Growing up in the Ozarks of Oklahoma during the Great Depression, 12-year-old Billy Coleman (Stewart Petersen in the 1974 version, Joseph Ashton in the recent remake) wants a hunting dog more than anything. He thinks, breathes and dreams hunting dogs. Following his grandfather's advice, he spends a summer doing every odd job he can find, earning enough money to buy two Redbone Coonhound puppies. After fighting through a gang of townies and facing up to a cougar to get the pups home, Billy spends months training them. The trio gains a reputation during their first hunting season as the best raccoon hunters in the area. Their second season is even more profitable, but it's marred by tragedy. Billy's devoted patience in training the dogs, his perseverance, and his willingness to sacrifice for family spur his maturation over the seasons.