One of the benefits of living on a family farm, is that you have hunting grounds right at your disposal. When my husband was in elementary school, the teacher asked him what the four seasons were. He answered with confidence: “Squirrel, Rabbit, Deer, and Turkey.” Needless to say, that wasn’t the answer she was looking for. I’m proud to say that that answer has been passed down to the next generation….we’ve just added our favorite-RACCOON. (Just so you know, our kids DO know the ‘real’ 4 seasons)
There are MANY coon stories our family could tell you, but for this post, I’m giving the page over to authors, Kelley Saufley (one of our nephews) and James Gill (our, uh, adopted nephew). This one is appropriately titled:
THE HUNT: TOP THIS
As per usual, we had headed out after the sun had set, with a limited supply of bullets, thirteen to be exact. That night, our mountain of choice was not our normal hunting grounds. Instead, we opted to hunt Draper mountain. First we unleashed Ghost, the mighty hunting machine that is a Treeing Tennessee Walker.
After about 25 minutes, we heard the first cry from the hound. Setting out, we soon discovered that the hike was going to be more strenuous than expected. There was two inches of snow, and cowboy boots, which made for James a slippery walk up the incline. Kelley, being the brains of the operation, wore boots with tread, making for an easier walk. Twenty minutes of hiking brought us to the baying dog. After a short survey of the tree, James found that the tree had a hollow leader about twenty-five feet up from the base of the Oak. Further inspection showed that there was a coon resting in the hollow opening.
After firing three shots, we found that the coon would not budge from his place of shelter. This led us to resort to unorthodox methods of removing the coon from the tree. This particular Oak was leaning at an angle away from the face of the mountain, which led us to believe it could be climbed. Both of our first attempts involved only using our arms and legs. After several tries of this, we decided we needed another method of ascending the tree. We resorted to using Kelley’s static nylon belt in the style that loggers use to climb a tree. This turned out to be effective. However, this process only got us about three quarters of the way to the hollow before becoming tiring and impossible to continue. We needed a new plan, using only the recourses that we had available. Finding a small tree, we propped it against the Oak and underneath the climber, resulting in a foothold. This proved successful, after James’ exhausting ascent to the crotch where the coon was lodged. Looking to see where the coon was, James soon found that he could reach the rodent’s tail with his arm. James, grabbing ahold of the fierce mammal’s lower extremity (the tail), pulled with all his strength to remove the coon from the hollow of the tree. The coon was stronger than anticipated, and would not budge. Both Kelley and James were thinking it. It had to be done. There was no other option. There was no other way. Well, you get the point. This was the jist of the idea; James would move to the opposite side of the trunk from the coon. After he had done this, Kelley would shoot the coon, which was no more than two feet away from James. With tensions high, James yelled,
“Don’t shoot me.”
Kelley replied, “Don’t worry, don’t move.”
“No problem,” said James.
What felt like an eternity to James, was only seconds before Kelley pulled the trigger. Hoping the coon would be weakened, James again reached in to pull the coon out. This again proved to be unsuccessful. This process of above mentioned dialogue, shooting the coon, and attempting to pull it out was repeated seven times.
After the seventh shot, Kelley said,
Just like in the movies, James patted himself down to reassure himself that he hadn’t been shot with Kelley’s stray bullet. What he didn’t know, was that Kelley’s miss was only slightly off, not enough to hit James.
The coon finally started to move, offering a better shot. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, Kelley took two shots at the coon, rendering it almost incapacitated. After these last two shots, it was found out that the gun was out of ammo. The coon made a break for it. When it had come far enough out of the tree, James leaned over and grabbed its ear, attempting to pull it out of the tree. Suddenly, the coon discovered new life, and hoisted itself out of the hollow, at which point James punted it out of the tree. Ghost, being too distracted with barking up the tree, didn’t even notice that the coon had fallen! What the heck. The coon makes a break for it, and Ghost still does not realize that the coon is free. Kelley takes off after the coon, leaving James stuck in the tree to watch the rest of the show. Running down the mountain behind the coon, which by the way has twelve, I repeat, TWELVE, bullet holes in him, Kelley proceeds to punt him further down the mountain, in an attempt to stop him. This proved successful, after about thirty yards. After finally detaining the coon, Kelley, who is now hoarse from calling Ghost, carries the coon back up to the dog, who is now aware that the coon may not be in the tree anymore. Good job Ghost.
James now must complete the task of getting down from the tree, without breaking any bones. It happened really fast. Like, gravity fast. Just kidding, James gracefully slid down the tree, with many scratches, but no broken bones. Thankfully all three members of the coonhunting party made it back to the farmhouse, so full of adrenaline that they didn’t even realize they weren’t wearing any gloves. It was seventeen degrees outside, snowing, and windy.
Moral of the story, perseverance pays off.