Foxhunting Life with Horse and Hound


Belle Meade Hunt


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.




Belle Meade Hunt
Professional Huntsmen Are the Heart and Soul of Foxhunting
Written by Norman Fine   

larry pitts.karen kandraHuntsman Larry Pitts with the foxhounds of the Potomac Hunt (MD) / Karen Kandra Wenzel photo

Professional huntsman Larry Pitts was recognized at the recent MFHA Staff Seminar held in Lexington, Kentucky, April 12 to 13, 2014. After a dinner for the two hundred attendees, Larry was presented with the annual Ian Milne Award for his exceptional contributions to the sport of foxhunting.

While the sport of foxhunting may, as many say, revolve around the foxhound, I suggest that the heart and soul of our sport is the professional huntsman. Professionals like Larry preserve the superlative foxhound bloodlines for breeding, and they maintain the standards for the care and training of hounds in kennel and the handling of hounds in the field. All hunts—whether high-octane or small farmer’s pack—and all huntsmen—whether professional or amateur—benefit from their breeding acumen and their examples of practice.

Here is a real-life example of how the professional huntsman exerts his or her influence upon our sport in kennels far beyond his own. Epp Wilson, MFH and huntsman of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA), reached back to his teen years and his first meeting with Larry Pitts in this vignette.

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Southern Hospitality Conquers Winter Weather at Belle Meade
Hunt Reports
Written by Barbara Smith   

 bellemeade14.lasthunt.jpgThe author (right) with (l-r) Field Master Jean Derrick and Master and huntsman Epp Wilson at the final meet

Snow may have crippled Atlanta, but the few inches that fell in Thomson, Georgia during Belle Meade's second annual "Gone Away with the Wind" Hunt Week (January 26 to February 2, 2014) did little to dampen the great foxhunting and lavish southern hospitality. The first day we arrived was warm and sunny, a welcome respite from a frozen Maryland. I was returning for a second awesome adventure with Belle Meade Hunt and had encouraged two more of my fellow Marlborough Hunt members to come down. Jayne Koester and her amateur-radio enthusiast husband Fred enlivened their trip by talking to all the Ham radio operators near Interstate 95 as they drove south. Following them was Gwen Alred, a member of both Marlborough and Potomac Hunt clubs, who also decided getting out of a frigid Maryland was a good idea.

Monday at 3:00 pm, after warm greetings from our southern hosts and welcoming remarks from MFHs Epp Wilson, Charlie Lewis, and Gary Wilkes, we quickly trotted across the road from the kennels and moved across open cattle fields. I was riding first flight behind my good friend, Belle Meade Field Master Jean Derrick, and it felt wonderful to be cantering across soft ground in informal ratcatcher attire!

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Belle Meade, Beagles, and Bunnies
Hunt Reports
Written by Norman Fine   

belle meade.dalton reevesBeagle huntsman Dalton Reeves

“My name is Dalton Reeves, I’m eighty years old and a retired high school football coach and teacher, originally from South Carolina,” our huntsman said, introducing himself to his field of foot-followers—mainly foxhunting guests and members participating in Belle Meade’s “Gone Away with the Wind” Hunt Week—some of whom were out beagling for the first time.

“I’m very happy to hear that I’m following an eighty-year-old huntsman,” I replied. “It means I’m not likely to get left too far behind, the prospect of which has been worrying me.”

“No worries,” Mr. Reeves assured me. “I’ve got two knee replacements and one new hip; I don’t travel too fast any more.”

That said, by the time Mr. Reeves brought the beagles in four hours later, I had been back to the deer camp meet three times to stick my boots into a fire blazing in an outdoor pit to thaw my toes. I also had a bite of breakfast and took a side trip with John McNeil, Sr. to the Rock House—thought to be the oldest house in the state of Georgia—previously a part of the McNeil property, over which the beagles were hunting, but now in the hands of the historical association. In between my retreats to comfort, I enjoyed along with the rest of the field several hours of hound music—some with voices that represented the beagle version of the booming “aroos” of the Penn-Marydel foxhound.

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How They Do It at Belle Meade
Hunt Reports
Written by Norman Fine   

bellemeade.2014.gianniniEpp Wilson, MFH and huntsman of the Belle Meade Hunt brings hounds to the first draw to kick off "Gone Away with the Wind" Hunt Week. Whippers-in Lucy Bell (left) and Natalie Gilmore flank the pack. / Lauren R. Giannini photo

“We have arranged to have ten coyotes on standby for your hunting pleasure today,” announced Joint-MFH Charlie Lewis as he welcomed guests to the opening meet of Belle Meade’s “Gone Away with the Wind” Hunt Week. It was Monday, January 27, 2014 in Thomson, Georgia. The footing was perfect and the sun was shining.

The following day it snowed, closing schools, paralyzing the Atlanta area, and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. The Belle Meade hosts were resilient, however, improvising substitute activities for members and guests for the very few events that had to be modified.

Hunt Week guests had come from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA), Bull Run Hunt (VA), Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY), Marlborough Hunt (MD), Millbrook Hunt (NY), Montreal Hunt (PQ), Moore County Hounds (NC), the Potomac Hunt (MD), Toronto and North York Hunt (ON), and the Whiskey Road Hounds (SC).

The Meet
The Belle Meade hounds typically meet at three o’clock in the afternoon. In the warmish environs of north Georgia, Senior Master and huntsman Epp Wilson likes to hunt as temperatures are dropping and scent is improving. Of course it often results in riders hacking back in the dark, and even jumping fences after sunset—an adventure in its own right for many followers!

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"License and Registration, Please."
Photo of the Week

mike and colleen.ashley twiggsAshley Twiggs photo

Hunts seeking to recruit new members can take a page from the Belle Meade Hunt in Thomson, Georgia. Officer Mike Coke met this Belle Meade foxhound, Colleen, on the highway. The pair obviously hit it off to the extent that Coke, who had no previous experience with foxhunting, was sufficiently smitten by Colleen that he now follows the hunt on his days off and even serves as a road whip (though not in the cruiser!). Coke took an entire week of his accumulated vacation leave to attend Belle Meade’s “Gone Away with the Wind” Hunt Week held during the last week in January, where your editor had the pleasure of meeting him.

Posted February 3, 2014

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