A Good Night to Go Out
talk about past coon hunting trips. We discuss coon dogs both past and present and then try to predict how the dogs will perform tonight. I breathe in the closeness of the three of us having fun together and smile.
Cut ’Em Loose
When we arrive at Coon Paradise the dogs start to bark with anticipation. Darkness has engulfed the landscape before us and, with no moon to intrude, the sky is filled with stars. As we all get out of the truck Roz and Wyatt grab the leashes and I sling the rifle across my back.
With our headlamps to light the way, we move toward the back of the truck. Wyatt and Roz drop the tailgate and stand in front of the two doors of the dog box, each door holding back an excited black and tan coonhound. I stand out of the way, yet positioned to intercept any dog that might slip past the kids.
The doors are opened and both Wyatt and Roz successfully catch their dog and attach the leashes to their collars. Both dogs bolt off of the tailgate and hit the ground, pulling the leashes taut.
Rozalyn, barely able to stand her ground, has Maggie at the end of her leash. The older of the two hounds, Maggie is easy to handle and highly experienced.
Wyatt is holding back Ellie, a younger, bigger hound. Ellie is a little more aggressive and more independent than Maggie or, in other words, “hardheaded.” Both dogs are a real pleasure to hunt.
We head to the closest block of timber near the edge of a harvested corn field. The dogs instinctively lead the way. Our lights cut through the darkness in random fashion as we make our way behind them. When we get to the timber, Roz and Wyatt take their dogs by the collar with one hand and place their other hand on the leash snap. They look my way, waiting for instruction.
“Cut ’em loose!” I call.
The dogs are unleashed and both explode into the timber, disappearing into the darkness. We shut off our lights and take in the night. We can hear the dogs canvassing the forest floor for the slightest hint of raccoon scent as they make their way deeper into the woods.
Rozalyn nudges Wyatt and says, “Bet Maggie strikes first.” (A strike is when a hound smells coon scent and starts barking or “giving mouth.”)
“I wouldn’t be too sure about