The Grand American Coon Hunt is in Orangeburg this weekend. One of its regulars is Robert Gray, which talks about his time there and how much the event means to hunters.

The Grand American Coon Hunt serves as a place for friendship and a time out for hunters, shoppers and those in between.

From the hunt’s Orangeburg County headquarters, Justin Miller of St. George said Friday it is great to get out and talk to others sharing the same interest.

“The camaraderie,” Miller said. “We do this every year by getting together from states all around America to here. We have a good time trading hunting stories,” Miller said.

“Having a good time buying and selling dogs. I’m enjoying looking around and seeing the different breeds of dogs and everybody’s friendly. You never know what you might find out here,” Miller said.

The feelings are shared by Chevis Pendavaris from the Charleston area. He has been coming to the Grand American for decades.

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The event sanctioned by the United Kennel Club is in its 58th year in Orangeburg. It is one of UKC’s top coon dog trials of the year. Winning dogs are scored by treeing raccoons, which are not killed during the hunts.

“I come here every year, I’ve been doing it for the last 20 to 30 years,” Pendavaris said.

“Just talking with some old friends. There’s people from different states and I meet up here with them over the years,” Pendavaris said.

When attending the Grand American, you see people talking to one another and greeting others, going from truck to truck speaking to individuals.

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“Most people here are nice and polite. You get to buy some hunting dogs, talk to people and share stories,” Tracy Wilson of North Carolina said.

“I’ve been coming for years and years. I don’t hunt in it but I love to come for the camaraderie,” Robert Gray of McCormick said.

The Grand American runs from Thursday until early Sunday morning, concluding with a final hunt to decide who will be the Grand American Grand Champion. The barns are open throughout the day Saturday, where you can see different dogs.

“It’s great here, I love the weather and the people,” Pendavaris said.

“We come here every year to the Grand American Coon Hunt to see the dogs and the people, and to go hunting,” Wilson said.

For the people who traveled from different areas around the country, it is nice to visit Orangeburg.

“We enjoy it here, we get to sit here in the sun. It’s a beautiful day, we’ve been looking at dogs and getting what we need. We’ll be heading back to Virginia soon,” Doug Bowman said.

“I love it down here and then stop to eat on the way out at Duke’s barbecue,” Gray said.

Numerous vendors at the Grand American sell everything from food and beverages to clothing, accessories and things for dogs.

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“It is the availability and things you won’t get every day. All these supplies for the dogs, whatever you’re looking for, usually you can find that here,” Bowman said.

“Come on out and have a good time. I’m going to bring my grandson, but he’s in school today, so he’ll be here tomorrow. He’s mostly excited to see all of the dogs and the puppies,” Pendavaris said.

“I told them this is my Christmas, I love it. Lots of friendly people that I love to see. They have not just dogs, they have a little bit everything to see. It’s just a wonderful place,” Wilson said.

For some in attendance, it’s a way of life to come to the Grand American and be among others.

“It’s just a lifestyle, I really enjoying hunting, coming up here, talking about what our dogs did this year and have a good time,” Miller said.

“Dogs, dogs, dogs, we’re all hunters. All you got to say is that it’s the Grand American and any hunter wants to come,” Grey said.

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Saturday at the Grand American is full of activity following the opening night of the hunt on Friday.

Saturday schedule

  • 3 a.m. – Friday night scorecards must be returned to the headquarters building corner office.
  • 7 a.m. – Gates open
  • 8 a.m.-6 p.m. – Barns open
  • 8 a.m.—10 a.m. – Bench show entries taken for youth, and Saturday show in the Bates Building. UKC Licensed Youth Bench Show will be held after the licensed Bench Show.
  • 9 a.m. – Presentation of trophies/Friday night’s winner’s photos to be taken.
  • 10 a.m. – Entries close for bench show.
  • 11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Changes or corrections on your advanced entry for Saturday night in the headquarters building corner office.
  • Noon – Confirm all advanced entries for Saturday Nite Hunt. Walk-on entries taken in the headquarters building.
  • 1 p.m. – Treeing contest—$5
  • 2 p.m. – Deadline to confirm all entries.
  • 3:30 p.m. – Walk-on entries given cast number
  • 4 p.m. – Prayer/handlers must report to stake at assigned time.

Terry Benjamin II, a Claflin University mass communications senior, is reporting for The Times and Democrat as a Lee Enterprises-sponsored news-sports intern.

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