The Great Coon’ Bait Caper


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 style corn. There are people raking in the dough  selling custom baked pet treats, so after the recent 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 runs the R&D department at a brand name pet food plant and has to wear hair and beard nets to guard against getting hair in the pet 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. So 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 smelled like my grandmothers ginger cookies times ten, but looked like it had already been eaten once. In my defense, at least it had a palatable kitcheney’ 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. 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 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 of “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 came 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 lump of the goo and added the peppermint. I intentionally took a big whiff of the oils before adding each 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 concoction smelled like wonderful sweet wedding mints, but still looked like cow brains.

It remains to be seen whether any of my “experimental” coon baits will do more than wreak havoc on the local possum population, understandable I guess for something that looks like cow brains. But however it turns out, it all makes for a good story, and if they don’t work at all I’m sure I’ll have learned my lesson…no I won’t; I’ll probably try it all again next year! …Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected].

cover photo –  Ken Douglas


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