Monday, September 8, 2008

Coonhunter's Festival

"How one deals with their Coonhound's slobber is the most telling way of how one deals with everyday problems"

Thomas Jefferson, Third US President and Coonhunter

As a young person, I loved coonhunting. The woods at night are a very different place. Even with a light, familiar places become very different in the dark. Because the hunter follows the voice of the hound, the hunter finds himself in thickets and brambles where no sane person would willingly go. I have been lost, scratched, fell in a creek in cold weather, missed being sprayed by a skunk (My three dogs got it), and nearly bit by coons several times.

These days my coonhunting is the armchair variety, due to other commitments of life and the death of my father, but I still enjoy seeing and hearing hounds. So I was happy when a friend asked if I would take one of his boys to the Mahoning County Coonhunters festival last weekend. I had not been to this annual event in about 12 years. It is a combination flea market (mostly hunting,trapping, and dog supplies)hunters' reunion, and a water race. There were about 4000 people there by my estimate; about 10-15 percent were Amish, so I tried to be careful with the camera.

Here is a part of the flea market

There was everything for sale from Indian Artifacts

to poultry

There were also many dogs for sale,beagles of every age, squirrel dogs, Treeing Walkers and Blueticks. Whet I was surprised not to see were the older breeds of medium nosed hound (like the Redbone) or the older type Black and Tans. Even the Blueticks look leggier and more like Walkers. It seems the sport has really split between hide and meat hunters, who now use Cur Dogs, and competition hunters, who are using mostly Walkers. The Water Race dogs have always been a breed apart, having a little greyhound in them. The water race works like this:

A cable contains a float cage with a Coon. This cable is drawn across a pond with the dogs in pursuit. The lead dog wins and I believe first tree bark wins.

The winners enjoy a cash purse and races are accompanied by Calcutta style wagering.

Here is a closeup of a water race dog

My delight in this festival is seeing the young people interested in the outdoor sports,including a few young trappers and fur hunters. My young friend's older brother was there stocking up on supplies for fall trapping. In my own youth, trapping and fur hunting made money. AS a 12 year old kid, I made $15-20 a day with a small trapline during school holidays and weekends. The furbearing predators were kept in check, and the ones we caught were beautiful and healthy, unlike the diseased one I often have to kill out of pity today. The countryside needs more trappers and fur hunters and less citified Cabela-clad trophy deer hunters.


piecesofscrap said...

I grew up here in NH with the most amazing Bluetick coon dog. My father got her abused from a guy he knew. $1000 later to the vet, she was back on the mend. She became not only the best coon dog, but the best protector of us children.
She lost one eye when I was a teen, due to an accident with our trailer door's bottom corner. But she was an even better coon dog, honing her sense of smell even more due to the loss of one eye.
One time my dad and an Irish buddy went coonin'. Lady (the dog) took off after a coon and it was getting late. They could hear her but not see her. My father said he was ready to call it a night, and his buddy asked what he was going to do about Lady.
My father said he was going to leave his jacket, and come back in the morning to get her. Well my dad's buddy didn't believe that the dog would be waiting in the morning. A $100 bet was made and both men went home to bed.
At 6am the next morning they met up at the spot and hiked into the woods to where my father left his jacket. There Lady was, curled up on his coat, nice and warm, just waiting for him.
She lived a very long life, finally having to be put down at 17 yrs old. I could never have asked for a better dog to grow up with.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Good Story. Thanks!
My own first good coon dog was a bluetick female.