The bawl and howl of the pack is music to the ears of coon hunters

Scooter Lacoste with his 2-year-old Black and Tan Coonhound ‘Swampland Chief,’ some hunting gear and a UTV rigged for coon hunting.

Of all the hunting pursuits involving man’s best friend, you’d be hard pressed to find one more steeped in history and tradition than coon hunting. Want proof? The 1961 novel “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls sold over 6 million copies and has been adapted to film three times. There’s even a coon dog cemetery in Cherokee, Alabama. Coon hunting is still going strong in many areas of the south and even up north.

Scooter Lacoste of Morganza, La., has been coon hunting for 45 years and has hunted as far away as Minnesota. He used to compete in trials, but now mainly hunts for pleasure. We’re first cousins, so I went on quite a few hunts with him over the years. It’s always a lot of fun as well as an adventure. For Scooter, and I’d confidently say all coon hunters, listening to the hounds bawl and howl when on a track is music to the ears. Hunters can even pick out their hounds by voice in a pack of several dogs. If you get the opportunity to go on a hunt in the pitch black in the middle of nowhere chasing after a fired up pack, go. It’s a blast!

Two dogs feverishly howling at a treed coon on a hunt.

Coon dogs are hound breeds and there are quite a few varieties. Most popular are Blueticks, Treeing Walkers, Black and Tans, Redbones and Plotts among others.  All are capable and breed choice is really a matter of personal preference. Scooter’s current kennel consists of Black and Tans, though he’s had other breeds in the past.

How to get started

So how does one get started in coon hunting? Certainly it begins with going with others and learning from accomplished hunters.

If you are serious about taking it on, the first step is acquiring dogs. With any hunting dog, it all starts with getting puppies from a reputable breeder with proven stock. Scooter starts his dogs with a pelt on the ground to teach them to scent trail and then moves to letting the dog track a caged coon hung up in a tree so the dog gets excited and learns what a coon looks and sounds like. From there, running the young dog with an experienced pack finishes the dog out as it learns from the others. As for the actual hunting, the dogs do the work by trailing and treeing a coon, then staying at the tree howling like mad until the hunter catches up.

Gear needed would be leashes, a single shot .22 (only one allowed per group), a headlight since coon hunting is a nighttime pursuit and tracking collars. Most hunters carry a coon squaller, which is a mouth call that makes the treed coon look down. The hunter then sees the coon’s eyes shining and aims for a shot. Of course, adequate lights with good batteries are necessary for everybody on the trip!

Modern technology

Keeping up with the dogs used to be an event in itself in the old days. But today, GPS enabled collars track the dogs via a smart phone app. Other features are a shock capability for training and a tone setting. Scooter explains that the tone is used to call the dogs off a track to keep them away from another property or keep them from crossing water or areas the hunters can’t. The dogs follow their own backtrack and key on the hunters’ light to regroup. The smart phone apps can be used with mapping software to show dog location in regards to property lines.

Coons are more prevalent than ever with the collapse of the fur trade and decreased trapping. For a hunter looking to gain access, or a landowner thinking of letting a coon hunter on your place, here a few things to consider. Coons love deer feed. Every deer hunter with a game camera on a feeding site has more pictures of coons than they care for and coons can put a dent in a feed site and a wallet.

No effect on deer movement

A big misconception is that coon hunting disrupts deer activity. A South Carolina study using collar-tracked deer was detailed in the book “Whitetail Wisdom” edited by Gregg Gutschow. It found that nighttime coon hunting during deer season “has no statistically significant effect on deer movements.”

Conversely, feral hogs hate dogs and it’s a safe bet many have been chased before. A pack of coon dogs make quite a ruckus. Even though they aren’t the intended quarry, the hogs won’t want to stick around and will hopefully go elsewhere.  Also, coons raid any nest they find. Those managing lands for turkey, quail and tree nesting ducks can benefit by reduced coon numbers since a coon will devour any young they find. Point is, coon hunting can improve numbers for other game. It’s a win-win for everyone and a unique experience. Give it a try.

Prospective hunters and landowners can reach out to both the Louisiana and Mississippi Coonhunters Associations as well as contacting several Facebook groups. Scooter would also be happy to help. You can reach him by email at

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