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The Music of the Night


Sioux Treeing a raccoon

It seems among outdoorsmen and women there are houndsmen and everyone else. You are either a lover of the music of hounds or you are not, there doesn’t seem to be an area for those who can take it or leave it.

I whether unfortunate or fortunate have never owned a hound. So the love of the hounds was never instilled in me. From an early age or as an adult, the passion just isn’t there. However, I have recently learned that the love of hounds and their song in the night can be and often is a learned passion. While some are born with this passion, seeming to have the song in their heart from the womb, others are introduced to it at some point in their lives actually become entranced by the music. Similar to those whose addiction to opera is lifelong and often misunderstood, so to those who cannot sleep without the sound of hounds echoing in their minds.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of tagging along with David Catoe of Lugoff who was out training one of his championship winning walkers. Sioux is a female walker hound that knows how to carry a tune. While many raccoon hunters prefer to run multiple dogs in a “race”. Catoe prefers to run one dog at a time. When asked he says, “When they are alone, they have to do it all, strike the trail, follow the trail and tree the coon.” When hunting in a pack or group, they tend to follow or lead or go off by themselves. Hunting a dog solo allows the dog to shine or not.

We drove through the night, headlights shining through barren trees in unknown forests. Suddenly the truck stopped, Sioux was brought from her crate, GPS collar attached and off she went in silence. We stood listening to nothing, straining to hear the footsteps that faded in the distance. Catoe looked at me and said, “She’ll work her way around and before long we’ll be walking to her.” Without much hesitation, the music  began as Sioux struck a fresh scent her high pitched voice echoed through the night air signaling the race was on. With every breath she howled, seeming to be nipping at the heels of some unsuspecting raccoon. For twenty minutes the chase continued until her howls changed from more of a long bark to rapid deep desperate howls.

Sioux showing her enthusiasm for chasing raccoon's

“She’s treed.” Catoe announced and we drove around a ravine to make our walk to her a bit easier. Exiting the truck we marked her direction and off into the night we went. Headlights marked our unknown path. Her howls got louder and louder as we got closer to Sioux pinning the raccoon onto the tree. My light shined on her as she attempted to climb the tree to get to the raccoon she desperately wanted.

As I reached the tree, Catoe shined his light up into the tree and the green glow of eyes of the raccoon looked at us and the hunt was over. Sioux was leashed and re-crated. And we began again the hunt that for many is the chorus of music that echoes through the night air in many places in the Carolina’s.

Sadly, in many regions of the south the raccoon hunt is fading as a generation of hunters retires and the younger ones don’t seem to have the same passion for listening to dogs run through the night air. But I would encourage you to do yourself a favor, if you have the opportunity to join in and listen to the music of the night, do yourself a favor and join. The presence of good men and good dogs is enough, but to hear the passion of hounds doing what they were bred to do is something to behold.