Two Cherokee County youths made history at the 2019 Coon Hunters Kennel Club Youth World Championship in Ada last week.
Cousins Justus Gower, 12, and Cash Trammel, 11, worked tirelessly every night of June 12-15 to win Youth World Champion and Youth Reserve World Champion awards, respectively. The boys each won a trophy and an all-terrain vehicle, worth over $6,000.
"It's a big deal for a kid to win this," said Jimmy Gower, Justus' grandfather and Cherokee County Coon Hunters Club vice president. "It's hard work. They have to spend a lot of nights in the woods."
During the tournament, both winners worked with blue-tick coon hounds that were loaned to them. Justus worked with "Curlee Jane," loaned by Chance Irving, and Cash worked with "Blue Josie," loaned by Trey Melton, Cherokee County Coon Hunters Club president.
"I wanted the dog and the boy to get the chance to win," said Melton. "I'm just proud and enjoyed every minute of it. Truthfully, I almost didn't go. At the last second, plans changed. It feels like it was meant for us to go."
According to Melton, training for the hunt is no easy feat.
"You have to know how to listen to your dog," said Melton. "Cash has hunted with her before, so he was familiar. He trained with her two or three nights before the championship to prepare."
As president and vice president of the Cherokee County Coon Hunters Club, both Gower and Melton are committed to preserving the county's tradition of hunting.
The sport has been passed down through generations, with Justus and Cash learning from their family while growing up together.
"It's a dying part of our culture," said Gower. "You start a young dog and train them to hunt. It's a great experience for kids to get involved with that keeps them out of trouble."
Melton maintains that none of this would be possible without help from family and friends.
"A special thanks to Dylan Hood, Tayzen Cummings, Jimmy Gower for hauling us there and the whole CHKC staff," said Melton.
For information on the 2019 CHKC Youth World Championship, visit www.coonhunterskennelclub.com.