Youth Coon & Rabbit Hunt Extravaganza

Over 60 area youth ages 5 thru 18 gathered under perfect weather conditions to participate in “Cottontails, Coons, & Chili” held Saturday January 17th near Southwest City MO. The get-together was hosted by the Young Outdoorsmen United organization of McDonald County. Kids experienced chasing cottontails, tracking coons, and learning the different barking communications of coon hounds thru various hands on seminars. The bash concluded with a guided live coon hunt. The afternoon kicked off at 2:30 pm with a demonstration of pursuing rabbits with a brace of champion beagles provided by Mr. Martin McNeely, Choteau OK, of the Sooner State Beagle Club. The energetic kids were introduced to the breed of dogs, their traits, and their capabilities. Within a few short minutes, hounds could be heard wailing, and kids whooping and hollering, as they all were running thru the wooded thicket in pursue of their game. After spying a couple of cottontails and an hour of tracking and trailing rabbits, the guides, kids, and dogs all had an admired appreciation of each other. The next phase of the day’s activities was the “Barking Battle”. This segment gave all the youngsters the opportunity to “adopt” a hound and compete against other dogs to determine which ones barked the most in 1 minute timed intervals. A 15 ft circle was painted on the ground around a single tree, and a live raccoon in a wire cage was hoisted to the top. Individually, the kids held their adopted dog at bay until a judge with a stopwatch signaled them to release their dog. As soon as the dog crossed into the circle, the time began while two judges counted the number of barks. Dogs that left the inside of the circle were eliminated. “My dog couldn’t wait to get inside the circle” shouted 10 year old Braxton Bishop of Pineville MO. “ He pulled so hard, he drug us to the ground, but we didn’t let go”. Top honor went to the dog named Check who barked 126 time in the allotted time frame. After the “Barking Battle” the kids were given a demonstration how the dogs track raccoons by using their sense of smell. A 250 yard scent trail was laid down on the ground by using a cotton rag drenched with raccoon urine and drug to the barking tree circle. Teams of dogs were placed at the starting line, turned loose, to establish which ones were the fastest at following the scent and entering the circle first. Multiple races were conducted with all the kids cheering for their adopted hounds. “Our dog did good today. He barked a lot, and was super fast”, stated Ember Killion of Southwest City MO. “Me and my sisters (River and Sydney) really like coming to all your events”. All the fun and games worked up a big appetite for the kids, parents, instructors, and volunteers. A crowd of over 125 gathered around a huge cast iron kettle of ham and beans prepared on an open fire, while 15 gallons of chili were waiting to be consumed, and 25lbs of potatoes were peeled and fried for everyone to enjoy. Andrew Moritz, 8, from Rocky Comfort MO declared, “I missed out on the fried potatoes….when will the next batch be done?” He then parked himself next to the chef and waited patiently for his plateful. When he noticed the dutch oven skillet was nearly done he gasped “Finally”. The crisp evening air prompted a great big bonfire where families, friends, and coon hunting guides gathered to satisfy their hunger and prepare for the last event of the day, a live coon hunt with dogs and guides. Others assembled inside the heated building to enjoy their meal, snacks and drinks. As the moon and stars shined in the clear winter night, sounds of dogs being loaded into the back of pickup trucks, and kids squealing who was going to find the most coons could be heard echoing thru the air. Beams of light from flashlights and headlamps were bopping up and down, back and forth as the casts of kids, adults, coon dogs, plus hunting guides set off into the dark shadows of the woods. Then things quieted down, but not for long. Within the hour the first teams of hunters began to return. Each bringing in their valiant stories of dogs, coons, and other critters observed tromping thru the obscurity of the nighttime woodlands. Parents, relatives, and other adults all listened with anxious ears as each youth unfolded their tale to all who would listen. With the last team exhaustingly arriving, more chili, more beans, and more of everything was munched on as the night wound down for all involved. “What a great night I had”, exclaimed 10 year old Tyler Sprenkle, Goodman MO. “I got some good grub, got to see my friends, and got to chase after some coons. How can you do any better that?”. “Cottontails, Coon, and Chili” featured over 25 different coon dogs with the bulk being provided by Jason O’Brien of Team Elk-O-Zar, Lanagan MO. Team Elk-O-Zar is home of multiple state and national champion dogs. Food was donated by many volunteers, and served by Mindy O’Brien and her team of recruited helpers. The majority of the funding for the event was aided by Cornerstone Bank and McDonald County Telephone Company. Both are official sponsors of Young Outdoorsmen United.