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Late Summer 'Coon Scouting

Scouting this time of year is tough, but that doesn't stop me from getting a head start.  Everything is still green and thick, and in my neck of the woods the ground is bone dry.  Looking for animal sign under these conditions is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, and any travel patterns and food sources may change before the season starts anyway.  Still, what the heck?  Animals still leave sign; it just may take a little more power of observation to find it under these conditions.  Besides, it was a nice day for a walk.....

I went looking for raccoon sign along this creek bed.  Usually in this kind of situation I walk both the high creek banks looking for trails parallel to the creek while also looking down along the banks for tracks or crossings.  Some guys don't bother trapping water sources because they say the little 'coons run the creeks while the big ones run the ridges.  That may be true to some extent, but I've caught some big 'ole coons along creeks so I still set these locations.  You can always let the little ones go.

The following pics aren't great but can be clicked and enlarged for a little better detail.

While intently scanning the creek bed and the high banks I almost forgot to look up for den trees.  Just as this thought crossed my mind I looked up and saw a hollow tree den and a raccoon peering out at me.  He must have heard me and was watching me make my way up the bank.  He ducked down before I could snap the picture, but here's the den.

The tree showed a lot of scratch marks from the 'coons climbing up and down, but the ground was so covered with dry debris and leaves that I could not find any distinct trails leading away from the tree.  Looking more closely, I found a nearby log that sat about 18" off the ground with the dirt underneath worn smooth and showing faint tracks.  I figure that this is a pinch point on their travel route and the log above the trail helped preserve the evidence of the trail running underneath it.  The point I'm talking about is circled in red.

This point would be a good location to try a trail set, but if the trails don't clear up and become more obvious I'd throw in a bait set or two on the bank below the tree.  When I'm putting in a bait set in a spot like this I like to look for some kind of natural cubby, especially at the exposed roots of larger trees.  Right near this den I found this tree with an odd root configuration that forms an excellent natural cubby.  It would be easy to put a bait set in here.

Well, there you have it - just one little discovery from a late Summer scouting trip.  When the season comes and the fur gets prime I have a feeling I'm going to meet that 'coon again in person, but next time he won't be peering down at me from the safety of his tree den.......

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