Hunting coon hounds comes in two forms. The first is pleasure hunting, this is when you go out with friends and hunt purely for fun. The second type is competition coon hunting. Today, I am going to talk to you about the second type.
Competition coon hunting is a structured hunt in which you compete for prizes. You go out hunting in groups, called "casts", consisting of four dogs. Each dog will have a handler (that's you). Also, in each cast, there will be someone who is appointed as "guide". The guide is responsible for providing a place to coon hunt. They will also give you information about the layout of the land such as creeks, hills, etc.
There will also be a member of the cast that is appointed as "judge". The judge is responsible for keeping track of the scores of all coon hounds on the scorecard. Judges also help settle any disputes that may arise. Sometimes the judge and the guide will be the same person. In bigger hunts, like the World Hunt, judges and guides may be "non-hunting guides" or "non-hunting judges". This means their only point of interest is the job appointed. This helps keep the big competition coon hunts fair.
Now that you know how the competition coon hunts are organized lets talk about how the scoring system works. The dogs are scored on two categories. These categories are "strike" and "tree". The first dog to strike a track by letting out a bawl and to be called by his handler would receive "first strike" and the most points. This is repeated through all 4 spots. Each position receiving a little less than the one before it. The next category is "tree". This is handled in the same process but this time when the coon hound lets out a locate and switches over to the more rapid "tree bark". For most coon hounds the tree bark is a "chop", however there are some bawl mouth tree dogs as well.
The amount of points given for each category is different in each registry. Most coon hound registries award 100, 75, 50, and 25 points respectively for each position in both categories. However, the United Kennel Club awards 125, 75, 50, and 25 points in the "tree" category. The Professional Kennel Club has a time cut-off for tree points in which each position is closed after a disclosed amount of time. Also, the coon hound must stay treed for 5 minutes before the cast can come in and score the tree.
Okay, now that you know how the casts and scoring system works, I'm going to talk about how you score the trees. Once you enter the tree, all coon hounds are tied back. Once all coon hounds are tied back from the tree a clock is started and all cast members will start to look for a raccoon in the tree. Most registries allow between 8 and 10 minutes to search the tree for a coon. If a raccoon is found the tree is scored as "plus". This is what you want, obviously. If it is obvious there is no raccoon the tree is scored as "minus", as you expect, this is not good. If no coon is found, but there is a chance one could be there the tree is scored as "circle". Circle points only count when it comes down to a tie-breaker. Examples of circle trees would be hollow trees or bushy trees. You will see lots of circle tree during the summer hunting season.
Now, you should have a good start of understanding competition coon hunts. Now, grab your favorite coon hound and head to the nearest competition hunt and try your luck.