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Coon hunting!! - A trip report
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“I got home at 3 a.m. (YAWN), like 7 hours ago, because I covered the MN state coon hunting championships held in my town last night.
Now I've never been a fan of baying coonhounds, so wondered how this would go. LOL! :-) But I also viewed it as an adventure. No raccoons were shot, since this was a competition of the dogs' abilities.
First off, I learned a whole new vocabulary. They hunted in "casts" of no more than 4 dogs, drawn at random. I went out with the "grand nites" (man, that sounds like some Aryan nation group or Masonic Lodge group, doesnt it??!?!? LOL!)
They had guides that would plan the "dumps" of the hounds. That's where they drop them off to hunt, NOT poo-poo. The guys would call out "strike (their dog's name)" when the dog started barking on the scented trail of a coon.... and then would call out "tree (their dog's name)" when it had a coon treed. Man, I could never really tell the different barks apart -- either the dogs or for their different sequences of the activity -- well, except for the really l-o-w p-i-t-c-h-e-d one (you have to picture me saying that in a really low voice for full effect :-)
I found out there was a lot of standing around and waiting, at first. Then full-fledged, get-out-and-get-there really fast hiking, almost running, once the dogs had treed a coon. The dog(s) had to bark at the tree for at least 5 minutes, then they could shine a light up into it to see if they could see the raccoon.
While I was thinking it was a somewhat lame sport while standing around, I soon found it dished out all the offtrail stuff a person could handle (even a backpacker), if we tore up this tree and briar-covered hillside, stumbling over logs with just headlamps on... and even almost falling through a seep, boggy area at the TOP of the hill.
They never could spot the coon on the first one, but could see a hole where it probably was. So the points were scored with a circle, meaning it would count as points BUT if there was a tie with some other dog, the circled score on that treeing would be considered lower.
For the next dump, I got to crawl through barbed wire fences and avoid an electric fence, crawling on my side on the ground under that one. LOL! (If ONLY there were pictures!!!)
But I drew the line at the next dump, where they tore off through a cornfield. No thanks, I've detasseled corn... and know how wet it is and how sharp the leaves are. But more power to the coon hunters for getting to where they needed to go. On that dump the dogs split. The one closest to the road -- ANGUS, lol -- went 20 ft. up in a tree after that coon.
The third dump was in an area where the guides actually saw a raccoon while driving up (I was with the guides). The dogs started going nuts right away. Which resulted in a huge argument among the competitors as to WHO called "strike" first, and shouldn't those points have been split, since they all barked right away, before being let loose, since it was actually a coon trail?? They treed a coon there in like 9 minutes and were done.
The last dump was to provide a challenge. No corn, no creeks, but a big woods area, with a cornfield in it at, as the guide said, "80 rods." Now that gave me a clear idea of how far away it was... NOT! lol
It was a 2-hour competition, with the clock stopped while driving to dump sites. This one was driving all the guys nuts. A couple dogs "striked." But no treeing. The hunter in control of the score sheet kept counting time down. They had 21 minutes for this hunt.
As he counted down to 10 seconds, a guy yelled, "Tree Angus." (hey, you've gotta love a dog named Angus!) I figured he was kinda fudging, what with time running out.
We all headed into woods, again full speed ahead, tripping at times over downed logs. At least there wasn't a lot of underbrush in this one. Ending up back by the cornfield, they went into it.
I said, phhhht, another damn cornfield, turned around and headed back. Then I realized, uh oh, what are the chances I'm gonna get out of this woods OK? How good is my sense of direction, and for how far? I headed back what I thought was the way back, perpendicular to the cornfield fence. And, guess I do have a good sense of direction... It took a little while, but there were the parking lights on the pickup. Success!
A while later the guys came back. Angus had indeed treed a coon. Two dogs came back, but not the other two. One guy put together an antenna, remote thing that would track a corresponding device on his dog's collar. So hunting the hunting dogs was next on their agenda.
They were allowed a total of 2 hours for the hunt. The clock started around 9:15 p.m. They had until 4 a.m. to get back to the competition headquarters, depending on how far away each group went to hunt. We rolled in around 2:30.
Overall, I gained a much better understanding of coon hunting. The dogs are fine-tuned animals and the hunters -- well you didn't see too many fat guys and I guess there's a reason for that...
But I still think I wouldn't be too happy at 2 a.m. in the country to have baying coonhounds and lights shining up in trees.
“Also, once again I learned how equipment readily crosses over for sports/activites.
My little Wal-mart headlamp I head along worked good enough for me... although they had what looked more like caving headlamps. They could adjust the beams from narrow to a full spot, for looking for coons up in the trees. Most also carried battery packs on their waists. But, like I said, my headlamp worked just fine. Plus I had that alluring option of the red light to keep bugs away. LOL!
My Goretex hiking boots were a blessing on that hillside with the seep. No wet feet for me!
I should have worn my waterproof/breathable raingear, but didn't. It would have been good for the damp evening; however, I would not exactly have wanted to rip holes in it tearing through briars. (no offense, there, briar rabbit. LOL ;-P)
And I could definitely have used my knee-high gaiters, but couldn't find them before I left.
Another thing... I could defintely see having the GPS along, to waypoint the vehicle. Don't know how good the satellite reception would have been under leaf cover but, hey, it least you'd have some idea which way was out.
Ok, guess that's it for gear comparison.”
“Hi Lizsy..interesting read..gotta be a crossword puzzle word "casts", doncha think? and yup, "Grand Nites (Knights?) DOES sound like a far, far right wing fringe group..also, thanks for posting the gear info..you know, I NEVER remember tall gaitors! LOL and, I'm with you about the corn, running through a cornfield is like running through a field of tiny knives..one could bleed to death if one did it naked:D”
“Sheeyat!! As I just started coughing, right now, I remembered a VERY IMPORTANT PART of the "hunt."
I musta sucked down like six gnats/flies/bugs in our rush to the initial treeing. I was told a person had to be quiet (at least while they're initially listening for their dogs to strike, then tree)... WAS WORRIED I was gonna be hacking up bugs and not quiet at all!!! LMAO!!
They told me some guy at some point sucked down a bunch of flies and then "dropped a load in his pants." LOLOLOL! At least that didn't happen to MOI!!! :-)”
“When I was young, a red light was used for something different than keeping bugs away.”
“lizs, lizs, lizs.........
Gojo will be soooooooo disappointed in you. ;-)
Every dog has a different bark.
We could always pick Skipper's (beloved dog of my childhood) bark out when she would 'jump up' a deer.”
“Very cool! Sounds like a blast. In fact, the way you guys ran the dogs sounds a lot like boar hunting. Glad you had fun.”
“I thought coon hunting was a metaphor for going out drinking with the boys and leaving the wife at home.”
“1 rod = 16.5 feet
4 rods = 1 chain = 66 feet
80 chains = 1 mile
80 rods = 20 chains = 1/4 mile
I use it all the time.”
I used to run hounds on fox in eastern Ontario in the late sixties.
I never enjoyed coon hunting - running, tripping and colliding in the dark just doesn't do it for me - but I'm glad I went the few times.
Out of all the 'normal' outdoor pursuits, I think only coon hunting and ice fishing don't interest me (up here ice fishing is not just normal, it's a religion).”
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