In August 2009, Coonhound Bloodlines featured an article about me and my history of Plotts. Since this summarizes my life and experiences, I think this is the best way to introduce myself. Please take a moment to read this article listed below.
Bill Hicks was born in 1950 in Athens, Tennessee. In 1969 he married Janie, his high school sweetheart. They raised three girls and are now enjoying six grandchildren. They currently live in Riceville, Tennessee, just a few miles from where Bill was raised.
There were seven children all told, with Bill being one of four boys. They Hicks were raised dirt poor but didn’t know it. Bill’s father, Charles, provided everything they needed, that being food, clothing, and shelter. That was all they knew. Charles even provided built the log cabin that they lived in, and actually the first four children were born right in that cabin. And yes, Bill was one of them.
Charles’s father, Ira Houston Hicks, was born in 1880 in Monroe County, Tennessee, and he was a fox hunter. Ira’s love for hounds was passed down to Charles then again on down to his boys. Charles was a preacher for as long as Bill could remember. He also worked in the carpentry and furniture trade as well, and he always had a hound around. The four brothers, Bill, Gene, Mark, and Doug, all were bitten by the hound bug, and all hunt to the day. It all started with Charles’s string of grade dogs that were mostly Black and Tan/Plott crosses. There was also a little Walker and Bluetick mixed in, but mostly were big black brindle hounds that would hunt anything from rabbits and squirrels to fox, possum, and coon. Bill took a liking to the brindled, Plott-looking hounds, as did Doug. Mark never was real picky and has often had both. Gene always favored the Black and Tan hounds and has made a name for himself with a well known hound named Big Time Albert. Yes, he that Gene Hicks.
When Bill was 17 years old he purchased his first registered Plott hound from Carl Roarks. He had hunted his dad’s line of dogs up to that point and was looking to branch out on his own. He tried different bloodlines on and off, and then in 1977, he and Doug went together and bought a pair of Blanco bred pups from Douglas Simpson. They were heavy linebred – one male, one female. The called the female Liz (‘PR’ Hicks’ Rough Ridge Liz) and bred her to a fine hound named CH ‘PR’ John’s Radio Jack owned by the Thompson brothers. Jack’s mother was Paul Buchanan’s Tenn. Cricket female who was by CH ‘PR’ Spurlings Drifter and out of CH ‘PR’ Buchanons Dark Moon. Moon was a phenomenal hound who was very loud and impressive. She was the type of hound that Bill would strive to reproduce in his breeding program. From this cross of Jack and Liz, came a pup they sold that was named Snoot. She changed hands a few times before Bill was able to buy her back. She made Nite Champion in found hunts, and earned two Nite Champion wins on the same weekend, winning both Friday and Saturday night. Her full name was NITE CH ‘PR’ Hicks’ Rough Ridge Snoot.
Another hound that Bill owned and one that most people will remember was NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Smoky Mt. Kawliga. Bill bought him out of West Virginia from Sonny Purdue when was about 18 months old. He was seven-eighths Vaughn bred and one-eighth Pioneer Mike. Kawliga was a crazy tree dog with a loud, coarse mouth, and was big hunting dog that stay treed forever. This was back before tracking collars, remember, and Bill recalls one episode where Kawliga stayed treed for three days before he finally came off the mountain!
Bill recalled a nite hunt with Kawliga out of Charleston, Tennessee. It seems a fellow cast member made the statement that he had never seen a Plott that was any account. He went on to say that his Black and Tan was going to win the whole hunt. Two hours and three drops later, after Kawliga had treed three coons first, he had changed his tune. In the unbeliever’s defense, at least he did have the decency to apologize to Bill and made the statement that he had never seen a hound of that caliber in any color.
Bill bred Kawliga and Snoot a total of five times. They were different in their own ways, and their traits blended perfectly, with one’s positive dominant traits picking up where the other one was lacking. Bill kept a couple from this cross as foundation stock and couple he bought back later on. The three most notable from this cross would have been NITE CH ‘PR’ Hicks’ Rough Ridge Slick, ‘PR’ Hicks’ Rough Ridge Sally, and GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Star Mountain Joe. Slick was a tough hound in the hunts, winning three hunts in a row to earn his Nite Champion title.
Bill didn’t hunt a lot of hunts, because they couldn’t afford to. He usually only hunted a hound in the hunts if he planned on using it his breeding program. All in all, he titled nine hounds in very limited competition hunting. One hound that he did not campaign, but one that was sure enough coon dog, was a male called CH ‘PR’ Rough Ridge Sounder. Sounder was off of Slick and a full Vaughn bred female. Bill said he was such a pleasure to hunt, and could tree more coon that you wished to carry.
The Sally female was bred several times as well, and produced nice hounds, even a few that were kept for foundation stock to carry on the bloodline. GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Star Mountain Joe (from the Kawliga x Snoot cross) is one that Bill bought back. H e was already a Nite Champion, and Bill finished him to a Grand Nite. He was an independent hound who was accurate and really could impress. Several said that ‘Ole Joe was the best they had ever been with.
Bill did a lot of linebreeding, and liked to carry on his line but was always afraid of over-doing it. He often made outcrosses for fear of breeding out the characteristics that he desired by linebreeding too much. Bill stated that his most athletic hounds came from these outcrosses. That is something to ponder.
Through the years, Bill has raised more pups than most people have probably ever seen. He usually raises five to eight litters every year, and keeps 15 to 16 adult dogs in the kennel at all times. When you’ve been doing it for 50 years, it surely adds up. It would be nearly impossible to keep in order and to trace back every cross and litter he raised, but one thing can be said is that they have left their mark. Several of the top producers on the Current and Historical list for the Plott breed, trace back to Bill’s dogs. He sold his pups usually for $100 and would sell them to whoever wanted them. He often would keep one from each litter, but would not use it for his breeding program unless it came from a litter of natural born coon dogs.
Another hound that deserves recognition is NITE CH ‘PR’ Hicks’ Roughridge Casey, who was out of GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Sybert & Otto’s Sarge and a daughter of Bill’s old Slick dog, ‘PR’ Teague’s Caly Hill Polly. Bill bought Casey from Lester Clinton in 1993. He was very pleasurable dog to hunt and you could call him on his first locate – that was it, he would not move. Casey was capable of winning any hunt in the country and was also on the Top Producers list at one time. Casey was also the sire of CH NITE CH ‘PR’ Hicks’ Wilderness Jim, who Bill qualified for the UKC World Championship in 2000. Jim also made the Top Producers list.
In 1999, Bill bought another hound from his good friend Lester Clinton. This time it was a two year old male named NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Hicks’ Sniper Duke (GR NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Nall’s Bacon Crk Cougar x ‘PR’ Nall’s Kentucky Jill), the product of a cross that went back to old Sally (Kawliga x Snoot). Jill was out of Sally and sired by NITE CH ‘PR’ Longshore’s GA Cody.
In 2001, as a four year old, Duke took Bill to the UKC Zones where he thought he had a good chance. Unfortunately, due to an extremely thin coon population, Bill and Duke came home empty handed. Duke is sitting in fourth place on the Current Top Ten Producers list for the Plott breed.
One of the best hounds that Bill claims he ever turned loose he bought from Dustin Davis at twenty months old; however, he didn’t know at the time and sold him without ever hunting to Lester Clinton. Six months later, he had to have him and so he bought him back. This hound is CH GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Hicks’ Roughridge Stormy DNA-P (NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Hard Treeing Poncho x CH GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Wright’s Rowdy Ms. Lady DNA-P). In 2005 at Plott Days in Tell City, Indiana, Bill and Stormy were cast winners but something wasn’t right. A visit to the Athens Animal Clinic revealed that Stormy had Blastomycosis (see page 54, March ‘09 CB). One veterinarian wanted to put him down, but Bill wouldn’t let him. He turned to Dr. Laurie, who had save a few of his hounds in the past. Stormy had to have one eye removed and withstand several months of treatments, but as soon as he showed in the negative for Blasto, Bill took him hunting and he treed like normal. He even earned his last two Nite Champion wins and qualified for the World Championship again. Stormy was actually qualified when he first came down with the disease and Bill often wonders what the results may have been had he not gotten sick. Stormy was a powerful hound but just never was quite the same after.
Currently Bill owns NITE CH ‘PR’ Kirks Hoss Creek Ellie, a female out of Wilderness Jim and ‘PR’ Hicks’ Roughridge Neil (she was top reproducer female for one two years), a female who goes back to some of his brother, Doug’s, hounds. He has several others as already mentioned and always has a few half brothers and sisters that he will use to outcross and then cross back in. He’s always looking for that natural wonder that will keep his fire lit and be the next carrier of the Hicks blood.
Bill is not your every weekend nite hunt warrior, and you won’t see an ad in the magazine every month, but he is very serious about his hounds though he makes sure to keep them in perspective. He likes to go the hunts, but doesn’t make it a priority. He has been successful when he had gone but often looks at other things besides his personal success to judge their worth. He recalls a very impressionable cast that he was on that he actually did not even win. It was sometime back in the 80’s and they were hunting out of Decatur, Tennessee. He had drawn out with Allen Roberts, Bobby Allen (his first UKC hunt), and another member that he couldn’t’ recall. They were having a good hunt when the dogs put them in a bad position. Or, maybe I should say the coon did, because the dogs followed it across a slough off the Tennessee River that was about 125 yards wide. The dogs were treeing like crazy, and they could see the coon plain as day, but how were they going to get the dogs? That question was answered by Allen Roberts as he gathered up all four lead straps and tip-toed across that slough that was chin deep and came back with all four dogs. That was a very selfless act and one that I’m afraid you would have to search long and hard to trump. Sportsmanship like that make Bill appreciate how he was raised and our nation, as a whole, was raised up until a point.
Bill is very appreciative of all of the help that he has had over the years and realizes that he couldn’t do it on his own. As I mentioned before he was responsible for the being of so many good hounds the there is no way we could reference them all. He claims that there is no way that he could even come close to naming all the of the folks who have helped him on the way but he is very grateful.
Bill is a family man first and a coon hunter second. Actually, he prioritized like this: God first, family second, livelihood third, and his hounds fourth. Times have changed so much in his 60 years, and that is his biggest concern. He fears that the youth of today aren’t being taught the work ethic and the morals that they will need to keep our country morally sound, and our hunting rights preserved. He remembers hunting those Tennessee hills when you could hunt for miles and miles and no one cared, when folks didn’t even have locks on their doors or windows, when your word was your bond and trust was just a part of your life. While we can’t do much to change our neighbor’s thinking or their moral standards, we can start by looking in the mirror. I think that would Bill happy. Good luck to you Bill and your family, and of course, all those brindle dogs!