Hunting/Raccoon feeding behavior
Hello Mongo, I will be trapping northern WV and western PA in late November and early December and I do not want to go to the water to early and catch only the young ones. Is it just a matter of the coons going to the water when all or most of the hard mast is gone or will the mature coons stay on the ridges till freeze up? The area I will be trapping is public forest land with no agriculture. I would really like to find some good books on this subject if you can recommend some. As this will be my first season of serious trapping, I am pretty full of questions pertaining to coon behavior like when and where do frogs, salimanders & crayfish hibernate, when do the coons start on this food source,etc, the list of questions goes on and on. Most of the studies I find online deal with aguculture areas and will be of no use to me in the area I will be trapping.
The mature coons, as well as the younger ones, will be checking the waterways all year. It is a natural source of food for them, and so they "run it" year round. Even those old big silver-tip "ridge-runner" boars will leave the ridges and woods to come to the water regularly. They too find the water a good source of food, no matter the time of year... To be honest, I don't even trap for coon specifically in the upland woods. I regularly catch them there in sets for other animals such as fox, bobcat, or coyote. The only places I make sets specifically for coon are around water, or close to it, streams, lakes, ponds, sloughs, creeks, etc., and trails going to or from the water, or around it, or even trails and 2-track roads thru the woods from one body of water to another... One of my most productive places to catch coons are around ponds setting back in the woods. These are a natural draw for every coon in the area, and they have always been good to me for producing coons, as well as other furbearers..... Now, when everything freezes up the coons will spend more time away from the water, and in wooded areas eating the acorns, walnuts, persimmons, and any small animals or birds they can catch. They will also readily feed on carrion if they find it, particularly in the coldest parts of winter when food is harder to come by. This is also the best time to find them raiding any trash dumps or even people's garbage cans or food left out for dogs or cats... But, even so, they still check out any water sources regularly. And any places where the water is running or beginning to thaw is a good place to find them.
Coon don't actually hibernate. They may "hole up", or go into what is called a "winter rest", and wait out bad weather, storms, freezes, sudden cold snaps, heavy snows, etc., sometimes for days or even weeks at a time, if necessary. So, because of this they go into almost a "feeding frenzy" in late fall to try to put on as much fat as possible to help tide them thru these lean times when there is much less to eat or they may be forced to hole up and wait out the bad weather. Because of this, these lean times are some of the best times for baited sets using such things as fish, or mice, scoops of bacon grease, or marshmallows soaked in vanilla extract... But, as soon as things settle down, or a warm spell hits they will be out and about again. So, I always try to make sure to have my coon sets working and ready as soon as the storms pass or a warm spell hits.
I'm sorry that I can not recommend any specific books on trapping coon, but I am sure that most coon trapping books would be helpful... However, one book that I highly recommend for any trapper, particularly a beginner, is the "NTA Trapping Handbook, A Guide for Better Trapping". This book covers all North American furbearers, including coon, and gives alot of useful and helpful information on every aspect of traps and trapping. And is probably the best all-around trapping handbook I have personally read.
Again, I must apologize, as I can't tell you when frogs, salamanders and crayfish hibernate. These small animals are a valuable food source for coon, and they will make use of it as long as it is available. But even when it starts becoming harder to find the coons will still be checking the waterways and areas they are used to finding it, and this is a good time to have baited sets out and working in these areas.
Richard, I'm sorry that I simply can not answer some of your questions, but I hope that I managed to offer you a little useable information anyway.
Good luck with the coons,