Hounds headed here for record-breaking ‘Classic’

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 25, 2016

English coonhound Blaze, owned by Avery Seay, is still in training and won’t be a competitor this year.

Hounds headed here for record-breaking ‘Classic’

By Rita Howell
This weekend’s United Kennel Club Winter Classic coon hunt in Batesville has drawn the most registrants in the 29-year history of the hunt, with 925 dogs entered in the Friday and Saturday nite hunts, according to the UKC’s official Web site.
Among those headed this way for one of the world’s top coon hunting events are participants from 25 states and even two hunters from Canada.
This is the fourth year the Winter Classic has been hosted at the Batesville Civic Center, where hunters will gather Friday and Saturday afternoons to receive their cast assignments and spread out in groups of four to pre-arranged sites all over North Mississippi and even into Arkansas.
Coordinating the guides for the casts is Ronnie Stark of Water Valley. In addition to individuals in this area, five “satellite” hunting clubs will supply guides for hunts in Vardaman, Winona, Charleston, Arkabutla, and Marion, Ark., Stark said.
“A lot of people help us out who don’t even coon hunt, because of the economic benefit to the community,” Stark said.
Wildlife conservation officers also step up to serve as guides if needed, Stark said.
Stark will serve as a “hunting” guide, meaning he will be actively competing with “Wildman Willie,” his Treeing Walker, while guiding casts both nights. Willie won the “registered” division in the Saturday Nite Hunt at last year’s Winter Classic.
The hunts test the dogs’ skills at trailing and treeing coons. Firearms are forbidden and no coons are harmed.
In addition to the competition hunts, there will be a “Westminster” style bench show Saturday, with contests for all seven registered coonhound breeds. The show begins at 9 a.m. and is open to the public. There will be a kids’ bench show mid-morning, followed by judging to name the grand champions.
Also located on the arena floor will be vendors of hunting clothing and equipment, dog supplies, t-shirts, and art.
“I encourage people to come see what the vendors have to offer,” Stark said.
The Civic Center concession stand will be open throughout the event.

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