Layne Leverette Story

Jun 3rd, 2021 | By | Category: News

l6q7lRzBy ZOË HAGGARD – zhaggard@t-g.com

Printed with permission from the Shelbyville Times Gazette

 

Shelbyville resident Layne Leverette and his dog earned first place in a prestigious Coonhound hunt in Shelburn, Ind., the weekend of May 23, beating 31 other dogs and winning a total of $100,000.

It was the largest prize ever won by a Coonhound, according to Layne’s wife Mandy.

This isn’t Leverette’s first big win. Rather, he’s had several well-deserved wins, such as in 2016 when he and his dog, Fireproof Clone, won $12,000 at the 2016 PKC Reserve National Championship. And then again in 2019 when another dog, Loose Tin Frank, won $10,000 and came in 3rd at the World Hunt.

So, what’s his secret?

“Hunting—every night,” he said. “Bad weather, cold weather . . . . We work all day, we hunt, get very little sleep. It’s another job to do it.”

You’ve got to be relentless, Leverette said. Coon hunting is not a lazy man’s sport. You’re out there constantly battling the elements, walking as much as 10 miles in one night.

So, why keep at it?

“ ‘Cause I love it. It’s who I am. This sport that we do—coon hunting—it’s kind of a heritage,” Leverette said.

Perhaps, the late country music artist, Jerry Clower, famous for his Coonhound trilogy, “Knock Him Out John,” would have agreed.

As a profession, Leverette trains Tennessee Walking Horses in Shelbyville. And the consistency and dedication it takes to raise first-rate horses is used for raising winning Coonhounds, he says.

“Horses, dogs—that’s our heritage. We grow up doing it. It’s what we do; it’s who we are,” he said.

Checkmate
As for the dog, her name is Checkers. She’s a Treeing Walker, the most popular kind of Coonhound.

Leverette said his partner, Mike Young, bought Checkers in Alabama two years ago when she was 2 years old. He’s been training her in Shelbyville ever since.

About a month ago, Checkers won an Alabama state hunt. But the last week’s competition was the first major one Leverette and Checkers won together.

“There ain’t no special tricks to it…If you’ve got a good dog, and you keep him in good shape, he’ll be a good dog. If he ain’t no good, then he ain’t no good,” he said.

To find the best possible Coonhound, Leverette said he and his partners look for a big mouth and a clear, distinct bark as handlers have to know their dogs’ calls once a raccoon is treed.

But most importantly, the dog has to have a lot of heart and drive.

“That dog has to be just like us, relentless. She can’t quit,” Leverette said.

Rules of the game
Leverette said he’s been coon hunting since age 15 and got into competition hunting as he got older. Today, said he’s won around $100,000 in lifetime earnings through being a part of the Professional Kennel Club (PKC), the most popular coon hunting industry.

The past weekend’s competition was with a new group called Pro Sport, started by Greg Maynard, Scott Engle, and Levi Stephenson.

Each dog had to compete in four-dog casts, beating the other three in an elimination style competition—and with a little luck, too.

“When they took the entries, there was over 100 people entered. So, they put them on a wheel, and spin, and one through 32 is the ones that got the entries…And, fortunate, we were ones that got in,” he said.

The competition began at nightfall with the 32 dogs competing in eight four-dog casts. The eight winners then went on to compete in four two-dog casts, which led to the final two two-dog casts.

Now, the raccoons are not killed. Therefore, winners are determined on a point system: 4 dogs, 100 strike points, then 75, 50, and 25. The dog that strikes first, by treeing a coon, gets the most points.

And Checkers got the most—again and again and again.

“Ain’t no words . . . ain’t no words,” Leverette said.

But it takes work—and much like an athlete, these Coonhounds are exercised regularly and given the best treatment.

“My dog kennels are immaculate. They get the best feed money can buy . . . best everything,” he said.

And even though the competition has only been over for a little more than a week, Leverette said he and Checkers would get back into hunting the next night.

It’s so these dogs can keep running five miles at 10 mph and never have to catch a long breath, Leverette said when talking about his other winning dog Loose Tin Frank.

Family activity
Leverette said it’s not a sport for everyone. It requires cooperation with everyone around.

“Coon hunters is kind of like a cult; they stick together. It’s a family thing,” Leverette said. He often takes his son, 21, and his daughter, 13, out to hunt with him at night.

Such cooperation also has to work even between Leverette and his wife.

“We’ve got two new babies . . . dark comes 8:30, 9 o’clock, you know, I’m headed out to go hunting. But she knows it, and it ain’t easy on her. She has to tend to a lot of things by herself,” he said.

But it’s worth it in the end—not just for the money (which is a perk sure enough), but also for the community support.

“You know what was even more special than winning the money . . . I had people texting me at 3 o’clock in the morning, ‘Hey, man, congratulations.’ People calling and calling and calling and texting—stayed up and watched it all night. That’s what was amazing to me,” he said.

But as for the money, Leverette said he’s going to split it with his partner. “I just put it in the bank and get back to work.”

 

Printed with permission from the Shelbyville Times Gazette

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