|By Bob Weaver (1996)|
Fox and coon hunting were enthusiastic pastimes during the first half
of the 20th century, the sport infrequently
practiced in recent years, except by a few die-hards.
Many years ago the
prime pelt of a raccoon would fetch eight
dollars, with Calhouners taking pride in the breeding of their hounds
with some preferring a silent trail dog and
others liking a 'speaker' for the track.
Just about every household
in the county had its hounds. They would have
their Redbones, Blue Ticks, Red Ticks, Blacks, Plotts and Treeing
Walkers to take out on a really dark, crisp, and
rainy night, usually in September and October.
On the darkest
nights the coon would tree rather than go in the hole
where they would be difficult to get. The crispy and chilly conditions
allowed the dog to run better and shorten the
chase, the wetness helping the dog follow the scent on the damp
Jesse Roach of Rocksdale about 1915
Many coon hunters in our part of the county would gravitate toward the
lower West Fork (of the Little Kanawha)
where the coons would be feeding on crawdads and minnows. Cornfields
would be good too.
On the very darkest
night, coon hunters would start on the hilltops of Husk, Joker, or
interestingly the "Coon Ridge" above the West
Fork, there to find the freshest tracks.
The owners throughout the
chase would announce which dog was out front.
"That's ole Red," they might exclaim. The owners ability to
distinguish the dog's bark was important to the chase
and being able to tell how old the track was. On a new track the dog
would bark faster and with greater excitement.
The big event would be when the owners dog actually put the coon up a
tree. A short and choppy bark across the
hills would indicate the coon had been 'treed,' compared to long
bellows on the trail.
If a dog 'holed' the coon it
would usually bark three times.
A good coon hunter had two lights.
A walking light (in the early days it would be a
lantern or carbide lamp), and a spotlight. After the coon was spotted,
the object was to 'nick' the animal with a
small caliber rifle, allowing it to fall from the tree.
The coon is
a vicious fighter and would sometimes whip a whole
pack of dogs. Good coon dogs, if I remember correctly, would go for
$600, and that's long before today's inflated
West Virginia coon dogs were known for their stamina and
endurance because of their training over the
Coon hunting's popularity declined rapidly by the
l950's, as the county moved from it's agricultural
roots and lots of residents left the county to acquire jobs in Ohio.
Calhouners began to purchase TV's by the early
l950's and local hunters began to opt for the "Friday Night Fights" or
wrestling from WOAY in Oak Hill.
coon hunting was great for friendships, a time to story tell and
acquire great bragging rights. It was great exercise