Tracking raccoons.

January 14, 2015

Outside the Walls. A blog by Nick VanderWall.

When we hear barking and howling at night we either think coyotes or people need to shut their dogs up. However, when your dogs are on the trail of a coon and barking, it’s a great thing.

Raccoon hunting runs from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31 and there is no limit on the amount of coons, Larry Hawke, Sr.  said.  “I love going out and watching the dogs work, and seeing them tree a racoon.”

Hawke runs a couple of dogs when he is coon hunting, but for competition they usually run four in a cast, he said.  “A cast is a group of hunters and their dogs.”

“The competition season is during the summer, and it is to see who has the better dogs,” Hawke said. You can’t shoot the raccoon because it is out of season, so they just see how many the dogs can trail and tree, he said.

They shine the trees that they think the racoon are in. If they see some they get points for it, but if they don’t see anything they get deducted points, he said. “People win cash, trophies, and plaques.”

A degree is another thing you can win. “Your dog has to have at least 100 points and a first place win and they can be considered a night champion,” Hawke said. People like to have this recognition on their dogs because it makes the dogs puppies worth more.

The dogs will start to do a long ball or howl when they get on the trail of a raccoon, but when they tree one they let out two long balls and then their bark becomes choppier, he said.

“Coons are more nocturnal, so you hunt them in the dark,” he said. “They love corn fields, soybeans, and you’ll even see them up in oaks if they have a lot of acorns.”

They use a coon squaller, which is a call to make them look at you when they are up in the tree, Hawke said. “A lot of the time it is hard to see them up in the tree, so we use the squaller to make them give us a better shooting advantage.”

They use a low beam light when they shine in the tree to locate the coons, Hawke said.  Then they flip the beam to high so it gives them better light to shoot.  The light Hawke uses is called a Night Light, but there are other types of lights, he said.

On a good night of coon hunting they can kill anywhere from four to five, he said.  “On a great night where we’re hunting the whole night we can end up with 10 to 12 coons.”  The most he has shot in one night of hunting has been 23 coons.

The reason they kill the coons is because they are a nuisance animal. “Farmers don’t like coons because they knock the corn down, tear up fields and they get into things like blueberry patches,” Hawke said.

He is very respectful of those people that don’t want him to hunt until after deer season, he said.  “If your dog is well trained to track coons they don’t bother deer at all.” He has been in the woods several times and had the dogs on the trail of some coons and he saw a deer not 20 yards away and the deer wasn’t bothered, Hawke said.

“Until a person actually goes and hunts coons they really don’t have a clue what it’s all about,” he said. He recommends going before you judge because it’s really a lot of fun.

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