From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

You’re in the country now with the “Good Old Boys and their Coon Hounds.”

You’re in the country now with the “Good Old Boys and their Coon Hounds.”

By Bob Tagert

Southern Heritage Coon Hunting is a real thing and while most hunters go after deer, turkey and other wild creatures, there are a select dedicated few who hunt the racoon. It is more of a competition hunt and the winner is declared on a point system. The hunt is as much a social event as a competition and we were invited to Chaptico Wharf Farm for the kick-off hunt that begins their season.

Coon hunting is part of a way of life in the South and it all started in Southern Maryland. Robert Brooke brought his pack of fox hunting hounds to Maryland in 1659 and he was designated as America’s first Master of Fox Hounds. He hunted from De La Brooke Manor in St. Mary’s County along the Wicomico River in southern Maryland. The original pack of hounds produced the vast majority of hunting hounds in America including the Coon Hound. Among the most popular Coon Hounds are the Black & Tan, Blue Tick, Red Bone, Tree Walker, and the American English Coon Hound.

The hunt we attended is one of the First Fall Coon Hunting Maryland events at Chaptico Wharf Farm on the Wicomico River – less than 10 miles from Robert Brooke’s De La Brooke Manor. There are ten farms that are connected under agriculture preserve easements consisting of 2,500 acres where they Coon Hunt and Fox Hunt each year.

As you arrive you are treated to steamed and raw oysters from the Wicomico River served along with hamburgers and hot dogs. Mike, the bartender, serves up various refreshments from a copper topped bar.

At 4:30 pm the Bench Show starts, and the Coon hunters present their hounds to the judges who award the top prizes to the King and Queen of the show. The Westminster Dog Show has nothing on these guys! There are sponsors for the event as well as the entire season. Southern States Cooperative is a much-appreciated sponsor and donate dog food to the hunters. “We buy as much as we can from them,” one hunter says, “All our beans, corn fertilizer, horse feed and dog food, all at the best prices.”

The Chaptico Wharf Farm has a large meeting room/kitchen with a wood burning stove and fireplace. On this cold November afternoon, the cook stove kept the room nice and toasty. The blessing of the food, hounds and hunters is done here. At 6:00 pm the United Kennel Club Coon Hunting rules are reviewed and hunting teams are sent out to four surrounding counties. Hunters have two hours to hunt where points are given for treeing a raccoon, first bark of the hound and viewing the raccoon in the tree. If the Coon Hound trees a fox, possum or skunk there are points subtracted from the total score . All teams must be back at the farm by midnight. If you arrive at 12:01 you are disqualified!

The scores from the various hunters are totaled and the award for Best Overall Hunter is presented along with second, third and fourth place. Chili is served to all and hunting clothes are dried in front of the fire. The hounds have tracking devices to help retrieve them. The hunters have coon calls and spectators and hunters have high powered lights on their hats to spot the coons in the trees. It is a wet, cold night and there are still a lot of leaves on the trees and make it difficult to spot some of the raccoons, but it is not hard to see the pride and joy of these “Good Old Boys” and their hounds and their hunting families.

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