Coon Hunt

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Batesville lands UKC coon hunt

By John Howell Sr.

As word in Panola County spread Thursday about the United Kennel Club’s decision to move its Winter Classic Coon Hunt to the Batesville Civic Center, perhaps no local resident could better appreciate its impact on the community than Rubert Morgan.

“It’s a big thing; we need to keep that here if we can. It’s the Cadillac of the coon hunts,” said Morgan, an avid coon hunter for most of his life, having hunted at the UKC Winter Classic in Albany in 1990, the same year he won the Wisconsin State Championship.

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“We are ecstatic that the UKC has chosen the Batesville Civic Center to host their 2013 Winter Classic, BCC director Roy Hyde said. “The UKC has reached out to a number of local member clubs and has been very pleased with the levels of local knowledge and participation. This event’s highly respected history paired with the BCC’s accessibility, size, and configuration capabilities should provide an outstanding event.”

“I’d like to express appreciation to Vijay Vaghela for his help in pulling this together,” Hyde added. Vaghela owns Batesville’s Holiday Inn, Days Inn and Quality Inn, likely hosts for many of the visitors who will attend the night hunt and bench show.

Meanwhile Albany, Ga., host of the Winter Classic for 25 years, lamented the loss of the event which attracted 5,000 visitors to the three-day event and pumped an estimated $2 million into its local economy, according to media reports.

“The central location makes the hunt more easily reached that ever before, and the Batesville Civic Center will bring a stadium atmosphere never before experienced in the sport,” according to a UKC press release announcing its decision to move to the Mississippi site.

The event will be held on its traditional weekend, from January 25-27, 2013.

“Coonhound enthusiasts and their families are certain to find the hardwood bottoms of the famed Mississippi Delta to their liking,” the UKC release continued.

Morgan said that the Winter Classic typically draws 600 dogs that are divided into four-dog “casts.” Each cast hunts separately, with a guide and judge. The judge records each dog’s performance on a score card. The cards from the highest-scoring dogs in each cast are then compared to determine first through tenth place from all the entries, Morgan said.

“There’s a whole world out there; the average person doesn’t know a thing about it,” Morgan said.

The top tier of U. S. coondog competition revolves around four major hunts, Morgan continued. “The first is the Winter Class in January,” he said, followed by spring hunts in Tennessee and Texas and the UKC World Hunt in September, which is held in various locations.

Only UKC-registered dogs are allowed in the competition. The seven recognized breeds of coon hounds are Bluetick, Treeing Walker, English, Red Bone, Black and Tan, Leopard and Plott, according to Morgan.

Morgan prefers the Bluetick hound, having won that 1990 Wisconsin championship with “the famous, reknowned ‘Hot Rod,’ Timber Ridge Blue Hot Rod,” the same dog who also won the Arkansas state championship in 1993 and a “whole lot of local contests.”

The avid Panola hunter said that although his pace of coon hunting is more relaxed than when he traveled extensively to enter his dogs in competition, he is looking forward to the UKC Bluetick Fall Roundup.