Okay, you’ve already seen the picture or you would never have guessed.
We interrupt this crappie season for….. a coon hunt? Yes, coon hunting.
Wandering around in the woods at night. Following the sounds of dogs barking in the distance not knowing whether they are uphill, downhill or on the other side of the creek. Hunting something that you know you won’t eat, even after you kill it.
That is coon hunting.
Chris Jones has been after me to go coon hunting for like a decade. I finally ran out of excuses. Plus I’m writing an article about coon hunting and actually ASKED Chris to take me along. But just forget I said that.
“Okay, what do we do, Chris?” I asked as he and hunting partners Phil Flurry and Blaine Armstrong and I wandered off the road into the dark hardwood bottom.
“We just go down to an area we know has coons and we turn the dogs loose and wait,” he said. “They do the rest.”
Well, that sounded easy. It was a calm, peaceful evening with the stars shining brightly. It was even a bit cool for this time of the year. But then it didn’t take long for things to break loose kinda like when they open the doors at Wally World at 5 a.m. to kick off Black Friday. Barking turned to howling to an awful desperate dog sound that let us and the coon know that if the dog could climb a tree, we would not need a gun. The dogs hadn’t gone but 110 yards when they treed. My learning experiences began. First, I learned that a non-coon hunter (me) walks at a much slower pace than a real coon hunter (Chris, Blaine, Phil), especially in the dark and when a coon dog is barking. Second, I learned what Chris had described as “easy walking” included mostly stepping over fallen limbs while skimming atop terrain that could best be described as a English bog.
There was more. I learned that a coon can find a hole in a tree faster than a CNN reporter can make up fake news. And then, after about ten minutes of looking and not finding the coon, I learned something else kind of humbling. You don’t want a coon dog looking at you, even in the dark, like they do when you have to walk away from a tree where they have treed a coon, and you never fired a shot. Doggie disgust.
But seriously, it was fun. I see why folks like it so much, although most of the actual hunt took place after my bedtime.
And I never realized how high-tech racoon hunting has gotten. I’ll try to make it simple. Each dog has a GPS collar and the handler has a GPS unit that tracks the dog wherever it goes. You can also keep up with landmarks, like the road the where the truck is parked (which was a huge relief to me since I had no idea which direction we were going and had never been in those woods before). You could even tell how far the dog was away and which direction he was running. When they got on a coon, Chris would say, “Oh, he’s running in a circle. He’s about to tree. Sure enough, within a minute the baying would begin.
It’s getting a little late for easy coon hunting now because with the trees covered in leaves, it’s harder to spot them than say in the fall or winter. There are also more “other” critters out this time of year, some of them long and slithering.
One time the dogs treed 512 yards away, across a creek, according the the available GPS data. I sat that one out, leaning on an old fallen log and feeling confident, at least hopeful, that Chris would come back and get me before something else did. And yes, before I let him get out of my sight, I made sure I had a good strong cell phone signal.
Just in case.