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UKC Winter Classic Starts Wednesday

The overall Nite Hunt Champion from the 2022 hunt was Set Em Up Rip. The winning coon dog is pictured with (from left) UKC Event manager Trevor Wade; handler Jimmie Smith of Crowder, owner
Clarance Steelman-owner of Sunflower and Bud Smith of Cascilla.

BATESVILLE – The United Kennel Club (UKC) Winter Classic coon hunt returns to Batesville Feb. 8 – 11. One of the largest and most prestigious hunting events in the United States, the UKC Winter Classic is hosted at the Batesville Civic Center with nightly hunts planned in Panola and surrounding counties across north Mississippi.

Ronnie Stark, one of the volunteer guide coordinators for the annual event, reported over 600 dogs are already pre-registered and more entries expected. Stark also said spectators are invited to attend UKC Winter Classic.

“This is a family-friendly coonhound event great for all ages. Comprised of Nite Hunts and Bench Shows, Winter Classic is an exciting event!” Stark said.

In the bench show portion, which takes place in a climate-controlled building, the entered Coonhounds’ conformation is judged by how closely they match the ideal image of their breed as described in the written breed standard. After hours, in the Nite Hunt portion, hounds are judged on how accurately they trail and tree wild raccoons in the woods at night. No game is taken during the hunts.

The UKC Winter Classic started in 1988 and has been held in Batesville since 2013. This central location makes the event easily accessible, and the Civic Center offers a unique stadium atmosphere previously not experienced in the sport. According to the UKC website, the Coonhound breeds showcased at this event are descendants of the trailing hounds brought to the United States shortly after the country was founded. These hounds and hunting remain an inherent part of the country’s traditions, and the breeds are some of the most documented of all dog breeds.

Stark explained that dogs and handlers will be hunting on private and public land all over north Mississippi including Yalobusha County. The hunters will be guided by volunteers from area coon hunting clubs.

Stark said there will be an estimated 10 casts in Yalobusha County each night during the competition. Each cast consists of four dogs. Much of the hunting in Yalobusha County will be on Corps-owned land around Enid Lake, but some hunts will be on private land. During the hunts, Stark said there will be vehicles with out-of-state license tags traveling in rural areas of the county at night. He urged motorists who may be in the lake areas to be on the lookout for dogs that may cross the road.

“The hunters could be out until 3 or 4 a.m, especially if a dog ranges farther than expected,” Stark said.

He noted that the purebred coonhounds are closely monitored during the hunts with GPS tracking devices. If a dog crosses a property line where the hunters do not have permission, Stark explained the dogs are called back as fast as possible.

“This rarely happens,” he added. “But if it does, please be patient.”

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