Photographer Gretchen Pelham was simply photographing a beautiful scene of huntsman Ryan Johnsey standing by the cornfield with the Smoky Mountains in the background. She had no idea she had caught a hunting drama!
Limestone, Tennessee, on the banks of the Nolichucky River (translation: “the River of Death”) under the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. It was the first staff hunt of the season. I had picked up a few puppies and our ancient hound Ariat hanging out at the trailers and put them in a section of corn that I knew was close to the pack, still searching for game. Both puppies came right back out of the corn but Ariat started boo-hooing on a line. The pack soon joined her and off they went.
About an hour later I was sitting on a hill on my horse, listening to the pack circle and roar by me again, and all I did was take a burst of photos of Ryan Johnsey, MFH, our huntsman, with the Smoky Mountains in the background. That’s it. I saw Ryan and the mountains through the lens. Nothing else.
As I put the camera back into my coat*, I saw the back end of a black and tan canine run into the tall grass to my right. Ariat is our only black and tan hound. I thought, “Good Lord! Ariat is moving fast for such an old girl! She’s in front of the whole pack!”
Hounds ran the coyote about an hour and forty minutes without a check on about four hundred acres of corn in crazy ninety-degree-plus heat and humidity. It wasn’t until three days later when I downloaded the photos that I realized it was the coyote I had seen and not Ariat. I took one of the best shots of my career and never knew I was doing it.
The mostly white hound in the photo was a clueless puppy who never even saw the coyote. I, alas, was also clueless, as I hadn’t seen the coyote either. In my defense I did get up at 2:00 am that morning in order to get to the 6:30 am fixture on time. So I don’t think my brain was fully functioning. Thank God the camera was!
Click an image to start a larger slideshow of all three in the sequence.
Posted June 9, 2017
* Gretchen Pelham has all her hunt coats tailored to accommodate her camera case inside!