As you're out and about hunting whitetail in Missouri, there are a plethora of animals also present in the woods that you may encounter. Though your focus may be on deer, that doesn't mean the possibility doesn't exist that you could stumble across something else that you'd like to harvest. One example of this is the opossum, an animal that is abundant in Missouri, for which the hunting season runs from November the 15th, 2015 to January 31st, 2016.
Opossums are marsupial mammals that are considered medium in size. They have coarse fur that ranges from white and gray to black in places. Also present are small, hairless ears (which are often damaged in the case of males due to severe weather) and a muzzle that tapers to a point at the nose. They are typically between 24 to 34 inches in length and 4 to 15 pounds in weight. They also have skinny, scaly, and largely hairless tails that can be as long as 15 inches. Although these numbers are pretty much standard for the average Missouri opossum, it is possible to exceed those, which is exactly what occurred recently at the hands of Gauge Craig when he dispatched an opossum of impressive size.
On Christmas Day a new state record opossum was crowned. The previous record was for a male opossum taken on January 25th of 2012 in Lafayette County by Kevin Whitworth. Though Mr. Whitworth's opossum weighed in at 13.4 pounds, it was bested on December 25th of 2015 by a 13 year old boy named Gauge Craig and his stepfather, Randy Eiler Jr., of Novinger for a new state record. The newest opossum to enter the books was trapped near Novinger and weighed in at 14 pounds and 12 ounces, which is an impressive critter to say the least.
If you've got your eye on achieving a similar record of your own, a good place to start is by browsing the list of Missouri records to see just what you're up against. Then, set your sites on an animal and give it a go. When it comes to finding opossums, your best bet is woodland areas that are near to a water source, but they do not hesitate to live near to urban sprawl, especially in pursuit of food. The opossum diet is diverse and it sometimes may seem like anything goes. They will feast on fruits and plants but their scavenger nature often leads them into trashcans and dumpsters for a meal. Opossums also enjoy carrion and will eat many other animals ranging from other mammals to bugs, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. It is because of their tendency to feast on carrion that they are often seen on roadways dining on roadkill and possibly becoming roadkill themselves.
Offspring are carried in a pouch that is lined with fur until mature enough to survive in the wild. At birth they are underdeveloped in large part due to a short gestation of only about 12 days or so. Birthing season takes place largely in February and young immediately make their way into the mother's pouch to nurse for the next several months. As the first litter of the year matures, a second litter becomes possible that same year. Opossums are able to mate within a year of birth.
Despite their awkward appearance, opossum fur is actually quite sought after for the purpose of making outwear clothing such as coats and scarves. If you are not planning to utilize the pelt, you still have options for opossum on the dinner table. They are readily enjoyed by many in the form of chili, stew, or even stuffed. If you'd like to share in this experience, there is no time like the present as opossum season draws to a close at the end of the month. With a little luck you'll bring home at least a great dinner while out there in search of a state record to someday call your own.
Are opossums a part of your hunting plans? How do you utilize the animal once you've made a successful harvest? Let us know in the comments.