Tracking is the first stage of hunting the Raccoon. Tracking is the process of a dog fallowing the scent or trail left behind by a Raccoon or other animal. Choosing a good location along with having good weather conditions can be vital to good tracking. - see below - Hot tracks are fresh scents that dog(s) can easily follow. Cold tracks are old or faded tracks that are difficult to follow and typically the Raccoon that made the trail is long gone. Typical dogs (by instinct) will bark when they have picked up the scent of an animal and bark more frequently as the scent gets stronger, or they get closer to their prey. And if they get real close while chasing their prey, they will growl and bark frantically. The sound made is typically different for each dog. Dogs will sometimes catch up to their prey while tracking and a brutal attack will occur before their prey can seek refuge in a tree or other form of cover.
After the dogs have chased a Raccoon up a tree, inside or onto another form of shelter, the dogs will begin a deeper howl when they think they have successfully treed a Raccoon. Most raccoon will not leave a tree or other form of shelter unless they are forced to leave. Raccoon can be flushed or simply shaken out of the tree. Most times raccoon need to be shot in order to get them out of a tree. Rarely do they bail out, or jump out of a tree unless they feel very threatened.
False Treeing occurs when the raccoons jumps off the base of a tree or simply skims by the trunk of a tree. This often tricks the hunting dogs into thinking the raccoon is in fact in the tree or other form of shelter. The dogs typically rely solely on their sense of smell and can be fooled by the tracks (scents left by the raccoon). They can also be fooled or tricked by old tracks left by the raccoon. These are typically called "cold tracks" due to the difficulty for the dog to follow the raccoons scent.
Most Raccoon will live in a fairly near proximity to water and woodlands. They can travel anywhere from a couple acres to almost 20 miles (though rare) in a night. So the best places to start your hunt is near a wetland like a small creek or lake. They are also very often found in or near corn fields, especially ones containing mature sweet corn. Raccoon can be found in nearly any habitat providing some sort of food, shelter and water. Over the years they have adapted to living in mountainous areas and and even right out your back door. Besides living in the US, they can be found in areas of Europe as well as Japan.
It is best when you go on a hunt to lead the dog(s) into a wooded area, the edge of a corn field or near a body of water in most cases. These are the prime locations to pickup the scent of a Raccoon.
The weather can play a big role on the success of your 'coon hunt. It is far easier to track a Raccoon in wet conditions, so obviously the chances of a successful hunt are improved in damp conditions. Damp, not extreme. The dryer the air and ground, the harder it is for the dogs to follow a scent. Raccoon are not very active in extreme conditions, mainly snow and cold. Windy conditions can be a major antagonist too. It can cause the scent to blown threw the air which can trick dogs into thinking the coon is in a near by tree or throw off the trail of the Raccoons scent completely. It also makes it difficult to hear the dogs trailing and treeing locations and sometimes even lose their location completely.
Since Raccoons are nocturnal (primarily travel and feed at night) it is less likely to have a good hunt when a full or bright moon is present. The darker the night the more active nocturnal animals are.
The best season to hunt or trap Raccoons is in the fall. The Raccoons hide thickens when winter is just around the corner. In the Midwest, the best hunting starts mid to late October most years. The Raccoons also are out foraging a lot more in hopes to build a thick coat and layer of fat to help protect them over the winter. Raccoon do not actually hibernate. They will stay in their den when the elements are too extreme to forage for food. During the snowy season it is much more rare to even spot a Raccoon due to limited travel, thus it is very difficult to hunt them during this period as well. You can however trap raccoon during this season if you know where they are living. Make sure you dress warm and appropriate for the climate.
All forms of hunting have their dangers, but not many entail hunting at night. Gun awareness, like all hunting sports is extremely important. Wild animals can be a threat in certain areas due to territorial, nocturnal animals. Inability to see your surroundings at all times can prove a difficult and sometimes dangerous task. You should always carry a light to help with loading your gun and handling your equipment. Cold weather and wet conditions can be dangerous too, so make sure that you are always prepared for any change in weather. Traveling to remote and wooded areas can cause you to lose your way, so GPS and a good knowledge of your location and surroundings is very important.