Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Bull Run Hunt

bullrun

Culpeper, Rapidan, Virginia.

Website: www.bullrunhuntclub.com


spencer allen crop smallHuntsman Spencer Allen / Douglas Lees photo

Huntsman Spencer Allen has gone through a rocky time in the past couple of years. He’s been forced to consider other options for his future, but he knows in his heart what he loves the most—working with and hunting foxhounds. And this is why he’s so happy to be in Monticello, Florida at Marty and Daphne Wood’s unparalleled establishment as huntsman for the Live Oak Hounds.

After serving six years in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Iraq, Allen began as an amateur whipper-in at the Bull Run Hunt (VA). Two seasons later he turned professional and moved to the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), serving four seasons as first whipper-in to huntsman Richard Roberts. Allen found himself working with a talented and attractive whipper-in, Rachel Gray, who also happened to be the daughter of the previous huntsman, Butch Gray. Spencer and Rachel were married, and in 2010 Spencer was named huntsman at Piedmont. He hunted the Piedmont hounds for five seasons, showing excellent sport, but trouble followed.

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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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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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carolinas15.david traxlerGrand Champion Hillsboro Graphic '14 with professional whipper-in Leilani Hrisko. Judges (l-r) are MFHs Tony Leahy and Dr. Jack Van Nagell / David Traxler photoHillsboro Graphic '14 was judged Grand Champion of Show at the thirty-ninth annual Carolinas Hound Show held at the Springdale Race Course in Camden, South Carolina on May 8 and 9, 2015.

Whelped to royal bloodlines—American on the sire’s side and English on the dam’s side—it should have been no surprise to see Graphic garner top honors. Her sire is Hillsboro Jethro '08, son of the magnificent Potomac Jefferson '05, Grand Champion Foxhound at Virginia in the year of the MFHA Centennial celebration, 2007.

On the dam’s side, Graphic goes back in tail female to North Cotswold Grapefruit '95, a Peterborough Champion and dam of several influential foxhounds in North America including Iroquois Grundy '98, Master Jerry Miller’s all-time favorite foxhound, and Mid-Devon Grocer '00, sire of Virginia and Bryn Mawr champion hounds from Blue Ridge.

Foxhounds from fourteen hunts and five states trod the flags at Carolinas: Aiken, Camden, DeLa Brooke, Green Creek, Hillsboro, Keswick, Lowcountry, Moore County, Red Mountain, Sedgefield, Tennessee Valley, Tryon, Whiskey Road, and Why Worry.

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cowboy hunt1Kail Mantle from Montana: just like riding a bronc  /  Val Westover photo

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.

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