Coon Hunting: The Complete Guide
Coon hunting, or hunting raccoons, has been around for several centuries. The most successful methods of coon hunting have changed over time as advancement in technology has lead to new and improved equipment.
Coon hunting with dogs is historically the most common method of finding coons, but the recent development of coon hunting lights has resulted in more success by spotlighting for coons at night. Some of the best coon hunting lights are able to shine beyond a dogs range of smell, and they don't even spook the coons.
Definition of Coon Hunting
Coon hunting is a method of searching for raccoons with the purpose of catching or harvesting them. Raccoons are nocturnal animals, so coon hunting is typically done at night. Coon hunting has been around for several centuries, dating back to the 1800's when hunters harvested coons for their pelts. In the early 1990's, protests from animal rights groups resulted in a crash in the fur-bearing market. Since then, coon hunting has lost popularity and the varmints are now increasing in numbers faster than ever before.
Where do you hunt coons?
Coons are most abundant in heavily wooded areas, and if there is a nearby water source that's a plus. Generally speaking, coons are scavengers and are constantly looking for their next meal. They can be commonly found near their ideal food sources; which includes fruits, nuts, plants, berries, insects, rodents, frogs, fish, livestock troughs, feed bags, and so on. The best place to hunt coons is in a wooded pasture with fruit or nut-bearing trees and a nearby water source. If you're able to locate a place like this, the odds are it is crawling with raccoons and the likelihood of a successful coon hunting trip is very good.
Where we see coons
We most commonly see raccoons in our pecan trees, regardless of their proximity to water. At night, we commonly see coons ravaging through our feed shed and tearing apart feed bags. They seem to not care if humans are in the area or not, their primary focus is to find food. During the day time, we may see them hunkered down in-between bales in the hay barn. Coons like to hunker down during the day; and they usually choose the middle of a hollow tree trunk, underneath a wooded pile, or their own underground burrow. Taking note of where you see coons during the day can make for more successful coon hunting trips at night.
Coon Hunting Season
Coons can be hunted at night year-round. It's important to have some quality coon hunting lights that will illuminate coons without spooking them when hunting at night. As long as there are food sources in the area, there are most likely going to be coons around at night. Generally speaking, coons are most active during dark nights and least active on a full moon. There are four seasons in the year, and here's how each of these pair with coon hunting.
The spring coon hunting season is associated with warmer temperatures, which pushes coons to start moving closer to water sources. Unlike the other seasons for coon hunting, the spring time is prime time mating season for coons. The spring time is the best time to try calling a raccoon with hand or electronic game calls. It's important to note that while coons move from den to den quickly throughout the year, they are more stationary during the spring time.
In addition to spring time being known for raccoon mating season, it also marks the beginning of development for fruit and nut-bearing trees. The trees are typically ready for harvest by late spring, early summer.
The summer coon hunting season is associated with hot temperatures, and most coons are going to be seen near rivers, streams, ponds, and other water sources. We've commonly seen coons swimming the river at night or grabbing fish out of the shallows with their paws. If you're able to find some pecan trees by the river, chances are they will be full of coons come night fall.
The fall coon hunting season corresponds with the transition from warmer to cooler temperatures. Coons are commonly found near crops and gardens during the fall primarily due to fall being the harvest season. We commonly see an abundance of deer, hogs, and coons in our corn fields during the fall.
If you're a deer hunter and have started running your feeders for the fast-approaching deer season, then you may inevitably preparing for coon hunting season as well. Coons are known to come in and clean up the corn the deer left behind.
The winter coon hunting season is heavily dependent on food sources. During the winter, coons are searching for food harder than ever before and they can be found wherever the food is found. Coons will climb deer feeders to spin out corn, they will ravage feed barns and tear apart feed sacks, and much more to find food during the winter time. The winter time is a tough season for coons, so if you're able to locate a good food source for them during this time, you will likely find success coon hunting.
Coon Hunting Supplies
Lights for Coon Hunting
The best lights for coon hunting are capable of doing more than just illuminating raccoons. They illuminate them without spooking them. This technology has only recently been discovered, and has lead to some of the most effective coon hunting methods. These coon hunting lights are adjustable in intensity and are engineered for the color blind range in raccoons. This gives coon hunters better shot opportunities and can help raise the success rate of coon hunts.
LED Headlamps for Coon Hunting
Having a coon hunting light mounted on your cap or even one that straps to your head can be a great hands-free method of hunting coons. There are a wide range of uses for the headlamps, but keep in mind that warm white or cool white lights are more likely to reveal your presence in comparison to a red LED headlamp for coon hunting.
Spotlighting for Coons
Coon hunting with dogs is fun, but spotlighting for coons can be even more rewarding. When shining for coons, they are most commonly found up in the trees and sometimes may be found in crop fields. Trees that are near a water source or are fruit or nut-bearing are the best places to spotlight for coons.
Some hunters use traditional white-beam spotlights (warm white or cool white color), while experienced coon hunters use red beam spotlights.
The warm white or cool white colored spotlights work great in locating coons at longer ranges, but the problem is the light spooks them. Shortly after shining on the coon, the coon will likely run down the tree to its burrow or straight into the trunk of the tree if it's a hollow tree. This can make it very difficult to spotlight for coons.
A true red-beam coon hunting light is capable of illuminating a coon without spooking them. At long ranges, a high intensity red beam does a great job at locating the coon while at shorter ranges it's important to decrease the intensity to prevent from pressuring the coon. To learn more about what types of lights work best for coon hunting, read our guide on buying the best coon hunting light.
Once you've located an ideal set of trees that are likely to hold coons, it's best to shine your coon hunting lights in the "V's" of the trees. This is at the base of the tree branches, where the branch meets the base of the tree, or tree trunk. Active coons may be picking nuts off the tree branches, but once they start eating their catch they typically do so in these "V" areas.
Coon Hunting with Dogs
The most well-known method of hunting raccoons is coon hunting with dogs. The dogs used for coon hunting are called coonhounds, and are known for their ability to trail a scent.
Types of Coonhounds
There are 6 coonhounds, all recognized by the United Kennel Club, which were bred for coon hunting. The first coonhound breed, Black and Tan Coonhound, was officially registered in 1900. The last coonhound breed to be registered was the Plott Hound in 1946.
Black and Tan Coonhound
The Black and Tan Coonhound is an independent hound who is very difficult to pull off a trail once they've begin tracking. Their calm temperament makes them a suitable pet, as they are very mellow and unobtrusive indoors. Their ability to trail a scent has landed them as favorite for coon hunting as well as tracking other animals including wounded deer, hogs, bear, cougar, or other big game species.
The Redbone Coonhound is the result of a selective breeding program that focused on an agile hound capable of treeing wild game, swimming streams, and chasing down big and small game. The general temperament of the Redbone is very calm, affectionate, gentle, and desires pleasing its owner.
The English Coonhound, also referred to as the redtick coonhound, was bred in the Southeastern United States to hunt coons and red fox. English Coonhounds are mellow in temperament but require regular exercise to stay in prime condition.
The Bluetick Coonhound is most notably famed for its presence in Blake Shelton's song "Ol' Red". They are very effective for coon hunting, but have large amounts of energy that need to be released in the form of hunting or staying active. If they are cooped up, they can be a nuisance to homeowners who do not give them the attention they deserve. They are among the most vocal of the coonhounds, which can be troublesome for homeowners who do not properly train them or regularly use them for coon hunting.
Treeing Walker Coonhound
The Treeing Walker Coonhound is a descendant of the American English Coonhounds. Similar to other coonhounds, they have a loud and distinctive voice that lets hunters know their exact location when they've bayed up wild game. Their general temperament is mellow and they enjoy interacting with humans.
The Plott Hound is unique from the other 5 coonhounds in that it does not trace its ancestry to the fox hound. The name comes from George Plott who migrated to North Carolina in the late 18th Century from Germany. Commonly known as brindle "leopard spotted dogs", the Plott Hounds have a high capacity of speed, stamina, and endurance. They are ideal hounds for coon hunting as well as baying wild game. Unlike other coonhounds, the Plott Hound does not have baggy skin and was originally bred for hunting bears rather than coons. In 1989, the Plott Hound was made the official state dog of North Carolina.
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