Forty-two young and eager coon hunters participated in the 12th annual South Carolina Youth Raccoon Hunting Championship held at the Webb Wildlife Center in Hampton County.
Co-sponsored by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the S.C. Coon Hunters Association, the March 3 event was attended by youth and their guardians representing raccoon hunting clubs from around the state. Nine regional events were held statewide to determine who would participate in the state championship hunt. All contestants must first qualify in a regional hunt in order to be invited to the championship event.
Before the actual competition, participants ranging in age from 6 to 17 years old participated in a .22-caliber rifle competition and attended seminars on sportsmanship, using a scorecard for competition raccoon hunting, and how to compete in bench shows. Bench show champions Lee Currens of Piedmont and H.L. Meyers of Fayetteville, Ga., demonstrated their techniques and preparation for competing in bench shows.
“This is the second time that these gentlemen have traveled to the Webb Center to volunteer their time, and we certainly appreciate their dedication to the state’s youths,” said Jay Butfiloski, DNR Furbearer Project supervisor. “Not only are the guys entertaining, but both are quite effective at presenting to the kids the importance of preparation and how to properly show a coon dog at a competition.” Between seminars, corporate sponsors awarded door prizes to all participants. Before the hunt, all participants enjoyed a hot dog and hamburger meal courtesy of the event sponsors.
This year, nine regional youth raccoon hunts were held prior to the State Youth Raccoon Hunt. Any individual or club interested in sponsoring a youth raccoon hunt can contact David McKee of the State Coon Hunters’ Association at (803) 694-3364 or Jay Butfiloski at the DNR Furbearer Project in Columbia at (803) 734-3609.
The state youth championship hunt divided participants into two age divisions. The Junior Division consists of youth under 14 years old, and the Senior Division is for youths from 14 to 17 years old. Contestants are divided into groups, or “casts,” for the evening competition. Efforts are then made to group the participants within each age division with similarly aged contestants to further even out the competition within each cast. Senior Division participants hunt in a two-hour competition hunt, while the Junior Division participants hunt a one-hour timed cast.
Each cast consists of a judge and guide, and three or four youth hunters, each with a dog. Parents are allowed to follow along and observe from a distance, but each youth handles and calls his or her own dog. For each of the 12 years the state youth raccoon-hunting competition has been held, the Low Country Coon Hunters Association of Shirley furnishes guides and obtains access to hunting lands, using many local plantations.
Butfiloski praised the local hunt club: “Without the support of the Low Country Coon Hunters Association and local landowners, we could not host this event,” he said. “The local guides and landowners are really the foundation of this contest. Throughout the 12 years that the State Youth Hunt has been held, they have unconditionally given their time and support as well as access to good hunting areas to allow the youth hunt to be such a success.”
In accordance with competition hunt rules, no raccoons are killed during the competition. Winners are determined based on the dog’s ability to “strike” a trail and tree a raccoon. The hunt awards points based on the order of striking and treeing and the dog handler’s ability to correctly interpret the dog’s actions.
Bradley Davis, 14, of Walterboro, and his dog, “Bit,” won the Senior Division representing the Colleton County Coonhunters Association. Devin Adams, 10, and her dog “G,” also from Walterboro, garnered the win in the Junior Division.
Judges also nominated one participant from each division for the Sportsmanship Award. “We feel that the Sportsmanship Awards are at least the equivalent, if not superior to, winning the hunting event, and the trophies and prizes reflect our belief that sportsmanship is important,” said Butfiloski. The Sportsmanship Award in the Junior Division was awarded to Vonne Doran, 11 of Johnston. Rob Wrigtenberry, 14, of Bamberg, received the Sportsmanship Award in the Senior Division.
Butfiloski commended all of the participants and their dogs. “The hunting was pretty good this year and many of the contestants scored very well,” he said. “Nevertheless, all of the kids are winners not only because each had to win a regional event to get to this competition, but the level of competitive spirit and sportsmanship displayed by these youngsters is really outstanding.”
Butfiloski was also complimentary of the efforts of the S.C. Coon Hunters Association and its president, David McKee. “David and the State Coon Hunters Association deserve much of the credit for this event,” Butfiloski said. “Support from local hunt clubs, sponsors and the community were what allowed us to put this hunt on, and David and the other Youth Hunt Committee volunteers really helped pull this hunt together.
“Youth events sponsored by the DNR for other sports such as fishing and dove hunting have been very popular in the past,” Butfiloski said. “The organizers and sponsors of this event wanted to expand upon the youth hunt concept to make sure the next generation has an appreciation for hound sports such as raccoon hunting. Regional events sponsored by local clubs have helped expand the participation in the youth raccoon hunts.”
13-and under group
1st Devin Adams, Walterboro
2nd Justin Riddle, Easley
3rd Noah Ireland, Edgefield, Red Hills CHA
4th Ashton Morris, Blackville
5th Taylor Harrelson, Alcolu
6th Emmah Sawyer, Winsor, Edisto River CHA
Sportsmanship: Vonne Doran, Johnston
14- to 17-year-old group
1st Bradley Davis, Walterboro
2nd Michael Grice, Latta, Black Creek CHA
3rd Ty Mills, Marietta
4th Katy Davis, Orangeburg
5th Ryans James, Clinton, Whitmire CHA
Sportsmanship: Rob Wrightenberry, Bamberg