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+