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2019 Grand American Coon Hunt in Orangeburg

The 54th Annual Grand American Coon Hunt played out under wet hunting conditions on Friday night January 4, but Saturday’s Coon Fest enjoyed lots of sunshine. When the December edition of American Cooner magazine mails out to coon hunting enthusiasts, the two-page registration form for the Grand American hunt on page 10 is prominent. The United Kennel Club administers the hunt and the first weekend of the New Year always seems to be the perfect time to gather hunters together, to let their canines give voice, demonstrating why they choose a certain breed of coonhound to represent them in the woods.

With the actual competition coon hunts taking place around midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, only the dog owners and officials are witness to the treeing action in the woods. The public is invited to see every other aspect of the coon hunting culture beginning on Thursday at the Orangeburg fairgrounds, the long time home base in South Carolina for the Grand American. Modern dog collars have GPS-tracking features on them and smart phones can be utilized during the hunt. I found myself using the traffic feature on my smartphone just to access the fairgrounds on Saturday, because muddy parking lots had traffic snarled in search of access points.

In a way, rain and mud are the perfect compliment to any coon hunt, whether professional or amateur. When the coonhounds are turned loose, then the owners follow them to wherever they tree a raccoon, and they require specialty gear. There is no better place than Coon Fest to pick up a headlamp, briar-proof bibs, waterproof boots, dog collars and leads, and the latest souvenirs from the 2019 Grand American. Perhaps best of all is the barn full of coonhound puppies that are ready for sale at Coon Fest, incase you are looking for a blue tick hound, or another specific breed for future coon hunts.

Daytime events on Friday and Saturday feature live judging at a bench show and a treeing contest. The bench show features multiple divisions and includes an extensive trophy and photo awards session for categories ranging from Youth to Grand Champion. Bench show photos can be viewed online at UKCdogs.com and are available for purchase. The treeing contest each day remains a fan favorite, watching coonhounds bay at a tree on the fairgrounds, behind the UKC registration desk. This is a great opportunity to educate attendees about how the coonhound reacts when treeing a coon, which is always exciting.

The South Carolina State Coonhunters Association supports the Grand American through leadership from David McKee, and by providing locations to send hunting parties. They are raising awareness all year round in South Carolina by sponsoring a S.C. Coonhunters vanity license plate that is available from the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. They are sponsoring another bench show and coon hunt in Manning, S.C. coming up on Jan 18 and 19, billed as the Hall of Fame hunt. For more information contact David McKee at 803-528-9050.

At the end of the Championship night hunt competition in Orangeburg it was a Treeing Walker named All Night Polo winning the Overall Title, for owner Eddie Huntley and handler Dillon Bradshaw from Marshville, North Carolina. Second place went to another Treeing Walker, while third and fourth place went to English coonhounds. South Carolina finished with the most hounds in the Top 20 each night of the competition but Virginia and Tennessee hounds also scored well. The love of coonhounds and the hunting heritage that they stand for is being passed along to the next generation during this event, which is just one of the reasons that make the Grand American a great hunt tradition.

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

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (352 Posts)

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