The Skunk Stakout

Originally Posted on Facebook: 2018 September 24

A skunk's been eating our duck and chicken eggs at night.  About a month ago I just happened to see it going into the chicken coop, so I went and got a rifle.  When I came back, it was sitting in front of the cat barn.  I immediately shot from the hip and missed (hit the dirt right at its feet), and it fled under the barn where I couldn't get it.  I got slightly coated by the skunk mist blowing in the wind.

A couple of times since I've gone out with a rifle looking for skunks, but never saw any, even though we could smell one in the air most nights, and the dogs keep getting sprayed.

The number of eggs we've been collecting has dropped dramatically, and someone suggested we might even have a racoon stealing eggs, so I decided a few days ago that it was imperative that I take the time and go on a stakeout for the skunk.  I couldn't just set out a live trap because, first of all I don't currently have one, and secondly I'd probably need about a dozen traps because experience has shown that around here live traps are more likely to fill up with cats.

At dusk, around 19:30, I took a reclined lawn chair and slouched in it in the chicken pen, just west of the coop.  Xinfu (the all-orange cat) jumped on my lap and squirmed about for a while before finally settling down.  Mr. Man (white and gray kitty) laid down in the entrance of the chicken coop.

The cold wind was hitting my eye just right so that I kept having to close it to keep it from drying out, and I ended up nodding off a few times.  Every time I opened my eyes back up, Mr. Man was still guarding the chicken coop, so I knew I hadn't missed the predator.

The full moon had eventually come out from behind the clouds, and in the moonlight I saw what I thought was a white mouse running around in front of the chicken coop entrance, occasionally pausing.  I thought it odd that the cats didn't pounce on it, so I flicked on my flashlight but saw nothing.  I turned off the flashlight, and the mouse moved about again, so again I turned on my flashlight but again saw nothing.

This happened a couple more times, so I finally stood up and walked over with the flashlight on and discovered that it was just a chicken feather swirling in the wind.

I moved my chair south of the coop and resumed slouching in it.  Xinfu of course jumped back on my lap and kept sticking his butt in my face, so I shoved him off.

After some more time passed, I considered giving up and getting night chores done so that I could go back in the house.  Mr. Man was still guarding the entrance to the chicken coop and Xinfu was hovering about, so I doubted any egg-snatching predator would approach, and my knees were freezing.  I sat up straight to stand, and immediately Xinfu started stepping onto my shoulder from behind, which gave me a little jump.  I decided it was time to give up for the night and stood up.  It was about 20:50.

I was about to leave the pen when the motion-sensor floodlight on the shed lit up.  I looked over and saw a skunk running across the North Pasture!  I doubted I could pick it off from that distance, so I waited for it get closer.

The skunk ran down between the chicken coop and the cat barn and stopped in front of the hole under the barn.  I took a chance and flicked on my flashlight so that I could see better.  I was getting too much light reflected from the wire fence, so I carefully stepped closer, but then the skunk ran under the barn.

I turned my flashlight off and waited again.  Within a minute I saw the silhouette of the skunk's head in the shadow of the dim moonlight.  I turned the flashlight back on, aimed as best I could through the fence, and took a shot.  I had tried for a headshot, even though that's not the most effective area to aim for, but I was hoping for a quick kill that allowed the skunk to neither suffer nor spray, but I'd obviously missed since the skunk was still standing there with its nose raised into the air.  I tried to shoot again, but the action had jammed open!  By the time I got the action to close, the skunk had disappeared under the barn again.

I needed to get on the other side of the fence, but the panel dividing the pastures at the chicken coop and the cat barn was on the south side of the chicken gate, so (with the safety on) I had to run all the way around the chicken pen's perimeter to get to the front of the barn.

I sat down on a cinder block off to the side and waited.  Xinfu started climbing on me again, because of course every man with a gun in his hands wants a cat all over him, so I had to shove him off again.

It wasn't long before the skunk reemerged.  I turned the flashlight on, took careful aim, and pulled the trigger a few times.  Dust went up but quickly settled.  The skunk had turned back under the barn but was still half visible; I knew I must have injured it or else it would have already gotten out of sight.  I fired a few more times as the skunk scurried away.  The dust settled again and the skunk was gone.  There was only the briefest scent of skunk.

I turned the flashlight off and waited again in the moonlight.  After a few minutes I decided to take another chance.  I turned the flashlight back on and laid down on the ground 10 feet from the barn to look underneath.  I couldn't see anything, so I got a bit closer, and kept getting closer until finally I was right at the hole peering in.  About 8 feet in I spotted some black and white fur protruding from behind some debris.  I didn't see any movement, but for good measure I stuck the rifle in and fired off the last two rounds from the magazine.  When I next looked, it looked like the skunk hadn't moved, so I decided that it was dead.

Mr. Man was still lounging in the entrance of the chicken coop.

I didn't want a rotting, extremely smelly corpse under my barn, so I fetched a rake and shovel and, with a bandana tied over my mouth and nose, dragged the skunk out.  It was about the size of a large cat.

I put on rubber gloves before handling the skunk, and put it in a garbage sack before putting it in my trash bin.

Trash collection was still several days off, and even though the skunk smell was weak, I realized it might well saturate the trash bin then blow towards the house on the wind, so after I finished night chores I grabbed a couple of empty feed bags to put the skunk in.  When I fished it out of the trash bin, the smell had indeed built up inside the bin.  After stuffing the skunk into the two feed bags, I went and got two more for good measure.  Days later, that seemed to have the smell well contained.