The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

March 15, 2014

The king of the LBL

Kevin Murphy brings experience, friendliness to Ky. squirrel hunt

Sometimes in life, we as hunters and fishermen are blessed to meet someone on the trail who is a real gem, someone you know from the start is going to be a friend, one of your crew, a brother in camo. I had the great good fortune to meet such a person recently and I know that there are shining times ahead of us when we hit the woods.

I had been telling myself all winter that I was going to take a little trip somewhere out of state on a squirrel hunt. In the past year, I tested the bounds of matrimonial bliss to the limit and acquired another dog — a little Mountain Cur to use as a squirrel dog. I have been mentored locally on this by some very able squirrel dog gurus (more on this at a later date). One of these is Mr. Richard Gentry of Wyoming County, a squirrel dog legend in his own right (ask him how many states he squirrel hunts in every winter). Through Mr. Gentry, I met the squirrel dog aficionado that I had the pleasure of hunting with last month, Kevin Murphy.

Mr. Murphy lives in western Kentucky, near Paducah, in the middle of a sportsman’s wonderland. There are lakes, rivers, marshes and thousands upon thousands of acres of public hunting ground. The Cumberland River runs parallel to the Tennessee River here, and some time in the 1940s the Tennessee River was dammed and Kentucky Lake was formed. Lake Barkley was created when the Cumberland River was dammed in the 1960s. The lakes themselves are massive and offer sportsmen boatloads of opportunities in the hunting and fishing realm. What I want to talk to you about is what lies between these two lakes.

In days of yore, if local hunters were going to this area they would say they were going to hunt “the land between the rivers.” With the formation of the two lakes it became “The Land Between the Lakes.” The Land Between the Lakes consists of 177,000 acres; it is a National Recreation Area controlled and administered by the National Forest Service. The largest and northern portion of this area is in Kentucky and the southern portion is in the state of Tennessee. Sportsmen can hunt deer, turkey, rabbits, squirrel and waterfowl. This is where our buddy comes in — the “King of the LBL,” Kevin Murphy.

Mr. Murphy has hunted, trapped, fished and roamed this area since he was 8 years old. He has an intimate knowledge of most of the nooks and crannies of this wonderful area. If he wasn’t chasing bobcats with hounds, rabbit hunting with beagles or spearing suckers in one of the creeks in the spring, he was probably pursuing his great love, squirrel hunting with a canny little fiest dog or maybe a cur.

I spent three days following Mr. Murphy and some of his canine cohorts around. It was the end of the season, the weather was not the best and the squirrels were not overly active, but we still had a great time, thanks in no small part to his knowledge of the area (he knew right where to go), and his general demeanor of friendliness and “hey, let’s just go enjoy the day.” He was a pure delight to be in the woods with. I learned much from him, and I know my Cur dog, Dottie, was a better dog after spending a few days in the woods under his tutelage.    

I have to share a couple things with you about hunting with Kevin Murphy.

He carries a hunting horn with him on every hunt. You know, the kind hunters used to blow on to call their hounds. At the start of each hunt, before you step into the woods, he blows a long note on the horn and he says the same thing every time. “The hunt has begun! They have been given fair warning! If they get kilt, it’s their own fault!” It’s classic.

He also seems to have a special talent for naming dogs, and I don’t mean run-of-the-mill dog names. We hunted with “Bobby J,” “Butchie Bad Toe” and “Skipper Doddle,” just to name a few.

In the woods you had better step lively to keep up with him, as one of my Georgia turkey hunting buddies, John Akin, and I found out. When the dogs would tree, I never found one squirrel before he did. He would always, and I mean always, spot them before anyone else. At the end of the day, when it was time to skin squirrels, all you had to do was get out of his way. I have seen a few people who were good and fast at skinning the little rodents, but not in the class of Mr. Murphy!

The last morning he made a hunter’s breakfast for us at his house: eggs, fried squirrel, gravy, made-from-scratch “cat-head” biscuits and all the perked coffee you wanted.

One more thing: He has in his basement, without a doubt, the most incredible example of a man cave to be seen in this hemisphere. Remnants and treasures from over 40 years of tramping the woods, pictures, deer skulls, steel traps, Indian artifacts and other stuff too numerous to mention, you really had to see it to believe it.

A world class host, good dogs, beautiful country, great food, friendly people at the local diner, good hunting — what’s not to like? I’m gonna get me a hunting horn and go back.

— Visit the LBL website, www.lbl.org, or call 1-800-LBL-7077.

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