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Coon Hunting


The image of the mountaineer in coonskin cap is rooted in history and tradition, and raccoon hunting has been a part of our culture since the first settlers moved into what is now West Virginia. Although the number of coon hunters has decreased, the lure of the chase is still strong in many parts of the state, particularly in the southern counties. Ironically, the coon hunting tradition runs deepest in the coal producing counties south of Charleston, a region that historically has had a smaller raccoon population than other areas, especially the central and northern counties.

The rangy, rawboned coonhounds are believed to be mostly descendants of the foxhounds that were brought across the Atlantic from England in the 1600s. The principal coonhound breeds are Black and Tan, Walker, Plott, English, Bluetick, and Redbone. Coons are almost always hunted at night, although since 2018, it is legal to hunt them during the day in season. An important part of coon hunting, as in mountain fox chasing, is listening to the dogs bark on trail, although some hunters prefer a silent dog, often a cur, that can ambush a raccoon, forcing it to tree sooner. Either way, the dog is expected to bark when the coon is finally treed, to call the hunter to the site. Then the coon is spotlighted and often shot from the tree, usually with a pistol, though many hunters do not kill coons. For them, the sport is simply in the chase and the treeing.

Coons are hunted in fall and winter, with a season running from mid-October through February. Declining fur prices have resulted in fewer coon hunters in West Virginia, but our number of hunters remains high compared to many states. Popular adjuncts to coon hunting are field trial and night hunt competitions. There are about nine coon hunting clubs in the state whose members participate in these activities; this number is down from about 40 at the beginning of the 21st century.

Written by Skip Johnson


  1. Blisard, John. Coondog Heaven. Goldenseal, (Winter 2000).

  2. Rogers, Rich. West Virginia's Hunting Hound Heritage. Wonderful West Virginia, (Nov. 1990).