By Steve Graf
Over my years of traveling all over the South from one tournament to another, I’ve had a few funny and sometimes difficult encounters. Most of the time it’s something mechanical like a flat tire, a wheel bearing going out on my boat trailer, or motor trouble with my outboard engine like a lower unit going out. But sometimes Mother Nature decides to invade my territory with a snake trying to get into my boat or an occasional alligator who likes to make his presence known. But one recent event at Toledo Bend was a different kind of incident.
As anglers, we spend all day searching for fish we hope will put us in the winner’s circle or at least get a check. Practicing for an event can be physically exhausting and mentally draining. So, a good night’s sleep is very important for an angler to be able to function at a high level. The last thing we want is for our sleep to be disrupted in the middle of the night.
Well on the night of May 25th at Toledo Bend, I was in my deep sleep phase when I heard something outside my bedroom window. As anglers, we are all paranoid about someone stealing things out of our boat and are on constant alert. On this particular night, I awoke to a loud noise like someone was outside. There were three of us staying together at this VRBO house and we each had our own boat. The area we were staying in seemed to be a very quiet neighborhood, so to think that someone was outside going through our boats got my full attention.
Just like the Night Before Christmas, “When out on the driveway there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the back door I flew like a flash, threw open the door to see all the trash.” Well, there he was, standing in the trash and enjoying some leftover wings from the previous guest. It turns out that the bandit was a massive raccoon who decided to order the trash can wings. Now as I opened the door, you would think this raccoon would scurry away. But not this guy; he was not intimidated by me at all. He actually had a look on his face like, “What do you want? Can’t you see I’m eating?”
Not looking to abandon the buffet of chicken wings he had found, he let me know really quickly, as he stood up on his hind legs, that I had better back off if I knew what was good for me. Now I’ve come across a few raccoons during my 62 years on this earth, but none as bold or as bad as this one. He was not going away easily, and it would take my best bluff to send him down the road to another feast.
It was at this point that I reached down and grabbed the lid of the trash can he had destroyed, and I started banging it and ran toward him. At first, he didn’t seem to even give me a second thought as he continued to devour his order of wings. Then I decided to get on his level as I bent over, with my lid for protection and gave him a hardcore stare which turned out to be a game changer for some reason. I had gained the advantage over this wing-eating bandit as he scurried off and headed back to the woods.
Understand, raccoons are smart and very persistent, and I knew he would probably return to face me again, maybe with backup. I was right! As I got back into bed, the bandit returned and began to attempt to open another trash can by literally running and jumping on it. It was so loud that I could not believe my two fishing buddies weren’t getting up to see what was going on! They slept right through all the commotion and never even rolled over. Once again, I headed to the back door and faced this evil doer for the last time. As I opened the door, I ran directly at the chicken wing bandit and this time he ran off for good as I shouted, “And never come back!”
You never know what will transpire on a fishing trip, but sometimes you must sleep with one eye open just in case a bandit of the night shows up. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget your sunscreen!