Huntin’ Cohutta – American Cooner

     Nestled in the mountains of North Georgia is the Cohutta Wildlife Management Area. It is some of the best hunting to be found; that is, if one doesn’t mind hunting the mountains. I grew up coon hunting the mountains and feel there is no better hunting — period. Climbing the steep ridges is sometimes rough and there may not be the amount of game found in other areas or possibly the game is only spread out farther because of the vast amount of wooded terrain. The clean, fresh air along with the outdoor smells, hardwoods, evergreens and clear mountain streams invigorates one’s body. This is country that anyone would savor. The Cohutta WMA is open for coon hunting only several nights per year, and when younger, I tried to hunt it at every given opportunity.
On this particular hunt, my dad would be coming along. He had at one time been a hard hunter but at the time only occasionally hunted with me. He was a devoted Plott man, but he really liked JoJo, one of the young English hounds I owned and would go along just to hear him run and tree a coon. He said JoJo was probably the most powerful tree dog he had ever heard and every time he located a tree, it would make the hair on his neck stand up. My dad had taken me on my first coon hunt when I was barely old enough to walk. As I grew older, he made certain I had a top hound that I could tree plenty of coon with. He also instilled within my mind a firm belief that you can feed a good hound as easily as a worthless one. It cost the same to feed either.
On this hunt we would be hunting all English hounds, three males and a female. All four hounds would go hunting, get struck and treed and have game in the tree. They would also stay put once treed. As darkness approached, my dad arrived and I loaded Dual Nt. Ch. Nation’s Hardwood JoJo, Ch., Nt. Ch. Dutch Hollow Duke, Gr. Ch., Nt. Ch. Paxton Abernathy and Nt. Ch. Nation’s Tree Screaming Sheba. We had a good little drive to the place we planned to hunt, and as we drove, I thought about the hounds we were going to hunt.
JoJo was a two year old dark blue English hound that would go hunting and quickly get treed and stay put. He had one of the loudest mouths ever heard on a hound and was an exceptionally fast, accurate, one bark locator and a tree dog  hunters dream about. JoJo ran no off game and was a pleasure to hunt. He ran track with a booming bawl and treed with a hard, heavy chop. His sire was ACHA World Ch., Gr. Nt. Ch. Hayes’ Hardtime Speck. I purchased JoJo from Jack Cowgill of Illinois. The only reason I was able to own him was because he was not from Jack’s breeding. I finished JoJo to Dual Nite Champion after he came to my home. He was also campaigned in some of the money hunts of the time and did a lot of winning with Mike Seets handling him.
Duke was a one year old Redtick that was as good as they get at his age. He hunted hard and would get by himself and get treed every chance he had. Duke ran track with a loud, high pitched chop that could be heard with the loudest of hounds. He located with one squall bawl and immediately turned it over to a never ending chop. Duke was an accurate, stay put tree dog that would absolutely stay treed no matter what. Duke was sired by one of the overlooked studs of the time, a hound called Nt. Ch. Christopherson’s Roper by Boyd’s Little Joe. I believe Roper was only lightly bred but he sure sired some good hounds and could have helped the breed if he had been heavily used. I bought Duke from Steve Dorrough of Clifton Park, NY. He was a Show Champion and I finished him to Nite Champion.
Abernathy, called “Abner,” was a completely balanced hound, a top strike dog, a track dog and a loud, classy, stay put accurate tree dog. Abner was Redtick in color and one of the best looking Redtick hounds to ever breathe coon scent. He was a hound that went hunting well, ran track the right way with a big bawl, had an outstanding locate and was a hard, loud chop mouthed tree dog that could tree any kind of coon. Abner was sired by Dual Grand Champion Penny’s Kentucky Kojak, one of the many good hounds from Kojak in that era. I acquired Abner from Mike DeGraves of Wisconsin who had attempted to hunt him on bear but with poor results. Abner was a top coonhound but not much of a bear dog even though he would still occasionally run one. It was the only thing he ran other than coon and something I preferred he leave alone. I made no attempt to finish Abner to Grand Nite but he was hunted in some of the money hunts, handled by Mike Seets and I, and he did his share of winning and more.
Sheba was a small Redtick hound that went hunting in a run, quickly got struck and could really move a track in the right direction and put a tree at the end of it. Coming on the tree, she gave a screaming locate and was a blow-down tree dog that would not pull. Sheba ran track with a loud, high pitched chop, squall and bawl and treed with a rapid chop putting on a show at the tree. She was another of the good hounds sired by Dual Grand Champion Penny’s Kentucky Kojak. I bought her with intentions to raise a litter of pups. She came out of Michigan from Jim Baumbach, the Walker man and owner of the great Dual Grand Champion Baumbach’s Pulpwood.
As we arrived at our first drop I thought, “If we didn’t tree coon on this night, they couldn’t be treed.” We were hunting as much dog power as anyone. Driving to the end of a narrow lane routed alongside a clear mountain stream, we prepared to release the hounds up the hollow into what looked to be prime coon country. I had hunted JoJo hard in the mountainous terrain of the surrounding area and he was accustomed to it and knew where to look for a coon track. Duke had also received much hunting in the mountains of my area and upstate New York, so he also knew how to hunt the mountainous terrain and where to strike a coon. I had not hunted Abner in the mountains but was sure he had been hunted in much more mountainous terrain where he came from so he should also do well. Sheba had probably not seen mountains like she was about to be subjected to, so how she would perform was a question to soon be answered.
All four hounds were released onto the mountain stream and immediately split up. JoJo shot up the stream. Duke crossed the lane following a trail up the side of the mountain and Sheba and Abner entered a hollow running parallel to the road we had driven in on. I had hoped the hounds would stay together and quickly get a track going but they were too independent for that. A lot of walking would be involved if each hound struck a track of their own. As luck would have it, they soon were going in three directions. Oh well, sometimes hunting the mountains is tough.
JoJo was first to strike opening only two or three times before his big coarse locate was heard followed by the loud, heavy chops. He was going no further. As we walked in the direction of JoJo’s tree, Duke was heard high on the side of the mountain working a track. At precisely the same time, Abner and Sheba opened far in the distance and they were moving. We proceeded to JoJo’s tree which was only a short walk up the stream and he was leashed and a large hardwood shined. The coon was spotted quickly and was given to him. The coon was a large mountain coon that JoJo had practically ambushed, but many of his coon were treed in the same manner. He did everything fast and efficient. Walking from the tree with JoJo leashed, not another hound was heard as they had all gotten out of hearing range. Our next task was walking back to the vehicle to check the tracker and find their locations.
Duke was close. He had crossed into another hollow and was treed solid. Sheba and Abner’s location was another story as the tracker was receiving a signal from neither. They had traveled a long distance or crossed the mountain. In time we would discover which. Duke was high on the mountain and only slightly over a ridge in another hollow. He was treed on a large white pine. Sometimes the white pines are extremely large and the coon hard to find if it does not look at the light. This was not the case as the coon looked at the light almost immediately and was swiftly given to and was dispensed by Duke. We now headed back to the vehicle to attempt to locate Sheba and Abner.
We were still unable to receive a signal from either on the tracker but we drove in the direction they had departed, only stopping at intervals to check for a signal. A weak signal was finally received from the two hounds and we drove towards their general direction. It is sometimes hard to get very close to the hounds if they are deep in the mountains because there is only a road or two running through the area. We were still unable to hear the hounds but the signal continuously became better the further we drove. Several miles up the road we came upon a group of young people standing at a large blazing fire alongside the creek. We stopped and checked the tracker, then we asked the group if they had seen the hounds. The group began talking all at the same time. They had seen two dogs probably an hour before and they had also seen a small bear they were running. Pointing in the direction that the hounds were headed, one of the youngsters said he lived nearby and knew the area well stating the dogs were in a deep hollow at the back of his family’s property and happily volunteered to show us an easy way to them. The youngster crawled in the vehicle with us and pointed us in the direction we needed to go.
“Go through the gate up ahead and we can drive into the hollow where the dogs were going,” stated the young man.
We slowed to make the turn into the gated area and Sheba and Abner were heard treeing loud and clear. We walked in to the tree and both hounds were leashed and the small bear was spotted sitting midway up the tree. The young man quickly pointed to Sheba and said, “That dog was nipping at the bear’s heels when he came by us and the other one was not too close up on the bear. We thought they were going to catch it but were glad they ran it away from us. I’ve never seen dogs run bear before but it’s pretty cool. We have a lot of bear around here.”
“Well, we aren’t bear hunting and are not supposed to tree them, so we need to get the hounds and get out of here,” my dad and I stated.
I briefly scolded both hounds as I didn’t want either to run bear because I only coon hunted and that is all I wanted my dogs to run. We went back to the vehicle and the young man asked what game we were hunting and we showed him the coon we had caught. He asked if maybe he could tag along and see a coon treed. We had no problem with the request and he promptly said he knew a place where there were plenty of coon. A few miles down the mountainous road, we came to another gated area where the young man opened the gate for us to drive to a small field of unharvested corn. The young man said his dad planted the field yearly for the wildlife. It was never harvested and the wildlife was abundant there. We came to a stop and all four hounds were released. All went hunting and soon had a track going.
Abner was first to open with a loud bawl joined by the chops and squalls of Sheba and then the shrill chops of Duke and the thundering bawl of JoJo. Duke and JoJo peeled off up the mountainside and rapidly ended their track when JoJo stole the tree away from Duke before he could get his one squall bawl locate out of his mouth. That’s how he operated most of the time, tight and right, not what I really liked but hard to dislike. Abner and Sheba ended their track at almost the same time and my dad said if they didn’t pull to JoJo and Duke, he would be surprised. JoJo was surely loud and my dad partial to him but he wasn’t going to pull Abner or Sheba as they were hooked to stay. The young man had a big smile on his face just hearing the treeing hounds but the smile was nowhere near what it would be after seeing a couple of coon up a tree.
We climbed the mountain to JoJo and Duke and shined the tree spotting another large coon lying in a fork high in the tree. Both hounds had a coon out to them so the coon was left to run again. With both JoJo and Duke remaining on the lead, we walked along the mountainside to Abner and Sheba’s tree. We arrived at a large oak, shined the tree and two coon were spotted. The smiling young man asked if we were going to take the coon. Being that Abner and Sheba had not had a coon, I replied, “We’ll take one of them. Do you want to shoot it out to them?”
The young man said, “Yes, I want to shoot the coon out.” He stood back and shot the coon out with a single shit. I think it was at that moment that a future coon hunter was made.
We returned to the vehicle and the young man asked why I wanted to take only one coon from the tree. I explained, “That was how I was taught. Leave some for seed and you will always have coon to tree. The dogs don’t know how many coon are in the tree anyway so one is enough.” I was glad to hear the young man ask questions.
It was decided by my dad that we would make one more drop before calling it a night as he didn’t like to hunt all night. I think the young man and I were just getting started but I had to honor Pop’s request. Instead of moving to a new area, we cut the hounds back in the direction of the cornfield. Within minutes we had another red hot track going and the hounds were taking it straight up the mountain.
Abner once again had gotten the strike followed by Sheba, Duke and JoJo. The hounds took the track high up the mountain before dropping into another hollow out of hearing and thus our long climb began. After climbing partway up the mountain we were able to hear the echo of the treeing hounds and proceeded in their direction. Once we caught sight, we found all four hounds stretched high on the side of a large hardwood. The tree was shined and a large coon was spotted. The hounds were given a little praise and led from the tree and the coon was left to run again.
Back at the truck I told the young man that climbs like that  was the reason I hunted an accurate tree dog. Even though we didn’t take the coon, we knew it was there and were satisfied to leave it for another night. Hunting the mountains, one does not have to walk to many empty trees before they are ready to get rid of a slick treeing dog and get something more accurate. I have walked to a few of these and will never do so again. Walking to empty trees in rough terrain will make a person despise a slick treeing dog for life. The old timers didn’t walk to a lot of empty trees and there is no sense in doing so in this day and time.
Our night of hunting was complete and we headed for home. I gave the young man my information in case he wanted to hunt again and dropped him at his house. That night we made a coon hunter of him and he is still hunting today. The sport needs young people such as this to keep it alive. Give a young person the opportunity to experience this great sport and the sound of the hounds. You’ll be glad you did.
This young man hunted with many nights with me in the following years. He was thankful for the opportunity to hunt with good hounds just as I had been so many years before. My dad and I would still hunt together until I sold JoJo.
Duke and JoJo were sold at the same time and both were good hounds that treed all the coon one could ask to tree. Both were accurate and treed the tracks they struck and stayed put once treed. They were good hounds but I was looking for something a little more balanced and a little bit better. Both hounds were no aggravation of any sort and maybe they were as good as I was going to find but I never stopped looking for that hound with just a little bit extra. JoJo and Duke were replaced with one of the most powerful, completely balanced young Bluetick hounds of the time.
Abner and Sheba stayed at my home until the end. Sheba was killed by a bulldog while at a friend’s home and Abner did not live a long life but he was a good hound and the kind I liked to hunt. Sheba and Abner were only two of the many good hounds from Penny’s Kentucky Kojak at the time. The magazines were full of Kojak sired hounds being promoted at that time. I hunted with many good hounds from Kojak and felt that Abner was as good as any of them. LeRoy Penny, owner of Kojak, also said Abner was one of the better hounds  sired by Kojak but he also stated that Kojak’s Talking Tom was possibly the best of the bunch. I never had the opportunity to hunt with Tom but I later owned several good hounds sired by him and knew he reproduced some good ones. If given the opportunity to hunt with Tom and he’d proven as good as LeRoy said, I would have tried to own him if he could have been bought. Good hounds of the past are only a distant dream now but more will eventually follow.
I hunted the mountains hard in my younger years and will again in the future but only at a slower pace. I always tried to hunt my dogs in an assortment of different terrains to have them accustomed to different types of territory. Try a variety of terrains — it will help improve the dogs’ ability and performance. The extra work will pay off in the end.

By : Gregory Bart Nation

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