John's Journal...

The Addiction of Coon Hunting

Having A Place Of Honor

Click to enlargeEditors Note’s: I’ve befriended and hunted with some of the best coon hunters in the nation. I’ve changed some names in this week’s stories to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent and whatever reputations they may have left. An abundance of raccoons or ringtails as some hunters call them makes this species a critter you can chase all over the U.S. and parts of southern Canada. Be sure to check the seasons and bag limits in your area. Hunters have fun running their dogs year-round even if they can’t bag the coons.

Generally at a coon hunt, the hunters and their dogs arrive in pickup trucks with dog boxed on the back or in automobiles or recreational vehicles towing the dog trailers. But a few years ago, one sportsman showed up in a spotless Cadillac that looked as though it had just come out of the showroom. He was dressed in brand-new blue jeans and a classy hunting shirt straight out of the Bob Allen catalog. This coon man seemed more out of place than Ms. VicClick to enlargeki. But when I asked one of the other hunters about him, the hunters said, “Oh, that’s ole William. Watch what happens when he opens the back door of his Cadillac.” With pride and style, William walked around the car and opened the rear door of his Cadillac like a doorman at the fanciest hotel in New York City. Much to my surprise, a sleek Walker hound hopped out of the back seat, walked over to the Cadillac’s tire and immediately relieved himself. Later after I had met William, I said, “I can’t believe you allow that coon dog to ride in the back of your nice, new Cadillac.” William smiled and said, “Not only do I chauffeur that dog, but when we stay at a motel, I make sure Thunder has his own bed for sleeping.”

“I can’t believe you’d let that coon hound sleep in a bed and ride in the back of your Cadillac,” I repeated again in shock. William’s eyes narrowed, and his jaw stiffened as though on the verge of exploding. But then he flashed the biggest smile I ever had seen on a coon hunter’s face. “I tell you what, fella,” WClick to enlargeilliam said. “You win $30,000 in coon hunts and produce $10,000 in stud fees for me in one year, and I’ll drive you around in the back of my Cadillac and give you your own bed in my motel room.” I laughed then as I understood just how valuable a coon dog like Thunder was, and why he had a place of honor.

Many people don’t understand why grown men and women venture in to the woods to chase coons with dogs. In years gone by, hunters shot coons for their meat and their pelts. But since coon pelt prices fell dramatically some years ago, most coon hunters rarely, if ever, kill a coon. Today the sport of coon hunting primarily consists of chasing a coon, running it up a tree, seeing its eyes and then leaving the tree to find another coon to hunt. The addiction takes hold when you hear that macabre bawl of a squalling hound that likes to bark on the trail as well as on the treeClick to enlarge. After walking through the woods at night, listening to the sounds of wailing hounds and navigating across obstacles seen only in the beam of the headlight on my hard hat, I too am an addict. Coon hunting promotes camaraderie and a bond between the men and the dogs who run ringtails.  Coon hunting has its own fraternity, although it doesn’t have mystical passwords, secret handshakes or sacred songs. But you do understand when a man says, “You should have heard Ole Blue when he jumped that coon down at the creek, carried him across two ridges, treed him on the side of the cypress pond and began to bark like a wood cuter felling tall timber with a broad ax.”

In my mind, like other coon hunters, I can see and hear the dogs and coons race. I can experience the pride a man feels when he arrives at the base of a tree, looks up into its top, sees the eyes of the coon and understands the worth of his hounds. Perhaps those who don’t coon hunt can’t understand the beauty and the simplicity of the sport, the thrill of excitement, the charge of adrenaline and the brotherhood of coon hunters until thy participate in it. However, I know for certain that you’ll find your life much richer and your problems fewer if you learn to appreciate the mountain music sung by a pack of dogs chasing ringtails through darkened woods.


Check back each day this week for more about "The Addiction of Coon Hunting"

Day 1: The Pre-Game Coon Hunts
Day 2: Breaking In A Coon Dog
Day 3: Remembering The Toughest Coon Hunter Alive
Day 4: Having A Place Of Honor
Day 5: The Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard


Entry 428, Day 4