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A hunt from Hell

by Richard Mason | April 10, 2021 at 8:30 p.m.
Richard Mason

My brother, Dr. William Mason of Little Rock, and I share an upsetting memory of raccoon hunt. It didn’t go as expected. I was a senior in high school and William, who is five years younger, were talking about what to do one afternoon, and I said, “William let’s take Sniffer and go coon hunting tonight.” Sniffer my hound was a fair coon dog, and since we didn’t have anything else to do a coon hunt was planned.

That night we headed for Flat Creek Swamp where I knew there were plenty of coons. I carried my .22, and the hunt was supposed to be: Sniffer would tree a coon, I would shoot it with the .22, and we would move on. We headed into some deep woods along the creek, with numerous canebrakes. Sniffer was out in front sniffing up a storm. After about an hour of walking up the creek, Sniffer struck a hot trail, and it was just one long howl after another, and we went from a slow walk to a trot as we followed Sniffer. Then I heard Sniffer’s howls pick up, and knew my hound well enough to yell at William.

“Sniffer sees the coon, and he’ll tree pretty soon - let’s go.”

Well, we picked up the trotting to a run, and you might know the coon didn’t stay in the open pin oak flats by the creek. No, it went into the thickest canebrake you can imagine, with Sniffer running right behind it. We struggled to stay close while getting beat up by trying to run through the cane. It seemed like forever, when I heard Sniffer’s howl change, and I knew he had treed.

“Come on, William! Sniffer has treed! We need to get there before the coon bails out!”

That led to more running through some of the biggest and densest canebrakes until we found Sniffer howling up a big pin oak on the bank of Flat Creek.

“Okay, William, let’s spot the coon, and I’ll shoot it,” I said.

Well, it was a really big pin oak, and since it was early fall, the leaves were still on the tree, and we couldn’t spot the coon. After about twenty minutes of looking up at the leaves with a dim headlight and a two battery flashlight, I said to William,

“The coon is in the leaves at the top of the tree, and we can’t see it. I’m going to climb the tree and knock it out, and Sniffer will finish it off when it hits the ground.” That was the first of several dumb things I did that night.

After finding a good stick to knock the coon out, I started to climb the tree. However, it was a really a big tree and the first limb was at least 20 feet up, and I had to take off my shoes and bear hug the tree up to the first limb. Finally, I made it up to nearly the top of the tree, and I spotted the coon in some leaves on the end of a big limb. I got my stick ready and slowly climbed out to where I could poke the coon, and make it bail out where Sniffer could finish it off. That’s when I noticed two more problems: the coon was on a big limb hanging out over Flat Creek, and it was the biggest coon I had ever seen.

“Get Sniffer ready, William!” I yelled. “I see the coon, and I’m going to knock it out!”

Well, that didn’t go too well, because the coon wasn’t really interested in jumping out of a forty foot tree, but as I poked and hit a snarling coon it finally jumped out, and I watched as it sailed down through the leaves… right into the middle of Flat Creek.

“Get ‘em Sniffer!” I yelled.

Then, as soon as the coon hit the water, Sniffer leaped in right on top of the it, and there was the durnest coon-dog fight you have ever seen. As I hurried down from the top of the tree, William started yelling.

“Hurry up Richard! The coon is about to drown Sniffer!”

Yes, it was, because on dry ground a dog can pin a coon down and finish it off, but not in a creek that was at least five foot deep. When I hit the ground and ran over to the creek bank, the durn coon was wrapped around Sniffer’s head with its teeth in Sniffer ear, and Sniffer was mostly being held under the water. Well, standing there on the bank of the creek watching a monster coon drown your dog is not something I could stand, so I did another stupid thing. I jumped in the creek. Now it was a coon-boy-dog fight in the middle of Flat Creek, and my headlight went out. William’s flashlight was so dim it was like an old movie, and it would flicker and then spot the coon and there would be more screaming.

The creek was neck deep on me, which put me at a disadvantage, but I waded right into the fight and tried to whack the coon with the stick I had, but with Sniffer trying to keep from being drowned and the coon scrambling around, I wasn’t doing much good with the stick. That’s when I went from just dumb to really stupid and grabbed the coon to pull it off of Sniffer. I got bit the first time by grabbing the coon in the near dark, and as I screamed and turned it loose, I got bit again from the dog who must have thought my hand was part of the coon.

“William!” I screamed. “Keep the light on me!”

Now let me tell you something; fighting a big coon with water up nearly to your neck in the dark with a hound who is just biting anything in sight is something you never want to do. Everything was just a blur as boy and dog fought a big, mean coon with a mouth full of teeth, and let me tell you something right now. The coon took to water better than either Sniffer or me. The coon would whip around going after me, and then snap or claw a near drowned dog quicker than you can say “squat,” mostly in the dark. There was more yelling, screaming and howling than you can imagine. That’s when I quit the fight, and managed to drag Sniffer to the bank. The coon passed us heading for the canebrake.

“Get ‘em Sniffer!…William! Don’t let it get away!”

The coon might as well have been Godzilla coming out of the water as far as William and Sniffer were concerned. I was dripping blood, my hound had almost been downed, and neither William nor Sniffer were going to touch that coon.

“I’m never going coon hunting again!” William yelled.

Well, I had scratches and bite marks, and Sniffer had one ear chewed up, but we were okay considering all the fighting that had taken place.

I figured the score was coon 10, boy and hound 0.

Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email [email protected]

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