Cory Dukehart | Mossy Oak Regional ProStaff Manager
There is a dying breed of outdoorsmen and hunters that I wish would start to make a comeback. This dying breed helps the turkey population, the waterfowl population, and the wallet of a deer hunter who is filling up his feeders every other day. This dying breed walks the woods at night and carries a .22 rifle, a spotlight and the leash that is attached to man’s best friend. They listen carefully as they follow in the hound’s path and wait for the cry of his voice when he strikes the track of a raccoon. This dying breed is that of a coon hunter.
While most may consider a raccoon to be a furry, cuddly looking creature, turkeys and waterfowl see them as predators. One of the raccoon’s favorite snacks is that of a nest filled with eggs. We see a nest full of a potentially nice brood and they see an omelet. As any deer hunter who watches his feeding areas with trail cameras will tell you, a lot of their pictures are of the masked corn thieving bandit with rings on his tail.
In most areas of the United States the raccoon does not have many if any natural predators. Hunting raccoons with hounds at night is certainly the most effective way to reduce the population in your area. And while the coonhunter is a dying breed as I mentioned, there are local coonhunting clubs spread throughout the United States. If your turkey, deer, or waterfowl areas are infested with raccoons, I would recommend contacting one of these clubs. They can run their hounds and thin some of your coon population and you can tag along for what will surely be a hunt that you won’t forget.
There is a common myth amongst deer hunters that running hounds through your deer woods will ruin that area for deer hunting. This is not true. A well-trained coonhound will not bat an eye at a deer, and a well-trained houndsman/dog handler will correct one in a hurry if they do. I have watched countless deer feed within 100 yards of where my dog was treed, and when a coonhound trees they are noisy about it. With the exception of a rutting buck or a serious food shortage, deer will use approximately the same two square miles of land their entire life and the occasional coonhound in the area will not change that one bit. So don’t be afraid to give this a try.
A few years ago the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources teamed up with Clemson University to do a study on deer movement in relation to coonhunting with hounds. The results showed that the hounds did not affect the deer movement. So don’t worry, your deer will not go anywhere!
Listening to a coonhound trail a raccoon through the woods is one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had as an outdoorsman. For most folks, it only takes one good chase that leads to a treed coon that has them hooked for life. It’s an easy-going hunt that allows folks to get some good exercise and some great camaraderie all the while helping out the other creatures that inhabit your land. It’s an old pastime that I worry is fading away, and I encourage folks to give it a try. It just might become your new favorite hobby.