Raccoon Pockets

The morning is crisp and still. Only the drone of the idling outboard and tinkling of skim ice broken by the boat's aluminum hull cut the early morning silence.

When I beach the boat, thick ice on the downstream side of the sand bar fractures with a sound like thunder. I climb over the gunwale and grab my gear. Upstream, I can see wisps of fog rising toward the heavens.

I wade across the creek in thigh-deep water, gingerly toeing the soft bottom through my boot soles. Without warning, I stumble over something and awkwardly catch my balance. I realize I had just tripped over the stake I put down the day before.

I'm excited to find that the trap is no longer in the hole I'd set. I wiggle the end of the stake back and forth to free it from the stream bottom. As I lift it, a nice, big boar raccoon floats to the water's surface.

In many outdoor sports, opening day is the big event. Most of the excitement of firearms deer season, trout park season and dove hunting all occur on opening day.

The most exciting day in trapping, however, is the second day. Although I'd been working on my gear, studying new (and "old") techniques and reconnoitering

promising new locations for months in anticipation of the season, opening day of raccoon trapping is spent digging holes and setting traps - dozens of them! It's not until the second day when you make your first catch.

In minutes, I've rebaited the site, reset the trap and am on the way to the next set. The day brings several catches, and I make a handful of additional sets at promising locations. The time goes by quickly. For me, no place masks the noise and hubbub of the modern world more effectively than the high banks of Missouri's creeks and rivers.

While trapping serves as a livelihood for a small number of people, it can be a challenging and enjoyable outdoor pursuit for virtually anyone. To me, there's no better way to get started trapping than with raccoons.

Raccoons are some of Missouri's most abundant furbearers. Our raccoon population ranges from 1 to 2 million animals. Trapping helps keep their numbers in line with the carrying capacity of their habitat. It's especially helpful in suburban and agricultural settings where raccoons often damage agricultural and horticultural crops, prey on