Monday, March 29, 2010

Afraid Of The Dark?

Sound of the phone ringing, "Hello", Hey Mike this is Trieger (the guy we raccoon hunted with in November). "Hey man what's up,?", I answered back. Just wanted to know if you wanted to get Jacob out for a coon hunt this weekend? "Heck ya, man just let me know when and where."

That was all it took to get Jacob my youngest boy who is 10, out for his first night coon hunt with dogs! After I hung up the phone I asked Jake if he wanted to run with the dogs on Friday night and chase raccoons? The first word out of his mouth was "Awesome!" I took that as a yes! I got with my boss and took Friday night off of work so I could take Jake out for the most excitement any 10 year old boy should be allowed to have after dark!

Friday night came with a cold nip in the air. It was sunny for the day but the temps were only around 40 degrees and with clear skies it was supposed to drop down near 20 by the middle of the night. With a chilly forecast, we took extra layers to stay warm in case we needed them. I got Mikey, Jake and the camera gear ready to roll and we headed over to meet Doug McDonald and Mike Trieger over at Doug's house.

When we arrived, Doug and Mike had the blue tic hounds already loaded into the dog box on Mike's truck. Before we left Mike showed us some photos of past hunts he had success on along with a few of his animal mounts from some previous trapping he had done. That got Jake fired up and ready to hit the woods! By now the sun had set and it was dark! Time to hit the road!

Michael & Jake In The Dark

Jake was wide eyed with excitement and had a 100 questions to go along with his enthusiasm. Mike and Doug answered all of Jake's questions throughout the night with no hesitation. They made this hunt all about him having fun! We got to our first destination and got the dogs out of the box and ready to roll! Jake was anxious to see what was about to happen, when the dogs started off and began to sound off, all Jake could say was "Man that is cool!"

The dogs began to head off and crisscross the field near the woods we were heading to, after a few minutes we had to coax them towards the wood lot. After that it was game on! The dogs quickly treed a coon and we were off to see what was awaiting us. Jake was asking if he could shoot the coon if we found one, I told him that he was going to shoot all of them if we found any. We got to the tree where the dogs were and found them to be jumping up the side of the tree like their feet were on hot coals! After about 10 minutes of looking and shinning lights we found out that it was a den tree. The coon had made it's way into the hole where a limb had once been only to leave us looking and searching for the elusive ring tail!
We took the dogs back near the area where we first started which had a creek flowing through a drainage ditch. We had heard a coon chattering when we first walked near the area, so Doug and Mike turned the dogs loose near the water and within minutes they had another coon treed! As we approached we could see the dark silhouette in the tree due to the bright nearly full moon shining down on us. As soon as they lit the tree up the coon couldn't hide, he was in plain sight!

I got the .17 HMR Ruger rifle ready for him and turned on the illuminated cross hair scope so he could get a perfect bead on the little bandit! Once Doug had pulled the dogs back from the tree it only took a few seconds for us to hear, CRACK! The .17 sounded off and it was a near miss! Jake got up next to a small tree to steady his aim and with a flick of the bolt he had another round loaded and ready to go, CRACK! A solid hit and the coon came tumbling down to the ground! A smile came to his 10 year old face and with that thud of the coon hitting the ground came a round of high fives to the young hunter! He looked at me and said, "Now what?" I told him, "Now you have to pick it up and carry it back to the truck!" He loaded up his coon and carried it back out to the truck! Mike and Doug loaded up the dogs and we headed to the next stop.
We hit the next field and woodlot we were going to hunt and the dogs hit the ground running. It only took about 2 minutes and we heard the certainty barking of the dogs on a treed coon. We made our way to the edge of the woodlot where they had the varmint up a tree, all we could see was water and lots of it! Doug and Mike started out into the water and I could tell it was deep. There was no way that Jake's boots were going to be tall enough to keep the water out. It was almost over the boots of Doug and Mike. I handed the rifle to Mikey and told him that I would stay with Jake and he could go in and shoot the coon.

Just as Michael was walking into the water we heard the flapping of wings. All of a sudden in the darkness came a huge bird at our heads! Just as it got within a few yards of us it honked! It was a goose that was perched in a tree that got spooked off! When it flew over our heads in the darkness it was about 10 feet in the air! The tree the coon was in was about 50 yards off of the field down into the woods so I could see where they were shinning the light into the trees. I rolled the camera and caught the action on tape from a safe and dry distance! Right after the shot rang out and as the coon hit the water with a loud splash, we heard more wing beats coming our way! Only this time it was a huge turkey flying out of the trees to a safer and a less noisy area for the night! Once the guys made their way out of the water, the dogs were loaded up one more time to head to the last stop of the evening.

Michael With Two of The Coons

By now it was well past midnight and the moon was high in the sky. We arrived at the last hunting spot of the night and got the dogs ready for the walk across the field to the woodlot. About halfway across the wheat field we noticed something black and round walking through the field to our left. Thinking it might be a coon out wondering for a late night snack, Doug turned his spotlight on to check it out. First thing we all saw was a white racing stripe down the critter's backside! We immediately changed our direction and took the long way to the woodlot, which meant that we had to cross a deep ditch to get to the woods. The little stink bomb had our way to the foot bridge cut off!

Once the dogs were turned loose it didn't take long again for them to run a coon up a tree. We arrived at the tree with the dogs barking and jumping about to find a nice coon perched on a limb. Once the lights brightened up the treetops, Jake took careful aim and brought down his second coon of the evening. Doug asked if we wanted to see if we could tree one more for the evening for Jake and who was I to argue? Mike took the critter that Jake had just shot out to the edge of the woods at the wheat field so we could pick it up later. The dogs were again sent on their way to chase another unsuspecting bandit.

The last chase kind of threw us off somewhat. We arrived at the tree to see the dogs jumping around with all kinds of energy. Doug and Mike shinned their lights into the treetops and after about 10 - 15 minutes of looking there was no coon to be found. What Mike noticed was some freshly broken branches which he said meant that the coon either jumped to the ground and gave the dogs the slip or it may have jumped to another tree and took off.

Jake With Two of His Three Bandits Of The Evening

They pulled the dogs off of the tree and we began what we thought was our walk out, when one of the dogs began to bark loudly at a tree about 10 feet away just as we began to head out. Doug turned the dog loose and it locked onto that tree hard! Jake said maybe there is a coon up there! They threw the lights on and sure enough that coon jumped trees and was up there waiting on Jake to take his last coon of the evening! CRACK! Down it came with a loud thud! That round of high fives came again and we grabbed the two coons that were just taken and headed back to the truck.

The Four Critters

With the coons and dogs all loaded up, we headed back to where we started the evening. We got the dogs put in their kennels and the coons back into the garage when Jake asked, "Are we going to skin the coons?" Mike and Doug looked at him and asked, "Do you want to skin them?" I'm thinking to myself, "Does he want to skin them? Is his name Jake?" Of course he said yes! Mike gave Jake a course on how to skin a coon, then he let Jake take his turn at skinning a coon out, while I sat and watched the process. That is how Jake finished up his first night coon hunt! For a ten year old boy, who is afraid of the dark at times, he sure did have fun running around in the woods in the dark all night! I think he looks at the dark in a different light now!

The Boys And Their Coons

I would like to thank Doug McDonald and Mike Trieger for not only taking the time to invite us out, but to make sure that a 10 year old boy had the time of his life! They also took the time to show him how to skin out the animals after they spent 5 hours with us running through the woods! How many guys do you know would sit in a garage for an hour at 2 in the morning helping to teach a youngster how to skin an animal? That is what makes these two outdoors men so special! If everyone of us outdoors men would take the time to spend with our young and up and coming hunters, we would never run out of hunters! Thanks again Doug and Mike for a tremendous evening!

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