Sunday, August 16, 2009

Coon hunting

My father was not a Teddy Roosevelt kind of hunter in which the game was displayed for all to see and perhaps admire. The game in Dad's hunting was for the benefit of the hounds. His hunting was only night hunting and the game was skinned in the next daylight period and was incidental to the chase although selling the coon skins was profitable. I recall looking on the back steps for any results of a night hunt the night before and, finding a dead raccoon or two or even three on the steps I would run my six year old fingers through the luxurious coats and ponder on why they were dead. Even as a young hunter the same thinking was deep inside me and soothed by thinking the fun involved justified that suppressed expression. For those who are lovers of hunting it is the dogs that are the highlight of the sport. A well trained hound is a true marvel of man's ability to evolve a creature so well tuned to accomplish the objectives of the hunter. Such a dog is driven by a desire to please the hunter and therein lies the nucleus of the hunting experience of the sport. Such a dog as a good hound is for the sport of coon hunting insofar as temperament is concerned is completely gentle and virtually incapable of harming a human even if the human is inflicting serious pain to the hound. With the object of the chase that same gentle creature with humans turns into a efficient killer of the object of the chase. He is not as efficient as a dog bred for fighting as is the Pit Bull and others but only as a killer of game.
As an example of the trustworthiness of such an animal, when deep in the woods and one of my coon hounds would attempt to dispatch a porcupine there was disaster in the making with literally hundreds of quills working their ways into the dog's pelt. Wasted time was not a consideration as the dog would be placed on its back and straddled by the quill extractor as the quills had to be pulled out one by one. Each would be a painful experience but never once would the hound attempt to bite in spite of the pain. First the quills in or near the eyes and then those aiming at the internal organs of the chest where the penetration could lead to eventual death months or even years later. There would not be time to get out of the woods in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and to a veterinary establishment for the anesthetic to prevent the pain of extracting the quills.
So it came to pass that with my working every working minute of my life toward preventing problems of pets including pain my hunting experience became less and less acceptable. I graduated to only a bring-em-back-alive hunting experience until my last two wonderful coon hounds, Ned and Red died of old age complications. One blind and the other deaf.
. Sheared raccoon coats were in vogue at the time and my father and I supplied the sixteen pelts required for a finger tip length coat to many friends and relatives.
So ended a period of my life that was truly romantic and now unacceptable.

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