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Bluetick Hound Sassy Allie Girl Wins 2017 Grand American

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

Unusually cold weather over the weekend did nothing to slow down the hundreds of coon dogs that were released during the 2017 Grand American. This is the first competition of the new calendar year for the United Kennel Club (UKC) and marks the 52nd time for the annual event based at the Orangeburg fairgrounds. American Cooner magazine from Illinois is the main sponsor of the Grand American which draws entrants from across the country, including the bluetick hound from Kentucky that became the 2017 Overall Winner.
The schedule of events for the Grand American actually begins on Friday morning with the gates and barns opening at 8 a.m. as dog owners, vendors and the general public begin to arrive. Opening ceremonies for the two-day Bench Show is at 10 a.m., where coon hunting enthusiasts enter their show dogs in different categories that address each species of coon hounds. For instance, the overall pairs winner was decided by noon, going to a Treeing Walker pair owned by John Boyter. Bench show dog handlers and the spectator crowd run the entire age range from youngsters to graying veterans.
There is no shortage of things to do at the Grand American since it becomes the epicenter for both coon hounds and hunting gear for sale. Start by visiting the barns where individual kennels have their prime hunting dogs on display, usually with a litter of puppies from the same bloodline for sale. I visited the Indian Hill Blueticks booth and learned that they came from McCormick County in the upstate. Like most vendors, they were friendly and eager to answer any questions about their breeding program.
The other side of the fairgrounds has an open-air market area where hunting gear is for sale, including GPS-tracking dog collars, headlights and all sorts of footwear. Coon hunters start out after dark and follow their coonhound into the woods, and they have to have the best snakeproof, briar proof, and waterproof boots and chaps available. You can find all of this gear in one place, and special show prices make each offering even more tempting.
The treeing contest at 1 p.m. remains a crowd pleaser, but due to light rain and a cold wind on Friday, attendance seemed down this year. There were only about fourteen entrants in the Friday treeing contest, which concluded in a short time, after rewarding two huge trophies to the winners. For lunch, I stopped by a concession stand run by the Edisto River Coonhound Association, and a big bowl of chicken bog served to take the sting out of the cold conditions.
Two nite hunts on Friday night and Saturday night decide who will participate in a Final Four type playoff early Sunday morning. David McKee serves as President of the South Carolina Coon Hunt Association and is always present at the Grand American. A sense of continuity runs through the Grand American, with landowners always willing to open up their swamps to hunt, which keeps coon hunters turning up to compete no matter what the weather. At the end of the nite hunt competition, the First place overall winner is Sassy Allie Girl, a bluetick owned by Ronnie Mills from Gray, Kentucky. Second place overall is Tree Walker Worm, a Treeing Walker hound owned by Ted Blakee of Conley Springs, North Carolina. Third place overall goes to Bad Habit Sam, a crossbreed hound owned by Elliott Shuler and Robbie Rhodes of Holly Hill, South Carolina. Fourth place overall is CK Clean’s Sam, a Treeing Walker owned by Rocky Hall of Cloeburn, Virginia.
These overall winners take home the bragging rights back to their respective states, but they also haul some hardware home in the form of trophies, hunt gear, and even a dog box for a pickup truck. They put in a lot of time training their coon hounds, and then showed up to hunt for two nights when temps were in the 20-degree range. It says a lot about how enthusiastic these coon hunters are about their sport, and the sportsmanship on display serves as a benchmark for other all other hunters to notice.

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

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (289 Posts)

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