The event called “Nite Hunt” is the most popular of all coonhound events. “Nite” is a funny way of spelling “night” that has been passed down through the years. Nite Hunts are held by coon hunting clubs that request a license from American Kennel Club. The license gives the club permission to hold the event and to award points toward championship titles for the winning dogs.
The history of Nite Hunts begins in 1945 when soldiers returned from World War II. They wanted to create a game to play with their coonhounds to see whose dog was better at hunting, trailing, and treeing raccoons. A system for judging the dogs was developed and the first Nite Hunt events were held.
Nite Hunts have a judge, a guide, four coonhounds and their handlers. This group of hounds and hunters go out to a hunting spot that is determined by the guide. There they hunt for one or two hours. The dogs are released and scored like this: The first dog to find the trail of a raccoon and barks is awarded 100 “strike” points. The second dog is awarded 75 strike points, the third 50 strike points, and the last dog is awarded 25 strike points.
The dogs must unravel the trail of the raccoon and find the tree that the raccoon has climbed to escape the dogs. When the tree is found, the dogs begin to bark up the tree at the raccoon. The first dog to find the tree is awarded 125 “tree” points, the second dog is awarded 75 tree points, the third dog is awarded 50 tree points, and the last dog to bark “treed” is awarded 25 tree points. The handlers must know their dog’s bark well enough to know when it is on trail and when it is treed.
Once all the dogs are treed, the group of hunters, called the “cast” goes to the tree to find the raccoon. The hunters shine lights into the tree and have 8 minutes to find the raccoon. Sometimes the raccoon is found by the reflection of its eyes in the light. Once the raccoon is found, the dogs are given a plus “+” sign beside their score. If it can be plainly seen that no raccoon is in the tree, the dogs are given a minus “-“sign beside their score. The raccoon is not disturbed and is left in the tree to provide more fun on the next cast. When the hunting time has been completed, minus points are subtracted from plus points to determine the dog’s total score. The dog with the most “plus” points is the “cast winner.” A dog must win five casts with plus points in order to earn his Nite Champion title.
Nite Hunt Terms
Cast – The group of three or four hunters and their hounds that are selected to compete with each other for one or two hours.
Cast Winner – The dog that has the most plus points is the cast winner. Five cast wins with plus points, earns the Nite Champion title.
Draw out - The cast is drawn by placing each hunter’s entry slip face down on the table. No one knows who he or she will be hunting against until the cast is drawn.
Fun – What you and your coonhound have when you compete in a Nite Hunt.
Guide – The guide is responsible to take the cast hunting to a safe spot where the dogs may compete for one or two hours. The guide is responsible to stay with the cast until all dogs are recovered at the end of the cast.
Hunt Committee – A group of three members selected by the club to make decisions and settle disputes that may occur on the Nite Hunt.
Hunt Director – The Hunt Director is in charge of the Nite Hunt. He or she oversees the taking of entries, the drawing of the casts and the filing of reports of the winners to AKC.
Judge – The judge is the scorekeeper for the cast. The judge keeps track of the time and the scores of each dog. The judge’s decision may be changed if the majority of the cast members agree to do so.
Strike points – Points that are awarded to a dog that finds the trail of a raccoon and barks. Strike points are awarded in this order: 100, 75, 50, and 25.
Title – A title is a certificate issued by AKC that says the dog is a Champion. Champion titles appear at the beginning of the dog’s name on the AKC registration papers.
Tree points – Points that are awarded to a dog that finds the tree the raccoon has taken to escape the dogs and barks. Tree points are awarded in this order: 125, 75, 50, and 25.