Odds are you’ve never seen a possum of these proportions. The giant critter that Dan Antilla shot on November 10 just outside of his home in Linwood, Minnesota looks like a real-life ROUS, or Rodent of Unusual Size, from The Princess Bride—though opossums are not actually rodents but marsupials. Technicalities aside, the nocturnal creature had been breaking into and stealing eggs from Antilla’s chicken coop for several weeks before he laid eyes on it.
“I thought it was a fox, but it was weird that the chickens weren’t disappearing,” Antilla tells F&S, noting that he was finding large holes in the fencing. “I was getting so mad that the chickens kept getting out and up onto my patio and pooping on it. I finally went and wrapped a new set of chicken wire around the bottom of the coop.”
As the sun was about to set later that day, the egg thief returned and tried to find a new way into the coop. The possum had normally raided the coop during the night when it was too dark to see, but this time, there was still plenty of daylight for Antilla’s wife to spot it. “She was yelling to me ‘there’s a huge possum out here!'” Get rid of it,” he says. “I ran and grabbed my .22.” I ain’t gonna lie, when I opened up the door and looked over at the chicken coop, I was like ‘holy cow, it looks like a little bear!’
For anybody wondering, opossums are considered a legal small game species to hunt in Minnesota, and in Antilla’s township, landowners may discharge firearms near buildings they own as long as they follow state and local regulations. By then, [the possum] was on the backside of the coop, about 65 yards away. I steadied up on the patio and hit it right behind the shoulder two times, and it took off running. It made it about 50 yards before it died.”
Antilla and his five daughters—Summer, Brooklyn, Avery, Esmae, and Jaida—followed the blood trail to the dead marsupial. It had crawled deep beneath a shed, which is owned by Atilla’s inlaws. Antilla got creative and used a fishing rod with an old Rapala lure to hook and drag the dead possum from beneath the crawl space, but the possum got stuck. So Antilla sent his 15-year-old daughter Summer in after it. She quickly finished retrieving the possum, and then she and her sisters ran home with it. “Let’s just say the whole family was happy…except for my wife, who didn’t want it inside the house,” says Antilla.
Antilla Plans to Get the Big Possum Mounted
Antilla’s possum weighed a whopping 14-pounds, 2-ounces, which puts it well on the heavier side of the typical possum. Minnesota doesn’t have a record database for possums, but Missouri does and lists their largest possum as a 16-pound, 2-ouncer taken in 2016. Still, it’s rare to see a possum as big as the 14-pounder Antilla shot. He plans to get it mounted at Wings & Things Taxidermy and put it up in his man cave alongside his other trophies.
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Antilla is a licensed hunter and a self-described “freak when it comes to hunting.” He recently killed a nice 8-point buck, a big 7-foot-long Texas hog, and caught a world-record northern hog sucker. But he’s never mounted a possum before, though he says the chickens regularly draw in a lot of them, especially during the winter when the marsupials are looking to cop a quick meal.
“I’ve caught seven opossums this year. I picked them up live and brought them back away from the coop to the back and let them go. They play dead, and I’ll let the kids pet them before getting rid of them. But this one was different,” says Antilla. “I’m going to get it mounted on a log that I’ll put up high, so it’s like the possum is coming down and trying to eat you.”