you do not want to go to the woods, you can set traps and wait for the raccoons to take your bait.
The traps you set do not need regular monitoring. Once set, you can visit after days to see if you have trapped a raccoon inside. Because raccoons are omnivorous animals, you can set the trap using a variety of foods.
Ensure that the trap is hidden well enough and that the only way the raccoon can reach the food is when it is entirely inside the trap zone.
2. Field Hunt
It is a challenging approach and needs the expertise to catch a coon this way. A successful field hunt relies on the equipment you have. Gears like the trail camera are useful, but if you cannot afford one, you can try other tricks.
Mimicking the sounds of raccoons using callers is an effective way to lure them out of their dens. Sounds of other animals that coons prey on can also bring them into your line of fire.
3. Still Hunting
In this method of hunting, patience is the key to a successful hunt. The method requires that you find a place that raccoons traverse the most and set up your kill zone there. You must be unnoticeable, which means you should camouflage and, if necessary, use scent masking sprays.
You must be still and avoid all forms of noise that might spook the coons when they get close to the kill zone. When the coons get into the kill zone, you can aim and shoot them.
Stalking is efficient if you have to cover a large area to catch your prey. You can easily track raccoons in areas with dense forest trees that bear fruits. Locations with many trees are suitable for stalking because your cover is hidden, and you can get close to your prey unnoticed.
Stalking prey gives you a line of sight clear enough to get a clean shot. Once you spot a raccoon in the darkness, you can spotlight on it to get a predictable movement. Shining light on treed raccoons can also scare and bring them down to your trap or kill zone.
Hunting Coons with Dogs
You must train your coondog well before you take it out on a hunt. The reason is to prevent your dogs from getting carried away and chasing coons deep into the forest against your command. When dogs get excited with the chase, they can run endlessly and get lost in the woods.
To have a successful hunt with your dogs, they must perform well under pressure. You must train your dogs to find the trail and maintain the chase of coons. Your dogs should also be able to hold bay long enough for you to get the kill shot.
Not all dogs can track and chase raccoons. Some scent hounds are better than others. It is why hunters troll each other’s hunting dogs. Each dog behaves differently when they find the trail of a raccoon. You should learn your dog’s signals and behaviors when this happens.
When your dog has treed a coon, out of instincts, they will growl or howl. Often the coon will not leave the tree unless it feels threatened. You can try to aggravate it by shaking the branch it is on or shining it with a bright light before aiming to shoot it.
Types of Coon Hounds for Coon Hunting
1. Black and Tan Coonhound
They are the most popular scent hounds for hunting coons and other game. It is perfect for hunting because of its stamina and high sense of smell. Nose to the grounds, it trails coons relentlessly and barks when a raccoon is treed.
It has a distinctive black and tan color with a cold nose that can pick up old trails. It is also an excellent running and jogging companion.
2. Redbone Coonhound
It weighs around 50-70 pounds and has a body composition that makes it agile. It is a breed of a dog that has speed and power when following a trail. It has thick pads on the bottom of its feet that make it ideal for tracking and chasing prey in hostile territories avoiding injuries.
It is slender, muscular, and courageous to follow prey into the woods. They are versatile and can adapt to tracking prey in any terrain, climate, and environment. Redbones hunt in packs and can take down large prey as well. They have a lifespan of 11-12 years.
3. English or American Coonhound
It is famous for its endurance, speed, and stamina to thrive in extreme conditions. The body weight is proportionate to its weight. The males are slightly longer and measure between 24-26 inches while the females measure 23- 25 inches long.
It has a high sense of smell and can track well at night compared to other hounds. It is a dual-purpose dog that hunts foxes by day and coons by night. It has a distinctive howl and growl when it quarries its prey.
4. Bluetick Hound
It is a purebred hunter with a sleek and slender body perfect for trailing and hunting game. It has a length of 21-27 inches and can weigh between 45-85 pounds. They are quick on the trail and have high energy, which is useful when tracking target animals.
It is a versatile dog and can adapt to many hunting terrains and climates. Bluetick hounds have excellent noses that can pick up old and cold trails. It is a breed that is good for both children and adults.
Raccoons are scavengers that can thrive both in rural and urban areas. Their population is explosive, and open season hunting is a way to control this. Raccoon hunting is a fun sport and beginners can practice shooting at smaller targets before moving to larger game like hogs.
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36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.