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Raccoon Racing

My older cousin Robin often jokes that he taught me everything I know.

He is right, at least in part.

The problem is some of the things he taught me are not of much use.  I was reminded of one wise gem I learned from him when I saw several raccoons run across the road in front of my pickup one night this week. . . .

Fur prices in recent years have been very much up and down.  If you are old enough, you can remember a time when prices were much higher and a person could make a lot of money trapping and hunting fur-bearers.  As a matter of fact, “back in the day” raccoon prices were so high, that you did not even drive by a road-kill ‘coon, because if you did not pick it up and take it to the fur-buyer, the next guy to come down the road would.

Back then, my cousin would spend time roaming Nebraska creek and river bottoms hunting raccoons.  Nope, Robin never owned a coon-dog; he told me he did not need one.  You see, my cousin said that if you spotted a raccoon in your flashlight beam, all you had to do was take off running after it, bark like a dog, and the raccoon would run up the first available tree.  “Don’t need no stinkin’ dog”.

Fast-forward a few years to a beautiful autumn night with a bright full moon.  My son and I were heading back home after an evening of fishing.  As I turned a corner on a gravel road, the head-lights illuminated a raccoon crossing right in front of us.  After crossing the road, it started into a picked soybean field on the north side.

I put the pickup in “park” and said to my son, “Let’s get out and chase it!”  It must have been a slow night of fishing.  I was bored.

Remember, my cousin said all we had to do was run and bark and we could tree that ‘coon.  What we would do then, I had no idea.  I just knew it was time to put Robin’s wisdom to the test.

My son, Daniel, slipped out of his seat-belt and was out the door in a flash.  He cleared the ditch in one bound and the raccoon peeled-out ahead of him.

It took me a little longer to get out of my door and join the chase.

Daniel is tall and has long legs.  He does not look particularly fast, but you better believe his strides cover a lot of ground.  You all know that a picked soybean field is pretty much nothing more than a dirt track.  From what I could see in the moonlight ahead of me, the track was fast and I was rapidly losing ground.

If you are a fan of “Looney Tunes”, especially Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, you can picture what I could see going across that field–one plume of dust from a rapidly fleeing raccoon and another larger plume of dust from my son’s tenner shoes.  From my vantage point in the rear, it looked like an even pursuit.

Then there was another plume of dust, and another, and another!  Suddenly, there was a whole pack of raccoons not only running out in front, but joining the race from the sides.  All of them beating cheeks as fast as they could go for the tree line on the west edge of the field.  I was witnessing what Patrick F. McManus had termed a “full-bore linear panic” in a whole gaze of raccoons chased by one lanky boy.

Raccoons were swerving in front, cutting off Daniel while others were drafting and sling-shotting to get out ahead.  One wearing an eye-patch tried to bump him “into the wall”.

At that point, you could say this old man ran out of breath and dropped out of the race.  I am going to say I was laughing so hard I could not continue.

I watched the spectacle as it approached the finish line on the west edge of the field.  As well as being completely moon-lit, it was a calm night.  Sure enough, as raccoons started crossing the tape and reaching the trees you could hear the sound of raccoon claws furiously scratching up tree bark.

Who knew?  Robin was right!

Daniel circled around under the trees for a bit, unsure what to do now that the race was over.  I think he was waiting for a prize.

All was quiet except for the sound of panting raccoons.  Daniel offered up a bark or two in victory before walking back to the truck.

You never know what you might see or do while fishing with us.

And, you never know what you might learn from my cousin.

Wikimedia photo, Korall [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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