Most coon hunting is done behind hounds. But, it is possible to hunt them alone without dogs.
Calling one in is particularly challenging. They are extremely cautious. Often hunters get in a hurry and repeat the call at the wrong time. But if one is patient, it is just a matter of time until a hunter gets his chance at the wily character.
Raccoon of the Midwest are the largest and darkest of the raccoon family. Its winter fur is long and thick with the animal having a bushy ringed tail, black face mask and pointed ears. The general color of raccoons is a yellow gray or gray brown with many hairs dark tipped. Their color is darker on the back. The face mask is black and runs from cheek to eyes. A black streak on the forehead completes the pattern. Their tail is usually gray with four to six black rings.
Raccoons are 27 to 34 inches in length and weigh up to 30 pounds on average.
The forefeet of a raccoon are about 3 inches in length and almost as wide as they are long when viewing the tracks. The hind feet have a longer print, 3 or 4 inches in length, resembling a miniature human footprint with long toes. The claws of both are apparent in the tracks. Raccoons walk flat footed like a human, with an average stride of about 14 inches.
Raccoons are creatures of the night found wherever woods, swamps and streams provide suitable habitat for food and den sights. Usually they make their home in hollow logs or trees. Sometimes they will inhabit temporary shelters in a rock fissure or a woodchuck den.
Raccoons begin to forage in the early evening along creeks and streams in search of food. You can find their tracks in the mud of the banks. They visit the low streams and pools of water in search of crayfish, frogs, fish and other easy prey. In times of short rations in the woods, raccoon like barns, grain storage buildings, orchards and chicken houses.
Hungry raccoons are the easiest to call in, as they will come to any sound that might mean a meal. Raccoon respond to calls of the type often used to call other predators. They also respond to deer calls. Because of its slow gait hunters should give the coon sufficient time to respond. Twenty minutes is a good rule of thumb.
If one gets one raccoon to come in, it is a pretty good bet that others will also approach. Often several raccoons will answer the same call at the same time.
Raccoons are not as alert to human scent as other predators. Often they come straight into the call. They usually do not circle downwind as do other animals. Their eyesight is fair, but it depends more on a keen sense of hearing. Any unnatural sound in the woods will result in the coon making tracks in the opposite direction.
Night hunting of raccoons requires a headlight like those used by miners. They are available from many sporting goods stores or by mail from hunting supply catalogs. A red filter in the lens of the light allows the hunter to leave it on all the time while calling. The same thing that makes able to see in low light also conceals a hunter behind the light. It is like the old “deer in the headlights” situation. They do not see in the red glow.
Dark misty nights are best for calling coons. Call wherever there is raccoon activity. The only problem is in knowing from which direction they will arrive. A coon coming to a call can be aggressive and inflict a painful wound upon the hunter. It is important to be vigilant and attempt to predict his approach location.
On wet nights, it is difficult to hear the approach of a raccoon. On dry nights, the noise of an approaching coon is more likely heard. Wind also masks the sound of an approaching coon.
When calling from a food source area like an orchard or cornfield, it is wise to have an open space between the caller and the food. It forces the raccoon into the open. Raccoons will usually travel directly from the food source to the call in a straight line. The open space offers the hunter a preferred shot.
In warmer weather, raccoons seem reluctant to approach a call. The fat and heavy fur coat they sport makes them more sluggish.
In colder weather, they are more active until the snow begins to fall. In the snow they retire to some warm retreat to sleep. This is not hibernation. During mild spells in the weather, they again become active and will respond to calls.
Calling coons into the open for hunting is an interesting and challenging proposition. It provides a late season hunt that can be the equal of any other type of hunting and an additional opportunity to get into the field.