When it comes to eating habits, raccoons are a lot like teenage boys; they’ll eat anything that smells good, and a lot of things that don’t. Common home-grown coon baits are marshmallows, jelly beans, peanut butter, barbeque sauce, maple syrup and cream corn. There are people raking in the dough selling custom baked pet treats, so this year after the Kansas Fur Harvesters convention, I opened the Gilliland Coon’ Bait Test Kitchen, intent on dazzling the trapping world with my coon bait creations.
First order of business was to put on my lab coat and hair & beard net. My brother once ran the R&D department at a brand name dog food plant and had to wear hair and beard nets to guard against getting hair in the dog food, so I thought it only right that I guard against hair in my raccoon bait! I needed some early success, so for my first creation I used a jar of product I bought at the convention. The jar contains all the flavors and smells the seller uses in his raccoon bait; you merely add the jar contents to one pound of dog or cat food. I marched into my woodworking shop turned test kitchen with a bag of Wal-Mart’s cheapest cat food under my arm. In a monstrous zip lock bag I mixed the cat food and the powder in the jar, which smelled sweet and yummy like butterscotch. The whole shop (I mean test kitchen) smelled like butterscotch for three days. It’s good I’m not a sleep walker; I probably would have awakened late that night and found myself eating a bowl of it with milk.
For my second creation I wanted to try a recipe I found on the all-wise, all-knowing internet. The base for this recipe was commercial pond fish food. I poured the commercial fish food into a one-gallon ice cream bucket which I placed on the step going into the garage. When I returned a while later, there sat an empty ice cream bucket on the step. It suddenly dawned on me that the bucket was exactly like the one that holds the dog food in the pantry for our two small dogs. My wife saw the bucket of fish food on the step, thought it was nice of me to refill it and promptly fed the dogs a bowl of commercial pond fish food! No harm done, the ingredients are probably not much different than those in dog food anyway, but now not only do the dogs love to get a bath, I have to chase them around the sink as they keep swimming away from me!
With a zip lock bag of the fish food and various other ingredients, I entered the SATELITE test kitchen, aka my wife’s real kitchen. This was still a test, so I used just a small amount of the fish pellets, then added mini-marshmallows, molasses and vanilla according to the recipe. I mixed it all together and sealed the bag. It promptly turned to a glob of goo and smelled like my grandmothers ginger cookies times ten, but looked like it had already been eaten once. In my defense, at least it was a palatable kitcheny’ smell and didn’t reek of rotten eggs or dirty gym socks like many trapping baits.
I let the concoction marinate for a few days, then decided it was not exactly what a finicky, man-of-the-world raccoon might want to smear all over his face, so I found a bulk food store and came home with butterscotch oil, peppermint oil and anise oil, all of which, by the way are oft-used ingredients in commercially made raccoon bait.
Anise oil smells like black licorice and I decided to play with it first. I opened the jar of the afore-mentioned gingerbread smelling goo and tore off a softball sized chunk, put it into its own container and began adding the anise. My drum beats to the tune that “More is always better,” so I dumped every last drop from the three tiny bottles into the goo and mixed it as best I could. It was soft and pliable all right but mixing it was like trying to stir something into a volley ball. When I finished, it smelled like an explosion at a black licorice factory, but looked like a bowl of cow brains.
Next was the butterscotch oil. I only had two little bottles of it, so again I ripped off a chunk of the gingerbread goo and added the oil. It actually smelled yummy like a combination of grandma’s cookies and Werthers candies, but looked no different than the first.
Last but not least was the peppermint oil. Again, I pried off a chunk of the goo and added the peppermint. I intentionally took a big whiff of the oils before adding them to the mix, and the peppermint was the sharpest of the three. It was sweet like peppermint, but almost overpowering. When finally mixed, this last attempt smelled like wonderful sweet wedding mints, but still looked like cow brains.
I’m embarrassed to say that the test kitchen experiments were the highlight of this project. The only catch made with my experimental offerings were a few possums; understandable I guess, using bait that looks like cow brains. Anyway, it all made for a good story and taught me a lesson………No it didn’t; I’m sure I’ll try it again some year! Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]