It is not something you expect to see in Montana. You’ll do a double take and rub your eyes the first time you round the bend in ranch country and catch a glimpse of a pack of foxhounds followed by a bunch of people horseback, some wearing scarlet coats and hunt caps, some Carharts and cowboy hats. You’ll want to stop and watch as some sail over a haphazard jump put across a barbed wire fence in the middle of a cow pasture. You will probably hear the huntsman’s horn and the hounds screaming. And if you look way, way ahead, you might catch a glimpse of a very nonplussed coyote. Not a fox.
This is foxhunting, Montana-style. Even though there usually isn’t a fox involved, and without a rifle it’s not really considered hunting out here, but for those of us who ride to the Big Sky Hounds, it is a helluva lot of fun.
Last year, while hunting with the Red Rock Hounds (NV), I met Renee and Kail Mantle from Big Sky Hounds in Three Forks, Montana. Kail gave us a bucking horse lesson one day before hunting. This Montana cowboy, who hunts in chaps and cowboy hat, had sat calmly to his horse bucking crazily above the sagebrush and had seriously impressed me.
When a group of these Western foxhunters invited me to accompany them to Ireland this year, I jumped at the chance. These were fun people---more than a little crazy, and I wondered if anyone had warned the Irish!
I also wondered if my companions knew what they were getting into. I had hunted the big Irish walls and hedges in 2000, and I came home with newfound respect for anyone who hunts regularly in Ireland. It is challenging country, and their version of foxhunting is an excuse to run and jump really big fences.