column and photo by Josh Boyd:
The silence of a brisk autumn evening is pierced by the rhythmic sounds of treeing hounds. The hound’s vocalizations continue to ring forth as you begin your forward progress toward their origin.
As you traverse the landscape, one hillside to the next, the familiar barks and howls grow ever closer. At last, as you peer out over the countryside before you, a beam of light from your headlamp illuminates a raccoon high among the treetops.
Coon hunting has remained an immensely popular activity for outdoorsmen far and wide. The time spent in the tranquility of a cool fall evening with your friends and beloved hounds is a fine way to escape the pressures of day-to-day life.
Kentucky’s raccoon season runs from October 1st through February 29th, lending itself to an abundance of opportunity for interested parties to head to the field in search of this ring-tailed furbearer species. From the mild evenings of early season to the bitter cold of February, coon hunters in Kentucky can enjoy a wide array of hunting conditions that never lead to a stale experience.
Another factor that makes coon hunting a quite interesting endeavor is that you do not need to look far in order to locate quality habitat in which to hunt raccoons. At the bare minimum, nearly every field with a wooded fencerow holds at least some number of raccoons. An even mix of open agricultural and wooded ground will offer hours of endless coon hunting for those that have access.
In many instances, land access for the purpose of coon hunting is readily available. While the competition for turkey or deer hunting ground can often be fierce, far fewer individuals coon hunt, making for little, if any competition in the majority of areas.
There are more benefits to coon hunting than just those based on leisure and enjoyment. Coon hunting comes with the added benefit of being a relatively effective means of controlling the raccoon population within a given area.
As with any species of wildlife, once the carrying capacity of a particular region is exceeded, the rate of disease within the raccoon population of that given area increases. The overpopulation of raccoons can lead to the spread of such diseases like distemper, parvovirus, and rabies.
Turkey populations also benefit from the adequate management of raccoon numbers that is facilitated by coon hunting. Raccoons wreak havoc on the nest of wild turkeys, devouring the eggs within at any given opportunity. The more coon hunting that takes place within a specific area, the lower the prevalence of this nest destruction tends to be.
Deer hunters who feed corn or other supplemental feed also benefit from the effects of coon hunting. Anyone who runs trail cameras over feed sources knows the adverse impact that raccoon populations can have on such efforts. Coon hunting can be an effective means of minimizing such negative impacts.
With a lengthy season, relatively little difficulty in gaining access, and many numerous resulting ecological benefits, it is no wonder that so many South Central Kentucky outdoorsmen and women enjoy their time spent coon hunting.
If you have never experienced the echoing report of a hound that has treed its quarry, make a point this fall to see the vast enjoyment that this endeavor has to offer. You just might find yourself becoming quite the night owl as you seek out the thrills of coon hunting on an ever-increasing basis.