Jul 13 2015
The author with his sons Shepherd and Bear with their eight-month-old Bluff Creek bred American Plott, Fern.
The day before we got our registered American Plott, I excitedly told my seven year old, “Son, we’re houndsman again.” After a moment of contemplative thought and a slight pause, he asked, “Dad, were we houndsman before?”
This was a brilliant question that extracted a resounding and quick answer, “Yes, WE were. Or, well, I was a houndsman once and since you’re my son we’ll count you in on that period of my life, too.”
In early June, we got back in the hound business when we brought home a six-month-old Plott from a great line of hounds out of Kansas. Steve Herd is a long-time Plott breeder. His kennel is probably most well known for producing a legendary hound back in the 1970s named, Bear Path Gunner (see Mar/April issue of Bear Hunting Magazine). My dog has Bearpath numerous times in its pedigree. Coming from the Bluff Creek line of Plotts, these hounds are renowned for big game hunting. These dogs are bred for running mountain lion, bear, hogs and raccoon. The later being the reason I got the hound. I used to raccoon hunt a lot when I was in high school in Polk County, Arkansas. This is where I developed a deep appreciation for the hound sports. Houndsman are a very dedicated group of hunters of which I have tremendous respect. To keep up with a pack of dogs year round, whether it be beagles, coon dogs or running dogs, you’ve got to be serious about it.
I felt like it was the right time to get back into raccoon hunting for several reasons. My children are getting old enough now that they can follow me through the woods. I wanted to introduce them to a more active hunt, other than stand hunting for deer and bear. This powerful sport of hunting has so many facets it’s impossible to partake of them all, but I didn’t want to leave this out of their hunting experiences. Additionally, hunting at night doesn’t interfere with working during the day – this is a plus. Raccoon hunting takes place at night, an extremely exciting time to be the woods, especially if you’re a kid. The night woods are an all-together different experience than when the sun shines overhead. I cut my teeth as a woodsman chasing hounds after dark in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and I wanted my children to be able to experience that as well.
Secondly, raccoon hunting is very social sport that doesn’t require scent control, expensive weapons or months of practice. It’s an easy sport to take people along, giving them a different look into the hunting world. Thirdly, predator populations are out of control in many areas, taking raccoons out of the population can’t do anything but help turkeys and other ground nesting birds.
I choose the Plott breed because they are considered one of the most biddable (trainable) breeds of hound. They are the only treedog that isn’t a descendant of the English Foxhounds. Plotts are considered one of the few breeds of hunting dogs that is truly American, started by the Plott family in North Carolina in the late 1700s. In the Appalachian regions of the country, Plotts are extremely popular. They’ve been bred to hunt the mountains, so I thought this one would fit right in here in the Ozarks. They also make great pets. This dog is friendly, loves people and wants to please you. At eight-months old, she is already starting to show some promise as a ‘coon dog.’ I will let you know how she turns out.