54th Annual American Redbone Days draws a large turnout.

MIAMI – Coonhounds and hunters converged at the Ottawa Tribe's Powwow Grounds over the past weekend to compete.

The 54th Annual American Redbone Days United Kennel Club (UKC) three-day event hosted by the 4 State Coon Hunters Association drew competitors from clubs across the country representing 20 or more states.

“It's hosted only once a year. For the American Redbone Association this is their big national event,” 4 State Coon Hunters Association President Jennifer Cummings, of Seneca, said. “So, it's kind of a rarity for it to come to our area. It's never been here before.”

Redbone Coonhounds

The Redbone is an American breed of coonhound used for hunting raccoon, deer, bear, and cougar and is described as a lean, muscular dog with a short, rich red coat color with a tail held high while hunting. The breed is known for its distinctive "drawling" bark, also known as a bay. Hunters who use the breed follow the sound of the bay as the dog's track quarry.

The breed was made popular in the book and movie 'Where the Red Fern Grows’ a story about two Redbone Coonhounds and 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' movie.

Cummings said the 4 State Coon Hunters Association hosted a Blue Tick Coonhound event 10 years ago, but this is the first big UKC event hosted here in awhile. The local association has members from Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas.

“This summer we will host the UKC Youth Nationals on July 21 and 22 at the Eastern Shawnee Powwow Grounds, so we're getting some of these events to come here that are normally off in Tennessee, or Ohio or wherever,” Cummings said. “We have some people on board with us that are trying to pull some of these events our way now.”

The event here was a huge success with guides and personnel who planned and worked hard to ensure a great championship show and competition. The event started with the Redbone show and hunt but includes other UKC registered breeds which also participated in the last two days of the hunt.

“The Redbone Association had an all Red show where they just showed their Redbones to determine their overall champion of the year. Then they had their Redbone only hunt where only Redbone dogs competed, and I believe they hunted 59 of those on Thursday night,” Cummings said. “Friday night we had 86 entries in the hunt and Saturday night we had right around 60 again. If you put them all together, we actually put over 200 entries in the woods that weekend.”

Many of the 4 States Coon Hunters Association members have their own smaller hunting clubs that created a coalition to pull together and host bigger events.

“Working together we can pull in some of these big events that normally you can't pull off just on your own,” Cummings said.

Cummings said the weekend show and hunt could not have taken place without the Ottawa Tribe's allowance of use of the facility, and the help of the BIA, Roy Ross of Miami, local landowners and guides, the UKC, Doug High of Fairland, Caliber Dog Food, and the Galena Masonic Lodge members who provided concessions.

“We put in a proposal and the UKC and Redbone Association chooses whichever location they think will suit it best,” she said.” I know the people had a great time and all thought our area was beautiful. They all thought of Oklahoma as sand and rattlesnakes, and they show up to this beautiful green country, giant trees, and nice rolling hills. It's the perfect place for hunting.”

The Competition

Each group or cast of four hunters is assigned a local guide, and they hunt mostly private land and each dog that barks at a raccoon first gets points for the “strike,” and points for chasing and treeing the animal, Cummings explained.

“It's all ran by a point system. We follow all conservation laws, and in these competition hunts they never take game or ever harm an animal,” she said. '”We don't disturb dens or anything like that, it's just the pursuit of the game, it's a competition like a field trial for the dogs.”

The show consists of judging the dogs for the breed's specific confirmation and the showmanship of the handler.

“So many of those guys that hunt the Redbone breed got passionate about them when they read Where the Red Fern Grows' as a little kid. They're beautiful dogs. They make good pets if you can deal with the howling every now and then,” Cummings said laughing.

The Love of the Sport

The Cummings raise and hunt Walker Coonhounds.

“My husband, Cheyenne, grew up hunting, His dad said he was about two years old the first time they took him, and he's now 45, so he's a lifetime coon hunter. He is a very avid hunter, and he loves it,” Cummings said. “My husband competes a lot at the national level, and we do a lot of traveling around. He goes out several nights a week. I go with him quite a bit. I enjoy just being out there.”

The Cummings had the number one Walker reproducer, and Cheyenne and other hunters are well known in the sport regionally and nationally which helped bring the event here.

Cummings said she takes care of much of the organizational and secretarial aspects and that’s how she became president of the association. Their home club is the Lost Creek Coon Hunters of Seneca.

Coon hunting is a sport for women, men, and all ages. Many youths participated over the weekend according to Cummings, and casts are set for various levels of ability. Spectators are welcome.

“We had two little boys from Kentucky that competed all weekend long with the grown-ups,” she said. “They were out there all weekend long handling their dogs and striking a tree and competing with these grown men that have done this for years.”

The long-running event is a time to make new friends and connect with old friends and acquaintances.

“This is the one time of year that they may all see each other, some of the older gentlemen have been coming for years. This is the time they get to sit under the shade tree and visit with their old friends the only may see once or twice a year,” she said. “These guys have a great fellowship.”

The 4 State Coon Hunters Association will be hosting the UKC World Championship Semi-Finals on Sept. 15 and 16 at the Ottawa Tribal Grounds for qualification for the World Finals scheduled for Sept. 21, 22 and 23 in Elberton, Georgia.

“They have to place in the top ten of a regional qualifying event, and then from there are six, seven zones across the U.S. and they will hunt there. Out of those seven zones, 100 dogs advance to the UKC World Finals,” Cummings said. “So many don't understand the passion these men have for this and the money we bring into the community when we host events like this. Many bring their wives, kids, and grandkids. ”

Cummings said many stayed at area hotels, visited casinos, went to eat at Waylan’s KuKu restaurant, and spent time looking at area attractions such as the Coleman Theatre.

“We want them to have a good time while they're here in their down time,” she said. “ I think they all had a great time, and everyone was talking about what a pretty area we have here. And how friendly all the people in the area were. That’s a good compliment.”

For more information on coon hunting events and how to find or join a local club can be found ukcdogs.com

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.