Hounding Raccoons

There’s no other prey quite like an Arkansas raccoon

By: Clay Newcomb   Photography: Clay Newcomb

Author and avid hunter Clay Newcomb poses with his coonhound, Fern, and a freshly harvested Arkansas raccoon.

Author and avid hunter Clay Newcomb poses with his coonhound, Fern, and a freshly harvested Arkansas raccoon.

 
 

Hunting with hounds is massively misunderstood, sometimes even by those who do it. The bawl mouth of a hound, refined by generations of breeding the best with the best, is an unmistakable privilege to hear. At one time a “raccoonhound” was not simply recreational. When a racraccoon hide was worth more than a day’s work, a hound was an income-producing necessity for many Arkansas families. This effectively embedded a love of hounds into our rural culture.

Growing up in the picturesque Ouachita Mountains of Polk County near Mena, I was introduced to raccoon hunting at an early age. In the way one might develop a palate for fine cuisine, I cultivated a deep appreciation for hound hunting. This is something that doesn’t come from casual and distant observation, but rather from being there. For me, it was birthed on the rim of an Arkansas ridgetop with the glow of a waxing crescent moon overhead, a bawl-mouthed hound echoing below me on the trail of a clever ringtail—this is where I learned to appreciate hound hunting. 

Raccoon Season July 1-March 31. There is no limit.

As a teenager, I hunted hard and often between the ages of 14 and 19. However, adulthood came and took away my time for hounds. Like an old friend returning unexpectedly, in June 2015 our family ended up with a 7-month-old registered Plott Hound female. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the dog in terms of raccoon hunting. However, as the hunting season progressed, the dog began to progress significantly. By the end of the 2015-16 season, she had treed over 70 raccoons, most of them by herself. 

The beauty of raccoon hunting for me was that I was able to easily include my young family. I rarely went raccoon hunting last winter without taking one of my kids. It didn’t take them long to begin to love hounds the way I did. There is something adventurous about being in the woods at night chasing a hound, and raccoon hunting is a great way to introduce kids into the outdoors and hunting. There’s no need for long sits without moving—raccoon hunting is a social sport designed for talking and human interaction. Additionally, raccoon populations are very good in Arkansas and need to be controlled by hunting. Raccoons are ground nest predators (turkeys and quail), poultry killers, bird feed raiders and a general nuisance.  

 

KIDS ON THE HUNT

If you’ve ever been curious about what it takes to get involved with hunting with your kids, here are a few guidelines:

Any youth under the age of 16 can hunt without an Arkansas hunter education card as long as they are under the direct supervision of an adult of at least 21. For people over the age of 16 who were born after January 1, 1969, a valid hunter education card is required.

There are three options available to get a hunter education card: a 10-hour, instructor-led class; an online self-study course; or a self-study course available on compact disc. In each case, students must pass a test in order to qualify for a card.

The state also holds special youth seasons throughout the year, giving young people a chance to get out into the wilderness without the pressures of a fully open season. Here are some of the state’s upcoming youth hunt dates:

Bear: Nov. 5-6

Deer: Nov. 5-6 and Jan. 7-8

Elk: Oct. 1-2 and Oct. 21-Nov. 4 (by drawn permit only)

Bobcat: During youth turkey hunts, only youths may harvest bobcats

Coyote: During youth turkey hunts, only youths may harvest coyotes

Turkey: April 8-9

Duck, Coot and Merganser: Dec. 3 and Feb. 4

For more information on hunter education classes and hunting zones, visit agfc.com