A prairie raccoon hunt to forget
There was a time when farm boys and many farm adults spent evenings hunting raccoons with hounds. Back in those days, a lad could actually make a little spending money by selling furs — and people would actually wear furs for style.
This is a story sent to me by my good friend, ol’ Fursan Finns, who has spent his life as a hunter, fisherman, wildlife biologist, natural resource conservationist, and a hunter safety instructor. Here’s his raccoon hunting story.
The Prairie Coon Hunt: I had a very good friend named Philip who was a hunting buddy when we were in high school. During the summer when we were both in high school we had three coon hounds and used to go hunting a lot. During one summer, we probably averaged four or five nights a week.
Well, one time we decided to go north, out of our normal hunting territory in the Neosho River drainage and hunt some prairie coons. Prairie coons are a little bit different in their habits and habitat (or so we believed at the time). They are different in that they travel from pond to pond out in the grasslands and prairies traveling great distances to hunt on many ponds. That’s unlike their lazy cousins that live along the creeks and rivers. They are pretty sedentary and don’t go very far, but the prairie coons travel great distances and, if you can find one, will present an incredible hound race.
So, we went north about 10 miles to a little farm where we had permission to hunt raccoons. In those days, it was adjacent to open rangeland that went for many miles north.
We got up there late in the evening, probably 10 or later, and dropped our dogs out on this farm. We always followed the dogs on foot wearing only tennis shoes, blue jeans and a T-shirt. All we had for light was a couple old flashlights.
The dogs got into a hot race and we were in hot pursuit of the hounds. Of course, dogs and raccoons don’t know anything about fence lines or borders or property lines. Nonetheless, we were close behind and followed them all across the country. We had to jog to keep up ‘cuz the race was going fast. Who knows how far we went? Seemed like at least a few miles.
The dogs would lose the track for a while then pick it up again. We assumed we were on the same critter all this time. But, we knew from experience that our dogs would chase a coon for a while and, if they lost it, a possum was just as fun.
Finally, we heard the dogs barking treed along a fence line and hedgerow. We headed toward the dogs expecting to see a coon in a tree from which we could shake it out and get another good hot race. We rarely killed a coon, but just liked to chase ’em.
From a distance, we shined our flashlights up along the tree row and, sure enough, we spied a pair of eyes in the trees. We looked closer. Oh, hell! It was green eyes! Green eyes means a house cat! Philip and I took off running cuz what usually goes along with a house cat … a house!? We did’t want our dogs chasing a house cat.
We wanted to get our dogs hooked up before the cat took off. But we failed. The cat bailed out and took off across the field. We were running across a milo field and way up on top of the hill we could just barely see in the moonlight this old white farmhouse. Now, by this time it was at least 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, maybe later. We never had a watch to our name back then.
Well, the cat took off toward the farmhouse, the dogs took off after the cat and we were chasing behind just as fast as we could go.
Now this farmhouse was an old wooden structure. The kind of an older farmhouse that had a front porch that was raised a couple feet off of the ground along the front. We knew we were in trouble if anybody was living there. The hounds were baying as loud as they could. We were shouting at the dogs as loud as we could and the cat was hell-bent to reach the porch. Oh, what a mess we were in — and we knew it.
When the cat went under the porch, the dogs went under the porch after it, and then came the dangdest melee you ever heard — from under the porch emitted hounds barking and howling, the cat caterwauling and … a light comes on in the bedroom.
Oh, no! We’re gonna get shot! Then a light comes on in the living room! He’s a comin’ to get us. We were almost up to the porch when the screen door swings open and this old man in his undies and a white T-shirt steps to the the door. He opens the door just as we’re getting close to the porch and yells out,
“Finns, is that you? Get..the..hell…out of here!” Now, in these situations it’s always, “Yes sir! We’ll get our dogs and get out of here right away, sir. Sorry to bother you, sir.”
So, we grabbed our ropes, crawled underneath the porch, got our dogs and got out of there as fast as we could. We were not sure exactly where we were, but a gravel road was nearby. We’d figure it out when we’re well away from the house.
And then it was that I stopped in my tracks. “Wait a minute. We’re 10 miles from home, in the middle of the night, where we ain’t never been before, and he knows my name! How is it that he knows my name?”
That’s when we realized our “wild kid” reputation had preceded us.
Words of wisdom for the week: If I don’t make regular sarcastic
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