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50th Grand American won by ‘Edisto Swamp Squeaky’


 50 Years of the Grand American Commemorative Logo Photo by Jeff Dennis

50 Years of the Grand American Commemorative Logo
Photo by Jeff Dennis

Sometimes when a good thing gets going such as the Grand American did 50 years ago, it’s like a train headed down the tracks that can only lead to more outdoors enjoyment. The NewYear got off to a grand start for raccoon lovers with a dinner on January 1 to celebrate the Golden Anniversary, followed by two days of festivities at the Orangeburg Fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday. After two nights of coon hunting it was ‘Edisto Swamp Squeaky’ of S.C. that took home the title of 2015 Overall Winner.

For Colletonians it takes about one hour to ride along Highway 21 to visit the Grand American festivities. Drivers pass through rural strongholds like Ruffin and Smoaks where coon hunting along the swamps and tributaries of the Edisto River is second to none. The bustling city of Branchville is next after crossing into Orangeburg County, eventually leading to the Orangeburg industrial area with the fairgrounds next.

The parking lot is packed with hundreds of pick-up trucks that have come from different sections of South Carolina and from states all across the United States. The out-of-towners often bring campers and stay for the week so they can better enjoy the entire experience which is much more than just coon hunting. A coon enthusiast trade show takes place during the daytime, while the coon hunting takes place at night, and the size of the celebration rivals the SCDNR’s Palmetto Sportsman Classic held each March in the state capital of Columbia.

While New Year’s Day started with near freezing temperatures, by the coon hunt on Saturday night it was back into the 60s with heavy clouds and some rain. Of course the hunt must go on no matter the conditions, and while all hunters endure the elements from time to time, coon hunters are the ones who do it with the most regularity. The hunt is always challenging since it takes place in the darkness of night and in remote woodlands, but can also be complicated by water holes, briar thickets and other impediments which the raccoons will be sure to use in their attempt to escape.

No raccoons are harvested at the Grand American, they are only chased and treed so that the field judges can grade the coonhounds on their abilities. Once the judge has made his decisions the coonhounds are led away and the raccoon is left to pursue his own nocturnal habits. After the Saturday night hunt, the winners returned to the fairgrounds for an awards ceremony in the pre-dawn hours, run by American Cooner Magazine in conjunction with the United Kennel Club (UKC).

During the Final Four hunt on Saturday night, the four-year-old Treeing Walker distinguished himself by quickly locating and treeing a raccoon. Co-owners Elliott Shuler of Holly Hill and Michael Cochran of Summerville took turns working the coonhound during the weekend hunts so they shared in the victory every step of the way. Their support team of friends was also present at the awards where ‘Edisto Swamp Squeaky’ took home bragging rights and earned the hunters multiple trophies from the 50th anniversary event.

The Grand American also awards winners for Bench Shows and Treeing Contests; for all the hunt results, visit the Internet at www.UKCdogs.com. For those that attended this year’s event, they saw countless coondogs and all the necessary hunting gear up for sale. The demand for all the hounds and the accessories is driven by the desire to come out on top one day at an event like the Grand American, and it’s great that the outdoors can provide such a positive drive for those who are inspired by the outdoors.

Youth Coon Hunt in Bowman

A youth coon hunt is scheduled for January 11, in Bowman and is part of the S.C. raccoon hunting championship. The events are free of charge and feature two age brackets from ages 6 to 12, and 13 to 17. Guns are not allowed on the hunt, and no raccoons are harvested. The event is sponsored by the Orangeburg County Coon Hunters Association; for more information contact Allen Shuler at 803-533-1370.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdors.com


Jeff Dennis, Contributor (394 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com