Use the arrows to page through the magazine.
A “Fiddle” and a guitar can bring music to your ears, and a man from Saegertown, Pennsylvania knows all too well the sweet sounds that each can play. One strums out melodies in the way of songs and rhythms, while the other sang her wide open track bark and rapid tree style all through the countryside. Kelly Hyde, originator of Sawblade Kennels, and the song “Murder in the Chicken Coop”, tells us how his farm full of Redbone Coonhounds has brought him a life of perfect harmony.
Kelly Hyde lives in the same area of northwestern Pennsylvania where he was born and raised. The fourth of eight children, consisting of four boys and four girls, Kelly and his brothers grew up hunting and trapping anything they could from the time they were old enough to venture outside.
For Kelly, hunting was the most fun you could have. “It was a great way to grow up, with lots of room to roam and plenty to do. We worked pretty hard also, but the older I get the more I remember all the fun I had as a kid and the work was just work. I spent as much time as I could in the outdoors and loved to hunt squirrel and fish in the local small streams.”
His dad was a dairy farmer, but always found time to go hunting for deer or small game, just never coon. At about 13 years of age, Kelly experienced his first hunt with hounds. His grandpa, Donald Underhill, was a reputable fox hunter in the area, and Kelly started tagging along on some of the hunts whenever he was allowed to go. The foxhounds used in the hunts were called Running Walkers. They were big and rangy built, almost pure white with few patches of black or brown patches of color, with rough coats and long lean heads that voiced loud hound bays. Kelly never shot a fox over the entire time he hunted with his grandpa and these dogs, but kept going because he loved hearing the dogs hot on the trail of a fox while listening to his grandpa tell tales of past hunts.
His grandpa was an experienced dog man who was good at getting a dog to listen to him and it was from him that Kelly learned how to communicate with dogs. “I remember how my grandpa treated the dogs and how they acted towards him. They loved to see him coming, and he would always rub his hands all over the dog’s head and down their necks, then pat them hard on their sides and tell them how good they were. They loved it and he treated them like his best friends. Grandpa showed me how to handle them and explained why you talked a certain way to them. ‘You must pet them up hard and talk nice to them’, he would say. Then he would blow air in their face and tell me, ‘If you blow air in a dogs face, they will love you for life.’ I have no idea if that’s true, but I do it still to this day and the dogs love it. I think it’s important that you talk to the dogs in a way they react well to and can understand.”
The family had bird dogs around the farm, but in the 70s when fur prices started hitting all-time highs, Kelly and his brothers begged their dad for a coonhound. Kelly had read the book, Where the Red Fern Grows, and had his heart set on a Redbone like Old Dan or Little Ann. It took some time, but finally when Kelly was 15 years old, his dad came home with a Redbone male named Mike. He purchased Mike from a local man named Karl Klinginsmith, who had dogs with bloodlines that went back to a well-known Redbone man in the area, Russell Cherry.
Mike was born in 1978 and was a well-bred Redbone, showing Hurricane Hill Savage Sam in his top and bottom pedigree, as well as Clouses Tall Timber Talker, Morans Midnight King, and some Blakesley breeding. Kelly’s brothers didn’t take to the coon hunting like he did, so Mike became all his. Kelly took care of him, and in return Mike treed him a pile of coon, so many in fact that Kelly bought his first car with the money he made from selling the hides. Mike died at eight years old and is buried near the tree that he put his first coon up. “That first dog made me a coon hunter for life. I loved it then and still do. I also realized that dogs can help you make some good friends. The very last time I hunted Mike, I had arranged to hunt with Todd McIver, a friend I knew from high school. Todd also loved to coon hunt and after Mike died we just sort of kept hunting dogs together. We would buy pups and train them together and we lived pretty close so it just worked out. It’s been 30 years now and Todd and I are best friends and have never quit hunting these coon dogs. Todd is an excellent pup trainer and I will usually take over when they are ready to be pushed in the nite hunts. He has his dogs and I have mine, but we have had many hounds together also. It wouldn’t be near as fun without a good hunting partner like Todd. It’s a great thing to have a friend like him that thinks the same as you do, believes in the same training methods, has the same goals and can recall many of the same hunts. Over the years we tried other breeds and even owned some pretty good Walkers, but I always kept a Redbone around.”
As Kelly dove deeper into the world of coon hunting, he never considered the idea of breeding his own dogs and establishing a kennel. He just bought pups and hoped that they would turn out. It wasn’t until he bought ‘PR’ Hyde’s Running Red Feather (‘PR’ Moorhead’s Timber Chopper Jake x ‘PR’ Moorhead’s Red Southern Belle) as a pup that he got the notion to start a kennel. To begin with, he used his last name for the kennel name, but when he and his wife, Sue, bought a small farm in Saegertown, Kelly started attending events held by the Crawford County Coonhunters Club only to meet another man with the last name Hyde, that was using his name within his dogs he hunted. They weren’t related at all and it was then that Kelly decided he needed a different kennel name just for his dogs, especially if he was going to be breeding them for future stock and hunting them in competition. He thought long and hard for a good name, but nothing sounded right until one day in 1996 he was at a farm auction and spotted several saw blades from a buzz rig used to cut firewood. He looked them over and thought they would make a good sign to hang on the side of the kennel, but better than that, “saw blade” sounded good for a kennel name. He bought them, and the name Sawblade, all as one word, sounded good enough to use to distinguish his dogs from the rest. After 17 years of using the name he has yet to see anyone else use it for their coonhounds.
The first litter of pups whelped to Sawblade Kennels was out of Feather and NITE CH ‘PR’ Red Sage. Feather was from Famous Amos and Brunswick Littleman bloodlines. She had a very good nose and would not quit a track, but she lacked in speed and tree power, so when Kelly heard about a nice Redbone male in the area called Sage, he decided to check him out and would later decide that breeding Feather to Sage would just make sense. Sage was owned by Ryan Briggs of Waterford, Pennsylvania.
Ryan and another young Redbone man, Gary Bell, were sitting on a bench at a local hunt when Kelly went up to them and just started talking dogs. They started telling him about Sage. Sage would go on to win that very same hunt they were at and it was then that Kelly started hunting with Ryan and Sage. “Sage was one of the best coonhounds I have ever seen go. He was very quick to strike and could drift a track as good as any. He was very accurate and a stay put tree dog. Ryan had been hunting Sage at most of the clubs in the area and was winning about everywhere he took him. That first cross produced several good dogs and I kept a female from the litter. We made the Sage and Feather cross several times and most all the pups ended up locally. A few did go to nite hunters. Fred Moran owned one for a while called GR CH NITE CH ‘PR’ Brewin’s After Dark Spark, and another was NITE CH ‘PR’ Morgan’s Boone, owned by Chad Morgan of Waterford, Pennsylvania. The female I kept became GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Sawblade Fiddle. All of the dogs I have now go back to her. Fiddle is what Sawblade Kennels is based on. Somehow, I got very lucky and ended up with a dog that had outstanding ability as well as being able to reproduce it. Both Sage and Feather were at one time listed as the #1 Current Producer in COONHOUND BLOODLINES.”
Born October 2, 1996, out of the first Sage x Feather cross, Fiddle started showing great potential at a young age and Kelly has a video of her running and treeing barn cats when she was only two months old. She could burn a cat and stay treed until you called her off, so one warm night in the middle of February when the snow was melting off and Fiddle was only four months old, Kelly decided to take her hunting at night for the first time. “I let her go at the edge of a picked cornfield and she struck a track about 80 yards in, then ran it just a short distance and treed. I didn’t even take a gun with me, I just figured on letting her get used to being out at night. When I looked the tree over, she had a coon; she was just over 4 months old. I knew I had something special in Fiddle.”
Fiddle was a fundamental tree dog that could spit the barks out faster than you could count. Kelly started attending events just to put her in the treeing contest. Her record best was 75 barks in 30 seconds, but many times the people keeping track of the barks couldn’t count them fast enough. “Ryan Briggs took her to National Days held in Holmesville, Ohio when she was nine months old just for the treeing contest. While there, some men saw her and asked about the little female. They wanted to see her hunt. Ryan took the men for a short drop behind the club where Fiddle treed a quick coon. When I got to Holmesville, the next day he told me there was a guy who wanted to talk with me. The man started offering money for Fiddle. Ryan and my wife both had to walk away when he offered $1,000. I just kept telling him she wasn’t for sale. He jumped it to $1,500 and realized I wasn’t going to sell her. She was never for sale. However, she had her problems. Fiddle was what I called a track dog deluxe. She would run anything that she smelled. Coon, deer, fox, skunk, possums, it didn’t matter to her. I remember one night when she was around a year old she jumped in a beaver pond and was swimming around barking her head off just to try to chase the geese that were sitting on it. It took me a while to get her focused on coon only.
“When she finally figured out what I wanted from her, she was really tough to beat. It was next to impossible to get a strike on Fiddle. She would bark the second she smelled a coon, she didn’t care if it was in the air or on the ground or water, she was struck. Her ability to push a track and not get bogged down on the old ones made her a competitor. She would be wide open barking the entire way and when she treed it was with a coon, she was not known to be slick very many times. That is how she won in the hunts, split with a coon usually at least once during the night. These traits she has passed on and defines what a Sawblade dog is to me.
“I bred Fiddle several times and with good results. The best crosses were from the Yellow River line of dogs. I had become friends with Harry Oumedian, and his dogs were winning on a regular basis. The first cross was made to GR NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Yellow River Red Rocky. That litter was the last live litter Rocky produced as he died just three months later. Quadruple Grand ‘PR’ Yellow River Red Blaze came from that litter. Fiddle was then bred several times to different studs: NITE CH ‘PR’ Yellow River Red Doc, NITE CH ‘PR’ Jones’ Yellow River Sand Rock, NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Red Sunset’s Yellow River Huck, GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Snyder’s Death-Row Joe, and once even to her sire, NITE CH ‘PR’ Red Sage.
“Scott Haynes and his family became very good friends of mine and Scott was winning with Huck, so I arranged to breed Huck to Fiddle.
“Scott took Fiddle home and kept her for about a month until I could get her back. We went hunting the night I picked her up. We had Fiddle, Huck and also GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Yellow River Red Rebel owned by Rod Bantle. Those three treed us a quick coon and Kelly Haynes took a few pictures. She sent them to COONHOUND BLOODLINES and the 2002 June Redbone special issue cover showed all three on the tree. It was a highlight for me. Exactly 10 years later a dog from that cross made the 2012 June cover. GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Copeland’s Red Hot Clyde. Clyde was a winner in many big hunts and has some very fine pups on the ground.
“The other Grand Nite Champion out of Fiddle also came from this cross. GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Stone’s Midnight Red Jake, owned by Mark Stone. The cross that has probably resulted in the best reproducers was the one between Yellow River Red Doc and Fiddle, it produced four Nite Champions and several other dogs that have made good reproducers. The offspring from the Doc/Fiddle cross continue to produce many titled dogs. It’s with several of these dogs that I am continuing the line. It’s great to see the traits still going. I have many stories about my old dog Fiddle; she lived a long life and was all coonhound until the end. She currently is listed as the #5 Historical Top Producing Redbone female. Never a winner in any of the big hunts, but that was my fault for she had ability. She died in May of 2010 and is buried on our farm. It was a gift to have owned her and I feel lucky that she was mine.”
Sawblade Kennels has a few young guns that are starting to make their mark. One is NITE CH ‘PR’ Sawblade Mac Truck, co-owned with Todd McIver, who will be promoted within the kennel in the future, and the other is a female named ‘PR’ Sawblade Ribbon. This young female is a near carbon copy of the females that make up her pedigree, mostly Fiddle and a female called NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Sawblade Red Reckon. Only 15 months old, Ribbon already has a second place win in the hunts, and it’s Kelly’s plan to make her a Nite Champion as soon as possible. Ribbon is possibly the best 15-month-old dog Kelly has ever raised and exclaimed how exciting it is to have her as part of the kennel; however, he can take no credit for the way Ribbon handles, because she belongs to his 20-year-old daughter, Becky, who has put many hours into her training.
A few other hounds that should be mentioned because they originated from the Sawblade Kennels are the following. “I have tried to concentrate on the breeding program and have left it up to the people who bought pups to help me prove what kind of dogs are producing. I have titled very few of the dogs born here, only just a couple as a matter of fact. Some have gone on to do some great things. There was Quadruple Grand ‘PR’ Yellow River Red Blaze, who was one of only a very few Redbones to reach that title; GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Copeland’s Redhot Clyde was also a dog from here. He was the 2005 Purina Redbone breed winner. Clyde won a bunch and in big hunts, I never got to hunt with him but have always heard what a good dog he is. NITE CH CH ‘PR’ Sawblade Red Reckon is another very good hound. Reckon has produced one Grand Nite Champion and four Nite Champions so far. She is one of the dogs I am using to continue the line. Like her mother Fiddle, Reckon was a track driver and the speed she could reach while trailing was well beyond average. I had sold Reckon to some friends out in Illinois, Darrin Gher and Dean Daugherty. The idea was to get her bred to a nice male Darrin had named NITE CH ‘PR’ Twister’s Musical Red Huey. They did that and several very good dogs came from the cross. One of which just finished a title, GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Daugherty’s Red Bubba owned by Dean.”
A little more about Reckon. Darrin and Dean purchased Reckon from Kelly about nine years ago. Darrin owned NITE CH ‘PR’ Twister’s Musical Red Hue, and was practically begging anyone with a good Redbone female to breed to him because he wanted to get some pups out of Huey. Kelly approached Darrin and said he had what he was looking for as Reckon was a wide open track dog and would complement Huey well because of him being a third or fourth strike dog. Kelly generously offered to delay payment until after a litter of pups was raised or they could simply hunt her a while, raise a litter of pups and send Reckon back to Sawblade Kennels. Darrin partnered with Dean and they did a partnership on Reckon.
“When we got Reckon she was just started. Dean kept her at his house and hunted her hard until she was a coon dog. Huey was bred to Reckon, Dean raised the pups and then finished Reckon into a Nite Champion. We kept two pups, sold the rest and paid Kelly. I have to say Kelly treated us right on the price. Reckon was exactly as Kelly described. He tells it like it is. Reckon was a handful to say the least. She had more hunt and track drive than any dog I had ever seen before or since. Dean lost quite a bit of weight that first season he hunted Reckon. He had to punch a couple more holes in his belt to keep his pants up (seriously). She finished into a real nice hound. Reckon ran all tracks very fast. In a hunt you would pull her off a tree and cut her to the other dogs, dogs that were struggling to move a cold track. Reckon would go in there and run the track out like it was hot. It was crazy how she could do that. She was also a dog you could hunt night after night and would never slow down. It seems a lot of people focus mostly on breeding for tree dogs. Kelly Hyde breeds track dogs that are tree dogs. I’m glad he does. Dean and I were very blessed to meet up with Kelly Hyde. He is very good at putting the right traits together that make balanced dogs and even better at being a good friend. Thanks, Kelly.”
Other good reproducing dogs that came from Sawblade Kennels are ‘PR’ Yellow River Fiddle II, the mother of the 2010 National Redbone Days winner GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Brewins Miss Piggy and the 2010 American Days winner, ‘PR’ KY Ranger. There are more dogs that are working well for their owners and producing many titled offspring. I must mention just one more and that is NITE CH ‘PR’ Krasa Sawblade Quik Stuff Bone. Bone was out of the Doc/Fiddle cross and was a very good hound. He was owned by Zack Krasa and he is another dog I am using to keep the line going. Bone was never bred much, 34 pups are all he had, but so far two are Grand Nite Champions and four are Nite Champions and that gives Bone around an 18% reproducing rate. Not many dogs in the breed come close to that. Bone had tons of drive and many times it was his downfall. I would be at a hunt with Zack and he would usually either win the cast with Bone or the hour would get him from having Bone just go too far. This was before the Garmin trackers came out, wish we had them then.”
One thing that Sawblade Kennels does not do is breed dogs just to get pups to sell. Kelly said he’s always getting calls from people wanting pups, but when he makes a cross it’s to improve the breed not just make puppies to sell. He likes to say that Sawblade Kennels is a small kennel with big results. One thing I found fascinating about Kelly’s breeding program was that he had numbers readily available about how many pups turned out from the many crosses he’s made or incorporated into his kennel. Kelly admitted that he’s constantly contacting UKC about getting offspring reports. He said this is an essential tool for him when it comes to making crosses and he loves seeing the statistics and such that result from certain dogs. He’s complied his own Top Producers list, so to speak.
“I really consider my main focus as being a Redbone breeder. That is what I enjoy the most, trying to figure out what the next cross should be and what kind of dog can I expect to get. Studying pedigrees and keeping track of the different lines out there that have good dogs showing up. Over the years I have had several research projects done by UKC and they have helped me greatly in at least coming up with some theory on breeding dogs for competition. A dog is locked in its DNA and we can only change those traits through breeding. I will admit that none of the breeding matters if you don’t hunt those dogs. So, for the most part, I am a pleasure hunter first, who competition hunts. However, competition hunting is a must if you are to prove what you have. Titles do count and anyone looking for good pups expects to see them.”
There’s no better thrill for Kelly than taking a pup you’ve bred to a finished dog. “I do buy some pups every now and then, but mostly I raise my own. I really enjoy training a pup and I always look at them like they have great potential. I enjoy the breeding and trying to figure out which cross will produce the best hounds so it kind of makes it hard not to hunt the dogs out of your own stuff. Plus there is no bigger thrill than taking a pup born at your kennel all the way to Grand Nite Champion. It’s a super feeling to have one make it all the way. I’m probably not the best trainer but I have learned that sometimes you have to adapt to how a pups personality is. I must admit that my training methods include hunting my pups with my friends.
“Most of the time I hunt with Ryan or Todd, or both, and we all work our pups when we hunt. I like to start the pups with a box trapped coon and quickly go to running with trained older dogs. Once they show they will go hunting we keep taking them. Several have run and treed the first time out at a very early age. Not every pup will do that, however, and I have seen excellent finished dogs that really didn’t start until almost a year old.”
I asked Kelly if there were any dogs that made a significant impact on him or his kennel, and besides Sage who was already mentioned, are the Yellow River dogs that were bred by Harry Oumedian. This line of dogs has been a big contributor to Kelly’s dogs and the best offspring from Fiddle all came from that line. Many older dogs also deserve much credit for the foundation, those being Timber Chopper, Famous Amos, Brunswick Littleman and Timber Jack, just to mention a few.
The Redbone breed must hold something special for Kelly for him to stick with them all these years and I had to know what it was. “The Redbone hound is different than the other breeds I’ve tried. I think that is why I stayed with them. There are a couple main things I see that separate them. The first is they seem to just keep getting better with age. I’ve seen other breeds have dogs that at two years old are tough to beat, but at five the same dog isn’t even close to what it once was. The Redbones seem to continue to mature and the good ones really get to be like a machine when they reach five years old. Also, they seem to be very accurate and will tree where the track ends. That is a tell-tale of what kind of nose the breed has. That makes them hard to beat when the leaves are off. There is great debate as to what the breed needs to win more at major events. More dogs would be a great start. I think the secret, however, is in how the breed competes. The strength of many of the other breeds is in the tree power, or in some cases, the excessive treeing power. The strength of the Redbone is in the nose and the brains. Learning to breed, train and handle our dogs based on their strengths is all I really feel we need. It sounds simple, I know, but I love the Redbone hound the way it is and think they can compete at any level. We just need to continue to build on their strengths and then let them compete.”
We’ve covered the hounds, now it’s time to touch on the music that Kelly creates. He’s always had a passion for music but says he’s only slightly successful at it, however, I think he’s just being modest. Forming songs comes naturally and has since he was a kid, and his wife is constantly finding pieces of paper with a sentence or two written on them that may one day find their way into a finished song. Years ago, Kelly wrote a song about all the coonhound breeds and called it “Had a Dog”. Music man Meredith Sloan was kind enough to include it on his first CD called “Only in Red”, and said that Kelly’s song had been played on a radio station in Kentucky. Kelly is still awaiting the royalty check so he can buy a new dog box! “Stub Haynes was one of those people I met through the dogs that encouraged me to keep trying to play guitar and to just keep practicing. He was a big fan of my funny dog songs and would tell me to keep writing them. The songs are really just for fun and to have a way to enjoy something with all the friends I’ve made over the years. There are many fine musicians in the Redbone breed and it forms a sort of fellowship. Owning these dogs and playing music, having fun when you get together. That is why I raise these dogs and the real reason behind the songs. I think there is a better chance of me winning the World Hunt than there is of me writing the #1 country song.
“The first time I ever played in public was at a National Redbone Days event. Allen Gingerich and a few others talked me into singing the dog song. I was so nervous I got all goofed up and could hardly finish but the hunters were all gracious and clapped and said they loved it. I realized how most coon hunters are really good people and there to have fun.” If you spot Kelly at an event, ask him to grab his guitar (he always has one nearby) and play “Murder in the Chicken Coop” as it’s one of his best.
We’ve saved the best for last as none of this could have been possible for Kelly without the support of his family. “It would not be right to leave out the most important people I have helping me all these years with my dogs. That is of course my family. My wife Sue is more than I deserve, she helps with the puppies and never complains about any of my crazy dog stuff. She talks with people when they call, even when she can’t understand a word they are saying. Some coon hunters have a dialect of their own. She will say I have a number for you to call back, I’m not sure what they wanted, and it was something about the dogs. She is perfect for me and I’m very lucky to have found her. There is my son Kegan, he is 23 years old and it has been his job to feed and clean the dogs ever since he was able. Kegan has never left that job undone and I can rely on him for anything. It can be -20 degrees out and when I get home from work the dogs are fed and they have straw and are warm all because of Kegan. He always lets me know if any dog has a problem and the dogs love him. I’m sure I will soon have to be doing those dog chores myself as he is getting older and he is busy with his own life. I’m going to miss all his help and him when that day comes.
“Becky is my 20-year-old daughter; she will be a senior at Penn State next fall where she will graduate with a Biology degree. Becky also loves the dogs, she goes to some of the nite hunts with me and we argue about the way I handle her dog during the events. She has always enjoyed the different dogs we have had and will probably have her own hounds when she moves on. She loves to coon hunt and goes whenever she can, whether it is with friends of hers or with me and my friends. Becky has claimed our latest young female, Ribbon, as her dog and has already put many hours into her training. Ribbon is a good one, and Becky should be proud of her dog. Like all fathers do I look at my daughter and still see a little girl, but she is grown up now and I am very proud of her. I would be lost without my family, they are everything to me.”
Load up the dogs and grab your guitar, it’s time to make some music! Best of luck to the future of Sawblade Kennels!