The 47th Annual Grand American

American Cooner Feb 2012 Cover“This year is just like all the rest, I can’t wait for the Grand American to get here! Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I still get excited the closer the first weekend in January gets. It’s a time of fun and excitement, seeing old friends, listening to the constant buzz of folks strolling around the fairgrounds looking for the best deals on whatever hunting supplies they need or looking for that pup or hound from the ‘right’ stock. No matter what, if it has to do with coon hunting it is here.”

At 5:30 AM Thursday morning I was pulling into Roger Enlow’s yard to begin our Grand American weekend. We had a 7 AM meeting at Hardee’s in Orangeburg with some of the other staff to nail down any final details before we arrived at the fairgrounds at eight. Twelve months of preparation was fixing to be put to the test once again. When we arrived at Hardee’s, everyone was there and as ready as we were to get the main event rolling. By eight o’clock we were at the fairgrounds and there were already folks lined up at every gate waiting to get in. (It doesn’t open until 10 AM).

Laird Thompson and his crew, Gene Aldrich, Roger Enlow, Tim Fulmer, Dale Weatherford and Timmy Fulmer, have the task each year of taking care of the vendors. As always, they do a great job. At 9:55, we all met at the gate for a short prayer asking God to bless this event once again. At 10 AM the gates are opened and the 47th Grand American is underway!

As the vendors begin to roll in to begin setting up, I watch old familiar faces roll by — Mr. Joe with Bama, Lamar with Woods and Water, Rodney with Millingport and on and on; folks who are as much a part of the Grand American as we are.

Minutes later I am on the other end of the fairgrounds meeting with Daniel Felker, Keith “Percy” Case, Bud Ducker and Mike Holcombe who have the task of taking care of “Dog Traders Row.” I knew they would all be busy from now until Saturday evening as the hounds and whatever else began to fill up the fairgrounds.

Again, I see familiar faces driving by to their favorite spots. By now the fairgrounds is starting to look like an anthill. People are unloading their equipment, the sound of hammers driving in tent stakes and the old familiar sound — hounds! Everyone is smiling and bragging on the weather, talking about past Grand Americans, wondering how many folks will be here, did we forget something, and on and on. The Lord has more important matters than a coon hunt, but He sure blessed us with a great weekend!

By now, it’s 2 PM and the CoonFest activities are underway. Laird and I sit down to a plate of “chicken bog” and his phone rings. So much for his meal. Two minutes later I am no longer smiling as my meal is cut short as well. It seems that the fairgrounds ran out of camper spaces and decided to add ten primitive spots along the back fence and failed to tell  us. Now we are searching for folks who have parked there and are strolling around the grounds. Just another little bump in the road. Things roll along smoothly and I get to enjoy a few minutes with my friend Terry Walker before once again the phone pulls me away. By 6 PM we are ready to start trying to close up for the day as we have a meal with the Orangeburg Chamber of Commerce, County and City Councils, and our sponsors at 7 PM. I enjoy this as we get to recognize our sponsors and let them know how much we appreciate what they so for our event. 9:30 PM finds us back at the fairgrounds just in time to hear David Cooler’s last two songs of the night. If you make it down on Thursday, make sure you check him out.

As I arrive at the fairgrounds at 6 AM Friday morning the parking lot is still dark and there are only a few cars there. By eight the place starts to come alive as the “ants” are once again scurrying around. This will be the first year that we have had part of the show on Friday and we are all hoping it will be successful. Lee and Lennie Currens are already busy setting up the ring as Joy Agner and Beth Mims began taking entries. Mike Bryant from Tennessee will be our judge for today’s round of entries from the registered, Dual Champions and Pairs. Mike does a great job and I feel confident he will again today. As for me, I will not be enjoying any of the show.

At ten we have our opening ceremonies and we have asked Mrs. Jo Betcher from Orangeburg to sing the National Anthem. As we all stand and remove our hats, I see people glancing around the building. Then it hits me, no FLAG! We had forgotten one of the most important things, our American flag. Well, that was embarrassing!

After opening ceremonies, it is off to the office to help Dale Weatherford with confirming our guides. Each club representative comes in with his guides and we confirm them each morning. By now, Denise R., Faye and Denise G. are busy readying scorecards, preparing for confirming entries and a multitude of other things they do. Tanya Raab was unable to attend this year and I want to thank Loretta from UKC for helping us out with all the entry changes. At 12 PM we begin confirming entries and the ladies are busy as everyone wants to get it done early it seems. When the entries close at 2 PM, we have 315 entries confirmed. After checking guides versus entries we are ready for the draw. By 3:40 we are drawing the casts and getting the first night of the hunt underway. Trying to put 80 casts into the woods is always a challenge, but for the most part, it goes real well. As the casts depart, it’s now time to catch our breath, walk around the vendor barns and, hopefully, get a bite to eat. But, as always, it is 8:30 or so before that happens. Sometime during all this they tell me that our Dual Champion Overall Winner is Dual Champion Male Gr. Nt. Ch., Gr. Ch. RJ’s Tree’n Chicken Lou-Trzy, owned by Michael or Myra Seets of Stonefort, IL. Mike won a LED belt light from Valley Creek and a dog box from Mill Creek Dog Boxes. Congratulations, Mike.

By 11 PM our two Masters of Hounds, Wayne Agner and Dale Weatherford, have heard a few questions and everything seems to be running smoothly until I receive one of those dreaded calls. Cowgirl, owned by Elliott Shuler and Mark Sandifer, has been stolen off the tree. Riley Godwin, who is our announcer, is also the investigator for the Orangeburg County Sherriff’s office. He is in the office and begins working on the case immediately. Hopefully, by the time this article comes out, she will be found. Between the owners and the South Carolina State Coon Hunters Association, a $1,000 reward is offered for information leading to her return.

Around midnight the casts begins to trickle in as most had gone by their Garmins and waited until around nine to begin. The later the guides waited the better the scores appeared to be. When it was all said and done, we had several nice scores come in with the best being posted by 17 year old Dylan Smoak from Surfside Beach with a Treeing Walker named Stylish Freight Train, owned by Dylan and his uncle, Mark Risher. The judge, who was from Kentucky, came in bragging on Dylan and his hound. He was bragging about how Dylan had taken a little minus and still came back to post a score of 850+. With less than five minutes left in the cast, he was behind and pulled it out! Way to go, Dylan. The judge said they looked at ten coon and scored on six.

Dylan received a Predator 2 light from Nite Time Hunting and Pet Supplies for finishing first overall on Friday night.

Finishing second on Friday night was Gr. Nt. Ch. Shonuff KNL’s Super Duper Soop, owned and handled by Christopher Brown, Jacksonville, NC with 750+. Chris is a Captain in the Marines and will be going back to Afghanistan again this month. Please keep him and all of our soldiers in your prayers.

All of the winners will be listed in the magazine elsewhere, but I just wanted to mention these two.

By 4 AM it is finally time to catch a few hours of sleep and get ready for Saturday. At 7:15 AM my phone is ringing and it seems someone wants to know who won last night. Oh well, I may as well get up. When I arrive at 8 AM, the fairgrounds is starting to fill up. Thank goodness I came around the back way. At nine Sarah with UKC is taking pictures of last night’s winners and we are getting ready for the second half of the show. Today Mrs. Betcher will again sing the National Anthem. But today we have a flag! It is presented by the Airport High School ROTC Cadets. Now it is time for my favorite part of the event, the kids bench show! All smiles, no complaints and everyone happy to get a trophy. We had about 40 or more come through. Man, that is fun!

Now it’s back to the office and to prepare for tonight’s hunt. Dale is already confirming the guides and the ladies are preparing the cards and everything else. When entries close, we have 285 hunting. This means we will be cutting guides. Cutting guides is never fun and the reps don’t like it either but it has to be done. Having too many guides is always a good thing until you have to decide who isn’t going to get to guide. I want to thank my club reps for being there to make these decisions.

Again, we get the casts off and on their way without too many problems. I then get a chance to sit down with Lee and discuss the show. He tells me we had a total of 130 entries, which is off from last year by 57. We discuss what we can do to hopefully bring you back next year. If you normally show and didn’t, please let us know why. We will try to correct this if it is in our power.

Congratulations to our Overall Show winner Gr. Ch. Rob’s Code Red Twist of Fate, Redbone male, owned by Beth Jenkins and Ellen Jenkins, Culpeper, VA, handled by Jamie Crigger. They won a dog box from Regal Dog Boxes and a custom embroidered jacket from Dan’s Hunting Gear.

Our Opposite Sex Show Winner and Grand Champion Female was Gr. Ch. Melrose MTN. Jezebel Jett, a Plott, owned by Clint or Veronica Pace, Columbus, NC, handled by Clint.

Finally, it is time to slow down and grab a meal at the Cracker Barrel. By nine we are back at the fairgrounds and waiting on the 11 PM meeting with Harry, Laird, David Z. and myself to discuss this past weekend and jot down notes for our next board meeting.

Around nine I receive another dreaded call from Stephen Shinaberry. A hound on his cast has been shot through the right leg. Harry and Laird immediately begin calling the local veterinarians making preparations for the hound and to line up a guide to take the cast back out. Thankfully, after examination by a vet, it appears the hound had a run in with a hog and is going to be okay.

Again the casts are slow to come in and the Masters of Hounds have to deal with a few questions again tonight. Both of them do a great job. Thanks, fellas. I want to also thank Ashley Moss who helped with all the computer work as the entries came in both nights. She doesn’t know it but she just got a permanent job both nights next year.

Finally all the casts are in and it is time to announce the Final Four to everyone sitting outside.

As I step out the door, it grows quiet as everyone waits to see who got in. “The Final Four hounds are: Bingo! Handsome Little Demon! Big River Dan! McGee’s Sailorman! Report to the office for final instructions.” The fourth and fifth place hounds were tied with 750+, but one had drawn a minus during one of his casts. I am proud to say he was disappointed, but said he had a great weekend and would be back next year.

I read the final instructions to the Final Four and introduced them to their judges, Elliott Shuler, Gregg Covington, who was also the guide, and Josh Livingston. By 3:15 AM they were on the way to the woods. We were then ready to give out the trophies for Friday night’s winners and start waiting for the phone call telling me they were on the way back. First place was Nt. Ch. McGee’s Sailorman, owned by Greg Kennedy, New Zion, SC, 900+. Greg received a Predator 2 light from Nite Time Hunting and Pet Supplies. He would  have to wait to get it as he was on the Final Four..

After all the trophies were awarded and Sarah finished with the pictures, we set up the awards for the Final Four.

First Place: Overall – $1,000, Tri-Tronics Trashbreaker, Garmin Tracking System, Regal Dog Box, a Bright Eyes Light, Purina Dog Food, $110 gift certificate from Clinch Mountain and a custom embroidered jacket from Dan’s Hunting Gear. 

Second place: $500, Bright Eyes Light, Marshall Tracking System, a dog box from Mill Creek Custom Deluxe Dog Boxes, Purina Dog Food, $110 gift certificate from Clinch Mountain and a custom embroidered jacket from Dan’s Hunting Gear.

Third place: $300, Bright Eyes Light, Garmin System from Southern Thunder, a dog box from Mill Creek Custom Deluxe Dog Boxes, Purina Dog Food, $110 gift certificate from Clinch Mountain and a custom embroidered jacket from Dan’s Hunting Gear. 

Fourth place: $200, Bright Eyes Light, a Garmin System from Valley Creek Supply, a dog box from KJ Kennels and Supplies, Purina Dog Food, $110 gift certificate from Clinch Mountain and a custom embroidered jacket from Dan’s Hunting Gear.

Anyway you look at it, not bad for two cast wins! By now it’s 4:30 AM and we are waiting for the call. At 5 AM we are still waiting and I get a text from one of the judges. The hunt is over but two dogs are still out and they are working on getting them back. 6 AM – still no cast. Everyone is wanting to know who won and I am trying my best to keep it a secret. FINALLY . . . we see dogs coming into the building but it is only two of them. I get the call that the other ones are on the way.

After what seemed like forever, we have them all and are able to crown our 2012 Grand American Hunt Champion –

  • Gr. Nt. Ch. Big River Dan, owned by Mark and Clayton Looney, Piney Flats, TN
  • Grand American 2nd Overall: Nt. Ch. McGee’s Sailorman, owned by Greg Kennedy, New Zion, SC, handled by Brian Squires
  • Grand American 3rd Overall: Bingo, owned by Andrew Bing, Beaufort, SC
  • Grand American 4th Overall: Nt. Ch. L&N’s Handsome Little Demon, owned by Lively/Newsome/Cox, Swainsboro, GA

We are finally done and are able to leave the fairgrounds at a little after 8 AM. I pick up Roger at the hotel and we start for home. As he drives I tell him about the last few hours and we discuss things we need to do for next year. Before I know it, it’s 10:30 and we are pulling into my yard. After a short conversation with Deb, it is time to crawl between the sheets. As I drift off to sleep I can’t help but think . . . how did I forget the American flag?