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GRANT: Boy, do we have a treat for you this week.

TRACY: Find it, Chris. Find it. Hunt it up.

GRANT: Before we hit the skinning shed and kitchen, I want to share some updates from our shed hunting.

GRANT: Tracy and Crystal have been busy walking known travel corridors, bedding areas and food plots looking for sheds.

TRACY: First year of shed hunting, we were out with one of the guys and I’m focusing, you know, like right here. Next I know, he’s like, “What’s that up there?” And I looked, you know, 20, 30 yards up and he was looking out…

TYLER: Uh-huh.

TRACY: …and where I was looking down. So I learned then you need to look out as much as you do around to be able to catch all of ‘em – and go slow.

GRANT: They’ve already had several good finds bringing the total so far this year to 16.

GRANT: Recently, while helping create a fire line, intern Nigel Waring from Vermont found a cool shed.

GRANT: We got the first Reconyx images of this buck last November and have been getting pictures and videos since.

GRANT: Unfortunately, on close examination of the shed, it appeared to be bad news. There was a large piece of skull attached to the shed and some discoloration on the edges.

GRANT: Based on these characteristics, I doubt this antler was shed but was actually broken off the deer during fighting, sparring, something like that due to an intracranial abscission.

GRANT: This type of infection can occur when a stick or an antler punctures the hide, especially, on the skull. That puncture allows bacteria to enter below the skin. Bucks are at high risk of puncturing the skin on their head during rutting activities such as rubbing or sparring.

GRANT: Just think of all the dirt and grime, i.e., bacteria that’s on twigs and antlers. A cut caused by these items can be the same as injecting bacteria under the skin of a deer.

GRANT: An infection by some classes of bacteria results in a buildup of strong acids. And these acids are so strong they can cause pitting or even holes in the skull.

GRANT: Deer can recover from such an infection as long as it’s not growing inside the skull. However, infection right around the base of the antlers often results in a non-typical antler growth. If the infection reaches a point to where it’s growing inside the lining of the brain, it will be fatal.

GRANT: Through the years, we’ve found some skulls of bucks that we suspected had such an infection. Once the skulls were cleaned, you could clearly see erosion that had been caused by acid produced by the bacteria.

GRANT: Based on the amount of skull attached to the shed that Nigel found, it’s likely that buck has already passed.

GRANT: When looking at sheds you found this spring, pay attention to the base of the antler. If the shed has jagged edges on the base, portions of the skull attached, discoloration, or even the smell of infection, it’s likely that that infection was present.

GRANT: On the other hand, if the shed has a clean base, it’s rounded and smooth, it’s a good indicator that buck was healthy.

GRANT: You can keep up with Tracy and Crystal’s shed hunting adventures by keeping up with our Facebook and Instagram pages.

TRACY: Come on, Chris, stand up. Come on.

GRANT: Missouri’s trapping season ended a few weeks ago and we had our best trapping season to date. We removed 115 predators.

GRANT: Recently, I shared data from the Missouri Department of Conservation that showed a pretty significant increase in numbers of raccoons and opossums at scent stations they maintain throughout the state to survey those animals.

GRANT: At the same time, there’s been a significant decrease in the number of turkeys harvested in Missouri.

GRANT: Some of the most interesting data I’ve seen on this subject was made by my friend, Dan Appelbaum, that showed a decline in both turkey harvest numbers and fur sales in the state of Missouri. There’s an obvious trend – not necessarily correlation, but trend – of this decline in turkey harvest numbers and decline of fur sales.

GRANT: Trapping is a great wildlife management tool to balance the predator and prey ratio. The results of trapping can often mean thriving prey species and great quality pelts used to make garments or great blankets like the one I had made for my family a few years ago.

GRANT: But there’s another great resource involved with trapping predators and that can be high-quality meat.

GRANT: Recently our friends, Shawn Taylor and Bill and Laurel Driscoll, visited The Proving Grounds to share with us how they make great tasting meals out of raccoon.

GRANT: Bill Driscoll’s been living off the land for several years and he shared with us some great techniques for removing the skin and meat from a raccoon.

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DANIEL: Well, we’re here this afternoon with our friend, Bill. He’s going to walk us through the steps of taking the cape off a raccoon. This is one of the coons that we trapped earlier this year during the trapping season.

DANIEL: He’s going to show us how to take the fur off and there’s a treat underneath. So Bill, you want to start walking us through the…

BILL: Sure will.

DANIEL: …steps here?

GRANT: Raccoons can be skinned while hanging from their hind legs just like a deer.

BILL: Okay. I’m going to start my caping by cutting a circular cut around the first leg. And try to go just through the hide and not cutting tendons. That’s the value of a sharp knife. The other hind leg.

BILL: Okay. Next, we’re going to take – we’re going to connect this cut with this cut just under the hide there. Just like that.

GRANT: Once those cuts are complete, work the hide away from both legs.

BILL: Just as far as you can. Make sure it don’t break off or nothing.

BILL: Okay. You’re tied to the vent here. Separate the vent. You want to go down to the tail. Don’t cut through the tail. You’ll see it. I made me a bar over the years or found a bar. Shove that bar through there.

BILL: Okay. What we’re gonna do is separate the skin from the back while this is still tied together. But be careful – don’t tear this tail off or it greatly, greatly will increase problems.

BILL: And just start skinning the tail as far as you can – pull down – just make you a circle and pull. We’re about as far as we can go using a knife.

BILL: This is old school right here. Just kind of make yourself a grip and grab a hold of that there. Now make sure you grab a hold of this tail firmly and you’re squeezing and pulling simultaneously.

GRANT: Once the tail is off, the hide can be easily pulled down to the front legs.

BILL: Now you’ll have this pocket – I call it a glove. You can put your hand up in this here where your tail is and put – in here, just put…

GRANT: At that point, pull the hide down each leg all the way to the paw – cut the hide away from both of the front legs.

BILL: Okay. Working this here and we’re going to separate the hide from the head. That means ears, eyes, and finally, at the nose. Just cut – now right here is where the ears are. Just go all the way and you’ll see it, the cartilage. Go to the other one.

BILL: Okay. The next critical part right now is going to be skinning out the eyes. And you’ll see an eye. And just go right against the skull. All right, we’re coming to the nose. There you go.

BILL: Okay. When you’re finished with all that, put your hand up in there, just like a mitten, turn it inside out, pull your tail out good and tight, have a hold and clean up the blood and knock off any ticks and fleas and then take it in there and you can clean it up. And when you’re finished with it, just lay it on its belly, roll it up.

DANIEL: Bill has removed the raccoon hide. It’s ready to be sold, get a couple bucks out of it, but that’s not the end. Bill is going to show us how to remove the meat and we’re going to be heading to the kitchen soon.

GRANT: Bill starts by removing the front paws. He simply breaks them and then cuts through the tendons.

BILL: Go backwards, not forwards, backwards. Okay. We’re going to try to prep this here without ever touching the entrails. So we’re gonna disconnect the shoulder.

GRANT: Simply cut between the shoulder and the body and the entire shoulder will come off. Once both shoulders are off, it’s time to remove the hams.

BILL: This is the prize part of it is the whole ham. Just connected it right here. I keep it upside down, so I keep the guts inside and we don’t have to deal with feces and urine – which is probably going to come out. Keep it in the cavity.

BILL: We’re just going to disconnect it from the hip.

GRANT: Cut around the pelvis and remove at the ball joint.

BILL: And you got to put that in the gut pile for the buzzards.

GRANT: The final step is to remove the back feet just as you did the front.

BILL: There you go.

GRANT: Within just a few minutes, Bill had removed the hide and the meat.

DANIEL: Well, we’ve come inside to the kitchen. Bill helped us skin and now we’re in the kitchen with our friend, Shawn.

SHAWN: Bill was my mentor in terms of the trapping and everything and he and his wife, Laurel, they helped me, especially, when we found out that they are edible. And we’ve cooked it a couple of different ways and so far they haven’t steered us wrong. They’re excellent.

DANIEL: Yeah. So what are we going to be – how are we going to be fixing it for today?

SHAWN: So I’ve done it two different ways. Just slow grilled it. We put a – whatever your favorite rub is. My wife’s really good at coming up with creative rubs and then cooking it up to like about 160 degrees just to make sure that there’s no parasites or anything in there.

SHAWN: And then the other way we’ve done it, which probably would be the favorite now is pulled. We put it into an Instapot, cook it overnight and pull it and either as tacos or barbecue. It’s an excellent way to eat it either way.

GRANT: Shawn simply applies a rub of different seasonings to each shoulder and ham. After applying the seasonings, the meat is ready for either a grill or Instapot.

GRANT: Everyone was excited to try a meal of raccoon, so Shawn cooked one the previous day, brought it over and warmed it up at The Proving Grounds.

GRANT: This meat was perfect for tacos and barbecue sandwiches. The raccoon meat was tender, full of great flavor and a wonderful source of natural protein.

GRANT: I appreciate Shawn and Christina sharing their journey of trapping and learning how to use the meat from Bill and Laurel.

GRANT: I can’t wait until the next trapping season to help the turkeys here at The Proving Grounds and provide the GrowingDeer Team another source of natural high-quality protein.

GRANT: To learn about many more ways to prepare wild game, check out the recipes tab at The GrowingDeer Team will be traveling to western Kansas and eastern Iowa to assist landowners this week.

GRANT: But you don’t have to work outside as a profession to enjoy Creation. And I hope everyone takes time to enjoy Creation, but most importantly, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.