Hunting for hunting dogs comes in two forms. The first is hunting for pleasure, this is when you go out with friends and hunt just for fun. The second type is competitive raccoon hunting. Today I am going to talk to you about the second type.
Competition raccoon hunting is a structured hunt where you compete for prizes. They go hunting in groups, called “sets”, made up of four dogs. Each dog will have a guide (that’s you). Also, in each cast, there will be someone who is designated as a “guide.” The guide is responsible for providing a place to hunt for raccoons. They will also give you information about the layout of the terrain such as streams, hills, etc.
There will also be a cast member who will be appointed as a “judge.” The judge is responsible for keeping a record of the scores of all hunting dogs on the score card. The judges also help resolve any disputes that may arise. Sometimes the judge and the guide will be the same person. On larger hunts, such as World Hunt, judges and guides can be “no-hunt guides” or “no-hunt judges.” This means that your only point of interest is the designated job. This helps keep raccoon hunting fair from the big competition.
Now that you know how competing raccoon hunts are organized, let’s talk about how the scoring system works. Dogs are graded in two categories. These categories are “strike” and “tree”. The first dog to hit a track letting out a yell and being called out by its handler would receive the “first hit” and the most points. This is repeated in all 4 points. Each position receives a little less than the previous one. The next category is “tree”. This is handled in the same process, but this time when the coon hound misses a location and switches to the faster “tree bark”. For most raccoon hounds, the bark of the tree is a “chop”, however there are also some screaming-mouthed tree dogs.
The amount of points awarded for each category is different for each record. Most coon dog registries award 100, 75, 50 and 25 points respectively for each position in both categories. However, the United Kennel Club awards 125, 75, 50 and 25 points in the “tree” category. The Professional Kennel Club has a time limit for points in the tree where each position is closed after a disclosed period of time. Also, the coon hound must remain wooded for 5 minutes before the cast can enter and mark the tree.
Ok, now that you know how the molds and the scoring system work, I’m going to talk about how you score trees. Once you enter the tree, all the hunting dogs are on a leash. Once all the coon dogs are tethered from the tree, a clock is started and all the cast members will begin searching the tree for a raccoon. Most records allow 8-10 minutes to search the tree for a raccoon. If a raccoon is found, the tree is scored “plus”. This is what you want, obviously. If it is obvious that there is no raccoon, the tree is scored as “less”, as you would expect, this is not good. If no raccoon is found, but there is a chance there is one there, the tree is scored as a “circle.” Circle points only count when it is a tiebreaker. Examples of circular trees would be hollow trees or bushy trees. You will see many circular trees during the summer hunting season.
Now, you should be off to a good start in understanding competitive raccoon hunting. Now, grab your favorite raccoon dog and head to the nearest competitive hunt and try your luck.