Jamie Ham • The Coonhound and the Deputy

Jamie Ham
Jamie Ham

In the Winter of 2007 I was hunting a two-year-old Walker hound named Kate.

She was extremely hard-headed to say the least. She was a bit trashy and would miss from time to time, but she had drive. I’m talking serious drive. If you cut her 10 times in one night she would leave you throwing dirt in your face every time.

I was 27 years old and I had only owned a couple of hounds prior to her that were worth a poot. She had the gears, the mouth, the looks and was a very classy tree dog. Granted, sometimes in the beginning there wouldn’t be anything up the tree (what we call a “slick tree”) or she would have a grinner (a possum). She had heart though, and with time and hard hunting grew to understand what I was asking of her. She probably taught me more about coonhounds than any other hound I’ve ever owned or trained.

One particular night in February of that year will always stand out in my memories. At the time I hunted a local creek and swamp that was fairly close to my home in Delco. This was prior to GPS tracking systems so lots of times you had to play it by ear. I drove down to the creek and turned her loose along the bank.

Not very far in she struck a track and began to drift out of my hearing, actually to the point that I decided it was best if I drove around to get a better listen. When I got around there she was treed but something just didn’t seem right about how she sounded. I grabbed my rifle and headed to her having no idea what I was actually headed to.

As I walked up to where she was my heart sank, because I realized she was about 20 feet over my head.

There was a large dead pine tree that had fallen over into a big oak, and apparently the raccoon had taken that route to get in the tree – and so had Kate. I stood there for a few minutes just trying to grasp the situation.

There I was late at night, standing at a tree in the creek swamp, looking up at my dog barking every breath at a raccoon in the top of a tree. I did two things right then and there.

First I said a little prayer, and then I did what I’ve always done when I need help, advice or a little wisdom. I called my Dad. I told him what was going on and where I was. I also asked him to bring me a ladder, some rope and anything else he could think of.

It was a fairly quiet night and I’ll never forget him telling me that when he walked out of his house (a good ways from where I was) he could hear her treeing like she was in his front yard. I met him out at the road and we hauled the ladder and rope to the tree. I knew there was no way I could climb that dead pine tree so I had to lean the ladder on the oak and climb up to the bottom branches. I took the rope up with me.

When I got up to Kate I was able to reach out and get my hands on her, but I knew the only way to get her down was to lower her with the rope. We devised a plan where I would make a harness out of the rope and lower her down to my Dad, ho was waiting on the ground to catch her.

Meanwhile, little did I know, that the folks living in the house closest to where we were had called the law.

Looking back later I realized that I couldn’t really blame them. After all, a barking dog and bright light shining all around in the top of a tree in the swamp behind their house wasn’t something they were used to seeing. After getting my makeshift harness around her I realized that it was going to be extremely hard to convince her to get off of the limb she was standing on. I began to nudge her and try to convince her to trust me.

Well, you know what she did? She jumped.

In the heat of the moment I panicked and tightened down on the rope with both hands (with no gloves on). My dad managed to catch her, but not before both of my hands had significant rope burn. This was about the time that a sheriff’s deputy arrived.

I remember discussing with my dad what the deputy must have thought when he heard the commotion and saw all those lights. I was determined I was going to get that raccoon before we left but hearing the words “Columbus County Sheriff’s Department, come on out” kind of put a damper on that.

You should have seen the look on his face watching me and my dad come out of the swamp toting a ladder and a bundle of rope, leading a coonhound. I don’t remember his name but he was very nice and completely understood the situation once I explained it to him.

I was very thankful to get out of the situation with only my hands blistered. I’ve always heard that the best hounds will always take the track as absolutely far as they can take it. I was blessed that night not to lose my hound to a 20-foot fall. I have friends that have not been so fortunate.

I am also very thankful that when I’m in those situations I have an Earthly Father and a Heavenly Father I can turn to for help and advice.

Trust me, I have used them both on several occasions.

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