Ten Things Every Coon Hunter Should Know

June 2012 American Cooner Magazine Cover1. How to learn the fundamentals of coon hunting.
I ran into a couple of kids the other day on the parking lot at the local Walmart. They drove up in a Ford Ranger pickup with a beat-up dog box in the back. They saw my dog box and wanted to say hello. I walked over to the truck and greeted a pair of genuine country boys, evidenced by the faint smell of wood smoke on their camo clothing. I asked if they were coon hunters and they said yes. The next logical question to them was, “what kind of dogs do you hunt?” They told me they had an old Walker female and a young Bluetick. I kidded them by asking, “why a Bluetick?” The smaller of the two kids was sitting on the passenger side and answered, “Cuz that’s better than a Black and Tan.” We all laughed and they asked me the same. I told them I was probably worse off in the dog department than they were in that I hunted a Plott. I told them I had my dog in the box and they wanted to see him. Of course that gave me a chance to show off my training skills as I let my three-year old male Hoss out and put him through a few obedience paces; sit, stay, down, come, and kennel. They were impressed and said they had never seen a dog handle like that. I told them that all it takes is patience and time and they could have their dogs handling like that, too.
Our conversation turned to places to hunt in the area, inquiries about other hunters that they knew and wound up with the smaller fellow asking me how much I would charge him to train his young Bluetick. I jokingly said, “I’m 65 years old. I seriously doubt I’ll live long enough to train a Bluetick,” and we all laughed. I then told him, no, I wouldn’t take the dog for training but I would be glad to go along with him and show him methods that have worked for me in starting young dogs. I gave him my phone number and I’m waiting for him to call. I hope he does because there’s nothing I like more than working with young people in this sport. The thing that makes this opportunity so appealing is that these fellows are totally innocent and haven’t been spoiled by many of the current approaches to training that are out there, methods that are supposed to make instant coon dogs out of six month old pups. This was supported by the fact that neither of these kids had ever seen a coon hunting magazine.
I was fortunate to be the son of a real woodsman. I learned at an early age where to go to find a coon track in an area where coon ere extremely scarce. I learned what feeds coon were on at certain times of the year and how to distinguish the type of game my hound was running by the sound of its voice, or by the way in which a track traveled. A hound running in short circles in a weedy or thick place was probably running a rabbit. A hound trailing cold and then hot alternatively up a creek bed was probably running a mink. A hound cold trailing in a circle without treeing was likely to be working a grey fox. A wider circling running track that went in and out of hearing and crested the ridges was likely to be a red fox. A hot track that rapidly went out of hearing and headed toward a body of water was most likely a whitetail deer. Skunks and possums were obvious.
I learned that coons feed on sweet corn in July but rarely touch hardened field corn until midwinter after the fall acorns and other mast crops are gone. I learned that coon will flip cow pies over in search of beetles in the summer, will work a branch for spring lizards (salamanders) and crawfish about any time, love blackberries around pasture fields and old roadways in July and August, love the fence rows where wild cherries are ripe in August and September and will be storing up winter fat in the oak woodlots and on the ridges where the wild grapes strangle the trees in October and November.
I learned that coon will “lay up” for hours feeding on acorns and wild grapes and that it takes a dog that can wind them laying up there without smelling a track on the ground to tree them accurately. I learned that some dogs can trail a cold track and tree a coon off that track that cannot figure out which way a hot track is going, lacking the brain power to put “direction” to the track. I learned that some dogs open quickly on scent, even scent they cannot make forward progress on while others can cold trail with precision giving very little mouth in the process. I also learned that some dogs bark a lot on a cold track and “shut up” as the track warms, hoping to catch the coon.
I learned that the coon sitting higher in the tree is usually the boar, that when treed on a steep hillside the coon will usually be on a limb on the downhill side, that a coon sitting with its nose pointed toward the moon will rarely look no matter how much you shine and squall unless he happens to be sitting on a vine you can shake. I learned that in extremely hot weather a coon will likely come down for water in the hot afternoon and lay up until the wee hours of the morning when things cool down to stir and feed. I learned that on the coldest, snowiest nights of dead winter, if I just have to go hunting, the best place to strike a coon is along a body of water. I learned that moonlight nights usually produce coons treed in dens or in evergreens and that trash tracks are more abundant on these kinds of nights than are coon tracks.
I learned that a hound develops into a better cooner if permitted to learn at its own pace. Attempts to “fast-start” some hounds fail and those pups are culled when a little time and patience, exposing the pup to opportunities continually without “pushing” often results in a better hound. Dogs are like kids. The ones that are permitted opportunities continually but are allowed to develop a love for learning usually make better students in the long run.
Stud dog ads are largely responsible for creating the need for pup buyers to push a pup beyond its ability to process the training. If he’s not a six-month wonder like the other pups in the ads, he’s a loser. If nothing else in this article clicks, please take this one to heart. Remember the Ernest and Julio Gallo commercial – “We will sell no wine before its time?” Apply that philosophy to pup training. Don’t cull that pup until you are sure he or she is mature enough to process the opportunities you are presenting them.
2. How to find places to hunt.
Most coon hunters will agree, the most severe threat to the sport of coon hunting is the decline in places to safely run our hounds. The current economic downturn has somewhat stemmed the tide of building that was the case a few years ago. Urban sprawl is taking a breather for now and with the decline in building the demand for hardwood timber is somewhat diminished. A downside to the poor economy for coon hunters is that land owners, including the big timber companies with hundreds of thousands of acres across the south, and small farmers alike are looking for tax breaks. They have learned they can offset their tax burdens by leasing the land. Leases usually involve deer and turkey hunters that generally hold dog hunters in disdain. Combine that with hunting seasons that exclude dog hunting, like Mississippi’s spring turkey season for example and you see that finding opportunities to run dogs can be a challenge.
Many states now have recreational trespass laws that require written permission. Many landowners will give permission to hunt but don’t want to put it into writing for fear of repercussions should someone get hurt on their land. When I lived in Michigan I devised a written permission statement and carried copies in my truck. When I approached a land owner about hunting I showed them the form that stated that I would not hold them responsible for injury or death incurred while on their property and that if my dogs or I were responsible for damage to his or her property while engaged in hunting or training dogs, I would be fully responsible. I signed it along with their signature allowing me to hunt their lands. I never had a landowner refuse to sign the form after I had signed it in their presence.
Your demeanor when asking for permission has a lot to do with the answer you get. I usually went on a Sunday afternoon. If possible I took my son or my wife with me. I washed my truck before I went. I put on presentable clothes. I wanted to present a wholesome look. If I appeared with a three day growth of beard, dirty jeans and t-shirt and drove a vehicle covered in mud the landowner was likely to draw many conclusions, one of which could indicate that I had been up all weekend digging ruts in some farmer’s field with my 4×4. I usually make the point that my dogs don’t run livestock and chase deer and that I have the means, via the GPS unit and the Tri-tronics to control them at all times. I ask if it’s okay for me to come at any time during the night or would the land owner prefer early evening hours before he goes to bed. I assure the land owner that I will not climb his fences except when absolutely necessary and then only at the post, I’ll close all gates behind me that were closed before I arrived, that I won’t drive across his fields and that I will not leave anything behind me that was not there when I arrived. I have to continually remind myself that I am a guest and that I must behave on the landowner’s property just as I would behave if invited into his home. Learn this lesson and develop this attitude and you will find that most farmers will let you hunt.
3. How to select the right kind of gear
We’ve often joked about the guy at the hunts with the $40,000 truck, the $1000 tracking system, the $800 dog box, the $500 shock collar, the $400 light, the $200 boots and the two-dollar dog. But there’s no denying it, the equipment you choose will not only enhance your enjoyment of the sport but will also improve your odds of having a successful hunt, whether for pleasure or in competition. Here is my list of fundamental gear items that I have with me on every hunt:
First, you need a quality light source. I am absolutely sold on the new, lightweight LED lights that are on the market today. In my view there is no longer any need to carry the weight of a battery box or pack on the belt. Secondly, in order to have a comfortable hunt, a good pair of well-fitting rubber boots with water resistant chaps properly sewn to the leg of the boots is essential for wading briars and nettles and for crossing creeks. John Wick once said, “When your feet get wet, the fun’s over,” and I agree. Thirdly you will want to invest in a Garmin GPS-enhanced tracking system and learn to use it. It will help you recover your dog, keep the dog out of harm’s way and take you to the truck at the end of the hunt. If you are a young hunter, electronic gizmos offer no problem to you and you will catch onto the use of the Garmin quickly. If you are a geezer like me, ask one of the kids at the club to show you how. Next in order is a Tri-Tronics Trashbreaker trainer. Read all you can about the use of this trainer and never turn your hound loose without it. Its applications are too many to list here but trust me and don’t leave home without it. Of course you will need a 4×4 pickup and a dog box to round out your list of essentials. I would add a good quality coon squaller such as the Zepp and a good pocket knife. For some of you, a stop at the corner store for some chew is also an essential. I’ll pass on that, thank you very much.
4. How to buy a coonhound without getting burned.
Coon hunters are human and humans by their very nature will lie. I have a friend that teaches in public schools. I have heard her tell of watching kindergartners doing some type of negative behavior and when asked, “Johnny, why did you do that?” Little Johnny says, “I didn’t do it.” The teacher replies, “I was standing here watching you do it,” to which Little Johnny says, “It wasn’t me.”
If there’s one thing that brings the urge to prevaricate to the surface in the human race it’s this thing we call coon hunting. Coon hunters, like fisherman can’t resist the temptation to lie. Do you think that’s harsh? Consider this scenario, one I’ve witnessed many times over the years.
Time out has been called or the hunt is over and a dog has not been handled. The owner employs the tracking device and leaves the cast to retrieve his or her dog. Upon return, what does the handler say? You go to the head of the class if you get this one right and get to wear the dunce cap if you miss it. I’ll bet you a dollar against a donut that the handler says, “He was treed and had the coon.” I have never heard a handler in that situation say, “He was treed slick.” Why does the handler think he has to lie? Unless lying is that hunter’s best friend, the answer lies in one word; pride.
When we put our nameplates on these coonhounds they become extensions of ourselves. An average dog becomes a “number one coon dog” because to admit anything less would be to admit that we either don’t know how to train a coon dog or we were dumb enough to buy an “average” dog when the world knows we hunt nothing but the best. This type of lying is generally harmless to our fellow hunters (I’m not going to venture my thoughts on what the Lord thinks about it) unless we employ it to help us sell the dog to the unsuspecting buyer. This is where lying becomes larceny and unfortunately for us, there are a lot of folks out there that are making a living by it.
There’s only two ways to keep from getting burned on a dog deal. The first is to go and hunt with the dog, not one night but as many nights and under as many different types of conditions as you can. The second is, if you do not know the owner of the dog personally, and have not had previous dealings with the owner of the dog to the point that you know that you know that you know that man to be absolutely honest, don’t take his word for it. In case you missed that, I’m saying: “Don’t take anyone’s word as to the ability of a dog unless it’s a guy you would send to Vegas with your credit car andd the deed to your home.” Get the point? Why? Because when it comes to dogs most coon hunters just can’t help but lie. If this offends you, you either are absolutely honest or the truth hurts.
And as a footnote to this item, a new coon hunter should buy a veteran cooner as his or her first dog. You will be surprised in this world of “pups” how many good coonhounds, many of them with Grand Nite Champion titles are for sale once they graduate out of the pup-hunt stage of their lives. Buying an older, finished coonhound will serve to teach the young hunter more about coon hunting that all the articles like this in the world and they represent the best buys in the coonhound market. Then, once you have the “feel” for the sport, find a good-blooded pup of your liking and train it with your veteran cooner. That’s probably the best advice you will read in this article this month.
5. How to breed, buy and train a coonhound pup
Coonhound magazines are full of stud ads and all proclaim to be the best since sliced bread in terms of “reproducing” themselves. The rule of thumb when looking at a prospective stud is this: “You don’t get the stud, you get what he produces.” That’s true but to put all your eggs in the stud dog’s basket when deciding to buy a pup is just half the equation. Any prospective pup buyer should remember this. There are no 100% guarantees in terms of what a cross will produce and there are no absolute “proven crosses.” Yes, there are crosses that have produced outstanding offspring but there is no guarantee that when that sire and dam are bred again that the pups will turn out like the previous ones just as there is no guarantee that the title the dog holds indicates the type of coonhound you will want to hunt and feed. The dam of the pup is vitally important, too. Here is my advice to anyone looking to buy a pup that will hopefully be a good prospect and with proper handling and training, will become a winner or a pleasure dog you will be proud to hunt.
Look for a “family” of dogs that carry the traits that you prefer in a coonhound. Almost all purebred coonhound pups of today will tree. A well bred pup should possess the treeing instinct as inherently as the desire to eat, drink, sleep and poop. Most well-bred pups will tree before they run track. Once I’ve found the family of dogs I like I would try to get a pup from a 12.5% inbred cross from within that family; uncle to niece, aunt to nephew, grandsire to granddaughter, granddam to grandson, or half-brother to half-sister crosses are key. I would avoid family breeding of the 25% variety meaning sire to daughter, mother to son or full brother to full sister matings. Lloyd Brackett, called Mr. German Shepherd for his success with that breed, selected his stud dog and then bred five daughters of that stud to him, daughters that most resembled the stud, and produced astounding results in the show ring. I’m not advocating that kind of intense family breeding because most of us don’t have the stomach to cull when inbreeding brings faults to the surface as it surely will.
Let’s say there’s a stud out there and you’ve gone out and hunted with him. You like his looks, his genetic background and the way he gets in there and gets the job done, finishing with that classic loud tree bark you have been looking for. Of course he needs to have the coon. The next thing you need to do is to try to find a granddaughter or niece to that dog that looks, acts, and hunts as much like that stud as you can. If the stud owner doesn’t have that bitch, then your job is to either persuade the owner of that bitch to breed to your chosen stud or to buy the female and breed her yourself. That’s the quickest route to getting the type of pups that you want with a word of caution repeated from the open words of this item. There are no guarantees and there are no 100% proven crosses. I have witnessed, on several occasions repeat matings that produced pups that were nothing like earlier matings of the same cross. I have also witnessed some astounding results when breeding coonhounds in this way.
Like the young hunters mentioned in the first item in this piece, many of us lack the knowledge to train a coonhound pup. For me, training means teaching the pup basic obedience, house breaking and displaying the best of manners when with people, other dogs and livestock. I look to nature to provide and develop the basic elements that a coonhound requires to become a top hound. My job is simply to expose the pup to learning opportunities that will allow his breeding to surface. Here are some basics:
a. Expose a pup to a caged coon once or twice just to let him know that’s what you are after. Tie the pup back, place the coon out of his reach and use another dog to bark at the cage. If the pup shows no interest, drag the cage back and forth just beyond his reach. Never lead a pup up to a caged coon and try to force it to react to the coon.
b. Once the pup is barking at the coon, take it away. The next step is for another training session. Take the caged coon and place it in an open field. Go back and get the pup and turn it loose, walking in the direction of the cage. When the pup finds the cage and barks, go to it and tie the pup back. I use one of the screw-in stakes for this purpose. Turn the coon loose toward the woods, preferably 50 to 100 yards distant. Let the pup watch the coon until it is out of sight. Turn the pup loose. It will sight-chase the coon in the direction it went but when it gets to the woods it will have to use its nose to find the coon. Usually the coon will go up the first tree it comes to and the pup’s natural treeing instincts will surface. I would do this a couple of times max, each in a separate session and then take the pup to the woods at night where it will encounter wild coon scent.
c. Too much sight work on caged or “hang-up” coons, either on the ground or in a tree is detrimental to producing a coon dog that will locate and tree off scent. Many hunters shoot a coon and drag it for the pup, hanging it up on a low-hanging limb. If you do this, do it sparingly, once or twice and that’s it. You are only trying to trigger the pup’s instincts. If you persist, you will produce a dog that wants to tree by sight.
Of course there are many other elements to training a coonhound pup, most of which involve keeping that pup in the woods once he starts but that’s a whole book in itself.
6. How to develop a lifetime network of coon hunting friends
I once talked to a fellow that told me he had worked hard for everything he had attained in this sport and that no one ever gave him anything. I replied that I was very proud of the fact that many of the treasures I had gained in this sport, including many tangible ones, came from others. The “I am a rock” attitude displayed by this young man, if carried on through the years will no doubt result in many lonely days when age and time takes its inevitable toll and he is no longer able to get the personal high from winning that is so important to him now. I have been fortunate to do many things in this sport, things that some of you will never get to do. I’m not bragging about that, I’m just extremely thankful. I’ve presented World Champion trophies to, and taken pictures of no less than 30 World Champions in my days with the registries. I’ve witnessed the unveiling of priceless oil paintings and witnessed firsthand the joy on the faces of the winners of 15 Purina Outstanding Nite Hunt Coonhound of the Year awards. I’ve helped to crown National Champions and National Grand Champions and I’ve traveled the length and breadth of this country attending coonhound events. I’ve shaken the hands of thousands upon thousands of coon hunters over the last 35 or more years. These experiences are priceless to me and I list them here simply to say that in the midst of all this activity, the network of coon hunting friends that has been the result of all this is indeed my most valued treasure.
Because of my network, I am able to pick up the phone or shoot an email to any area of the country and inquire about virtually any subject related to the sport and I know I will get the information I need quickly and accurately because of my friends. This network has been invaluable to me both in my career and in my personal life. My network contains vendors that have come to my rescue when I needed products for a special event. My network contains knowledgeable dog men and women that will meet my needs when I need a well-bred pup to train or as recently was the case, when I wanted to buy a well-bred cur pup for squirrel hunting. My network provides information on where to stay when in a certain area hunting or what kind of boots and chaps will best suit my skinny legs and narrow feet. Anything I need to know is available to me because I know the right people to call and you can develop that kind of network too.
I realize that coon hunting has not been a career for many of you but there are means available to you today that don’t require thirty years of time. The coonhound message forums, classified sections and social-media sites like Facebook provide the opportunity to meet people in this sport. When you go to an event, take your game face off and go over and talk to as many people as you can. If you find you have a common interest, exchange phone numbers or email addresses. Breed association membership is an excellent opportunity to find friends that hunt your preferred breed of hound. Attendance at major coonhound events provides a virtually unlimited source of opportunities to meet people from all over the country in the span of two or three days. When you see a dog box in a pickup at the gas station on as was my case, at the local Wally World, make a point to talk to the owner. Leave your number under the windshield wiper if he or she isn’t around. Pick up the phone and call the numbers you see in the ads or if you are a cheap skate like me, send an email and get acquainted. The result will be a network of friends that you will cherish throughout your coon hunting career and especially in retirement when you will have the time to travel and do more than you ever thought you could.
7. How to make your mark on the sport.
We all know guys that have made a real difference in our sport. Some are breeders, some are handlers, some are innovators and some are known for their integrity under all types of situations. There are others, whose names appear in the barred lists of the various registries that have made a negative mark. I’m assuming those of you reading this would prefer that your mark be a positive one. Or, perhaps you are just a guy like my dad was that just wants to go out in the woods with his hounds and thoroughly enjoy the experience with no desire to be in the limelight of the sport. Regardless of whether we set out to make a mark in this game, we will make it in one way or the other.
One lesson I learned many years ago is that integrity is something very important to anyone wishing to make his or her mark and it’s strictly up to the person whether that integrity remains intact or is lost. Integrity is not something someone can take away from us. If we lose it, it’s because we chose to do so through our actions.
Over the years at the registries I learned more about some people that most others would likely know and it wasn’t all good. People have done some incredibly stupid things to “get ahead” in this game and it came home to bite them. Over the years we also went to court several times. It was usually because someone let the desire-to-win-at-all-costs get the better of them and they wound up on a barred list. Don’t be that guy.
If you want to go to the head of the class in this game, breed a better litter of pups by doing your homework, train a better hound that will win prestigious titles for you by studying the methods that have worked for others or by developing common-sense methods of your own. Have the desire and patience to really learn what makes a coonhound tick and apply that knowledge to your hounds to the point that others will see the results and come to you for advice.
You can also make a negative mark by lying about a hound you want to sell, “pitching” your dog on track or tree, looking for loopholes in the rules to ensure a win when you are getting your butt handed to you on a platter by a better hound in the cast, and by employing the big “I” in every conversation you have with other hunters. Doing these things will make you the subject of many conversations around the clubs, the kinds of conversations that will suddenly change or get quiet when you walk up to join the crowd. Again, don’t be that guy if you really want to make your mark in this sport.
8. How to handle your hound successfully in competition
Whether you are new to coon hunting or have never tried it, the lure of the competition hunts will entice you to get out there and try your hand at handling your hound. Americans are competitive by nature and especially when it comes to performance dogs like coonhounds. Competition within the ranks of coon hunters is as old as the sport itself. Competition hunts as we know them today began after World War II and have evolved into one of the most popular types of sporting dog events in the country.
After reading all the hype and seeing all the winner’s photos online and in this magazine, it’s easy to think that your dog is not capable of competing. That’s nonsense. Many of the winners you see in these pages are simply dogs like yours that will run and tree and are fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with a coon sitting above their heads that decided to cooperate and look at the judge’s light. Sure there are dogs that excel at the game but most of the dogs out there in the hunts are no better than yours and mine.
What can make the difference in winning and losing is how well you handle your dog in the hunt. The word “handling” in this case is a misnomer. We’re not talking about catching the dog at the tree. We’re talking about having a fundamental if not thorough knowledge of the contest rules to the point that you know when it is required of you to claim your dog and beyond that, knowing just how many points you need to win the cast. Good handlers know that and unlike Bubba, who at the all-you-can-eat-for-a dollar buffet, orders three dollars’ worth, they claim only the number of points they need to win or to protect the score they have.
Gary Hern, who has won World Championships in two registries told a young hunter in Michigan, “Everyone in the cast knows your dog treed first but that doesn’t mean you have to take every first tree.” That’s good advice. Without writing a book on handling I’ll simply hope that you remember these points:
a. Know the dog you are hunting inside and out. This is only accomplished by hunting that dog several nights, week in and week out.
b. Strike your dog on or before the third bark when it is opening honestly. Don’t be the guy that strikes his dog off the chain on a babble. It will come back to bite you.
c. Don’t pitch you dog on the tree. Recognize your dog’s locate and tree him when you are reasonably sure he will stay. You don’t have to be first. Sometimes, on a questionable tree it’s better to take last tree to simply protect your strike points from being minused if the coon is seen.
d. Be aware of the scores of the other dogs in your cast. If you are safely ahead, don’t make foolish calls. John Wick impressed me with his talk to the young hunters at the AKC Youth World Championship when he asked them to repeat the most important thing they should have learned from what he told them; “Don’t put minus points on your dog that it doesn’t deserve.” That’s good advice for any handler.
9. How to maintain the health you need to participate in this sport.
Although vigorous at times, coon hunting does not provide the degree of cardio-vascular workout activity that is essential to good health and a long life with the sport. I am a perfect example of that. I have never weighed more than 165 pounds and weigh about five pounds less than that now. I have never been a smoker, don’t drink alcohol other than an occasional glass of wine with dinner and rarely eat fatty foods. Nonetheless, I suffered a heart attack in 2006 while participating in a UKC Nite Hunt in North Carolina that resulted in double bypass surgery at Duke University Hospital. The villain was my genetic history of high cholesterol and triglycerides combined with too many hours sitting in front of a computer monitor at work. I was one of the lucky ones in that I did not die in the woods but the coon hunting history books are full of the names of guys that did just that.
If you are going to coon hunt, and you are not in shape, you are flirting with disaster. It is essential that you maintain a steady regimen of proper diet, daily exercise that builds and maintains your heart rate and an annual checkup with your family doctor. Walking to trees on an average coon hunt will not keep you in shape regardless of where you hunt. Consider the condition of your health if you want to continue to enjoy the sport, and your family and friends, into your retirement years.
10. How to avoid the pitfalls that many coon hunters fall into
If you have chosen coon hunting as your chief recreational activity you have not chosen an easy sport and that’s evidenced on many levels. It’s a given that you will lose lots of sleep, your patience and your bank account will be sorely tried and at the end of the day, or night as the case may be, you will wonder how in the world you of all people got into this crazy sport. You are not alone.
One to the chief pitfalls that young hunters make is that the lure of the woods at dark-thirty becomes all-consuming to the detriment of things that should occupy a higher spot on their priority lists. Many are the tales of once-married coon hunters that left a lonely girl at home too many nights because come hell or high water, when it got dark they were going hunting. I once sat in a breed association meeting in Illinois on a Saturday afternoon with a well-known hunter from Ohio that has since passed away. He said, “Steve, I’m in big trouble. My daughter is getting married tonight in Ohio and I’m not going to be there.” I’m still shaking my head at that one but with some coon hunters, that’s the way it is. Don’t be that guy either.
When we were raising my son, travel was an integral part of my job at UKC. I missed birthdays, important ball games and family gatherings because of the weekend travel. When I was home I always put family matters ahead of hunting, always. If the family wanted to do something on the weekend of a hunting trip I planned, I cancelled the trip. Family was vitally more important to me than hunting. Anyone who is thinking otherwise needs the proverbial check-up from the neck up.
Secondly, don’t make promises you can’t keep. It bothers me that coon hunters seem to get a pass when it comes to commitment. Just ask any hunt director on the night of the big hunt when it’s time to put the guides on the scorecards. Sure, clubs can be demanding, especially when they schedule big hunts, but if you tell someone you will be there, barring any emergency, you should honor that commitment. Otherwise you will be labeled a liar. Harsh, maybe but that’s the way I see it.
If you tell someone you will buy a pup and whether they require you to send a deposit or not, don’t blow it off when you change your mind. You told them you would take the pup, now take it. If you tell someone you will be there at a certain time, be there. I have been guilty of this. I’ve always seemed to have several balls in the air at all times and often have been 15 minutes or more late in meeting a hunting buddy for the night’s hunt. Now, if I’m going to be late, I call. It’s not fair to use someone else’s time because I didn’t plan properly.
If you put enough faith in someone’s stud dog or the litter of pups they are offering for sale to purchase one, don’t be a pansy and ask for a guarantee. You are the one that made the decision to buy the pup and barring any obvious health issues that were present in the pup when you bought it you should assume full responsibility for your decision in buying the pup. God only knows whether that pup will turn out. If you made the decision to buy, that’s your decision and you need to live with it. Some will disagree with me. I had one fellow in Texas that bought a pup from me tell me that he had bought 30 purebred coonhound pups and never had one that started. He wanted me to refund his purchase price because the puppy was aggressive in the food dish. I told him I would but he would have to return the pup in good health. I never heard from him again. I wonder what he did with all those pups?
Don’t be a slob hunter. Don’t hunt where you don’t have permission. Don’t leave gates open and litter behind. Don’t cut muddy ruts in the farmer’s field. Don’t shine your headlights into a farmhouse window when you turn in the drive. Don’t kill coon out of season. Don’t kill every coon out of a tree. Don’t bad-mouth your hunting buddy’s dog. Don’t brag on your dog to the point of making everyone at the clubhouse nauseous. Better yet, just simply follow the Golden Rule and that will help you to avoid all the pitfalls of this sport that may come your way. Thanks for reading.

By Steve Fielder

Steve Fielder – Ten Things Every Coon Hunter Should Know PDF Download