Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

November 15, 2013

Bob Gwizdz: 'It's all about the dogs'

ASHLEY — Jim Zimmerman acknowledges that most of the guys he takes hunting don’t get it at all.

“Most people think I’m crazy,” said Zimmerman, a 61-year-old recent retiree who hunts mostly in Gratiot County, not far from his home. “I have a lot of people who say, ‘I’d like to go some time,’ and I take ‘em and within 15 minutes they’re ready to go home.”

Did I mention Zimmerman’s a coon hunter?

That explains it.

“It’s cold, you’re tripping over things, getting scratched up and poked in the eye and they say, ‘You call this fun?’ “

Indeed, raccoon hunting is a different game, far different than deer or ducks or whatever. It’s played at night, when the coons are out making their mischief — and coons are always out making mischief. A hunter turns out his dog, which, if it’s a good one, immediately goes to work looking for a trail. When the dog strikes scent, it usually lets out a howl and picks up the tempo until it runs the coon up a tree where it barks. And barks. And barks.

The hunter catches up to the dog, spotlights the coon, shoots it (generally with a .22 rifle), and the drama begins again.

Zimmerman was introduced to raccoon hunting as a young man when he went with a buddy and his dad. He was immediately hooked, got himself a hound, and has been at it ever since.

Coon hunting is not nearly the game it once was. Now, with the explosion of exurban living, large tracts of wooded land less common and it’s just doesn’t make sense to run a dog on a five-acre parcel only to have the raccoon run over on the neighbor’s property. But coon hunting has regained some of its popularity as furs began bringing some pretty good prices last year. With prime pelts bringing $30, well, you hardly ever saw a dead raccoon on the side of the road.

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