Tracking the sound of the intermittent chops, Williams and Belle's owner, Jeff Perry of Goshen, hustled along the edge of a pasture to keep up with the developing chase.
In the midst of the occasional barks over the course of 100 yards of so, Belle let out a long, throaty bawl.
"That's a locator bawl," Perry
So there came a time when Belle went silent, leaving Williams and Perry
to stop, stand and listen under the star-studded dome of a frosty night last week.
treed now, got herself a coon up a tree," Perry
announced with certainty.
Relying on headlights to spear the deep darkness beneath the creek's canopy, Williams and Perry
scrambled over gravel beds and boulders and pushed through brush and briars to close in on a spot where Belle stood on top of a bluff, reared up against the trunk of an oak at the bluff's edge.
got a mouth on her
; she'll hurt your ears," Perry
It was no easy task for Perry
to climb the bluff and get a leash on Belle to pull her
down to a more secure location, but her
bawling never stopped.
Good going," Perry
began going on hunts as a youngster 40 years ago, treed coons were often shot for the value of their fur, which was once high enough to make raccoons a prized target for hunters and trappers.
often hunts what he
refers to as the "big woods" of the Ozark National Forest, where the raccoons are more scattered.But he
relishes invitations to hunt the large tracts of private landowners, where raccoons are numerous and the trailing and treeing can be fast and furious.
A few nights earlier, for example, he
had hunted a ranch where his
hounds had treed eight times in an hour and 15 minutes.
wasn't very encouraging about the hunting prospects when he
showed up at Williams' place near sunset in high-pressure weather conditions that promised a night of clear, starry skies, bright moonlight and cold temperatures.
"Coon hunting is like fishing," he
said, "Raccoons tend to be more active when its warmer and cloudier." Since Williams and Perry are fulltime ranchers, they hit it off from the first handshake.
had arrived at the ranch with his
three treeing Walkers, two mature females named Belle and Lacy and a young female named Screamer, who was picked for the first round of hunting.
Right at the start, he
showed how coon hunting had gone high-tech in recent years.He
outfitted Screamer with an electronic tracking collar and unfolded an aluminum wand attached to a transmitter that would allow him to track his
dog and pinpoint her
location in case a chase ran long or she
treed in a thick, rugged location.
"It's the same thing the wildlife biologists use to track radio-collared deer and bears," Perry
The tracking gear proved unnecessary because no coon chases occurred during an hour and a half of making a stroll around a ridge-top above deep hollows and a circuit of a couple of ponds in pastures.
All the while, however, Perry
entertained Williams with memorable anecdotes of coon hunts from years past.
It was popping its jaws and all, and I started making tracks," Perry
I was so mad they let that kitten get killed, but they were yelling for me to throw down another one," Perry
By that time, the old sow was fighting mad, snarling and snapping.So Perry
deftly reached out and yanked her
out of the tree, sending about 30 pounds of mean mama to the coon catchers below.
"That ol' sow gave them more than they could handle," Perry
concluded, grinning at the memory.