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More on Coon-hunting

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I was blown away by the interest I’ve received in my inbox and while out and about over last week’s column when I told y’all a little about coonhunting.  So many of you have been kind to share your own stories of coonhunts from your past and great memories of standout hounds you’ve hunted with.  I thank each of you as I‘ve trained and handled some mighty fine hounds during my many years of involvement in the sport.  Along with your great stories, there were a few questions asked of me, which I’d like to answer this week.    

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 First, yes it’s true, raccoons are found only in North America, making the sport uniquely our own.  The second most asked question was which breed of hound was my favorite.  Of the several breeds of hounds recognized by the United Kennel Club, my personal favorite has been the Bluetick hounds with their big bawly mouths on the trail.  Now, I’ve trained and handled Treeing Walkers, Plotts, Black and Tans, Redbones, and even English hounds over the years, but the Blueticks captured my heart.  Possibly because my very first hound was a bluetick and it sort of just stuck with me.

Lots of folks don’t know that the very first purebred coonhounds trained and hunted here in what eventually became the United States, were a pack of French hounds gifted to George Washington.  Our former President loved to ride and to hunt, and he often went fox hunting several times a week during the winter.  His papers stored at the Library of Congress reveal that he wanted to breed a new American hunting dog, “a superior dog, one that had speed, sense and brains.”

Washington’s close friend and ally during the Revolutionary War, the Marquis de Lafayette, heard of this interest and sent seven French hounds to Washington, but as it turned out, the fox population throughout Virginia was on a downturn.  It was purely good fortune, as the new hounds took to running and treeing raccoons, much to the delight of the President and his houndsmen.  Historical records bear out that raccoon was not at all uncommon on the President’s menu and at least once was served during official visits at his home in Mount Vernon.

Coonhunting and coonhounds have come a long way from those early days.  Today, professional field trials and night hunts, sanctioned by a handful of Kennel clubs and hosted by coonhound enthusiast associations all over the country.  These competitive hunts allow breeders to campaign their dogs while earning pedigree points and championship titles.  There are a good number of coonhound clubs here in Florida and sanctioned hunts are being hosted, throughout the state each month.  

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Now, on these organized hunts, no raccoons are killed or injured; merely trailed and treed while the hounds are judged on their skill and performance.  It’s been a long time since I attended a professional coonhound event; I’m really looking forward to doing so again, real soon!  If you have any more questions or a story to share, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].  God Bless and Good Hunting!  

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