SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — North Louisiana has landed the 2012 UKC Coonhound Championships and the UKC World Bench Championships for this fall.
Thanks to the efforts of the 4-Way Coon Hunting Club in Doyline and to the Shreveport-Bossier City Sports Commission, approximately 1,500 hunters and dogs from across the country will invade Hamel's Park on Sept. 20-22 seeking points by treeing raccoons.
"This event hasn't been held in the South since the late 1980s, so we're excited to bring it here," said Kelly Wells, vice president of sports and tourism for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. "This could include a big influx of people from the North who want to see more Southern folks involved with the sport."
The event will feature 100 of the top coon hunting dogs and their handlers in the U.S., according to Chris Guice, hunt chairman of the 4-Way Club.
"We're very excited to have this event here," Guice said. "People talk about how hot and dry it will be in September, but we have to hunt in that all the time."
The hunting groups of four dogs will meet at Hamels and will be assigned a hunting area that could be in the Bodcau or Loggy Bayou Wildlife Management Areas, or private lands in north Louisiana or east Texas.
Each dog will receive 100, 75, 50 or 25 points based on how quickly they begin barking because they have located the trail of a raccoon. They will earn up to 125 points if they are the first dog in the group to tree the raccoon.
A dog that trees any "off" game, like an opossum or a squirrel, is immediately eliminated from the competition, according to Guice.
"It doesn't matter if you came all the way from New York. If your dog does that, you're done," he said.
The groups have two hours to complete the hunt and must check in at Hamels by 2 a.m. All of the raccoons are set free if captured.
"We've told guys who will be hunting throughout the season not to kill the coons so that we have a good supply for the championships," Guice said.
Other area clubs, including those from Ringgold, Shongoloo, Shreveport and Gibsland, have been pitching in to help in preparations for the nationals.
"There will be about 100 judges and guides, so about 10 to 15 clubs are working on this," Wells said. "And there are about 15 to 20 people on the action committee."
Wells said his organization is trying to bring some non-traditional sports to the area to make use of the "vast wildlife area" available in north Louisiana.
"The people involved in this sport are passionate about it," Wells said. "We hope this will be successful and that it will springboard us to other similar events."