I Have a Late-Night Encounter and I get a Big Shock

An animal's eyes
An animal's eyes

Frequent readers may recall that I patrol my property late at night. OK, I am actually just walking the dog, but I think of it as a de facto patrol. We walk down the drive way to the road, scout the perimeter, and check the chickens and their enclosure. I hope our presence and smell motivates any predators to think twice about paying a nocturnal visit to the chicken coop.

Each night, I don my headlamp, and I am always armed because, well, I am always armed. Some nights, especially of the dog has been acting like something might be out there, I strap on a 1911 with a Streamlight TLR-2 light/laser combo mounted on it.

I bought the TLR-2 relatively cheap years ago for use on a Smith & Wesson M&P with an extended magazine that was my bedroom self-defense gun. How long ago was this? Let’s just say that the light has only 135 lumens. Yeah, that’s old. Still, it is enough light to identify your target at pistol-engagement distances.

A 12-gauge with an 800 lumen light replaced that bedroom gun. The TLR sat in my safe on a gun I didn’t like much because of its mushy trigger pull. Only when I got here and was lining up weapons for bear defense did I decide I should mount the light on a 1911 with a full dust cover that has a picatinny rail. I expect eight shots of 230 grain .45 FMJ should penetrate a bear pretty deeply. They will definitely make a bigger hole than a 9mm.

Something is Out There

A few days ago, the dog seemed intent on something at the far end of the driveway. I saw nothing, but her nose kept telling her something is there. Reassuringly, I was wearing the .45. Do I expect to see a bear? No, but neighbors see one from time to time.

If threatened by a bear, my plan is to drop the leash, hope the dog distracts the bear while I shoot it in time to save the dog from taking any serious damage. These are black bears, so chances are, it will run off at the sight and/or sound of us, but like someone once said: “Be polite, be courteous, show professionalism, and have a plan to kill everyone in the room.” I apply that logic to bears as well.

As we finish our walk and were about to go into the house, I glance back down the driveway and I see a slight glimmer of light way up the hill to the north. I pull out my EDC flashlight and dial it up to the full 1,200 lumens. Yep, way up there is a yellow reflection, prossibly an animal’s eyes. Or is it my neighbor’s house? As the leaves thin out, maybe I’m seeing a glint reflected from his windows? I thought the house was further to the right, but I could be wrong.

The next day, in daylight, I walk up there and I can see that I was not wrong. The yellow glimmer was definitely well to the left of the neighbor’s house, either in the trees or the hill behind them. I look around, no obvious sign of an animal. No scat of any kind, no footprints in the mud or anything like that.

Face to Face

The dog is calm for the next two days. Then, last night, as we get close to the end of the driveway, she about yanks my arm out of the socket. The dog and I have a deal: When she pulls one way, I force us to go the other. That’s how I show her who is in control. She normally gets it and is pretty good about not pulling, and looking to me for instructions where we are going. This time, however, she is intent on whatever is at the bottom of the driveway and refuses to give up. She is up on her two hind legs straining against the leash. I look up, and darned if I don’t see two glowing yellow eyes in a tree about 40 feet from us.

I whip out my handheld flashlight and light it up. There it is!

It’s a possum up in a tree, and it’s much closer than last time. Then I get a look at its tail. No, it’s not a possum, it’s a raccoon, but a small one, probably kicked out of its mother’s den and looking for a place to settle down. Maybe the smell or sound of chickens is more enticing than the smell and sound of a big dog, meaning that perhaps this isn’t the world’s smartest raccoon. In any case, it doesn’t like the light or our attention and it heads further up the tree.

I finally wrench the dog around and we head the opposite direction. As I say to my wife, now we have a better idea of what the dog is barking at if she wakes us up in the early morning hours.

We go out again three hours later. I am armed with a .22 instead of a .45. The Raccoon is nowhere to be found. Perhaps it was smart enough to make a tactical retreat.

The Conundrum

I am tempted, the next time the dog barks at night, to let her out and have her run down the raccoon. I am also tempted to deploy onto our back deck with my 10/22 and see if I can pick it off. In the past, I haven’t spotted anything when I head out there, but at least I know what I am looking for now. I have been so focused on the possibility of a bear eating my honey that I hadn’t been paying attention to a raccoon that wants to steal eggs.

A .45 isn’t the gun you want for a raccoon in a tree in the middle of the night. it would probably be best to use a shotgun loaded with birdshot because I might be shooting in the general direction of my neighbor, plus whomever is on the other side of the mountain. A .410 might be even better. Of course, I thought of that too late. However, I am not convinced I need to kill the raccoon.

In doing research on livestock guardian dogs, I have twice come across the advice that you should not kill your local predators. They know your farm and what is off limits and are smart enough to stay away. But if you kill it, a new predator will move into the territory and will try to attack your livestock, knowing nothing of your boundaries or protections.

I have no idea if this is true. It’s one of those concepts that sounds reasonable, but at the same time is questionable. Maybe I just took part in the training of a raccoon. Or not.

I have heard that bears who touch your electric fence will not come back and try it again, which I believe. I have also heard that if a deer touches it, they will tell others deer, but I am less convinced about that. Still, it appears I have installed the electric fence just in time to deter raccoons.

I know Why they Call it a Shock

Speaking of the fence, I got shocked for the first time by my electric fence with a full charge. I was trying to snap a photo of the chickens lined up on the new chicken roost I built for them and both my arm and my belly touched the fence. My immediate response was to swear, step back, and then chuckle when I realized what happened. If you’ve never been shocked by an electric fence, take it from me, that feeling sticks with you for a minute or two afterwards.

My arms were covered, which I hope helped reduce the shock a bit. I was wearing my muck boots, but despite the rubber soles I could complete the circuit and get shocked. I guess that rubber boot thing is an old wives tail. My feeling is that any animal who gets zapped will back off as fast as I did, and maybe even turn tail and run.

In a way, it’s a relief to have been shocked. Now I know it’s no fun, but not that bad. Not knowing how it would feel is worse than knowing. Yes, it is eye opening, but short. I guess you could say I learned why it’s called a shock.

Now the question is when will my dog and my wife get zapped. I bet my wife will swear louder than I did, but probably at me instead of at the fence.

Our Chickens

Yesterday was the first time I saw one of our roosters mount one of our hens. I am taking this as a sign that our hens should start laying eggs soon. They are almost 20 weeks old. Some of our hens are supposed to reach maturity at 18 weeks and to start laying at 22 weeks, so we are close. The others breed take two weeks longer. I am already feeding them layer pellets and giving them grit from oyster shells to make sure the egg shells are strong.

I decided to open the nesting boxes and put the fake eggs in there. When the time comes, I want the hens to know that’s where they should lay their eggs.