Critter-Proof Your Campsite

Whenever you go on a trip, you are likely to bring at least one cooler alongside. It is the perfect place to store not just drinks but also all sorts of food. Unfortunately, using it as food storage makes it an excellent target for all kinds of critters that may be living in the area you are visiting. One of the most significant ‘pests’ when it comes to food are raccoons – they have magnificent abilities when it comes to breaking into boxes, and critter-proofing your cooler is a must if the area you are visiting has raccoons. Of course, there are plenty of other critters to try to keep away from your food, but raccoons are widely known for their ability to steal the food of campers sneakily.

But how exactly do you critter-proof your cooler? Unless you have a lock on your cooler, there are not many ways to do this, but you might be surprised to hear how simple some of the solutions are. Each might be applicable in different situations – do not worry, we’ll talk about this more further down in the post.

Plenty of people who have gone camping in raccoon country have incredible stories to tell about the things raccoons did with their supplies. Raccoons in the wild rarely go on their own, so if they get access to your food, you can rest assured that there will be a whole raccoon family eating through bread, snacks, meat, cookies, vegetables, and more. Failing to secure your food can be a dire mistake because you certainly do not want to have to ration a few portions for the next couple of days. Another option is to restock at the nearby town, but this might not always be an option. So, what do you do?

Lock it in your Vehicle

Simple, isn’t it? It would take a bit more work to get stuff out of the cooler, but at least you will know that no critter can get access to it. However, you should be careful if you are spending time in an area where bears roam – they will smell the food through the cooler and car, and your vehicle may be damaged. I just experienced this in the Rocky Mountains, we woke up to paw prints and claw scratches all around our door handles. Thankfully the bear didn’t try to break our window! If you are in bear country, then I suggest hanging your food in a higher location, preferably away from your vehicles and camp.

If there are no bear sightings in your region, then the car, RV, or truck is by far one of the best choices to keep critters away from your stash. Of course, it makes sense not to leave it in the truck bed since this would not protect it from animals.

Bring it Inside

Coolers do not take that much space, and fitting them inside your tent or cabin will not be an issue. Why leave them outside where raccoons can spend the whole night playing around with the latches and locks, trying to eat your food? Believe us when we say that the typical cooler latches are not a match for raccoons – these pesky little critters are surprisingly good at breaking into all sorts of boxes. If you haven’t had your supplies eaten by raccoons before, then you also probably have no idea how little time these animals need to ravage your food.

If you really think that space will be an issue and you cannot bring the coolers inside with you, then there’s a workaround – simply bring a small, extra tent. Then use it to stash coolers and other supplies. Setting up additional shelter is a bit more tedious, but it should be enough of a deterrent to keep your food safe through the night. Just think of your coolers as an extra person you need to find shelter for – as long as they are not outside, critters will not be able to reach them. Leave them out, though, and they are fair game for critters.

The only time I’ve had trouble with this method, was with ground squirrels on the west coast, who worked their way into a tiny opening in our zipper and got a hold of some bread we had stored in a tent.

Ratchet Tie-Down Straps

Believe it or not, this is the best solution there is. These straps are incredibly sturdy, so it would be impossible for raccoons to eat through them under any circumstances. As for the ratchet mechanism, it is strong and complex enough to make it impossible for raccoons to figure out how to get through it. Bring enough ratchet tie-down straps to secure all your coolers if you plan to leave them outside. An added benefit of using this small accessory is that you can also use it to connect two or more coolers, making them easier to transport. We use this method with a dry cooler for pantry food, and one with ice for refrigerator food.

Using ratchet tie-down straps can also save money since you will need to invest in expensive coolers that come with all sorts of fancy lock mechanisms – use your classic, ordinary cooler and wrap it up properly for the night. Of course, if your cooler has a way to lock it, take advantage and do that.

Some Other Critter-Proofing Tips

Other general tips to keep critters and other animals away from your food can also be of help. For starters, clean up after yourself – do not leave food wraps, packaging, crumbs, or leftover food anywhere near your bags and coolers. This will make the storage a ten times tastier target for critters, and you will be in trouble if you have not taken the necessary precautions. General cleanliness around the campsite is a must if you want to minimize the chances of getting raided by raccoons and other critters – wash your plates, and throw the trash every night. Preferably, trash bags should be disposed of in a proper manner, or at least take them further away from your camp and collect them before you leave. 

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Fishing Report from TPWD (Jun. 12)

GOOD. Water Stained; 76 degrees; 0.36 feet above pool. Bass fishing has been slower this week than last week. Topwaters frogs, Yellow Magics, and spook type baits are fair in and around flooded grass or weeds. Texas rigs and shaky heads flipped at the edge of grass in 2-5 feet are good with creature type baits and beavers. Chatterbaits are good also in front of the shallow grass. Sunny days you can catch fish out to the first break line. Cloudy days fish are best to fish tight to the grass edges. Report by Marc Mitchell, Lake Fork Guide Service. Black bass are good morning and evening with top water frog patterns. Switching mid morning to noon streamers in shad and bream patterns. Report by Guide Alex Guthrie, Fly Fish Fork Guide Service. Lake Fork crappie fishing is getting red hot like the weather this week. Really seeing the black crappie load up in big numbers on lay downs, under docks and on other structures they like in the summer months. Look for those black crappie in 14-22 feet of water mostly. We also are seeing the white crappie loading up on brush piles and those summer time trees they like. Best depths for the white crappie have been 18-26 feet. We are still catching good numbers of crappie on small hand tied jigs and I’m sure small plastics will work as well. Did see some fish on brush piles the last few days that minnows may help with. The channel catfishing is excellent as it always is on Lake Fork. Bait you a hole near timber in 18-25 feet close to a creek channel. Use cattle cubes or sour grain to attract and hold those fish. Trees that have overnight roosting birds are a great place to make your hole. Use any prepared catfish bait of choice to load the boat once you get the fish loading up. You can still find some spawning catfish up shallow around all the new flooded grass, brush or rocks. Lake Fork catfishing continues to be superb on baited holes around roosting trees. Catfish are good in 13-25 feet with prepared bait. You can also bait holes w

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