ROCKINGHAM — Saturday brought the coon hunters out as they gathered at the 11th annual N.C. State Championship Water Race hosted by the Richmond County Cooners Club.
It was hot but the dogs were ready.
Each year coon hunters from all over are invited to show what they’ve got from black and tans to blue ticks, redbones or Walker hounds.
This event was started years ago by the “Ole Timers” as a way to give spectators a glimpse of the sport during the day and help them get a feel of what the hunts are like at night. The race was also a way to see whose dog could get across the swamp the fastest while chasing a raccoon.
The event starts off with a bench show to see which dog is the best representative of its breed in hopes of winning points for their championship titles. This is followed by a raffle to give away prizes gathered from many different local vendors, some of which have been supporting the event from the start. This raffle has also become the major fundraiser for the club’s events throughout the year.
After the raffle and brief break to take entries, it’s time for the main event.
The dogs are divided by classes like registered, champions, and grand champions and are then loaded into the starting box — separated by colored collars for identification of the dog — and released into a 300-foot-long pond. The dogs then must chase a coon hide across the pond as fast as they can where a tree is waiting for them on the other end.
There, a panel of judges determines the line and tree winner. The first one to cross the line is called the line winner. The first dog out of the water barking “treed” is the tree winner.
This year’s state championship title was determined by inches as Mongo — an American leopard hound owned by Deyo Southerland of Wallace North Carolina — edged out the competition to claim state line champion. The state championship tree title was claimed by Billy Jean, a blue tick owned by Bobby Locklear of Shannon, North Carolina. Other top dogs were Sampson, also owned by Locklear, as the registered tree winner; and Sundown, a black and tan owned by Lee and Katie Criscoe of Rockingham, as champion tree.
This event is held annually the first Saturday in August and everyone is welcome.