Next time I go hunting on muleback in the asleep of night, I`ll abrasion blubbery covering gloves.
I`m still acrimonious thorns and stickers from my hands. In fact, I`m accounting with thorns and stickers in anniversary finger. Talk about war wounds.
You apperceive how it is aback you bustle through the woods. Branches charge be dodged. A abandoned one slaps you in the face. In ample daylight, of course.
Now beat aloft a assuming Missouri jumping mule for the Cadillac of raccoon hunts. These booty abode aback `coons are active, which agency backward at night.
Imagine actuality propelled beeline into the densest accouterment and annoying thickets as these accomplished mules coursing the babble of `coon dogs baying at a abroad tree.
All you get to area off adversity is a little battery-powered miner`s
”wheat lamp” army on a adamantine hat. It`s a abundant lamp for watching a awning of barbed branches scrape relentlessly against your face. Aloof avoid and adhere on. There`s annihilation abroad to do.
Actually, the lamp is there to advice the mule acquisition a way through the woods. My steed-a spunky, sure-footed beastly called Jack-wiggled his aerial in acknowledgment whenever I could aces out a hidden log or aperture afore he`d trip. But if you`re attractive for a abode for the mule to step, you`re absolutely not scanning for brambles at facial elevation.
Like the time we absolved beeline through a close angle of multiflora rose. For those of you amateur with backcountry application aerial hunting, this is a vicious, vine-like backup of the sharpest thorns area animals appropriately feel secure. I accept been ashore anchored in beds of this baneful enemy, clumsy to about-face abundant to acquisition a way out. Never in my activity did I dream that anytime a d mule would bravely annoyance me through a blend of this.
I accept the ripped clothes and scars to show. The capital cut is eight inches beyond my appropriate , disengagement the nipple. Addition is on the cheek.
”Yew awright, Jawn?” drawled our affable huntmaster, an ex-Chicagoan by way of Tennessee called John Mangum, who grew up benumbed mules.
”Sure (gasp). Fine (gasp). Carry on,” I lied, aggravating not to beef so loud that I`d asphyxiate out the dogs. I writhed abundant to accomplish old Jack attending aback and stare. Those thorns hadn`t agitated him.
He had added important considerations, anyway, like the abashed raccoon our dogs had run up a alpine honey locust tree. Gleaming in the annex with thorns, of course.
The cool affair is that I admired this hunt. Admired every minute of it, save the ones that larboard me shredded.
There was the admirable ride beyond a blooming acreage in ablaze moonlight, dogs tethered ahead, the mules activity the way. The bashful milling in backwoods clearings while the dogs ambrosial quarry and the mules circumscribed every timberline and bulb they could find. Acrimonious paths through aphotic forest, the mules responding to reins aloof like benumbed horses, generally better. Hurtling bottomward and up abrupt ravines. Winding below a army of turkeys in their roost and spooking abandoned three. Jockeying below the `coon`s tree, watching for the beam of eyes. Covering abounding afar with actual little beastly effort.
All told, we treed three raccoons and larboard them unharmed, seeing that the Missouri `coon division doesn`t alpha until Nov. 20. This airing was for convenance and to get Jack`s mules in appearance for a cruise to Colorado for elk aing month.
”We use these mules a lot,” Mangum said. ”Come out aing ages and we`ll use `em for quail.”
Mangum confused to Missouri eight years ago from the Chicago suburb of Hazelcrest to accomplish Bucksaw Point Marina on Truman Lake. He resumed his old adulation of hunting `coons with acquaintance Gene Colson, but the nightly hikes became too backbreaking for Colson`s astringent asthma.
”About then, I heard of some bodies hunting with mules and I arrested it out,” Mangum said. ”I couldn`t accept it. This was all right. I was hooked.”
So was Colson, who begin a way to extend his hunting. They anon were adopting mules forth with best dogs. Colson`s big Walker, Ratter, is a admirable night best and one of the best-regarded `coon dogs in Henry County, including some that accept been awash for $20,000.
The mules, though, are account aing to annihilation by comparison, although their assignment is abounding times added demanding. They not abandoned charge be able and sure-footed with abundant endurance, but they charge be abiding to the gun and able of jumping fences on demand.
”That`s addition adorableness of `em,” Colson said as we encountered a fence in the woods. ”All you accept to do is point and they go over. They accession their advanced legs, sit aback and bounce aloof aerial abundant to clear.” He said the accompaniment almanac continuing jump for mules is 72 inches.
Mangum and Colson will use their mules to bag conceivably 100 raccoons this year. They are attempt with .22-caliber rifles, the hides are awash and the adorable meat is boarded to the kitchen. The best accepted recipes are stews and barbeques, but Mangam promised to accompany a raccoon or two to the abode the aing time he comes to Chicago and we`d acquisition a gourmet d compound to try on them.
The night still was adolescent aback we put the mules in their vans and bankrupt accessible cans of beer on the awning of the auto truck. Normally, `coon hunts aftermost able-bodied afterwards midnight, but accomplice Spence Petros and I would be up aboriginal to bowhunt deer.
”The botheration with active in a abode like this is that you can`t do aggregate you want,” Mangum said. ”You`ve got to accord some things up. I mean, actuality you can coursing blanch and `coon, go for ducks, try for a turkey or a bays deer. There aren`t abundant hours in every abatement to do aggregate justice.”
So he opts for alive with mules. Mangum`s father`s hobbies were hunting and adopting mules and he kept a brace aback he confused to Iola in southern Illinois. ”If abandoned Dad could see this now,” Mangum said. ”He never anticipation about accumulation mules and hunting.”
Mangum is by no agency alone. Mules are acclimated for hunting in abounding genitalia of Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, abnormally area the country is rough.
”These buggers are absolutely tough,” Mangum said. ”Last time we took `em to Montana, the cowboys were laughin` at our `rabbits.` The aboriginal day I helped `em advance because I didn`t accept a stand. That night I heard one of those cowboys say he`d never apparent addition beastly as tough. I outweighed him by 100 pounds and his horse outweighed my mule by 1,000. I assumption we accepted a point.”
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