Barking up the Right Tree – The Full Cry Magazine

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Barking up the Right Tree

Max McCoy Sr.


March is here, time for the daffodils and many other spring flowers. They are on their way. Most all hunting seasons are closed in my state.

Wood cutting time is also here for me; I’m making plans for next fall. I like to get my wood early; that way it has time to dry and season out. I have seven rick already in the woodshed drying. My goal is to get 20 rick before fall is over.

I hope you all had a good 2014-year for hunting and all other activities.

Speaking of good hunting, from a picture it shows a great year for coon hunting. This picture is of Clay Hillsman of El Dorado Springs, Missouri. Clay and his family caught these coons in this picture out of four counties where they live. Clay, you have some real good-looking Bluetick coonhounds there. Thanks for the picture. I would love to hear more from you all again.

A few things about our state, Arkansas, it suffered massive declines in 1914. Bison were gone, even the last passenger pigeon died. The prairie chicken and eastern elk were hunted to a point that they could never recover. Bears, deer and turkey were almost depleted. It was going to take some doings to save what was left. In 1916, the Game and Fish was first organized. They set seasons on bear, turkey and deer. In 1919, they set a season on no doe deer kill, but the illegal hunting continued because they couldn’t hire enough game wardens. The way I get it, the game wardens didn’t have the authority to make an arrest. Controlling wild game by the government didn’t set well with some of the Arkansans. In 1930, the population of deer was at its lowest point. The estimate was maybe 500 animals left in reference to deer. Through continued enforcement of regulations and conservation, Arkansas’ deer herd reached a record of 213,487 in 2013 that was checked that is.

I have to mention that in the 1930s, many public and private folks stocked pheasants, but the birds never could get used to where they had been stocked. The only pheasant hunting in the state of Arkansas was private shooting preserves where birds were turned out for hunting.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was part of an odd 1930s stocking near Lake Catherine. One elk and one buffalo, along with ten blue quail from the state of Arizona all were a failure.

When I was hunting wild boar near Boston, rattlers were very plentiful to the east. Four of us mule riders were riding up an old logging road and all at once my mule reared and shuffled backwards on his hind feet about 20 feet and began to pitch me around a bit. The big rattler refused to move and I had to move it with my 357. We counted after that, seven rattlers before we left that area. Several people told me that the Game and Fish dropped 3,000 out by helicopter. Contrary to that popular report, rattlesnakes never have been stocked by the Game and Fish in Arkansas. So that was a big lie. They maintain that they never have stocked maintain lion either.

The turkey population fell very low in 1930. The first official effort to stock turkey came in 1932, when about 30 birds from North Dakota and Mississippi were released in state game refuges. In 1940 and 1941, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released 694 pen-raised wild turkey from a commercial game farm in Missouri, only a hand full managed to survive, and the pen-raised turkey was a failure. Trapping turkey worked pretty well and they gained and got their footing in 2003 and set a record with 19,947 birds.

In the 1930s, black bears were almost nonexistent, the estimate was 25 left, all living along the White River. They closed bear season in 1931. Their effort began to replace the bears that once roamed the Ozark and Quachita Mountains. In 1959, trapped and transporting from Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada. Some found their way back, but the remainder stayed. Then by 1980, the bear population was enough to have a hunting season. Then by 2014, the black bear population was estimated to be about 5,000 statewide.

The elk was practically extinct by 1840; Rocky Mountain elk by the Wichita National Wildlife Refuge were introduced to the area in 1933. Some success by 1950, the herd grew to about 200, illegal hunting practically took them out. In 1981, Hilary Jones proposed another attempt at bringing them back to Arkansas by a trade with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, elk for fingerlings from Arkansas hatcheries from 1981 to 1985, 112 elk from Colorado and Nebraska to live along the Buffalo River. Through good management, the herd became a healthy herd. In 1998, modern day elk hunting began to keep the herd healthy and is expanding each year.

“Please let’s keep our wild animals hunt legal and work with our Game and Fish Commission, thanks.”

Congratulations to Jeff Fletcher of Golden, Missouri, catches state record striped bass (64-pounds, 8-ounces), Beaver Lake tailwater in the year of 2000. “Boy that is a big bass!”

I’m sending a picture of one dog that I was very proud to own. He was good from start to finish. He lived in my kennels from a pup to age 15 years old. He will live in my memory as long as I am. I’m talking about my John dog; “PR” McCoy’s Osage John was a competition hound and a pleasure hound also. He won four trophies in the night hunts; he won second, fourth, eighth and tenth. As you can see a good looker, in 1977 he won Best of Class and Best of Breed. When he was young just getting started, he treed a monkey and his owner was griping about him so before the night was over I purchased little John. Then later on, I decided he was just John. I wanted to call him Big John but that was too many letters for his pedigree. I had a little trouble with him killing every skunk he ran across and to make things worse he would bring every one to me and sometimes drop them at my feet especially if I wasn’t looking. He was a great hound. The day he died, he was treed on a coon in the ground for most of the night. I found him lying on his side, giving a very faint tree bark. He was barking in such a low tone I couldn’t locate where he was at, but I could hear him. I brought him home and that evening I found him dead in his kennel.

I sing and write songs, they are Country, Western and Gospel. On my first volume is one of my songs at the very beginning of the first 15 songs is about John, the name of the song is “Coon in the Tree Top, Coon in a Log.” As you see, I can’t say enough for John.

Here is a story in reference to John.

Up the Mountain One More Time, Then Home

Well John, let’s try it just one more time. Tonight we’re going to see some coon eyes shine. Let’s try the hardest mountain I know of, the Bohannan Mountain, she’s a hard one to climb. Talk to him John, let him know you mean business. Looks like old Mr. Ringtail is working his way up. Just take it slow John, that way I can keep up. This old Wheat Lite is kind of dim from years of wear. I can see some eyes shining from way down here. He’s looking around, boy! He knows you’re getting near!

We’re halfway up the mountain John; do you have the same feeling as I do? Have we been up this trail before?

I have to rest for a minute or two John. Look down the mountain; it looks like another hunter letting his dogs out in the same spot you and I started from. Why John, one of those dogs looks just like you, except he’s not as gray around the muzzle and about 15 pounds lighter.

Boy! Look at that dog move that track; and that youngster coming along behind, he’s running like he could run all night. It looks like he has a five cell flashlight, and his clothes are way too tight. He’ll freeze to death in clothes like that tonight! He needs a Wheat Lite and insulated clothes. I remember the time when I could take a mountain like that.

Well John, you’ve made a lose and you’re moving slow, but you’ll tree him yet I know. You always were a good dog John. I heard a tale on you though, about you treeing a monkey when you were only four months old. They called you Blue John then and sold you because they mistakenly thought you would be a trashy dog. They should have known that you were going to be a super tree dog. You’ve got the blood, and you’re a real tree hound. In my eyes, you’re a Grand Nite Champion, and no one could ask for a better hound. You have won a lot of trophies for me John, and even a first place or two. Boy, I’m sure proud of you! “You are a top blue!”

Do you remember that time we had 200+ in a UKC hunt? We were leading and then you struck a hot one and put him up quick. I called you right, but it was quite a blow John, when all I could find was old Mister Smiley looking down his nose at us. Forgive me for hitting you so many times with my lead. You should have known we were taken to that place on purpose. That cast leader just knew we would minus out. We sure fooled him though, didn’t we boy? The way you pulled us out with a quick lay-up that the three other dogs just ran on by. I learned then John, that you were a real blue dog deluxe.

I remember a time or two when we were short on groceries and you came through with the fur, and I sold it and put food on the table, and it helped to feed you too.

I wish I could have had a dog like you when I was about 12 years old. Boy, I wanted a bluetick bad! I remember about that time my dad owned a super blue dog named Prince. I remember one night in particular. We were on the War Eagle River bottoms near Hindsville, Arkansas. We hunted most of the night and were sure tired and cold. We stopped and built up a fire and cut some cane sprouts to lie down on and rest for a while. Old Prince lay down right beside us. Dad and I both fell asleep right away. I was awakened a short time later by a dog growling. The first thing I thought of was old Prince had gotten rabies and gone mad. I looked around and old Prince had Dad by the coat sleeve and was trying to drag him away. As he pulled Dad’s arm around to the side, I could see the biggest copperhead lying there that I’d ever seen! That dog probably saved both of us from getting snake bit. The snake came to get warm also.

Now John, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have been ashamed to hunt you against that great blue Prince dog. You two would have been a real pair of hounds and real competitions for each other.

I hear you treeing John, and I’m coming. Listen, do you hear those dogs running down below? You know they sound like some dogs we use to know in another time. Those three up front sound like old Bart, Sioux and Yodler. If that could just be them, old Mr. Coon had better find something to climb and pronto. I hear some more bringing up the rear like my dogs of the past, Blazer I, Blazer II, and it sounds like that crazy bawl of Smoke II. Could it be possible, that it’s them? I hear Bluesky and Cindy too. Could this really be my old dogs from the past?

Well John, it looks like for the first time ever you’ve blank treed. We had better go on. Wait! There’s something up there! You were right John; he’s up there hiding his eyes with his tail. Am I seeing things John? That coon is white as snow; looks like a ghost from here, and what’s this big stone sitting here? There’s some writing on it. If I can get the dust wiped away, I’ll read it. Hold still John, and quit pushing. It says, “Here lies a man that loved coon hunting and coon hounds, Max McCoy, Sr,” and this smaller stone reads, “‘PR’ McCoy’s Osage John, Max’s favorite hound.”   Well John, it looks like we’ve made it home again! The End.

My brother Gene wrote me from Guernsey, Wyoming, he said he had the flu. He’s been doing some carpenter work and pushing 30-inches of snow. He cleans his neighbor’s drive too. It would be good to have a neighbor like that. Ha, ha.

Howard Bradly, Talking Rock, Georgia, wrote me. He sent me a clipping of Sam Montgomery about an accident that happened in 2011 at Gasper, Tennessee. Montgomery was showing some people some livestock and the mule he was riding became spooked and began to run. His reins broke off in Montgomery’s hands. He tried to lean over to ride the mule to the ground. He and the animal hit the ground and Montgomery broke his scapula and collarbone, snapped nine of his ribs from his spine and punctured a lung. Montgomery stated, “He was my favorite mule, but when I said, ‘whoa’ he thought I said, ‘go’ and he just took off.”

This was a bad accident and when I read about it, it brings back memories of one time when my fender broke off, and my mule got scared and ran away with me. We hit a low place in the field and went end over end, we didn’t get hurt, but it was a miracle.

Howard said, “Hi Max, I thought I would write you. One thing I can tell you there are plenty of leaves on the trees here. I believe spring is here. The snow is gone and frogs are singing; it’s hard to hear the dogs treeing. I turned the garden, I don’t like to work, anyone mentions work, and I tend to get sick real fast. Ha, ha. I have been hunting coon for 50 years. My dogs the other day caught a mole, treed two single tree frogs, and today they bayed a crane. ‘They’re all around tree dogs.’ My most enjoyable days I ever spent; some friends and I would chase Dad’s cowherd jump off upon their backs the ones we could anyway. My clothes would change color to brownish green. I suppose I never missed many cow patties.”

Howard, be glad you are retired or you would kill yourself. It’s good hearing from you.

I am sending in an old picture of myself when I was serving as a patrolman for several years with the Torrington, Wyoming Police Department. Hello to all you folks in the state of Wyoming; I enjoyed living in your state for nine years, and I do miss you all.

I talk to folks who are turned off because they say they have no place to hunt or fish anymore. I’ll admit that our woods and waters aren’t the same places they were when we were growing up. There are still places to hunt and fish. The successful hunters in this day and time are just a little smarter than the average person is. The world is changing. There are a lot more people now. There are still places to hunt and fish. I have hunted in several states and Canada including my own state. I have never paid for a guide. I’ve had people that I didn’t know who would call or write me offering free guide service, most even furnished me a place to sleep and food to eat. I don’t want to forget to mention my friends also that helped me. If you have money enough, you can always pay for a guide. It’s not over folks, we just need to think about it and get with the program.

This is about it for this month; hopefully I will be able to be back giving my opinion in Barking up the Right Tree.


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