Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Everyone has a question at some time on an arcane hunting term, correct attire, a point of etiquette. The FHL Panel of Experts will answer your question on any aspect of hounds, hound breeding, hunting hounds in the field, training the field hunter, foxhunting history, sporting art, and literature. Try us!

How the Huntsman Draws for Coyote

marion thorneThe Genesee Valley hunting country is blessed with both red fox and coyote which have coexisted for thirty-five years. So to say that I would draw specifically for coyote on any given day would be impossible. However, there are areas in which coyote are more likely to be in my country. If am drawing one of those areas, I am very mindful of the wind.

With a coyote it is much more important to draw upwind. He will get up and go much sooner than a fox will. To have the best chance of being close behind him, it is better to draw upwind so he does not wind us and bolt. I would enter the covert quietly, encouraging hounds to concentrate and draw fairly widely.

How the Huntsman Draws Covert

The author explains how a huntsman deploys hounds when drawing covert for a fox, and the considerations that dictate his tactics. Drawing is what the huntsman does when seeking a fox, not to be confused with casting for the fox when hounds are at fault.

robards.mburg photo.cropHugh Robards and the foxhounds of the Middleburg Hunt / by Middleburg Photo

On leaving the meet, you might want to keep close to the Field Master so you are in a good position to observe what is going on at the first draw. The whippers-in and other helpers have gone to various point of the covert to view the fox away. Notice on approaching the covert, not one hound leaves the huntsman until he tells them to leu in, at which time hounds enter the covert and begin searching for the scent of a fox. The huntsman wants all hounds in covert when a fox is found so they will all be there to apply pressure, push it out, and be together on the line when it goes away.

If it is a large covert, the huntsman will draw it into the wind, thereby giving the pack every opportunity to wind and rouse their fox. He will also ride into the covert, cheering and encouraging his hounds: “Lieu try, try in there, leu wind ’im, push ’im up old dogs.” That may be what it looks like in print, but most huntsmen make guttural noises that few people can understand!

How Close Should the Field Be to the Huntsman?

robards2.cropHugh Robards and hounds

A reader writes, “We were discussing the proper distance a field of foxhunters should keep between itself and the huntsman. Is there a rule of thumb that can be applied generally? We thought one simple rule might be to keep the same pace and a reasonably constant distance.... so the huntsman would always know roughly where his field is. But would love to hear what the experts say.”

Here is a question for which there can be no simple rule appropriate for all hunting situations. There are too many factors that modify the “appropriate” distance, even during the course of a single hunt.

We asked huntsman Hugh Robards, just retired after a fifty-five-year professional career in England, Ireland, and America, for his opinion. For twenty-seven seasons, Hugh hunted hounds for Lord Daresbury, MFH, at the County Limerick, showing world-class sport to members and foxhunting visitors from all over the world. Even before becoming a huntsman, Hugh whipped-in to some of the most illustrious British huntsmen of the twentieth century, including Captain Ronnie Wallace at the Heythrop and Brian Gupwell, later to become huntsman for the Duke of Beaufort. Hugh writes:

How to Deer-Proof Hounds In a Wooded Country

fox.lge.leesAre hounds right?  /  Douglas Lees photoAn experienced foxhunter has become Master of a pack of foxhounds and recognizes that he has a deer problem. His hunting country is thickly wooded and accessible via trails. His staff is composed of an experienced amateur huntsman and honorary whippers-in. He whips-in himself, and has experienced first-hand the problems posed by the very nature of the country.

deer.leesOr are they wrong? / Douglas Lees photoThere are no discreet coverts to draw that can be surrounded by staff to stop hounds if a deer goes out. In the event of riot, staff is unable to gallop through the thick woods to get ahead of hounds and rate them. Or to even see which hound led the miscreants astray. He understands that he must first teach puppies what the proper quarry is, but he has no access to fox pens to even help him establish good habits from the start.

Thinking outside the box, he came up with the idea of using commercially available deer scent and fox scent as a tool to train hounds.

When Foxhounds Hunt Both Fox and Coyote

betsy smith.emma roweBetsy Smith in Virginia's Old Dominion Hunt country  /   Emma Rowe photoFoxhunting remained pure in much of rural Virginia even as the coyote population was increasing up and down the eastern coastal states. Why much of Virginia’s hunting country was ignored by coyotes is a question for another time, but there’s no doubt that canis latrans has discovered its earlier mistake and, for the last several years, has made substantial property acquisitions in the Old Dominion.

Virginia hunts are handling the situation in various ways—some considering coyote as riot, some adding the coyote to its list of bona fide quarry. For hunts in the latter category, with staff still relatively inexperienced in hunting the coyote, new questions arise for their hound breeding programs.

Betsy Smith asks whether a hound’s nose for coyote scenting should be any different than a hound’s nose for fox scenting. For a pack that hunts both coyote and fox, are there any breeding considerations when it comes to nose?

As a followup question, Betsy asks if there are other more important hound attributes than nose to consider and breed for.

We went to our Panel of Experts and asked two experienced huntsmen, C. Martin Wood, MFH, Live Oak Hounds (FL) and Marion Thorne, MFH, Genesee Valley Hunt (NY), to answer Betsy’s questions for the benefit of their less coyote-savvy friends in Virginia. Although Marty hunts in Florida, and Marion hunts in New York state, it’s uncanny how similarly they feel about what they need in their packs.

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Panel of Experts

haight

Sherman Haight, ex-MFH

MFHA President 1978-1981
Historian, Author

Hugh Robards, ex-MFH

Huntsman, Author

photocomingsoon

Arthur Liese

President, The Sporting Gallery and Bookshop, Inc. Sporting Art Dealer

Dr. Matthew Mackay-Smith

Co-Founder, Former Medical Editor, Equus Magazine, Veterinarian, Writer, Historian

Dr. Roger Scullin, MFH

Veterinarian, Foxhound Breeder

Jerry Miller, MFH

Huntsman, Foxhound Breeder

Paul Striberry

Foxhunter, Horseman, Trainer
www.consciousriding.com

Nigel Peel, MFH (UK)

Hunstman, Breeder, Judge

C. Martin Wood III, MFH

MFHA President 1990-1993
Huntsman, Breeder, Judge

Steve Price

Author/Editor of 25 books, including The Whole Horse Catalog and 1001 Best Things Ever Said About Horses

C. Martin Scott, ex-MFH (UK)

Foxhound Breeder, Judge, Writer

marion thorne

Bill Gamble Photo

Marion Thorne, MFH

Huntsman, Foxhound Breeder

 

ringtones