An Evening Out With Boozer, Gofer, Rooster and Rad ~ By Taylor Wilson

On the front end one has to know that going ’coon hunting with a crew that includes hunters that go by the nicknames of Boozer and Gofer can be nothing short of interesting.

Toss my long-time hunting and fishing buddy, Rad Ellington, into the mix and it’s a must-see event.

And I was certainly not to be disappointed when all of the aforementioned and more set out to follow a redtick hound named Rooster. The dog belonged to Scott Antwine, of Brownsville, Tenn.

Together, Antwine, Steve “Gofer” Darnaby, and Terry “Boozer” Emerson have been carrying groups ’coon hunting all winter.

And it’s been fun and then some.

“All together, I suppose we’ve taken 70 or more people ’coon hunting,” Gofer told me. “And it’s been a friends deal, a family deal or whatever. We take the men folk, the women folk and children. How many go doesn’t seem to matter. Rooster (the hound) don’t seem to care if we bring a whole bus load, and we’ve come close to that…taking 20 or so with us one night.”

Gofer is very much the advocate for kids getting to go on these hunts. And once this crew gets ’em going, they’re evidently addicted.

“We had a hunt planned for the White River Bottom in Arkansas. And were going to try to slip off and not take the kids on that trip, because it was so far,” Antwine said. “But my daughter got wind of that, and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you going ‘coon hunting without me?’” he said and laughed.

So they all went on that trip and true to form this crew picked up a few more friends while they were there.

“We ran into three young guys over there, duck hunting. They said they’d never been ‘coon hunting. So we said, ‘Come on and go,’; they did, and had a good time, too. Heck, I don’t even remember what their names were,” Gofer laughed.

On their hunts, the spectators follow along on four-wheelers, foot or however best they can keep up with Rooster.

On the rainy, windy, late-January night I went it was about a dozen or so of us—half of ’em sons and daughters of the grownups taking part.

We had something of a problem early on, when Boozer’s duck dog, brought along mainly as another spectator (again, everybody and everything is welcome to go), appeared to be coming in season or heat.

This temporarily took Rooster’s mind off of chasing ‘coons, but that was remedied by carrying the retriever back to the truck. And after a while, Rooster began to get down to business—and look for something he loathes rather than something he obviously loves.

“He doesn’t like ‘coons that much,” Gofer said. “One tried to drown him a week or so ago.”

“If I was him I wouldn’t like ‘coons very much after that, either,” I thought out loud.

Not too long into the evening Rooster treed a ‘coon.

By the time the spectators got there, it was discovered that this ring-tailed bandit had picked a hollow tree to hide in.

“He got caught out in the open, and when Rooster put the pressure on him, he decided to go home to the den tree,” Antwine said.

So there we all stood, down below looking up into a hole in a hollow tree that held a ’coon.

Rooster guarded the trunk.

Eventually the ’coon became a victim of small arms fire, but even then it would not go easily into that dark night. It’s body hung up in the tree’s hollow spot.

“We ain’t going to leave that ’coon in that tree,” said Gofer, whose statement seemed more than prophetic.

My high-strung hunting buddy Rad, on whose family farm we were hunting, only needed a little prodding to get climbing up the tree.

“You can climb that tree, easily,” I whispered, and that was all it took.

A never-say-never kind of outdoorsman, Rad scrambled up the tree like the famed Engine That Could.

Heck, I think I even heard him say, “I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!” as he climbed.

My only hope as he clambered upward was that the ’coon was certifiably and undeniably dead. Otherwise, Rad could end up wearing a too life-like coonskin cap.

About 15- or so feet up, the tree made a strange formation, actually getting wider and making it harder for Rad to climb.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it. Man, it’s a lot higher up here than it looks, and the bark is wet,” said Rad, eventually sliding back down to earth.

“Hey, why don’t you get on Gofer’s shoulders, and Gofer get on Boozer’s shoulders, and then you can get that ‘coon,” I said.

What happened next might be out of the ordinary for your normal ‘coon hunting crowd…but then, you gotta wonder if anybody that spends their nights running around in the woods chasing dogs chasing ‘coons is entirely normal to begin with.

Like something you’d see on reality TV, they formed a human pyramid or sorts. And there in the darkness, along side the tree, Rad arose.

He had put on thick leather gloves. I guess, he too, contemplated that the recently deceased ‘coon might not be totally deceased, and hoped the gloves might protect him some should there be a revival.

Up what would later be estimated at 20-plus feet, Rad quickly snatched the ‘coon out of the hole and flung him into the crowd below.

There was a collective gasp. But luckily, among the crowd was Rooster, who doesn’t like ‘coons to begin with, and, if the ‘coon had had any life left when he hit the ground, it wasn’t much life left to live after the hound took hold.

We spectators cheered and Rooster the redtick set about roughing-up a dead coon.

It was quite the celebration, and I think I might have even hugged my old triumphant hunting buddy, Rad, after he came down from above. And that in itself says a lot about the excitement. Since it’s not something I would normally do, by the way—leastways not out in woods on a dark night.

Ah victory! What a rush! Success was something we all wanted to relive as soon as possible. So Antwine got Rooster pointed a direction in which he thought the dog might find another ‘coon and let him go.

“That dog is kind of like a bowling ball, get him rolling one way and that’s pretty much the direction he is going to go,” Gofer said.

It was silent for a while after that, at least until the kids started giggling and talking among themselves.

“Listen to them kids,” Gofer said. “They are having the time of their lives, out here in the middle of this rainy old woods, and on a school night, too. Boy, there’s going to be some moms mad about this in the morning, and probably some teachers, too, but it’s worth it when you’re having this kind of fun!”

And sitting there, listening for Rooster, in the darkness, the rain, the wind and the cold…surrounded by friends…I could do nothing but agree on the latter.

It was a good evening out.

Copyright © 2006, Taylor Wilson. Any reproduction, copy, or use of this story without written consent from Taylor Wilson is strictly forbidden.