COON HUNTIN' CALHOUN STYLE - "That's Ole Red"

(12/05/2017)

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 leaves.

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 prices.

West Virginia coon dogs were known for their stamina and endurance because of their training over the steep hills.

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.

Calhoun coon hunting was great for friendships, a time to story tell and acquire great bragging rights. It was great exercise too.


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