Archive for the ‘Coon Hunting’ Tag

VARMINT HUNTING – AN OFF-SEASON CHALLENGE   Leave a comment

Coyote 0001

A piercing sound breaks the early down silence.  It continues until you think it will never end.  It is the sound of a rabbit in distress that goes on and on.  Actually, the sound emanates from an electronic game caller.  The purpose is to attract a hungry coyote, raccoon or fox.

Suddenly from across the field a coyote appears with his nose to the ground.  He lopes along in search of the easy meal promised by the sound of the call.  He just appears on the edge of the brush and silently moves along it toward the sound.

These electronic calling machines lure hungry predators into more open areas and close proximity to hunters.

There are two kinds of calls, electronic and mechanical.  The mechanical call requires a bit of wind power supplied by the hunter.  The electronic caller is easier on the hunter by producing an electronic reproduction of recorded sounds.

Electronic calls have powerful output, a longer duration of play, more accurate sound, a wider variety, can be operated hands free and usually use distress calls to attract the predator.  An advantage to mechanical calls includes that they are lighter weight, compact, inexpensive, have a more variable pitch and offer great personal satisfaction form their successful use.

Both types of calls also have disadvantages.  The electronic call is a more expensive investment, has more weight to handle in the field, is larger and requires maintenance as well as the re-charging of batteries.

Mechanical calls can have too much or too little volume according to the skills of the user.  The require movement of the caller which can call attention to his location.  They take some practice and in cold weather can freeze up due to saliva accumulation.

A key to varmint hunting is to set up in a good habitat situation.  It might be brush near a creek.  Many animals use waterways as highways to their feeding areas from a den or bedding area.  The caller sets up downwind of the direction from which he expects the prey might come.  Hunters must be ever mindful of his concealment until it is too late for the predator.

An ability to remain motionless is vital.  Therefore, good optics and warm clothing are a must.  In cold weather without warm clothing the hunter can be miserable.  The good optics enables the hunter to see the quarry long before would otherwise be the case.

Unlike calls for waterfowl, turkey and deer, the predator call is not a type of communication between members of the same species.  The imitate food species in distress.  Most common is the sound of a rabbit in trouble.  The shrill, high pitched call can be ear-splitting.  As the predator approaches the sound he will become more keenly wary of his surroundings.

One way of coaxing predators the last few yards is to implement “squeaker” or coaxing calls.  Usually those are ones that make a squeak of a mouse, softer sound.

Normally a nocturnal animal, coyotes can be lured into range in the early morning or late evening.  On cloudy days, the sound of a call can stir hunger pangs in the predator at most any time of the day.

Land owners welcome coyote hunters as a way of controlling the predation of their household pets and farm animal such as chickens.  Hunting predators benefits ground dwelling wild birds and upland game by eliminating a major source of predation on their numbers.

By learning the daily habits of the quarry, studying vocalizations that attract them and exercising some practice, the hunter can find himself in possession of a fine trophy in the off season.

OTHER COON HUNTING OPTIONS   3 comments

Coon 0010

Most coon hunting is done behind hounds. But, it is possible to hunt them alone without dogs.

Calling one in is particularly challenging.  They are extremely cautious.  Often hunters get in a hurry and repeat the call at the wrong time.  But if one is patient, it is just a matter of time until a hunter gets his chance at the wily character.

Raccoon of the Midwest are the largest and darkest of the raccoon family.  Its winter fur is long and thick with the animal having a bushy ringed tail, black face mask and pointed ears.  The general color of raccoons is a yellow gray or gray‑brown with many hairs dark tipped.  Their color is darker on the back.  The face mask is black and runs from cheek to eyes.  A black streak on the forehead completes the pattern.  Their tail is usually gray with four to six black rings.

Raccoons are 27 to 34 inches in length and weigh up to 30 pounds on average.

The forefeet of a raccoon are about 3 inches in length and almost as wide as they are long when viewing the tracks.  The hind feet have a longer print, 3 or 4 inches in length, resembling a miniature human footprint with long toes.  The claws of both are apparent in the tracks.  Raccoons walk flat‑footed like a human, with an average stride of about 14 inches.

Raccoons are creatures of the night found wherever woods, swamps and streams provide suitable habitat for food and den sights.  Usually they make their home in hollow logs or trees.  Sometimes they will inhabit temporary shelters in a rock fissure or a woodchuck den.

Raccoons begin to forage in the early evening along creeks and streams in search of food.  You can find their tracks in the mud of the banks.  They visit the low streams and pools of water in search of crayfish, frogs, fish and other easy prey.  In times of short rations in the woods, raccoon like barns, grain storage buildings, orchards and chicken houses.

Hungry raccoons are the easiest to call in, as they will come to any sound that might mean a meal.  Raccoon respond to calls of the type often used to call other predators.  They also respond to deer calls.  Because of its slow gait hunters should give the coon sufficient time to respond.  Twenty minutes is a good rule of thumb.

If one gets one raccoon to come in, it is a pretty good bet that others will also approach.  Often several raccoons will answer the same call at the same time.

Raccoons are not as alert to human scent as other predators.  Often they come straight into the call.  They usually do not circle downwind as do other animals.  Their eyesight is fair, but it depends more on a keen sense of hearing.  Any unnatural sound in the woods will result in the coon making tracks in the opposite direction.

Night hunting of raccoons requires a headlight like those used by miners.  They are available from many sporting goods stores or by mail from hunting supply catalogues.  A red filter in the lens of the light allows the hunter to leave it on all the time while calling.  The same thing that makes able to see in low light also conceals a hunter behind the light.  It is like the old “deer in the headlights” situation. They do not see in the red glow.

Dark misty nights are best for calling coons.  Call wherever there is raccoon activity.  The only problem is in knowing from which direction they will arrive.  A coon coming to a call can be aggressive and inflict a painful wound upon the hunter.  It is important to be vigilant and attempt to predict his approach location.

On wet nights, it is difficult to hear the approach of a raccoon.  On dry nights, the noise of an approaching coon is more likely heard.  Wind also masks the sound of an approaching coon.

When calling from a food source area like an orchard or cornfield, it is wise to have an open space between the caller and the food.  It forces the raccoon into the open.  Raccoons will usually travel directly from the food source to the call in a straight line.  The open space offers the hunter a preferred shot.

In warmer weather, raccoons seem reluctant to approach a call.  The fat and heavy fur coat they sport makes them more sluggish.

In colder weather, they are more active until the snow begins to fall.  In the snow they retire to some warm retreat to sleep. This is not hibernation.  During mild spells in the weather, they again become active and will respond to calls.

Calling coons into the open for hunting is an interesting and challenging proposition.  It provides a late‑season hunt that can be the equal of any other type of hunting and an additional opportunity to get into the field.

CATCH AND RELEASE COON HUNTING   2 comments

The concept of “catch and release” has come to hunting with the advent of the Graded Coon Hunt.  Coon hunting of this type is particularly popular with hunters wanting to train their dogs during the off season. 

In areas of extensive bottomland containing hardwoods and brush next to agricultural fields and water, the sport of coon hunting is popular.  It has deep roots in the culture.  This habitat is home to the raccoon (called coon locally), one of the most popular fur bearers. 

Coon hunters run their dogs all year on both hunts and graded hunts.  The difference in type of hunt is due to the regulation of coon hunting by wildlife officials.  The wildlife agencies set season and bag limits on raccoons in order to manage the population.  It prevents over population and destruction of the habitat. 

During the regular hunting seasons the object of the hunt is to harvest the animals for fur and food.  The hunting seasons are generally held from mid-November to mid-January.  In most states the hunting of coon with hounds can occur anytime during the regular season.  Usually it is done after sunset and before sunrise due to the nocturnal habits of the quarry.  The rest of the year, with some possible exceptions, coon can be hunted all day.  It is sometimes referred to as the running season. 

Two exceptions are usually some few days prior to the opening of the hunting season and after its close.  During this period raccoons may not be hunted with hounds during certain hours if at all. 

The running season is a “catch and release” type of hunting used for training and for graded coon hunt competitions.  The quarry is not actually caught.  It is treed and must be witnessed by the hunters/officials before the dogs are called away. 

Graded coon hunts involve both dog and handler in a contest that pits the skills of both against fellow hunters and dogs for points.  The points can ultimately transfer into significant dollars in dog sales and training fees.

 In graded hunts, usually sponsored by a club, a judge is designated to keep the complicated score on a sheet.  At the end of the hunt, he or she totals the scores.  Points are awarded.  As a dog wins more points, he is then moved up in class where he meets more intense competition. 

Basically, there are three classes: Open (dog has not yet won any title), Night Champion (dog has earned 100 points in previous competition), and Grand Night Champion (dog has previously had five Night Champion Wins.) 

To begin, four dogs are cast (released).  The cast continues for a period of two hours.  One or several raccoons may or may not be treed.  At the end of the cast points are totaled and the winner declared. 

Once cast, the dogs range out until one or more strikes a trail.  Each handler must be familiar with the tone and other vocal characteristics of his dog.  When a trail is stuck the dogs sound off. 

Handlers must identify their dog by the third bark or the dog is disqualified and put back on the truck.  The handler identifies his dog by saying the dog’s name and “strike.”  The first dog so identified is given 125 points.  The second receives 75, the third 50 and the fourth 25 points. 

The next step is to wait for one or more of the dogs to bark “treed.”  It is up to the handler to identify his dog and to call out “treed.”  Points are awarded again as in the strike phase. 

The handlers and the judge must then catch up with the dogs.  It is at this point that dogs begin to lose some points.                                                           

Once at the tree a stop watch is started by the judge.  The handlers have six minutes to spot the coon up in the tree.  If no coon is found in that time, then all the previously awarded points of this cast are deducted from the evenings hunt total.  

If a dog leaves the tree before the coon is spotted points are deducted from the total score.  The same applies if the dog gives up the trail and is not at the tree. 

If the coon is spotted in the allotted time then all the points are awarded. 

The dogs are then taken away to another area for another hunt and the coon goes on his way just a little the worst for wear. 

At the end of the hunt the points for the evening are totaled and the winner declared.  This is a time for the swapping of tales and some good natured ribbing about the evenings’ performance by man and dog.  Often a late snack and beverages are brought out and the social aspects of the hunt continue on into the night.

Posted 11/06/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Hunting Small Game

Tagged with , ,

HONORING A COON HUNTER’S BEST FRIEND   Leave a comment

The south is full of traditions and none is more honored than the relationship between coon hunter and their hounds.

If you are in the area it is an interesting side trip to stop off at the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management Area near the Natchez Trace Parkway. Within the area is the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard. Admission is free.

Dedicated as a burial site for coon dogs it is the only cemetery of its kind in the world. Only coon dogs can be buried at the site and nearly 200 are so interred. Reading the grave stones gives one a look at the relationship between man and hound as well as a history of coon hunting in the south. The grave markers range from commercial made stone to personal messages carved in stone and wood that show the sentiment shared by houndsmen.

Key Underwood, a local hunter, began the tradition of the coon dog memorial when he buried his 15-year old dog named Troop in an area where they had shared many hunts. He placed a headstone on the grave and chiseled the dates of Troop’s birth and death. It was far from his mind that he might start a tradition of a last resting place for coon hounds.

As other local hunters lost their dogs, they began to add graves. Legend has it that on a still fall night one can still hear the bugles and barks of the residents as they hunt again in spirit. Several national champions as well as some not so good coon hounds are all together in this resting place.

Each year on Labor Day weekend, many coon hunters migrate to the area with flowers for the graves. The event now involves bluegrass music, barbecue and a liar’s contest. The event is free.

To get to the cemetery travel 7 miles west of Tuscumbia, AL on US Highway 72, turn left onto Alabama Highway 247 for 12 miles. Turn right and follow the signs.

For burial information, (coon dogs only) one can contact the Colbert County Tourism & Convention Bureau, PO Box 740425, Tuscumbia, AL 35674 or check their website at: Colbert County Tourism.org.

%d bloggers like this: