The Addiction of Coon Hunting
The Pre-Game Coon Hunts
Editors Note’s: I’ve befriended and hunted with some of the best coon hunters in the nation. I’ve changed some names in this week’s stories to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent and whatever reputations they may have left. An abundance of raccoons or ringtails as some hunters call them makes this species a critter you can chase all over the U.S. and parts of southern Canada. Be sure to check the seasons and bag limits in your area. Hunters have fun running their dogs year-round even if they can’t bag the coons.
Some men and women are born with a coon-hunting addiction. Others get infected later in life. But regardless of how coon hunters contract their affliction, the addiction always strikes with lethal potency. My friend, Walton, contracted the coon-hunting disease at birth. By the time he arrived at college on a football scholarship, he had developed one of the worst cases of coon-hunting dependency I ever had seen. As religiously as the Pope went to mass every Sunday, Walton coon hunted each Friday night. While in high school, he ran with his hounds chasing ringtails after Friday-night football games. But when he entered college, the university coach tried to stop his Friday–night coon hunts, since they played football every Saturday. However, the coaches soon learned their lectures, punishments and threats rarely affected Walton’s late-night indulgences. Finally, to force the young athlete to abide by his 10:00 p.m. curfew and rest up for the big games on Saturdays, an assistant coach stood guard outside his room to prevent his escape to the close-by ringtail-infested woods.
But Walton could not break his habit. He bought a large rope, tied knots in it and let it out his window at night. Then he climbed in and out of his second-story dormitory room without the coaches seeing or hearing him leave after the last bed check at night. In the first Saturday game after the coaches posted a guard at Walton’s door, the fleet-footed wide receiver caught a pass late in the fourth quarter on the 50-yard line with three defenders between him and the goal. Clutching the ball, Walton ran straight at the first defender and twisted his hips causing the linebacker to dive for him in vain. The second linebacker took his chance at Walton on the edge of the sideline. But when he hit Walton, the feisty athlete bounced back, spun and continued on toward the end zone. A 6-foot 3-inch, 200-pound middle linebacker, the sole player left between Walton and a touchdown, stood on the 5-yard line. The defender had circled down field toward the goal line to cut off Walton’s attack.
Expecting a fake, the lineman squared his shoulders and bent his knee to allow him to move either way. However, instead of faking, Walton lowered his head and drove both the call and the defender across the goal line. The hometown crowd went wild when Walton scored the winning touchdown. He jogged off the field to find his coach who had tears of pride in his eyes. The coach said, “Walton, I told you if you’d quit coon hunting on Friday nights we’d make a great football player out of you.” Walton smiled and nodded and then sat down on the bench next to me. Struggling to speak as he gasped for air, Walton whispered, “John, you won’t believe my hunt last night. I treed three coons. The biggest one weighed 18 pounds. And I still made it back to my room before daylight.” As I looked through Walton’s face mask, I saw the contented smile of an addicted coon hunter who still hadn’t been broken.
TOMORROW: BREAKING IN A COON