Floresville’s David Walpole, a championship raccoon hunter, spends time with his grandchildren, (from left) Callie Walpole, Gunner Wiatrek, Ayden Walpole, and Beda Corrigan. Walpole hopes to pass his love of coon hunting on to the next generation.
When it comes to outdoor hobbies and recreation, hunting is often at or near the top of the list for many residents of South Texas. Whether it’s the pursuit of trophy white-tailed deer, feral hogs, or dove and quail, hunting is a passion shared by many in the region.
But there is also another type of hunter in these parts, though they are not as well-known. Rather than striking out at first light and returning to camp shortly after dark, these hunters pursue their game at night. They use little in the way of equipment, needing not much more than a bright light, a good pair of boots, and the ability to follow the nose of a well-trained hound. These are coon hunters.
And while raccoon hunting may be seen as a dying sport in this area, it’s far from dead. Some area hunters are working hard to keep their sport alive, and to introduce the next generation of coon hunters to the sport. These hunters spend a great deal of time and effort giving chase to these elusive “night raiders,” and one such hunter is David Walpole of Floresville.
Together with his wife, Jacque, and four coon dogs, Will, Spider, Bridge Her, and Skeeter, Walpole not only enjoys hunting locally when possible, but also takes the opportunity to hunt all over the state, and even across the country. He has spent countless hours training his dogs over the years, and has participated in coon hunting competitions for 25 years. Recently, Walpole even added another trophy to the shelf, when he and Will won the 2010 Texas State Coonhound Championship in Madisonville.
For Walpole, his love of coon hunting first began at the age of just 10 years, and had nothing to do with competitions. He was introduced to the sport by his brother-in-law, Bill Koenning, and his passion grew from there.
“Back then, we were allowed to hunt anywhere in the county and had free range to just about anyone’s property,” Walpole said. “We would just stop on the side of the road and let the dogs out, and no one ever cared.
“These days, there are homes everywhere and free range of land is a thing of the past,” he said. “Aside from a few local ranchers who very generously allow me access to their property, I have to travel over 200 miles for a weekend hunt -- to keep my dogs in hunting condition.”
While driving hundreds of miles for a hunt is by no means ideal, hunters are passionate people and will rarely pass on an opportunity to pursue their game of choice. And when the state championship went up for grabs last September, Walpole had no trouble making the decision to drive to East Texas for a chance to hunt against the state’s best.
Walpole, along with his Treeing Walker Coonhound, Will, traveled to Madisonville to compete in the United Kennel Club’s State Hunt Sept. 10-11. Will did not disappoint, as he was the highest-scoring hound on the first evening of the competition. He then followed his initial performance with another top showing on the second night of hunting. As a result, Walpole and Will took home the 2010 State Coonhound Championship.
In addition to their hunts in Texas, Walpole and his hounds also have traveled outside the Lone Star State on numerous occasions, competing in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, South Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, and Missouri during events hosted by the United Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, and Professional Kennel Club. He has been fortunate enough to compete in several World Championship events, and still has hopes of one day bringing a World Championship home to Floresville.
As for 2011, Walpole doesn’t have plans to attend many competitions, but said he does have his sights set on the Professional Kennel Club’s World Coonhound Championship in October. With any luck, this could be the year he finally wins that coveted World Championship.
In the meantime, Walpole will continue hunting coons with his family, just as he has done for many decades. He enjoys sharing his passion with his grandchildren, Callie Walpole, Ayden Walpole, Gunnar Wiatrek, and Beda Corrigan, and hopes they will continue his legacy while enjoying the sport of coon hunting.
Rather than striking out at first light and returning to camp shortly after dark, these hunters pursue their game at night. They use little in the way of equipment, needing not much more than a bright light, a good pair of boots, and the ability to follow the nose of a well-trained hound.
These are coon hunters.
Competitive coon hunting
Unlike most traditional hunting means, competitive coon hunting does not involve harvesting the animals. Instead, points are awarded to dogs based on their ability to “strike,” or bark, as they pick up a track, as well as their ability to “tree” a raccoon. A dog’s ability to track and tree a raccoon quickly and accurately, while ignoring the scents of other animals in the woods, is key to winning a competition.
‘Back then, we were allowed to hunt anywhere in the county and had free range to just about anyone’s property. We would just stop on the side of the road and let the dogs out, and no one ever cared.’