2012 PKC Treeing Walker Champion : American Cooner
Some wins come easily and the victory is sweet, but sometimes the win comes in the least expected way and those victories are even sweeter because of the surprise. That is exactly what happened in the case of P CH Deep South Memphis and her handler Toby Miller. Toby never dreamed that he would be bringing the title of Walker Day Champion home to Louisiana and to owner and good friend, Roger Dale Carnegie.
As a member and now the owner of PKC, Roger Dale has dedicated much of his life to this registry and to have one of his own dogs and handlers win is as big of a thrill for him as it is for any other member of PKC. It is even more meaningful when it is with a dog like Memphis and with a young man that he has known for many years.
Toby Miller began his experiences in coon hunting with Benjie Morgan. Benjie lives close to Toby and the two worked together. When Toby was around eighteen years old, Benjie got him involved with the sport and gave him his first dog. “I guess I started hunting in 1997. I have always liked being outside. I also have always been a dog person and enjoy anything with them. I enjoyed being in the woods with the dogs and it gave me something else to hunt.”
As with many of our PKC members, Toby pleasure hunted for a while before he branched into competition events. He also started with UKC before trying PKC. “I hunted with Benjie about three years before I started going to any competition hunts. It was late 1999 when I started going to UKC hunts with one of Benjie’s Black and Tans. In late 2000, I started with PKC. I did it because Benjie did it. He told me that I could go win a dust collector or go win some money in PKC. I started hunting dogs in PKC for Benjie.”
It would be at those events that Toby would meet Roger Dale Carnegie. Roger Dale shared what he thought of the young man. “Toby was a good kid. He never drank, cut up and carried on.” That impression was why Roger Dale took Toby on as a handler back then. It was a short run though.
“I hunted for Roger Dale about a year before I quit hunting. I had gotten married and did not feel that I would be able to hunt and travel like I was. I was going a lot then, so I quit all together.”
Toby would have his son Parker with his first wife. Sadly, the marriage ended in 2007, but two years later things would improve when he met his current wife Laurie. The two had their first child, Paisley, last October. Laurie would also become Toby’s coon hunting cheerleader and push him to start up again. It would be a surprise visit from an old friend that would be the catalyst for Toby’s reintroduction to the sport.
“My friend Levi Perret came by and asked if I wanted to go hunt with him. I said, ‘No.’ He asked why. I said, ‘If I go, I will want to get a dog and buy all the equipment I already sold.’ My wife told me I should go and I told her she didn’t know what she was getting into it. I told her, “If I get back into it, then I’ll go full force.’ She said that was fine. Brody Roberts was also there and I told him and Levi that they were my witnesses that she told me it was okay.”
Toby was right about what would happen and his wife was correct in her support of it all. “I started hunting again in late January 2010. After I went, I immediately started looking for a dog. I hunted for Ricky Allen for about two months and that is when I met Whit Harvey. Whit was hunting Memphis for Roger Dale. I told him that I was looking for a dog to handle and he said he would talk to Roger Dale. It was April of 2010 that Roger Dale actually let me take Memphis to my house and start hunting her.
Memphis was the perfect dog for Toby to start back with. The six year old Walker out of Rankin’s Stylish Clint and Perryman’s Stylish Clint had been purchased by Roger Dale in March 2008. Whit Harvey had hunted with the locally owned gyp and liked her. He shared his thoughts about her with Roger Dale and it was not long after that Whit was handling her for Roger Dale. Whit had much success with Memphis and when he decided to step back from the sport, Toby was in the position to take over. Toby liked what Memphis had to offer.
“Memphis is just one of those special dogs. She is really well-mannered and easy to control. I can turn her loose in the yard and she will be a pet during the day and play with my boy, but when it gets dark, she gets ready for business.”
Like Whit, Toby has also done well with Memphis in the hunts. “I got Memphis into the semi-finals of the 2010 Nationals. Then we got into the Final Four of the Breeder’s Showcase and the Winter Classic. Memphis was second in the Female Race finishing behind Karma. She has made the Top 16 of the Walker Breed and won the Louisiana State Race. We won over $7,000 last year.
This year, Memphis was $625 short of being a Platinum Champion. This win gave us almost $5000 for this year and made her one. This was the biggest hunt that we have won though.”
The win was not an easy one either. Memphis and Toby had some major highlights and lowlights on their casts at the Walker Championship. Toby and Memphis would start off drawing the dog that edged them out of the Top Female Race last year. “On our early round I had Slim Pickens and Karma. We turned loose and Memphis struck for 100 points. Slim then struck for 75 points and Karma for 50 points. We tightened up on the dogs. Karma treed for 100 points and Memphis split treed another coon for 100 points. When we pulled off, Slim had treed. It was a circle. We recut and at that time I was in the lead by 50 points.
Then Karma struck in for 100 points and Memphis for 75 points. Karma then treed for 100 points and I treed Memphis for 25 points. We walked into them and they had a coon. That put Karma with 350 and Memphis with 300 points. We pulled off and recut. As soon as we recut, Slim struck and treed for 100 points. Karma then struck for 75 points and Memphis for 50 points. Slim had a coon in his tree.
When pulled off Slim’s tree, we were a long ways from where we last heard Karma and Memphis treed. Then I made a bad call; I heard dog a dog treed, so I treed Memphis. I knew it was a mistake when I did it, we walked 50 yards and stopped and I could tell that it was not her. I told Robert Raxter, who was the judge, to minus me. Just as soon as I said ‘Minus’, he said, ‘Tree Karma.’ As we went into Karma, Memphis treed to the right of her. When we went into Karma’s tree, she was one tree over where she had treed the other coon.
We recut Karma and went to score Memphis. She had a coon. I am good at math and keep everyone’s score in my head; I knew that we were now tied, but that I had Robert on tree points. Karma came in and backed Memphis on that tree after it was dead.
After we pulled off, Slim struck for 25 points and treed for 100 points. Karma and Memphis were now leash locked with 27 minutes left in the hunt. We started walking to Slim and the whole time that we walked, I knew I would win if we stayed leash locked. I was hoping that the hunt would run out by the time we got to Slim’s tree. Robert thought that he had the cast won, so neither of us were hurrying. When we got there, Slim had a circle tree and he decided to withdraw.
We now had four minutes left to hunt and Mr. Robert said, ‘You are not going to make me recut with four minutes left are you?’ and I said, ‘No.’ So we start walking again and he says ‘I can’t believe you are not going to make me recut.’ I told him, ‘I have it won on tree points.’ Then he made me recut. Karma struck for 100 points and Memphis struck for 75 points, but they never treed. What saved me is that we both treed two coon solo, but when Memphis backed Karma, I had those 25 points that he had forgotten about.”
Memphis and Toby had made it through the early round by the skin of their teeth. Now he would be seeing what the Late Round held – just in terms of competition it was going to be quite a round! Toby had drawn Mike Carroll hunting Blaze, who had just annihilated his competition at the Nationals; Jeff Travis hunting Homer, who made Platinum Champion by the age of two; and John Lively hunting Little D, who has also made quite a name for himself. Toby knew it was not going to be an easy win at all!
“When we cut loose, I struck for Memphis for 100 points, Blaze was struck for 75 points, Homer struck for 50 points and Little D for 25 points. They went around the edge of field and Memphis acted like she was going to tree. Then she located and I don’t know if it was nerves or what, but I treed her for 100 points. She left! Here it is two and a half minutes into the hunt and I am already 100 points in the hole.
The dogs crossed the road and got to a creek. Memphis and Homer went down the creek and the Little D and Blaze went up it. John treed Little D, but he left. Now we both have 100 minus and the other dogs had zero. We tightened up on the dogs and John treed Little D again for 100. Blaze got treed in for 75 points and they were split about 25 yards apart. Both dogs had coons.
We pulled off and Blaze was sitting with 175 plus and Little D had 25 plus. When we recut, Memphis went back across the road toward where we turned loose. Homer went down the creek to the east. Blaze and Little D both struck for 25 points. Homer then came back in and came up to us. He took 50 minus. Then Little D gets treed for 100 points, but moves and takes 100 minus. We keep tightening up on the dogs and Memphis was steadily going the other way. Right before we got to the road, Blaze got struck in for 25 points and trees for 100. He now had 300 plus. Little D crossed the blacktop onto posted property and just as we get ready to call time, Homer comes back in and took another minus on strike. With one hour and eight minutes left in the hunt, the score was Blaze 300 plus, Memphis 100 minus, and both Homer and Little D have 75 minus. We called time.
As we were gathering up dogs to go back to where we turned out to start and cut them back loose, we were joking around. We talked about letting Mike and Blaze have first, so they could go back to the truck and then the rest of us could hunt for second, third and fourth. None of us thought we were going to catch him.
When we cut loose, Homer struck for 100 points, Memphis for 75 points, Blaze for 50 points and Little D for 25 points. They went in there and split. Little D went to the right, Blaze went up the middle, and Homer and Memphis went to the left. I was behind Jeff going up a hill, as soon as we get to the top, Jeff treed Homer. As soon as I got up to the top, I heard Memphis and treed her for 75 points. We started in toward those two. Then Blaze came in and took 50 minus on his strike. When we got to their tree, they had a coon. Now that put me at 50 plus, Homer at 125 plus, Little D holding 25 strike with 75 minus, and Blaze now had 250 plus and was restruck for 25 points.
We pulled off that tree and recut. As soon as we did, Mike treed Blaze for 100 points. We started into him and got about 150 yards from him when he shuts up and the two catches him. Now Blaze was back down to 150 plus. We started walking back the field to split the distance between the dogs when Blaze came in again and took minus. Blaze and Homer now both had 125 plus. Memphis had 50 plus points and Little D had 75 minus points.
Then we walked over the hill and Jeff treed Homer for 100 points. I sat back and waited because I never heard Memphis. Then Homer moved just enough for the judge to tell that he moved. Now Homer was at 25 plus points. As soon as he minused, Jeff retreed Homer for 100 points and I treed Memphis for 75 points. We walked in and it was a den. When we pulled off, there was like nine or ten minutes left in the hunt. At this time, I had 50 plus points, Homer had 25 plus points and Blaze had 125 plus points. John treed Little D, but he left so now he had 175 minus.
With about eight minutes left, they put the stationary on Blaze. He was in the same area where the two caught him. Mr. Mike had to tree him with three minutes left, so he treed him for 100 points. Memphis and Homer struck in for 25 points and are going to the left. We walked toward Blaze and as soon as the hunt was up, Blaze shuts up and they put the two minute on him. That catches him and made me the winner.
That is about as lucky as you can get. I did not think I had a snowball chance of winning this cast. Blaze dominated his casts at Nationals and for the first hour he made fools out of us too. We really don’t know what was going on with him in that area that caused him to minus.
What I do know is that I had gone from being fourth to being third for a long time, then Jeff made a call that bumped me up to second and I was thinking, ‘At least I have second.’ I know that when he treed Blaze and the time was working, it was the longest two minutes ever. When it caught him, they turned to me, looked and said, ‘You need to go to the casino because you were so lucky!’
I made a bad call to start with and that had to do with nerves and being anxious for 100 and 100 points on strike and tree. After that, I decided to hunt like it was a $25 hunt. If you know its right, tree; if not, don’t. I knew Memphis was not right on that one tree that Homer took 100 minus and that is what saved me.
This was not a typical win for a Top 16 Breed Hunt and really was more like a $25 win. I told Mike that I hated that it all happened the way it did because Blaze really did look better than the rest. I hate to take the win that way, but I will take it.”
Roger Dale was not in the woods watching how it all happened, but he was thrilled to hear how it ended. “I was tickled to death. This is the second time that I have ever won Walker Days and it was the first time as a solo owner. The first win was with Cindy that I co-owned with Kevin Turner.”
Toby Miller may have taken a break from coon hunting, but since his return, he has been truly ‘re-making’ a name for himself. Toby knows that this is only possible because of the people who have been there along the way. “I owe a lot to Benjie Morgan for getting me started. Then when I got back into it, I appreciate Whit talking Roger Dale into letting me hunt Memphis. I really want to thank Roger Dale for allowing me to handle for him and helping me do all this. Without him, I could not push and run a dog.
Most of all though, I have to thank my wife for letting me hunt the way I do. She knows that I love it and does not have a problem with me going. Even when our baby girl was born October 13th last year right before the World Hunt, she said, ‘I know you have it planned, just go. My mama will be here.’ She said that she would support me if I started going again and she meant it.”
Roger Dale is very happy with this hunt and his handler in it. “The hunt went wonderfully. I am glad that Toby started back hunting. He and I have had a special bond since he was a youngster.”
Walker Days is over and though Toby could not have predicted how it would all work out as it was going on, he and Memphis brought the honors home to Louisiana. It is all about timing and even when Toby could not picture returning to coon hunting in his life, you never know what time holds. Sometimes you don’t event know after the first hour of a hunt! Congratulations Toby and Roger Dale on being in the right places at the right times!
By Amy Thomas