October 28, 2005
young coon hunters braved a cool steady rain recently to participate in the 11th
annual South Carolina Youth Raccoon Hunting Championship 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 Feb. 25 event was attended by youngsters and their
guardians representing raccoon hunting clubs from around the state. Nine
regional events were held statewide to determine who would attend the state
championship hunt. All participants must first qualify in a regional hunt in
order to be invited to participate in the championship event.
Before the actual competition, participants ranging in age from 5 to 17 years
old attended seminars on sportsmanship, scoring and hunter safety. Between
seminars, corporate sponsors awarded door prizes to all of the participants. A
planned .22-caliber rifle competition was cancelled due to rain.
The hunt divided participants into two age divisions. The Junior Division was
composed of youth under 14 years old, and the Senior Division was composed of
youths from 14 to 17 years old. Contestants were 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 hunted a
two-hour competition hunt, while the Junior Division participants hunted a
one-hour timed cast.
Each cast consisted of a judge and guide, and three or four youth hunters, each
with a dog. Parents followed along and observed from a distance, but each youth
handled and called his or her own dog. For each of the 11 years the state youth
raccoon-hunting competition has been held, the Low Country Coon Hunters
Association of Shirley, S.C., has furnished guides and obtain access to hunting
lands, using many local plantations.
Jay Butfiloski, DNR Furbearer Project supervisor, praised the local hunt club:
“We could not have such a high caliber competition without the support of the
Low Country Coon Hunters Association,” he said. “The local guides and landowners
are really the foundation of this contest. Throughout the 11 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 were 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 interpret correctly the dog’s
Gardner, 14, of McBee, and his dog, “Radar,” won the Senior Division
representing the Black Creek Coonhunters Association. Tyler qualified to hunt in
the state championship hunt by placing second in his division as well as winning
the sportsmanship award at the Darlington regional youth hunt held last fall.
Noah Ireland, 8, of Edgefield, and his dog “Money,” representing the Red Hills
Coonhunters Association, garnered the win in the Junior Division. Noah qualified
to hunt in the state championship hunt by taking second in his age division at
the Edgefield regional youth hunt.
Butfiloski applauded all the contestants for their perseverance: “These kids
were determined not to let the constant rain dampen their enthusiasm for the
coon hunting competition, and actually, the hunting was pretty good despite the
weather.” Butfiloski also commended all of the participants and their dogs.
“These kids are all 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 was really outstanding,” he said.
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,” Butfiloski said. The Sportsmanship
Award in the Junior Division was awarded to Cody Quattlebaum of Edgefield,
representing the Red Hills Coonhunters Association. Ty Mills of Marietta,
representing the Union County Coonhunters Association received the Sportsmanship
Award in the Senior Division.
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.”
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)
343-4755 or Jay Butfiloski at the DNR Furbearer Project in Columbia at (803)