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Belle Meade Hunt

bellemeade

The Belle Meade Hunt was whelped by a group of horsemen who had been meeting for regular trail rides. Their usual route from Stagecoach Road took them to the Rock Dam and finally to the Boy Scout Cabin, where they often stayed for a cookout and sometimes an overnight and homeward ride in the morning. These are familiar landmarks to anyone who has visited and enjoyed the hunting at Belle Meade.

The organizational meeting to establish the hunt was held in August of 1966 at the home of James E. Wilson, Jr in Thomson, Georgia at the behest of William Preston Smith. Mr. Smith suggested the name Belle Meade after his family home in Virginia and suggested that Confederate Cavalry yellow be adopted as the hunt’s colors. Mr. Smith also designed the Hunt’s emblem. Mr. Wilson was elected president.

Website: http://bellemeadehounds.com/

epp and gro allison howellEpp Wilson, MFH, Belle Meade Hunt and Grosvenor Merle-Smith, MFH, Tennessee Valley Hunt are two men who create sport wherever they go. / Allison Howell photo

In January of 2010, Tennessee Valley Hunt had a three-day joint meet with the Belle Meade Hunt down in Georgia. Belle Meade’s MFH and Huntsman, Epp Wilson, had last hunted with TVH’s MFH Grosvenor Merle-Smith when Gro was huntsman for the Bull Run Hunt in Virginia several years earlier. They had what Epp described as an “epic” hunt chasing fox. The two huntsmen had finally organized a recap of that memorable hunt, and the expectations of both men were very high for the weekend.  

Twelve of us Tennesseans trekked south to Georgia just west of Augusta. Included were Grosvenor, his wife Rosie Merle-Smith, MFH, and our TVH huntsman Beth Blackwell who brought about eleven couple of Penn-Marydels.

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Hunt Reports

epp and gro allison howellEpp Wilson, MFH, Belle Meade Hunt and Grosvenor Merle-Smith, MFH, Tennessee Valley Hunt are two men who create sport wherever they go. / Allison Howell photo

In January of 2010, Tennessee Valley Hunt had a three-day joint meet with the Belle Meade Hunt down in Georgia. Belle Meade’s MFH and Huntsman, Epp Wilson, had last hunted with TVH’s MFH Grosvenor Merle-Smith when Gro was huntsman for the Bull Run Hunt in Virginia several years earlier. They had what Epp described as an “epic” hunt chasing fox. The two huntsmen had finally organized a recap of that memorable hunt, and the expectations of both men were very high for the weekend.  

Twelve of us Tennesseans trekked south to Georgia just west of Augusta. Included were Grosvenor, his wife Rosie Merle-Smith, MFH, and our TVH huntsman Beth Blackwell who brought about eleven couple of Penn-Marydels.

Our horses all stayed at the Belle Meade Barn right next to their impressive kennels and beautiful club house. As we were unloading our horses that first hunting day, Earl, a Belle Meade road whip who tracks the GPS collars on the hounds from his truck, told us where Epp wanted to cast hounds that day. He said that the plan was to cast hounds from the kennels and hope the game ran west. West was forty thousand acres (all contiguous) that is Belle Meade’s huge hunt country, but east was in the direction of the local community airport. A few weeks before, a coyote was seen running with the Belle Meade Crossbreds in full cry down the runway while a plane was on approach. Earl drawled in that Georgia accent, “Those pilot fellas were none too happy with us that day.”

Charlie Lewis, MFH of Belle Meade, invited of us all to ride up front with him but cautioned us to be careful. He said that a group from Virginia had come down the month before and four of them fell off on the first day. He smiled and said in that slow, deep drawl, “We haven’t found those ladies yet, so keep your eyes open for ’em!”

 

 

 

 

 

grosvenor and zucoGrosvenor and Zuco / Gretchen Pelham photo

It finally started to rain on the third hunting day when the hounds hit on a coyote, and they ran it for over an hour. At one point Epp called for a new horse. While he remounted the fresh horse, he wanted to know where the hounds were. No one could tell him. Of all those ten or so whipper-ins he had out, none of them knew where the hounds were. And the GPS receiver for the collars was not getting any signal.

Grosvenor, being Gro, decided he would ride off find the pack by himself. His wife, Rosie, saw him looking the other way and just knew he was about to go off by himself. She just rolled her eyes, as she knows that there is no telling Gro he can’t go wandering off by himself in someone else’s hunt country. He’ll do it anyway.

Gro was whipping-in, but he had no radio or GPS receiver with him. He had only two days knowledge of the hunt country, but his inclination of the pack’s location was not where the Belle Meade’s huntsman, Epp, thought they were. So Gro took off by himself to the left, and Epp led the Field in the opposite direction to try to locate the pack.

I’ve learned something; always listen to Grosvenor, even if you really don’t want to. He’s usually right, blast him. Not that any of us would actually tell him so. Rosie says that he always claims he can’t hear anything, but how else did he know where hounds are? I think he has selective deafness. Hounds: Can you hear me now? Gro: Yes! Wife: Can you hear me now? Gro? ……

In the rain, and alone now, Gro stopped on a trail on top of large ravine in thick cover to listen for the pack. A few minutes later he was rewarded with the pack in full cry heading in his direction along the bottom of the ravine. Then the pitch of the hounds’ voices changed, and he knew immediately that they had accounted for the coyote below him. There was no trail that would get him down to the pack, and the Georgia scrub was very thick. So he jumped off Zuco, (his petite, 18.2-hand, home-bred “pony”) and started to lead Zuco down the steep ravine through the brush and scrub. The rain had made that hard Georgia clay slick, and Gro promptly slipped and slid down the hill without his horse. The loyal Zuco then trotted back up to the trail and left him.

Gro slid all the way down to the pack of combined hounds and found a big, black coyote. He encouraged and praised the pack, but then he decided he wanted to keep the coyote for himself. He wrestled the coyote away from the hounds who did not appreciate their prize being taken from them. He finally got the smoky coyote up over his head with both hands while all the hounds leapt up on him, trying to tug it back down.

That’s when Gro realized that he had no horn (it left with Zuco) and there was no cell-phone or GPS reception in the bottom of that ravine. No one, including himself, had any clue where he was. After letting the hounds use his face for a trampoline for a few minutes, he started to try to climb back up the wet incline. He would get a few feet up in the wet clay before the hounds would jump up to grab a hold of their prize and drag both of them back down. He tried over and over. He would have to play tug-of-war with the pack each time to get the coyote away from them and try to climb up again.

Finally, some whippers-in appeared at the top of the ravine and blew the hounds off him. They also found his pony. How Gro managed to re-mount that 18.2 hand pony from the ground is yet another story. But Gro brought the coyote back to Epp draped over the pommel of his saddle. All one could see were Gro’s teeth under his hunt cap with muddy hound prints covering the rest of him.

At the next joint meet between the two hunts, the Masters of Belle Meade gave Gro a sign post that will mark his hill, where he wrestled the pack off that black coyote.

Posted June 18, 2016

Belle Meade John hGrosvenor is now on the Belle Meade hunt country map. (l-r) MFHs Epp Wilson, Gretchen Pelham, Grosvenor Merle-Smith, Carla Hawkinson, Rosemary Merle-Smith, and Dr. Gary Wilkes  / John Hawkinson photo

JNAFHC2015.heatherjumpHeather Feconda, Loudoun-Fairfax Hunt (VA), was Champion, 13 & Over, on Yogi. /  Richard Clay photo

The Junior North American Field Hunter Championship competition that began modestly twelve years ago between a handful of geographically-close Virginia hunts continues to expand in scope. This year’s competition involved juniors from twenty-seven hunts located across six MFHA Districts.

The program is succeeding because it’s purpose rises above just competition. Founders Douglas Wise, MFH, Old Dominion Hounds and Iona Pillion from the Blue Ridge Hunt had a larger dream: bring children to new hunting countries and open their eyes to the fact that these playgrounds don’t just happen to be there for them by chance, but have been nurtured and conserved for the perpetuation of wildlife, open space, and for those who treasure the natural world.

“We want these kids to know what a conservation easement is,” said Marion Chungo, one of the organizers.

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codie hayes and needy.gianniniAt age 12, Codie Hayes showed Rose Tree Needy to the Grand Championship at the 2004 Virginia Foxhound Show, the first time ever for a Penn-Marydel. / Lauren Giannini photoFrom the moment Codie Jane Hayes became aware of the world around her, she took to hounds. She progressed from crawling to toddling among the pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds bred and hunted by her grandfather Jody Murtagh, Jr., ex-MFH. She was a wunderkind, totally at home with hounds and crazy about them. From the way hounds take to her, she was born with a gift—that coveted invisible thread connecting her to hounds wherever she goes.  

In August 2014, Codie, twenty-two, became the professional huntsman for the Golden’s Bridge Hounds in North Salem, New York. This position at any hunt entails huge responsibilities, but after a glimpse into how she spent her childhood and teen years, there’s no doubt that she has been training to be huntsman since she came into the world.

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dr. stanley gehrtDr. Stanley Gehrt and an anesthesized coyote in metropolitan ChicagoThe Belle Meade Hounds in Thomson, Georgia will once again stage their annual Hunt Week—Gone Away with the Wind—this season from January 18 to 24. As before, the week will be fun-filled with hunting, parties, a hunt ball, and the camaraderie of the field.

As a bonus, this year’s affair will feature a fascinating presentation by special guest Dr. Stanley Ghert, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and a Wildlife Extension Specialist at Ohio State University.

Dr. Ghert, who has enthralled foxhunters at MFHA meetings over the years, will talk to Belle Meade Hunt Week attendees on Thursday morning, January 22, about his special subject of research—the coyote. This much-aligned animal has survived and even flourished over the past hundred years despite the best efforts of the federal government to eradicate it.

Early in the twentieth century, at the behest of western ranching and agricultural interests that were losing stock to predators, the U.S. Government instituted program after program designed to erase the wolf, grizzly bear, mountain lion, and coyote from the landscape. The programs were mostly successful in their purpose. The wolf, grizzly, and mountain lion were driven nearly to extinction. The coyote, however, was the one predator that not only survived the pressure, but increased its population and its range, slowly expanding eastward and covering now the entire country. How it did that is one of the mysteries of the animal world.

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