Sportsmanship's the Ticket at the State Youth Coon Hunting Championship
Youth hunters from across South Carolina and neighboring states gathered with family and friends at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ Webb Wildlife Center on Saturday, March 4, 2017, to compete in the 22nd annual State Youth Coon Hunting Championship sponsored by the S.C. Coon Hunters Association and the SCDNR.
The Senior Division was won by Waylon Welch of Ridgeville, age 13, hunting with “Tonic,” and Wil Johnson, age 15, of Whitmire took home the Senior Sportsmanship trophy hunting with “Gracie.” In the Junior Division, Luke Stock of Tabor City, N.C., age 12, took first place honors hunting with "Mickey." Hunter Seymore, age 7, of Anderson took home the Junior Sportsmanship trophy hunting with "Jake."
Youth hunters qualify for the state tournament by competing in a series of regional qualifying hunts sponsored by local raccoon hunting clubs and can earn scholarships as well as trophies and prizes. In accordance with competition hunt rules, no raccoons are killed during these competitions, which are non-harvest events. Sportsmanship, hunting ethics and fellowship are emphasized at these events, where knowledge of this storied outdoor tradition is passed from one generation to the next.
Good sportsmanship and fair play are the primary lessons that the organizers hope the youth hunters will take away from their participation in these tournaments, according to S.C. Coon Hunters Association President David McKee. That, and a keen appreciation for the outdoors and the joy of being in the woods with their fellow hunters and canine companions.
“Did you have a good time, that’s the most important thing,” said McKee. “We try to place as much importance on the sportsmanship aspect of the hunt as we do on the points – who’s ahead or who’s behind.”
Before the hunt, Senior Division participant Joshua Knotts of Sumter was recognized with a $500 dollar college scholarship for his performance during the regional tournament season leading up to the state championship. Abby Grace Amaker of Orangeburg won one for the Junior Division.
“Taking my friends who have never been coon hunting before and showing them how much fun it is,” said Amaker, when asked what her favorite aspect of the sport is.
Gallery: The 22nd Annual S.C. Coon Hunters Association Youth Championship Hunt
Neither competitor is quite sure yet what they intend to do after high school (still some years away for both), but the scholarships will be there for them when the time comes, as will the lessons learned in a sport that fosters hard work, dedication and cooperation among its adherents – life lessons that should serve all of these young competitors well in the future.