A Good Night to Go Out

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 17, 2010

that!” says Wyatt, knowing full well it could go either way.

Before anymore could be said, the conversation was interrupted by the excited sound of a hound giving mouth on a fresh coon track.

“That’s Maggie!” announces Roz, proudly.

Before Wyatt can respond, Ellie opens up with her deeper bawl, letting us know she is in on this race, too.

The kids know well the sound of each dog and can identify them immediately. They know if the track is fresh or old by the way the dogs bark. They can interpret by sound if the track is getting hard to follow because of obstacles and terrain. And they know when the dogs are getting ready to tree by the sound of their voices. It is a language learned by spending many nights in the woods following coon hounds. We listen intently as the dogs talk to us and move the track further up the hollow.

The dogs are giving plenty of mouth, each complementing the other as they pursue a common goal. Their barks and bawls fill the night air with a kind of symphony every houndsman can relate to as special music.

“This is a hot one, Dad!” says Wyatt.

I agree. “We better move up so they don’t get too far ahead,” I say.

We turn on our lights and enter the woods where the dogs had just entered. We can hear their excited barks still echoing above the rustling leaves. Before we reach the top of the wooded ridge we lose the sound of the dogs. Topping the ridge, we listen intently between our collective heavy breathing and over our accelerated heart beats.

Ellie breaks the silence, loud and clear, letting us know they are still on the trail. She is across the next hollow on the facing hill side. We stand silently to “read” what is going on. Maggie breaks in with her sharper and slightly higher-pitched voice and both dogs continue working the track up the side of the next wooded hill. Then silence.

We are close enough to faintly hear some rustling leaves where the dogs are trying to unravel the trail left by their quarry. “I think they’re getting ready to locate,” says Wyatt. (A “locate” is when a dog is deciding which tree the coon has gone up, usually indicated by a distinct vocalization such as a long bawl.)

“You might be right,” I say, “Or that ol’ coon might have just

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