I received an email from a friend, who shall remain nameless, expressing his misgivings about ‘coon hunting:
Oh, the fun! Shaking a family out of a tree to be slaughtered by dogs! Long, long ago such actions may have been essential to our survival, but never, in any recent time, has this near barbaric act been necessary or even understandable. Reminds me of a time, as a boy visiting relatives in Texas, that I found out about the “sport” of head-lighting rabbits: they freeze in the glare of the car lights and are promptly shot and left where they lay. I was sickened by the act then and remain so today.
I can understand those feelings so I asked Professor Noyes, my guest blogger, to respond via email to me:
Hi there, Not even close to the bloody event that you visualize. What we did when I participated seldom caused ‘coon casualties. It was a skill event – dogs against the little and some pretty big masked banditos that were damaging crops, orchards and gardens.
The young coons were over half grown, so they were not pansies for the coon dogs – they were semi-veterans but just hadn’t been through all the experiences they would encounter to build up their repertoire of coon wisdom. Coons may be fairly close to foxes on the intellect scale–two of the smartest of God’s creatures.
The young coons were not anything I wanted to get close to – no hand-to-hand combat desired — so I kept to the side as they came romping down the tree and landed amongst the young hound dogs. In the flurry of confusion, the coons scattered ahead of dogs (who had to check trail continuously – not visual sight chases) for quite a long time. I knew if the coons had enough time to find a stream, they would hit the water and extinguish their scent for a ways and the dogs would never recover the trail. [Sam’s note: I’ve never been coon hunting, but those who have tell me that an adult raccoon will likely drown any dog foolish enough to go after it in deep water.]
Quite often, especially with young, inexperienced coon dogs, who are willing, but lack experience, the dogs come out far worse than the raccoon. Some hunters have even been known to get tagged once in a while.
Back in the Smoky and Appalachia Mountains, raccoon is quite edible – even today, so like hunting wild turkey, deer, wild boar or ferel hogs, rabbits, pheasant, squirrel, elk, it was a way of putting food on the table, as well as protecting corn crops, gardens, orchards, etc.
We seldom killed raccoons. It was more of a skill sport–like shooting or fishing–and was a comrade type event. Rodeo-ing is a popular Western OK sport – as it is in many of the 48 states. Coyote hunting was another – which I didn’t do much of.
Trapping was another skill type interest passed down during the past 100-150 years, but that was more solo, not group activity. Coon hunting is a men’s social activity and event. Ron
Two observations of the man vs. beast conflict … What memorable adventure have you had in the wild?