With temperatures dipping below 25 degrees and a wind chill in the area near 18 degrees, the Friday Nite Hunt in the 2018 Grand American Coon Hunt was only for the determined and diehard hunters.

Kershaw's Ty Hinson, an 18-year-old handler of his family's Treeing Walker Coonhound named High Hill T-Bo, was one of the diehards who braved the weather to compete. On Saturday, he was awarded the first-place trophy for the Friday competition that finished just before 3 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Having only hunted in the United Kennel Club event presented by American Cooner magazine once before, Hinson was glad he returned to Orangeburg for a second consecutive year to show both he and T-Bo's hunting skills.

It marked the second straight year that an in-state teenage handler won on the opening night hunt. In 2017 it was another Ty, Orangeburg's Deepwater Stylish Ty and then-17-year-old handler Reba Hughes, who won the Friday Nite Hunt competition.

A year after temperatures hovered around 40 degrees for the competition, the 53rd annual event — hosted and headquartered at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds — began on Friday by offering quite a challenge to coonhounds and handlers alike.

Snow that blanketed Orangeburg and surrounding areas on Wednesday continued to cover some of the hunting land used by many of the hunting casts. It helped in tracking the path of some hunting hounds, but added to the test of terrain for both dog and hunter.

"It was very intense," Hinson said. "We hit the swamp and I found out right away that my boots were starting to leak. They filled up, so I'm freezing my butt off 10 minutes into the hunt. I just kept on going, dumping them out and then having them fill back up. It was tough.

"You would like to go only when it warms back up some, but you had to be a coon hunter to be out there last night. My dog was going to keep going, he didn't care. When we got done, he was shaking and had icicles coming off him; so I put a heating blanket on him and got him warmed back up."

Hinson recalls stepping through snow and how some in his cast found ice patches under snow, which made them slip and fall a few times.

"We would just laugh at each other and go on hunting," he said. "The cold and snow makes it hard, because it freezes the scent some; but when we were walking on ice you could see where the coons had run through there earlier in the day.

"Now I'm just hoping for a cast win to get into the Final Four (Sunday morning). We live in hills and flatland in Lancaster County (S.C.), so I wasn't sure my dog would hunt well in the swamps and the cold. I just wanted to prove a point that I am the coon hunter. No matter how the rest of the weekend goes, I plan to come back and compete for years to come."

The Saturday Nite Hunt was set to offer a similar challenge, as temperatures were forecast to drop to 19 degrees in the Sunday pre-dawn hours, during which the hunt's Final Four competitors would be looking to tree raccoons to score valuable points.

"(The cold weather) has hurt us some; we had about 40 less dogs hunt last night than what was signed up to hunt," Grand American Coon Hunt Association President David McKee said, in his 10th year as event president. "And we had some of the problems (with hunting land) down closer to the coast, where some of our guides couldn't get into them like they normally do.

"Friday was cold out here with the wind and all. And then some of the hunters talked about breaking ice out on their hunts. Last year it was all the standing water that was a problem, but this year it has just been the cold weather."

Hunters came from as far away as New York, Arkansas, Nebraska and Arizona to compete in this weekend's competition. 

2018 Grand American Friday Nite Hunt Results

Place    Name, Breed    Owner  Hometown       Handler, Score

1st/1st Nite      NITECH'PR'High Hill T-Bo, TW    Jeff Hinson       Kershaw, S.C.   Ty Hinson, 550+

2nd/GR Nite     GRNITECH'PR'Clean's Mr. Bubbles, W    Michael Reaves Hamer, S.C.      Justin Allen, 475+

3rd/1st Reg      PR'Black Swamp Zoey, TW        Roy Beck          Tar Heel, N.C.   Roy Beck, 450+

4th/2nd Nite    NITECH'PR'Oconee River Waylon Jr, ENG          Trent Saxton/Tucker Saxton     Watkinville, Ga. Mark Looney, 450+

5th        CH GRNITECH Mighty Bell, ENG Tony Smith      Elberton, Ga.    Tony Smith, 425+

6th/2nd Reg     PR'Drop Dead Wipeout Willie, TW         Roger Dennis Jr.           Moncks Corner, S.C.     Roger Dennis, 425+

7th/3rd Reg     PR'Swamp GA Willie, TW           Robert Busbee Matthews, Ga.  Robert Busbee, 425+

8th/3rd Nite     NITECH'PR'TBS Tree Talken Worm, TW Dillon Bradshaw            Connelly Springs, N.C.  Dillon Bradshaw, 425+

9th        NITECH'PR'Coleman's Repete, TW        Michael Reaves Hamer, S.C.      Randall Coleman, 400+

10th/4th Reg   CH'PR'Flat Rocks Boogar Hollow Bobo, TW        Jonathan Strong           Liberty, S.C.     Jonathan Strong, 400+

11th      GRCH GRNITECH'PR'Keaton's Mud River Big Mack, TW   Douglas Keaton/David Koch     Culloden, W.V.  David Koch, 375+

12th      NITECH'PR'Southwinds Blue Dexie, ENG           Zachery Lee     Cleveland, Ga.  Carter Lee, 350+

13th/5th Reg   PR'The Tree Slamming Judge, TW        Franklin Card    Sumter, S.C.    Franklin Card, 350+

14th/6th Reg   PR'Cold Water's Little Ann, ENG            Zaheed Hussain           Loganville, Ga.  Ron Carpenter, 325+

15th      NITECH'PR'Fall's Ck Tree Slammin Hannah, TW Rock Hall          Coeburn, Va.    Justin Wyatt, 325+

16th      NITECH'PR'Payt's Sassy Allie Girl, BLU   Ronnie Mills      Gray, Ky.          Ronnie Mills, 225+

17th/7th Reg   PR'Houses Little Sally, TW        Al Kimberlin      Stanley, N.C.    Ronnie Grant, 225+

18th      GRNITECH GRCH'PR'CM's Blue Starline Elvira, BLU         Charles Morris  French Lick, Ind.          Charles Morris, 225+

19th/8th Reg   PR'Big Smoking Hoss, TW         Hollie Hunt       Fairmont, N.C.  Micah Brewington, 200+

20th/9th Reg   PR' Reverend Clark Diggler, BLU           Brian Howell II  Greer, S.C.       Brian Howell II, 200+

10th Reg          PR'Leggetts Lockdown Freeze, ENG     Clay Leggett, Lumberton, N.C. Clay Leggett, 175+

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