Tribune-Courier News Reporter
Hundreds of hunters from all over the nation gathered at Kenlake State Park last weekend for the Professional Kennel Club Breeders’ Showcase hosted by Hardin’s Twin Lakes Coon Club.
“Aurora, Kentucky, Twin Lakes Coon Club, the host club for Aurora, made this organization what it is today, because it’s the center of the United States,” said TLCC Vice President T.A. Evans.
Jarvis Umphers, founder and former owner of PKC, said the group kept coming back to Aurora for the past 20 years because it’s a central location, but that’s not the only reason.
“West Kentucky has always been receptive to what we do. We’ve always been welcome in Kentucky and that’s another reason we keep coming back,” Umphers said.
Evans said the hunters also love Aurora because there are many family-oriented activities. He said the hunters could spend the day with their families out on the lake or at one of the many local attractions then compete at night. Or, the family could attend the hunt, and many do.
“It’s a family thing,” Evans said. The hunters can take their children, wives, extended family and friends with them for the hunt.
Umphers said it’s not unusual for about four or five people on the ground per dog. “Vendors, wives, girlfriends, kinfolks and children come to the hunt too. A lot of people come to fellowship,” Umphers explained.
Family and fellowship is the reason Evans became a hunter and the reason he continues to hunt today.
Evans said he started following his dad around when he was about 3.
“Up until about two-and-a-half years ago, that’s what I did to spend time with my dad,” he said.
Since his father’s passing, he continues to hunt in honor and in memory of his father.
Evans said he is the fourth generation of coon hunters; Evans’ great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all coon hunters.
As for the fellowship, Evans said he has friends from here to Texas.
Umphers said that if he were to parachute anywhere in the eastern U.S., he’d be within 20 miles of a friend. Once on vacation with his wife in Canada, he found there was a fellow hunter who lived nearby. The man invited Umphers and his wife for a cup of coffee at his home, and Umphers said the man knew the name of every dog Umphers had owned.
“It’s a close fellowship that we enjoy and this is where we meet to do it,” Umphers said.
The PKC encourages young hunters by offering scholarships.
“We give somewhere around $30,000 in scholarships to young hunters who can learn our rules and take care of their dogs and earn the right to come,” Umphers said.
Umphers explained that each youth who wins receives about $4,000 to help with the cost of college, but a few have been allowed to use those funds for various trade schools as well.
Evans said coon hunting is great for anyone, but especially beneficial for teenagers.
“It saved me from so much trouble growing up. If I wasn’t introduced to coon hunting at an early age, ain’t no telling where I’d be today. I praise God every day that my dad got me into coon hunting,” Evans said.
Evans explained that drugs and alcohol are not a concern because they’re not allowed. He also said that weapons are not a concern because the handlers do not carry weapons for the competitions.
“We do not shoot a coon. We don’t even have a weapon. Killing the coon is the last thing of importance. The dog is what’s important,” Umphers said. “Everything you do is keyed toward making the dog better. That’s what this sport is all about.”
Evans competed with a 3-year-old female, Get Your Shine On, in the Senior Division. Evans said Shine was raised and trained by her owner and Evans’ friend, Jed Finley.
Evans explained that he enjoys competitive hunting but he wasn’t able to hunt often, due to expense and the time he would spend away from his family.
For perspective, Shine would sell for about $10,000. Dogs that win the world hunt could bring in as much as $50,000 or $75,000.
In addition to the dog, there are entry fees and travel costs.
Evans said he couldn’t justify spending that much money on his passion knowing that there were things his family needed. “I wasn’t raised to be that selfish,” Evans said.
Now, Finley sends Evans a dog to hunt and pays expenses and entry fees. But if Evans wins, he gets to keep the reward.
Competitive coon hunting is not the only opportunity. Many members of local clubs pleasure hunt as well.
“We’re out there fellowshipping with other people and trying to have a good time...and would welcome anybody with open arms,” Evans said.