Hunting with Curs 40 Years Ago

Hunting with Curs 40 Years Ago


Originally Published in Full Cry Magazine, May 1971

Dickson County, Tenn provides good coon hunting today compared to 1930. The fur market during the twenties had made it so hard on the raccoon in the southern part of the country the coon hunters sold their dogs and quit. These were the days when a coon hunter could trade a bee course for a coon track.

My desire to follow tree dogs began during the middle twenties. My brother Phil and I slept on a feather bed upstairs during the winter and many nights were awakened by the mellow bawl of Wash Work’s old Joe trailing a coon up Piney River. This was just too much for Phil and me and we couldn’t go back to sleep until old Joe’s voice faded away.

In March 1930 Phil and I got our first tree dog pups. They were curs and were out of some of the best tree stock in that area. I was ten years old and Phil was twelve but we were all fired up to do some night hunting. All winter as school we had listened to the neighbor boys tell us about their hunts and how many opossums they had caught.

We named our pups Pat and Mike and I suppose they were as easy to train as dogs could possibly be. Pat was a dun color with white trim and weighed about fifty pounds. Mike was white with a red back, one red ear and blue eyes and weighed about forty-five pounds.

These pups ran loose on the farm and by late summer they were running rabbits. By the middle of winter they were treeing squirrel and opossum. We had trapped an opossum about October and evenings after our farm chores were finished, we would drag that opossum out through the orchard and put it up an apple tree. These pups would have it treed in nothing flat when turned loose. By the time these dogs were three years old they had a reputation of being outstanding tree dogs. Actually, they were combination dogs for they would run rabbits and tree squirrel until the sun went down. After dark they were strictly night dogs. continued on pg 48

They were also good stock dogs and when a pig got out all we had to do was find a pig track and tell these dogs to get it. It wouldn’t be long until we would hear a pig squeal and that pig had sense enough to head for the hog lot.

Many evenings after supper our mother would say, “Boys, you have left something out as old Pat (or old Mike) for them and would find them lying beside a water keg, jacket or shirt we had left out.

Our night hunting was mostly for opossum and skunk. Our hunting gear consisted of a single shot .22 cal. Rifle, an ax, kerosene lantern and a two cell flashlight.

Our dream was to catch a raccoon and we were constantly looking for coon tracks along the river. About 1935 we went over on the east fork of the Piney on a hunt with a neighbor, Frank Luther, and had our first coon race. We had gotten ahead of the dogs and were waiting for them to check in when we heard them running behind us. They were coming towards us and the river. Shortly we heard something coming down the rail fence and then we saw the coon. That coon was really in a hurry and made it to a den sycamore on the riverbank. Then the coon began to move back into our part of the country and we had coon dogs from that first race on.

One fall a relative of ours, Donald Redden, had found some coon sign across from Joseph Petty’s. This was about two and a half miles down Piney from where we lived. One nice night my brother Julian, Hubert Myatt, Donald Redden and myself went to this area for a coon race. We were hunting on a big flat above the ivy bluffs and the river. We got a good track early and caught a nice fat coon.

We were across from Joseph Petty’s place when the dogs started working a cold track and began tapping tree. Now Mr. Petty had a big stock Shepherd he called Bodie. Old Bodie was bad to fight and had chewed nearly ever dog in that area but hadn’t had a chance at our curs. Old Bodie would yap yap for a while then move up closer. He crossed about one quarter mile of bottom and then crossed the river at a shoal. He was coming up over the ivy fluffs toward the flat where our dogs were working the coon and got too close. Old Pat and Mike got tired of his yapping and decided to send him home. We heard old Bodie hit the river and he sounded like a horse. A few seconds later the curs crossed the river and then we heard our dogs baying old Bodie under Me. Petty’s porch. We did some fast calling for our dogs and they came right back but we didn’t get the coon. They did find a tree though and it was a den tree.

I could tell of many feats these old dogs performed, but you old-timers know just what I am talking about. I am sure many of you have owned or hunted with this type dog and knew their value during the 1930’s. They would put meat on the table and change in your pocket. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in this location and environment with these great tree dogs.

I hunt a different type dog today but those old curs will always have a place in my memories. Their desire was to please their master.

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