Outdoor

Marie McAden

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Ridgeland coon hunt draws outdoorsmen to canine competition

Posted 1/29/2013 9:41:00 AM

It’s coon hunting time again in Ridgeland. So, slip on your waders and get ready to tromp through the woods.

The 18th Annual Jasper Jamboree National Raccoon Hunt takes place from Feb. 7-10. Intrepid hunters and their hounds will steal into the night, hot on the trail of that wily masked bandit — the raccoon.

A field trial for hunting dogs, the goal of the canine competition is to track and tree the little rascals. No raccoons are intentionally killed in the event. Hunters are not even allowed to carry guns.

The Professional Kennel Club-registered event will bring about 400 coon hunters from all over the Southeast and Midwest to the Lowcountry to compete for cash prizes. The hunters are grouped into four-man “casts” and assigned a judge and local guide. Decked out in thigh-high muck boots and hard-hats with head lamps, they set off through the woods and swamps until the dogs catch the scent of a raccoon. And then the real fun begins.

It’s a mad race through briars and bramble, as the dogs give chase with their masters following behind them. The single-minded hounds can run for miles on a coon trail, leaving their handlers to listen for their low, loud barks through the dense woods.

Once the coon is treed, the dog gets five minutes to bark at will. No lights can be flashed above ground level. After the allotted time, the handler has eight minutes to find the woodland mammal with his spotlight. It’s not unusual for a dog to be tricked by a raccoon that has jumped to another tree and made off into the night.

If the coon is found, the dog receives points. The hound with the most points wins.

For more information on the event, contact the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce at (843) 726-8126.