Coondogs coming for Winter Classic 1/23/2015

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 23, 2015

Coondogs coming for Winter Classic

By Rita Howell
More than 800 entries have been received for the United Kennel Club’s 28th annual Winter Classic Coon Hunt next weekend at the Batesville Civic Center, according to the UKC’s official Web site.

The event is regarded as one of the top two or three coon hunting events in the world, the UKC’s Todd Kellam told The Panolian last year.

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More than 1,000 dogs, handlers, owners and their families attended last year to participate in hunts and bench shows.

Hunters from as far away as Washington State have signed up to test their coondogs’ skills in tracking and treeing Mississippi raccoons next Friday and Saturday night.

Ronnie Stark of Water Valley is coordinating locations and local guides for groups that will fan out from the Civic Center to designated spots across North Mississippi, within a 100-miles radius of Batesville. In addition, four satellite coon hunting clubs will also arrange to guide hunts from Helena, Ark., Charleston, Winona and Vardaman.

Hunters and dogs will converge at the civic center in the late afternoon both days to receive their cast assignments (four dogs to a group) before heading out in search of coons and championship points.

In addition to his responsibilities with the hunt, Ronnie Stark is also a competitor, entering his Treeing Walker, Yocona River Wildman Willie, to hunt both nights.

Don Gregg of Batesville has registered his English Blue Tick Coonhound Main Street Blues Man to enter. Gregg’s hound came in fourth among registered dogs in the 2013 Winter Classic.
Batesville hunters Jerry McCullar and Tyler Hawkins have qualified to enter their Treeing Walkers.

In addition to the nite hunts, the Winter Classic includes two days of bench shows, where champions are selected based on physical attributes and conformity to breed standards. Last year more than 200 dogs were entered in the bench shows.

Spectators are welcome to view the judging in the arena. There’s no admission charge. Bench shows begin at 9 a.m. both days.

On Saturday morning a Kids Bench Show is also planned, to be held between the individual breed champion judging and the grand champion competition. Any child may enter. If they don’t have a dog, someone will lend them one, Stark said.

Vendors of hunting supplies and pet products will have displays on the arena floor, and a concession stand will be open. Breeders of coonhounds will have puppies for sale in the livestock barn next to the civic center.