Coon Hunting Veteran, Alan Kalal

American Cooner March 2012 CoverRecently I had several heart-to-heart conversations with veteran coon houndsman Alan Kalal, a staunch Treeing Walker breeder and supporter well known for his penchant toward fine females.  He’s got an interesting story to share, and it’s here… in these pages of American Cooner.

Sometimes it’s best to start at the beginning, and upon review of many notes generated through our discussions, that just seems the thing to do! So, without further ado, fifty-two year old Alan Kalal was born in the northern state of Minnesota to Ray and Jane Kalal of Prior Lake. His dad was a dairy farmer, but when Alan was at the tender age of two, Ray Kalal sold his farm and began working as a garbage collector.

Having been a lifelong coon hunter, it seemed only fitting that Alan develop interest in the sport, and by the age of six he started to tag along with his dad. Although it wasn’t very often at that age, it didn’t take long to set roots, and by the time young Alan was seven or eight years old, he became a more frequent shadow as he begged to go along.

By the time Alan was nine, his dad bought him a dog. Recalls Alan, “Dad got me a dog—my very own dog—and he was a grade bluetick male. I named him Smokey. He wasn’t that great of a dog, but he was all mine and I thought he was something special.”

Soon thereafter, however, the elder hurt his back at work and ended up having heart problems that sidelined him from the garbage collecting business. This thrust his earning potential in a different direction. Alan said, “Since he couldn’t do too much as far as work was concerned, he would travel down to the home of Leon Abbott in Huntingdon, Tennessee, and he’d buy three to five dogs at a time. Then he’d bring them back with him. I would hunt them and tell dad how they were in the woods and he would sell the hounds and go get a few more.

“And, while this was going on, I was working on neighboring farms and saving up my money to buy myself a new dog. You see, by now, that grade dog, Smokey, and I weren’t clicking, you might say. I was thirteen years old. Then, the day came when I made a trip down to Tennessee with my dad.

“When we got there, Mr. Abbott told me he had just the right dog for me. Then, he took me and showed me this three year- old Treeing Walker female.  He told me everything about her and right then and there, I bought my very first registered dog.

“I named her Kalal’s Minnesota Star. And then I started reading the magazines and told dad I’d like to try competition hunts and bench shows. At first, he wasn’t too up on that idea, but with quite a bit of begging from me, he gave in and soon thereafter, we went to my first show and hunt.

“That was a blast! Now, back in those days up here in Minnesota, there were mostly Blueticks, Black & Tans and Redbones, so I stuck out like a sore thumb with a Treeing Walker. Then, the fact I had a female was even more strange to people, because almost everyone hunted males in the hunts.

“And back in those days, the hunts were three-hour hunts.  So, all night long, I did a lot of learning even though I sure wasn’t winning. This learning came about, thanks to many of the good hunters of surrounding states, like Jim Rosenwald, Dave Nelson, Denny McNelius, and Clint Coburn, to name a few. These men always handled good hounds and they were never too good that they wouldn’t help me out with rules clarifications as we hunted. That first summer was a real learning curve for me. Then, when Star came in heat, I took my dad’s eight-year old female — her name was Kalal’s Minnesota Rose — and won my first hunt with her and also made her a Nite Champion.

“I didn’t hunt any more hunts that year, but instead pleasure hunted all fall and really studied and learned everything I could about Star. That winter, my dad and I took Star down to Missouri and bred her to Dual Grand Champion McCallister’s Finley River Banjo. A few months later, she had a litter of pups and it was the greatest thing to me to raise those puppies.

“As I recall, I sold all but two of the females that I kept for myself. When Star was ready to hunt again, it was off to the hunts and shows with her for me. In the very first hunt I entered her, we got a first place win. Then, I entered her in more hunts and shows until I needed a fifth place or better, and also a Best of Show to finish her to a Dual Champion.

“Well, luck was on my side, because in the very next show and hunt she did win her Best of Show and she also took third in the hunt. Star became my first Dual Champion. So, then I started working the two pups on the bench that I’d kept out of her and things worked very well with them. They both became Grand Champions and one ended up winning the 1977 Minnesota State Show.

“At that same State Hunt, I hunted with Clint Coburn and he told me about a female he had and said he’d sell her to me. Then, I went to Wisconsin to try her and I liked what I saw. Needless to say, I came home with her. Everything worked out fine with that deal, because a guy called and wanted to buy the two Grand Champion females I had. I sold them to him so that I could put all my time in my new female. I named her ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Beauty.

“I hunted her in the fall of 1977, and liked her a lot. That winter, I wanted to breed her, so dad and I again went to Missouri to the same dog I’d bred to Star. That was Dual Grand McCallister’s Finley River Banjo. And Beauty got heavy with pups that spring, so I had nothing to put in the hunts.

“While looking and reading in the magazines to find one to push while Beauty was out of commission, I talked with Ken McCurdy from Arkansas. He told me about a female he had, and since he was coming to Iowa, we met him there and I bought my next female. I named this one ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Cookie. She was one of the best pressure tree dogs that I have ever seen up to now.

“In the hunts, winning came easy for us. Well, that is, with the exception that we had trouble in getting that first place we needed to finish out. We won everything from third to tenth and had five second place wins, but we just couldn’t pull off that first place finish. I remember one night, I had the best night I’d ever had in a hunt and won the cast with a score of 900 plus, but the last cast to come in that night had 975 plus! We ended up with another second place.

“However, the very next week Cookie won her cast again and finally won her first place to finish to Nite Champion. By this time, Beauty had whelped her pups and I ended selling the litter. I got her back in shape and started campaigning her again and things started out good for us. We placed in a few hunts and at the 1978 Minnesota State Hunt she won first place on Friday night and second place on Saturday night, this finished her to Nite Champion. Beauty became my very first State Champion.

“At this time, I decided to push her harder and we entered some Nite Champion casts. We did manage to pick up a win that fall, but my goals were set to push her in the spring of 1979. That winter, I raised another litter, and this time it was out of Cookie.”

“Let me guess,” I interrupted. “Did you go to Banjo again?”

“Ha,” Alan laughed. “You bet. We made another trip to Missouri. This time, I decided to keep a female pup to try and train for myself. This was a new adventure, but I had to give it a try. And while waiting for Cookie to have her pups, I pushed Beauty in the hunts and finished her out. So, she became my very first Grand Nite Champion.

“Back to Cookie’s puppies. I studied them over and over and finally picked a little female. First, I started working her on the bench and then later on I worked her on drags and caged coons. I called that puppy ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Jodie.

“Things were working fairly well as we went along. Then, along came the spring of 1980, and I started to show Jodie. She finished quickly into a Show Champion, but I felt she needed more time to get ready for the hunts. By late summer, she won two first places and a fourth to finish to Dual Champion. Up to this point, Jodie was the hardest hunting dog I’d ever seen or owned.

“However, tragedy struck in 1981. That February, my dad had a heart attack and died — he was just 48 years old. Then, that spring, I took Beauty and Jodie out hunting, and on a tough night out there and on a bad track, Jodie was hit and killed by a car. Then, to make matters worse, I could tell something was wrong with Beauty.

“A month or so later, the vet said that she had diabetes and he suggested that she be put her down due to her age. I was wiped out at this point and decided to set back and take a little break in the action. I did hunt a few dogs in the hunts for some friends and finished them to Nite Champions, but I had nothing of my own.

“Then, I was at 1984 Walker Days and met Charles Strange from Ohio. He told me about a two-year-old female he had out of Dohoney’s Ringo and that she was really coming on. He was thinking of selling her and several phone calls later, we made a deal. This newest female was ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Candy.

“She was kind of like a turning point for me in the hunts. First of all, in four hunts, we won every cast. Let’s see, we went to a two-night Walker Sectional and she won fourth place Friday and second place on Saturday. Then, we went to the Minnesota State Championship and she won second place both nights.  But then, Candy died that late fall, due to a fungal bacterial infection in her lungs from water she had drank in the swamps. Now, I was again without a dog.

“This was a hard knock for me, but it was back to the drawing board. In the early summer of 1985, Mac McCallister called and told me about a female he had and he said I needed to come and hunt with her. I took his advice to heart and after one night of hunting with her, she was mine.

“When I got her home, I hunted her and learned her traits and when I decided to put her in the hunts, she won three places in a row. She won the 1985 Minnesota State Championship and went from nothing to Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Misty in ten total hunts. This is a record that I’ve never seen since.”

“Keep on rolling, Alan!” I exclaimed. “Way to go.”

“In the spring of 1987, a good friend of mine named Tom Pritchett called. He said that Paul Henderson had a female for sale, so I went to Oklahoma to try her and bought her. Winning started with this female right away as she won a first place in the very first hunt after that. She won third place and High Scoring Walker Female on Friday night of 1987 Walker Days. I called her Ch Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Lightning Star.

“This Star lost the Opposite Sex winner of Walker Days to a female owned by Freddy and Gerald Wells named Gr. Nite Ch. Wells’ Oklahoma Queen, and later that summer, I bought Queen from them. As that year went on, and into 1988, I also purchased Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Ridgeway’s Sundown Judy from Ricky Ridgeway of South Carolina. And, I bought Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Ketring’s Seven Mile Sue from Bob Ketring of Camden, Ohio.”

“You’d bred several litters of puppies by this time. Were you looking to continue along that path?” I wondered.

“Yes, that was definitely my intent. I bought these females for raising pups and began raising pups out of all five Grand Nite females I had with some very good success. However, as 1990 rolled around, I had purchased ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Crystal, a very nice female that was super in the woods, but she had an untimely death caused by fluid around her heart.

“Then, I got lucky enough to buy back a young female back out of Crystal and Dual Grand Champion House’s Lipper. And, for the second time, I got to experience three straight first place wins in a row. Also, she won the 1990 Minnesota State Championship, and this was my third State Champion Hunt title.

“In January 1991, I took Queen to the UKC Winter Classic, and she picked up her first Nite Champion win and was ten seconds away from High Scoring Dog of the Winter Classic. She made her Grand Nite Champion degree with five wins in five different states, those being Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota.

“After that, I purchased another Grand Nite Champion named ‘PR’ Neosho River Renegade, from Brian Schultz. I wanted to raise a litter out of her. Then, I’d say that over the next several years, things started to change at work with the hours we were putting in, so I sold Lightning Star, Renegade, Judy and Oklahoma Queen. And I gave Seven Mile Sue back to Bob Ketring, because I felt she’d make it into the Treeing Walker Hall of Fame and that Bob deserved to get the credit for her accomplishments. Misty had a stomach aneurism that burst and so she was put down.

“With all the hours at work, things in the home life weren’t going well and ended with divorce in 1993. I sent Minnesota Queen up to Canada to my good friend Dave Campbell. She then ended up with tumors on her and Dave had surgery done on her up there. She survived and lived to 12 years old before the cancer came back.

“It was time to regroup. I threw myself into my work, but was soon missing the hunting, and eventually I just couldn’t stand it. I did hunt several dogs in the hunts for people from time to time, like Schultz’ Stylish Coma, but didn’t have a dog of my own. Then, I received a call from a friend named Rick Emerson.

“He wanted me to hunt his male, Gr. Ch. Gold Dust Hammering Hank, in the hunts, and this sounded good to me. I finished Hank into a Nite Champion with two first place wins and an eighth place at 1997 Walker Days.

“Rick was responsible for an even bigger change, as he introduced me to a great lady named Kristi. She had three little children when we began dating. On December 11, 1998, we were married. This put me into a situation with two stepdaughters, Kylie and McKenzie, and a stepson, Logan, but no dogs! Well, that had to change, too.

“I found out that a friend of mine named Greg French had a full sister to the Hammering Hank dog. He bred her to Grand Nite Champion Rock River Tell Sackett and I called him to book a female pup. He told me I had the third pick female and that was fine with me.

“In 2000, Rick Emerson called and said he had a started female out of Hammering Hank that he just got back and that he’d sell her to me. That was just what I needed — a young dog and a pup to start out with again. Rick and I worked the pup and she was a natural. This dog was called ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Insane Jane and the pup was ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Destiny in the Wind.

“My very good friend, Pat Kerr of Oklahoma, wanted to train Destiny and campaign her in the shows at the national level, so we agreed to give it a try for the year of 2000. I knew that with Destiny’s natural talent in the woods, it wouldn’t take very long to finish her as far as the hunts were concerned.

“This gave me more time to work Jane in the woods. Pat had an extremely successful year with Destiny as they won Queen of Show at the Ada, Oklahoma Walker Sectional, Supreme Female at the Lee Crawford Invitational, Queen of Show of Walker Days and she was the first Silver PKC Champion in the history of PKC.

“I worked and hunted Jane and she made Dual Grand Champion with ease as she won 2001 Walker Days and came back the next year and to win second place in the Lee Crawford Invitational Hunt. Unfortunately, Jane was my second dog to have her life shortened by a car, when she was killed at the age of four.

“Destiny was done in the shows. My friend, John Simota, helped me hunt her during the week while hours at work kept me out of the woods, and she won first place in the very first hunt she was entered in and she too marched her way to the 2001 Minnesota State Championship and also finished to Dual Grand in the summer of 2003.

“I raised several litters out of Destiny and she produced several Dual Grand Champions out of several different stud dogs. She died when she was twelve years old and has been missed deeply.” “Did you ever keep any of those puppies?” “One of the dogs I bred to her was World Champion, Dual Grand Champion X, Jr. and I kept the pick of litter female from that cross. I called her ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Destiny’s Babe, and like her mother, she was a natural. Babe wasted no time in making her mark in the winners circle. She finished out to Dual Grand Champion. However, Vickie, she became my third dog to get killed on the road.

“This time it was surely and absolutely a freak deal. Babe was killed on a little township gravel road that was traveled by maybe five cars a day. But, I guess when your number is called it’s over. When that happened, I was thinking that maybe I needed to forget about hunting dogs and that somebody was trying to tell me something.

“Instead, I found a female down in Ohio that went from nothing to Dual Grand Champion in one year’s time. That was Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Anne. And, I plan on raising a litter of pups out of her in the future as work allows. “And, Vickie, believe it or not, this brings me to my new prospect for 2012. I’ve got a two-year-old female named ‘PR’ Kalal’s MN Psyched Up Miss Pac Man. I’m very excited about her talents in the woods. Hopefully, we can team up and have some fun this year!” For some additional history, Alan had graduated from high school in 1978 and then went right into construction work at an asphalt company. For nine years he owned and drove a truck. Then, he moved on as a laborer on an asphalt crew and he’s been foreman of a crew for the past six years. He worked at McNamara Contracting for 30 years and moved on to Bituminous Roadways four years ago. Shared Alan,

“I have a high loyalty for work and the company that I work for, and work always comes first and foremost before the dogs. Sometimes, that can cause some problems, since construction is seasonal work in Minnesota, but they try and work with me as far as the dogs are concerned and usually something is arranged.”

“Alan, please give Cooner readers some thoughts on breeding,” I urged. “Well, in breeding or strains, by now you probably can tell I hunt only females. I have always been partial to the Finley River and Spring Creek Rock strains. I always liked them for the cold nose, tracking and drifting ability and above all their locating and accuracy of having the coon. All my females have gone back to these strains one way or another.

“In breeding, I’ve bred Dual Champion Kalal’s Minnesota Star, Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Cookie, and Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Beauty to Dual Grand Champion McCallister’s Finley River Banjo. These crosses have produced Grand Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Sally and Grand Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Nancy, Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Credit River Peaches, Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Finley River Lucky, Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Finley River Hatchet, and Dual Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Jodie. These dogs, along with some others that also titled out, became some nice dogs and some of them were very good coon dogs.

“I then took Dual Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Jodie and bred her to Dual Grand Champion Red Oak Lightning and this cross produced several nice hounds but I can’t remember the titled names. I bred Champion, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Lightning Star to World Champion, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Bellar’s Pac Man, Dual Grand Champion Houses’s Lipper and Dual Grand Champion Deanwood Drifter and these crosses produced some nice hounds with Deanwood Drifter crossing the best and producing two Dual Grands.

“And, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Misty, Gr. Nite Ch. Wells’ Oklahoma Queen, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Ridgeway’s Sundown Judy, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Ketring’s Seven Mile Sue, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Neosho River Renegade and ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Crystal all were crossed with Dual Grand Champion House’s Lipper. They produced many Nite and Grand Nite Champions like Dual Grand Champion Lipper’s Mac, Grand Nite Champion Lipper’s Image, Dual Grand Champion Lipper Hardwood Gun, Nite Champion Seven Mile Huck, Grand Nite Champion Kalal’s Minnesota Queen, Grand Nite Champion Fast Lane, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Bonnie and Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Bad Sally, just to name some of them that come to mind. “

Grand Nite Champion Kalal’s Minnesota Queen was crossed with Grand Nite Champion Yadkin Tar Rattler and this was a good cross. Out of it came an extra special female that made Grand Nite in Kansas. Queen was bred to Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Minkler’s Kansas Dancer and Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Rock River Sackett, but never settled to have a litter out of either of these fine stud dogs. “Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Destiny in the Wind was bred to World Champion, Dual Grand Champion X, Jr. and Dual Grand Champion Hardwood Elvis  Attack, with huge success. Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Money’s Little E and Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Destiny’s Babe are a few of those pups.

“As far as suggestions, I’d say that one thing to always remember, in my opinion, is this: Do not breed a female until she is finished in the woods. When she’s a coon dog, study the breeding. Look to find the weak points of your female and try and get them corrected with the strong points from the stud dog.

“But, always keep in mind that no matter how hard you try to breed the right way, you’ll not always have success. There will be some crosses you make that won’t always turn out to be what you expected. That’s just part of the game. “I do believe that some of the new hounds of today are getting to be too heavily line bred and the people are counting how many times a minute the dogs barks up a tree, without giving consideration to whether that dog can tree a coon.”

“Thanks Alan. Now, give us some high points of your favorite dogs, if you will.” “Well, let’s see. As for favorite dogs, I have several that I had the pleasure of hunting with or against, now that you ask that question. World Champion, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Bellar’s Pac Man was something else to watch perform in the woods. “I’ll never forget one year at Walker Days when Pac Man and Striker, both owned by Russ Bellar, drew out in the same cast and I was the non-hunting judge. It was quite a show to say the least. I got to hunt with Pac Man on several occasions and he was always a very consistent dog from tailgate to tree.

“Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Spring Creek Black Jack, owned by Randy Zwahlen of Kansas, was a great-looking dog had that big beautiful bawl track mouth with a dying locate and roll over to hard steady chop on the tree. I got to judge him the night that he won the first annual Lee Crawford Invitational. Another dog that impressed me was Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ Smokey Mountain Hannah, owned by Kenny Mason. I judged her at the UKC World Championship finals and this female was a dominant force from the time the clock started clicking until the hunt was over.

“Possibly my most recent favorite has to be World Champion, Grand Nite Champion ‘PR’ House’s Mr. Clean, owned by Bryan Whitted. I served as one of the Master of Hounds on the final cast of the 2010 UKC World Hunt and Mr. Clean’s speed and coon-treeing ability was simply spectacular.”

“Okay then… can you single out one dog that is your favorite hound of all time?” “Man, that’s a tough one, Vickie. Every dog has his or her own characteristics and personality. If I had to pick just one, it would have to be Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Destiny in the Wind. She had the looks to com- pete on the national level with extreme success. She was a natural to train and she had that big booming male dog mouth, and she could stand the pressure on the tree. Destiny was accurate as can be, and you never wondered if she had the coon, because you knew she did. As a mother, she was the best as she never lost a puppy. And as a reproducer, she threw everything from big game dogs and coon dogs to Dual Grand Champions. She was a dog that had it all rolled together in one animal, and I was blessed to be the lucky guy to own her for her entire life.”

“What were your most meaningful wins over the years?” “This is another one that will be hard to say, because they all mean something special to me. And I’m talking way back to that first hunt that I ever won with my dad’s old female and winning the first hunt with my very own female. Maybe I could say that winning four State Hunt Championships and seven State Show Championships were most meaningful, or winning other breed sectionals.

“And, placing in Walker Days, the Lee Crawford Invitational and the UKC Winter Classic all are extremely meaningful, but I have to admit that winning 2001 Walker Days has to be the Highlight of what I have done to date. I remember that night like it was yesterday, and I will never forget the feeling with thirty minutes left to hunt and I felt that we had enough points to possibly win Walker Days. Man, that half hour seemed like two hours to me!” “Thanks. Now, talk to us about your feelings on bench shows, since you do both so well.” Alan didn’t have to think on this.

“Okay, well, I think bench shows are important for the hounds. They should be of the breed standard to be able to perform in the woods, and a dog must have the correct conformation and movement in order to be able to hunt hard and keep hunting hard. They need correct angulation and reach to really fulfill their potential in drive, stamina and speed.”

“How about special bench show moments?” “Vickie, basically the entire year 2000 would answer that question, with Destiny winning Queen of Show at Ada, Oklahoma Walker Sectional, Winning Supreme Female at the Lee Crawford Invitational, Winning Queen of Show at Walker Days, dominating the PKC circuit the entire year and being the very first PKC Silver Champion. This sticks out as a special moment, but winning State Championships are very special too.”

“How do you prepare your dogs for the bench?” “When you approach training a dog for shows, it takes lots of time working and training you dog to gait properly, and then in getting the dog to pose and hold while being judged. As for tips for beginners, always remember to read and know the breed standard for your dog.

“Work you dogs everyday at least once, if not more than that, when you’re first staring out. As your dog gets more comfortable with the training, make sure you still work them at least once a day for a period of fifteen minutes or so. And, always give your dog a bath before every show. Never show a dirty dog. “The biggest and the most important piece of advice is that whatever you do, make sure that you learn how to be a good loser. And this is because you’re going to lose a whole lot more that you’ll ever win. If you’re good at losing, then you’ll be great at winning.”

“And this brings me to the next logical question. What are your thoughts on competition hunting?” “Vickie, I love the competition. To me, there’s nothing more enjoyable or exciting than going hunting with two or three other handlers and their hounds. And special moments? They include everything from winning backyard club events to State and National levels. It simply doesn’t matter what level … in order to get a dog ready for competition, you must hunt hard and have your dog ready to perform.

“And this doesn’t happen by sitting in a kennel or on the end of a chain. If you take them and expect to do much with them, it always helps for both you and your dog to be in shape and ready. “Things you want to look for in a competition dog are that you want one that has some independence. If nothing is  going on and another dog starts a track, you also want your dog to get in there to help out and possibly tree the coon. You want to have a pressure tree dog, one that will stay once you put them on the paper. Most important is that you need a dog that will tree you coon and not tree you trees. Remember, if you don’t have the eyes looking down at you there will be not plus points. “Tips for the beginners would be to read and study the rules. Hunt your dog hard, and know your dog’s track and tree mouths. Read and study the rules. Call your dog for what he or she is doing. Last but not least, did I say read and study the rules?!

More times than not, people think they’re getting cheated by someone in the hunts and mostly it’s simply because they don’t understand the rules. If you’re in a hunt and think something is not right, go ahead and ask a question. If you don’t agree, put a question on the card and leave the Master of Hounds or Hunt Director to make a final rule on it. The main thing is that you don’t get all worked up in the woods, because that won’t solve anything.” “

How about some comments on dual dogs?” “Vickie, I’ve always thought it cost the same to feed a goodlooking dog as it did to feed an ugly one, so I chose to always try to have a good-looking dog. I enjoy taking one dog to the show and showing it, and then go into the clubhouse and enter the same dog in the hunt. I’ve always been a big fan of dual-purpose dogs. “A good thing is that if you have a young dog, do your training on the bench, and if your dog is not ready for the hunts, go ahead and take him to some shows. If you’re lucky, you can finish your young dog to be a Grand Champion and the showing is already done with. This way you can pound your hound extra hard in the woods and you don’t have to worry about scars or cuts that may bother some judges.

“A good tip for people is to remember that some days we all feel better than other days. Some days we work harder than other days. It’s the same with your hound. There will be days your dog will show better than others and there will be nights that your dog will hunt better and perform better than others. Never get discouraged and always remember that next week there is another show and hunt to go to and try again.”

“You’ve been on the road a lot. Can you give some pointers for new people on this part of the hunting and showing on our dogs?” “I like to stop and leave them out of the dog box every three to four hours. Some dogs don’t travel near as well as others, and it may take you a few trips to calculate how your hounds are doing from the traveling. Some do just fine and then there are some that could take up to a couple of days to get back to normal.”

“In traveling and choosing events, in my opinion, I feel everyone should support their State and Breed Associations. The local clubs should have club members that will travel throughout the state and patronize other clubs help to keep the clubs strong. “My favorite hunt will always be Walker Days. It has brought so many special personal things to me. I’ve won the Outstanding Member Award twice, and have won Hunter of the Year. The membership has voted my Dual Grand Champion ‘PR’ Kalal’s Minnesota Insane Jane into the Treeing Walker Hall of Fame.”

“Overall, what does the coonhound sport mean to you?” “The sport of coon hunting is a very big part of my life, and I try to do as much of it as I possibly can. This sometimes means helping out with events, or finding a dog for someone, or going hunting with friends. Many changes have occurred in the last forty years with the style of dogs, hunting ability, the population and houses everywhere and it’s harder to find places to hunt. This is always getting to be a real challenge.

“I believe that this one of the main reasons you see the twohour hunts versus the three-hour hunts. There are plenty of nights you are out in the woods and wondering if it’s worth it, but I would do it all over again.”

“What about special events and people this sport, and what they’ve brought into your life?”

“Again, as far as special events, I’d say Walker Days and also the New Youth Extravaganza put on by the Treeing Walker Breeders and Fanciers Association. These are perhaps two of the greatest events that I try to make every year. There is not a more heartwarming experience to me than to take in and see the kids do their best and try to win with their dogs.

“I’ve made many youth friends through the years, but I have two I’d like to mention. They are Alexa Heiser and Lauren Lester, and both of these young ladies are from Indiana. Many grownups could take notice on how these two youths win, and more importantly on how they lose. I know that Alexa is now off to the Navy and I would like to wish her the best of luck with that. Lauren just turned fourteen and we will be seeing a lot more of her in the future no doubt. It is an honor to me to be able to call these two youths dear friends and I will cherish their friendships forever.”

“Highlights of your life?”  “Having a healthy family is important. My parents are both departed, and I have a brother, Gary, married to Lori, has one daughter named Jackie and two sons, Jeremy and Adam. Gary and his sons are pheasant hunters and they also love ice fishing. Jeremy is married to Angela and they have a one-year old son named Cooper. I have a sister named Karen that’s married to Cary Havlicek, and they have two daughters, Cassie and Callie, both of whom are married, and there is one grandson. Another sister, Darlene, is divorced and has two sons, Calvin and Colon, and two daughters, Kalyn and Kylee, with one grandson. And my family with Kristi has already been mentioned and means everything to me.

“It’s important to recognize always having safe travels to and from work and the hunts, and having a hound that can run and tree me a coon every now and then. But the greatest highlight of all to me is the friendships life has brought to me in this coonhound world. Yes, sometimes we can agree to disagree, but in the end we are still friends. Being asked to judge the 2000 Autumn Oaks Show, 2005 UKC World Show, 2009 UKC Winter Classic Show and being hired by UKC in 2008 to be one of their Field Reps … these are all highlights. “I’ve held office at local clubs like the Minnesota Coon and Fox Club and at the Crane Creek Coon Hunters Club. I’ve held several different offices or been a director of the Minnesota State Coon Hunters Association since the start of the association.

“In 1981, I received a call about being put on the Board of Directors of the Treeing Walker Breeders and Fanciers Association. I did accept and have been either a board member or an officer of this fine association ever since. That amounts to 32 years and it’s been filled with some ups and downs, but mostly ups and that is a good thing for the membership and the breed.

“I’ve been involved with the TWBFA under Presidents Lee Crawford, George Yazel, Alan Snedegar, Duane Clark and Tony Martin. Working under these men was quite beneficial and a great learning experience and now that I’m President, I would say that I’ve had big shoes to fill following these past presidents.

“Being involved with a large association takes lots of work and dedication from the Board of Directors. I couldn’t ask for a better Board. Changes have come with new ideas and everyone works in harmony to make sure that the membership is treated fairly and with respect.

“We have two directors that brought up the Youth Extravaganza, including Mike Carmack and Tom Lechlitner. These two men are very influential to putting this hunt on every year. The youth winning the bench show and the youth winning the night hunt each win a $1000 scholarship. At Walker Days, we give back to the hunters an estimated $15,000 in prizes. There’s also the new pup hunt on Thursday night which is UKC licensed; it’s for two-year old pups and younger. We give away cash for a cast win, plus point cast winners get championship points, and if they are performance pups they will receive performance points. The final four go out and hunt off for an hour to determine the cash prizes for the top four places, so it’s a win-win situation for all that enter.

“Being involved in the TWBFA is something that is very humbling. I cannot even begin to name all the great friends that I have met over the past 30+ years. I know that you all know who you are, and I appreciate each and every one of you.

“And I want to close this by once more giving thanks for my family and my friends. Good luck to all newcomers, for this is a great sport and one I hope continues. See you at the hunts!”