Tourism is starting early for one community and benefiting the local economy. The Coon Hunters Kennel Club is hosting the World Hunt at Kenlake State Park all week in Marshall County that tourism officials say brings in thousands of dollars.
Since Monday, every evening competitors have gone out with their dogs, like Bluetick hounds, to find raccoons for points.
The hunt is not at Kenlake State Park. That’s where they register and draw a number that tells them where and who they will hunt with that night. Hunters can go as far as Metropolis, Illinois or Elkton, Kentucky.
The hunters are helping bring in $30,000 more than Kenlake Lodge would've otherwise had this time of year.
Group Sales Coordinator Tammy Nanney says the CHKC World Hunt made their busy season start a week early. It typically starts this Saturday.
“Normally you would hardly have anybody around. When you see these coon dogs here in the parking lot, and you hear them barking, that's money,” Nanney said.
She says all the resorts in the area have been at 60 percent to 100 percent of capacity since Sunday. She says they’ve hired back on their seasonal staff. Nanney added that a lot of the restaurants nearby are now open during the week instead of just the weekends.
Andrew Helton is hoping to win the $45,000 prize offered. He’s from eastern Kentucky.
“It costs a lot of money to come down here, but then if you win, you win a lot of money,” Helton said.
He came on Sunday and is hoping to find some time to fish on his boat, but he also really wants to win the hunt.
“My dog is getting old. His time getting there, so we are trying to become world champion one time,” Helton said.
The hunt is expected to bring in 700 to 1,000 hunters from as far as Michigan or Florida. Kentucky Lake Convention Visitors Bureau Director Randy Newcomb says each hunter will likely spend at least $1,000. He says that amount easily adds up if they've brought friends or family and are paying for a week-long stay, along with food and gas. KLCVB bid $3,000 to get the hunt to come back a second time.
President and CEO of CHKC Redgy Ramsey says they picked Aurora, Kentucky, because of its outdoor benefits.
“Man, I love it here. It's a home away from home,” Ramsey said.
CHKC is based out of Texas, but Ramsey has been hunting in the area for the past 20 years. It made Marshall County his choice when they started the World Hunt.
“It's going great, numbers are up,” Ramsey said.
Registration goes from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every evening. The hunt typically starts around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. and can last up to two hours. There are two rounds every night. The way it works is you get a certain number of points for the first dog to bark on a raccoon trail and then another set of points for a dog that trees a racoons. That means finding it, not killing the raccoon.
A coon hunter described the sport Wednesday as playing a game of chess with three other people, and said the dogs are the pieces.
To advance into the semi finals, which start Friday night, you have to win in an early and late round by Thursday night. From there, it's single elimination until a $45,000 winner is determined Saturday Night.
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