Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Rappahannock Hunt

rappahannock

Rappahannock, Culpeper and Madison counties, Virginia

Website: www.rappahannockhunt.com


IMG 2539kIn the Bull Run country east of the Blue Ridge Mountains with trial huntsman Epp Wilson (left), judges, and pack. /  Gretchen Pelham photo

It was a top-three sweep, not only for English fell bloodlines, but for one Cumbrian hunt in particular. When the recent Bull Run-Rappahannock Foxhound Performance Trials concluded in Virginia over the weekend of October 19–21, 2017, the three top-scoring hounds were either sired by or whelped out of fell hounds from the Ullswater Foxhounds (UK). And three different Ullswater hounds at that.

Another hound finishing in the top ten was also whelped out of an Ullswater hound. At the center of this story is professional huntsman John Harrison, currently in his first season hunting the foxhounds of the Deep Run Hunt.

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Hounds

IMG 2539kIn the Bull Run country east of the Blue Ridge Mountains with trial huntsman Epp Wilson (left), judges, and pack. /  Gretchen Pelham photo

It was a top-three sweep, not only for English fell bloodlines, but for one Cumbrian hunt in particular. When the recent Bull Run-Rappahannock Foxhound Performance Trials concluded in Virginia over the weekend of October 19–21, 2017, the three top-scoring hounds were either sired by or whelped out of fell hounds from the Ullswater Foxhounds (UK). And three different Ullswater hounds at that.

Another hound finishing in the top ten was also whelped out of an Ullswater hound. At the center of this story is professional huntsman John Harrison, currently in his first season hunting the foxhounds of the Deep Run Hunt.

Harrison came to Deep Run from the Toronto and North York Hunt where he hunted hounds for the last three seasons. Prior to that, Harrison was huntsman for eighteen seasons of one of the storied foot packs of Cumbria, the Ullswater. When he left England for Toronto, he brought with him four couple of Ullswater hounds.

The first-place hound at the trial’s finish, accumulating the highest overall score in two days of hunting, was Bull Run Talisman (Ullswater Crowner 2011 ex T&NY Tadpole 2011). The sire is a fell hound from the Ullswater; the dam is a fell hound from the Blencathra, also from Cumbria. Harrison brought Crowner to Toronto and North York, put him to Tadpole, and whelped Talisman, a pure fell hound.

In second place was Bull Run Nicely (Teme Valley Nomad 2011 ex Ullswater Famous 2013). The sire is a Welsh hound; the dam is an Ullswater fell hound. Harrison brought Famous to Toronto and North York, put her to Nomad, and whelped Nicely, a Welsh on fell cross.

In third place was Blue Ridge Prosper (Ullswater Falcon 2013 ex Mill Creek Patience 2012). Harrison brought Falcon to Toronto, put him to Patience, a Crossbred bi*ch, and whelped Prosper, a fell on Crossbred mating.

Harrison drafted both Talisman and Nicely unentered to Bull Run. He drafted Prosper unentered to Blue Ridge. But, there’s more.

Also scoring among the top ten overall hounds in the trial was Blue Ridge Napkin. Napkin is a littermate to second-placed Nicely, which means that four of the ten top-scoring hounds in the trial were bred and whelped by Harrison from his Ullswater bloodlines. Makes you think. If I were a breeder of English or Crossbred hounds and seeking an outcross for hybrid vigor, I would be on the phone to the Toronto and North York Hunt (ON) and/or to John Harrison at the Deep Run Hunt (VA)!

brh rh trial2.smithJudges meeting. Center with clipboard is Bull Run huntsman Charles Montgomery, reviewing the rules. To his left are MFHA Executive Director David Twiggs and trial huntsman Epp Wilson. To his right is Rosie Campbell, MFH, Bull Run. / Barbara Smith photo


Seven hunts brought five hounds each, making up a trial pack of seventeen-and-a-half couples of hounds. Competing hunts were Blue Ridge Hunt, Bull Run Hunt, Deep Run Hunt, Farmington Hunt, Rappahannock Hunt, Tennessee Valley Hounds, and Thornton Hill Hounds. Bull Run Masters Mike Long, Rosie Campbell, and James Moore, together with Rappahannock Masters Oliver Brown, Gus Edwards, and Michel Brown, cooperated to offer competitors and guests fine hunting venues, plenty of southern hospitality, and a smooth-running event.

Trial Huntsman was Epp Wilson, MFH and huntsman of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA). “As huntsman, my job was not to ride close and score individual hounds,” explains Epp. “My job was to stay out of the way and nearby, unless hounds needed help. Those rare moments when they needed help, I called them forward and they got going again just fine. They responded beautifully each time.

“They were good, intelligent hounds—professionals, the cream of the crop, the best five hounds from each of these fine packs. Also, we found good game early, and they figured each other out in the process of the first run.

“The hounds accepted me as huntsman, due, largely, to our Hound Trial routine of having the guest huntsman spend about twenty to thirty minutes with the pack in the hound trailer or pen where they are all kept for thirty minutes or so prior to moving out as a pack on the first day. During that time the hounds get all the butt-sniffing and shoulder-bumping out of the way. Also, I loved on all of them individually—all but the two shyest ones who didn’t understand. I looked all of them in the eye, one by one, and tried to connect the invisible thread. Most of them responded readily. The ones who hesitated, I scratched their ears, under their chins, then vigorously with both hands all the way down their backs against the lay of their coats. Most hounds love this and these were no exceptions. Most of them smile and twist and shake and want more.”

brrht.balloon.smithA hot air ballon gets a superb view of the hunting action in the Rappahannock country. / Barbara Smith photo

Barbara Smith, riding in the field, reported that “Friday morning dawned chilly, with some dew, and we were hopeful for a good scenting day. Hounds were put together quickly and as soon as Epp Wilson, MFH, the trial huntsman, was satisfied that they were comfortable, hounds and riders were off over a coop at the top of the Feedlot parking area. We moved off into Quiet Shade, which is a favorite for holding foxes, but today a large, good-looking coyote was viewed immediately by Boo Montgomery, professional whipper-in at Bull Run and judge today.

“I also viewed a large coyote pacing a hunted fox later in the morning. He was running parallel to the dark red hunted fox. I watched as both ran across a big cattle field before disappearing into the pines off Feedlot Drive. The hounds never left the fox line but that coyote was watching! Later we switched onto another coyote somewhere in the pines and hounds flew back towards the mountain and the meet.

“We ran one fox and three coyote this day and judges were able to get many Full Cry scores, as well as Hunting and Trailing scores. By ten o'clock in the morning, it was close to eighty degrees. Thirsty hounds were drinking from the automatic waterers with the help of their huntsmen, and almost all the riders were equally thirsty.

“Some of us were also out of horse with another hunting day to follow. It was a good first day with plenty of scores. Friday night all were invited to the Serenko home in Culpeper, Virginia for a delicious Italian buffet. Ribbons for the day were handed out, and we welcomed Penny Denegre, MFH, Middleburg Hunt to join the fun and present ribbons to the top three hunts for the first day.”

IMG 2541kField hunters letting off steam during a busy day's hunting. /  Gretchen Pelham photo

The second day’s action was much the same, as huntsman Epp reports. “A few minutes into the first draw we were running a good red fox. Due to multiple splits, hounds were running one critter or another from a few minutes after eight am until 11:21 am, when we got the last twelve hounds off Big Battle Mountain. That was over three hours with hounds running the entire time. It was another glorious hunting day. Followed by another fabulous breakfast no less.”

Your author was returning toward the meet in his vehicle and faintly heard hounds hunting down the mountain toward a stream bed running perpendicular to the road across from the meet. I pulled into the field, quite alone, parked, and saw a coyote cooly crossing the entire field right-handed, away from the stream bed, heading toward a silo. After reaching the silo, the coyote turned halfway back and disappeared over the hill away from me. It was late, warm, and the coyote wasn’t at all pressed. In time, coming from the stream bed, two-and-a-half couple of hounds, the last small split, were struggling to follow the coyote’s line. Hot and tired, they weren’t racing, but they owned that faint line, crossed the field, turned halfway back near the silo and also disappeared over the hill.

No judge was in sight. I felt so badly for these hard-working hounds not being scored. They were obviously going to miss Speed and Drive points, and, it being late in the day, would have been awarded Endurance points by the computer program as well.

An hour later, sitting at the table with food and drink, I recounted my view to Epp Wilson, telling him how sad it was that these few hounds hadn’t been scored. I was dead wrong!

“I was in the field on the other side of the hill from the road,” said Epp. “I saw them come over, and I scored them.” He dug out his judge’s notes and read off the numbers. Whew! I’m constantly amazed at how much the judges see, and how consistently all the judges see and score the same hounds that are doing the best work. These Performance Trials are truly the only fair and reliable way to rank the performance of foxhounds in the hunting field.

Results were announced later in the afternoon. In the hunt rankings, Bull Run was the winner with Blue Ridge second in this, the latter’s first-ever hound trial. Deep Run was a close third.

Huntsman’s Choice was Blue Ridge Tartan, a Crossbred. I always love to ask the trial huntsmen what they see in that one hound they would most like to take home with them.

“There were many moments of brilliant hound work by the pack that day,” Epp writes. “The one that stood out the most to me was at a major check during the second run. The pack had just gotten settled on the line of a good red fox viewed twice by different staff members. As they carried the line across a big cow pasture, the line went right to and through a large herd of Black Angus cattle. Scent was dicey to start with out in the open, better in the woods. The cattle scent drowned out the faint fox scent, and hounds struggled and searched in every direction for a hundred yards and could not find the line. The faint scent was fading fast. Then Tartan started trailing. She was way ahead of the rest of the pack and had cast herself along the far wood line. One woof. Then another and another, each one with more certainty. The pack flew to her; they knew she was honest and reliable. The rest of the run is history. But without her fox sense and great nose, we probably would have lost that fox completely.

“After we announced that Tartan was my Huntsman’s Choice for the weekend, Ryan Johnsey, MFH and Huntsman of Tennessee Valley told us that he had seen another moment of Tartan’s brilliance. Just before the check in the cow pasture, the pack had checked hard on a gravel county road. Tartan worked the line a long way down the middle of the gravel road and found where the fox left the road and went back into the woods. She opened and the pack flew to her there, too. She is a great hound with outstanding nose and amazing fox sense. That is why I picked her."

IMG 2554kThe first field on a run in the Bull Run Country. / Gretchen Pelham photo

Riding in the Footsteps of Lee and Custer
Rappahannock Hunt hosted that second day of hunting at Jim and Debbie Massie's home, Meadow Grove, in Amissville, Virginia. Bull Run huntsman Charles Montgomery said at end of day that hounds had run a rough figure eight up, down, and around two landmark hills, Little Battle Mountain and Big Battle Mountain, between which is situated the lovely Massie Farm, site of the meet. The two hills are noted for their Civil War history, which Barbara Smith relates:

“The Battle Mountain in Amissville was actually the site of the largest single Civil War military engagement in Rappahannock County. On July 24th, 1863, the Union Army was pursuing General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as they marched south following their defeat at Gettysburg earlier in the month. Union General George O. Custer (yes, that Custer) attacked Confederate General Longstreet and General A. P. Hill as they marched down Richmond Road. Custer had placed artillery on the shoulder of Battle Mountain and shelled Hill's men. However, Confederate General Benning returned and flanked Custer with two thousand infantrymen from Georgia and Alabama. Custer's rear guard fought for two hours, allowing Custer to escape by cutting a road through the woods on the mountain back to Amissville. It was here at Battle Mountain that the Union Army's pursuit was stopped. It is interesting to note we were hunting in some of the very woods that Custer retreated through after his ill-fated attack on Confederate forces. General Custer was quoted as saying later it was the "closest call he ever had." Of course, history proved he had another that did not end so well.

Final Results
Top Ten Overall Hounds:
1. Talisman, Bull Run
2. Nicely, Bull Run
3. Prosper, Blue Ridge
4. Damsel, Bull Run
5. Pouncer, Deep Run
6. Wizard, Deep Run
7. Embargo, Thorton Hill
8. Bonfire, Tennessee Valley
9. Napkin, Blue Ridge
10. Bellemaid, Bull Run

Top Overall Packs:
1. Bull Run Hunt
2. Blue Ridge Hunt
3. Deep Run Hunt

Huntsman's Choice:
Blue RidgeTartan

Posted November 20, 2017

ceremonies2.croppedArapahoe Joint-Master Mary Ewing introduces Marvin Beeman. /  Douglas Lees photo

A countryman from Virginia, a veterinarian from Colorado, and a businessman from north Florida were honored by an appreciative crowd of well-wishers on the occasion of their induction into the Huntsmen’s Room of the Museum of Hounds and Hunting. Ceremonies were conducted at Morven Park, Leesburg, Virginia on Saturday, May 27, 2017. This was the evening before the Virginia Foxhound Show over the Memorial Day Weekend.

James Lee Atkins, Dr. G. Marvin Beeman, MFH, and C. Martin Wood III, MFH were selected by a committee of their peers for having carried the hunting horn with honor, courage, and distinction in hunting fields across North America in their lifetimes. The three men join a select club of just forty-one pre-eminent huntsmen so honored. The last inductions were made two years ago.

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graham buston.smallHuntsman Graham Buston brings the Blue Ridge hounds to the first draw, where a fox was quickly unkenneled for a field of juniors participating in one of 31 qualifying meets for the 2016 Junior North American Field Hunter Championships. /  Michelle Arnold photo

Every junior who qualifies by competing at any one of thirty-one Qualifying Meets offered across fourteen states and provinces will be eligible to compete in the Junior North American Field Hunter Championship Finals this year. The meets are in full swing.

The Blue Ridge Hunt hosted a qualifying meet on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the McIntosh farm situated just above the Shenandoah River under western brow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Anne McIntosh, MFH led the field of hopefuls, judges, and hunt members, the latter riding behind the junior competitors for a change.

Hunting was excellent, with foxes getting away right at the start and giving the judges plenty of opportunities to watch and judge the young riders and their mounts in action. And everyone viewed the quarry at least once!

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oatlands.ohiggins jones wallace sharp haightVirginia Foxhound Show, Oatlands, 1986: Huntsman Shelly O'Higgins receives trophy from Joan Jones (now President, Virginia Foxhound Club). Judges are (l-r) Captain R.E. Wallace, MFH, Exmoor Foxhounds (UK); Bun Sharp, MB, Nantucket-Treweryn Beagles; Sherman Haight, MFH, Mr. Haight's Litchfield County Hounds.

The venerable Virginia Foxhound Club—the team that brings you the Virginia Foxhound Show each year—is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary. It seems timely to look back, evaluate the importance of hound shows in the overall scheme of foxhunting, and convince those with a passion for the sport that their membership in the Virginia Foxhound Club, no matter where in North America they hunt the fox or the coyote, is an investment that will benefit all fox hunters and their hunts.

The Virginia Foxhound Show, the largest hound show in the world, brings foxhounds of all types and all strains to the flags for viewing, comparing, and judging. Whether a Master or huntsman is seeking certain bloodlines, or an outcross to introduce hybrid vigor to the gene pool within his kennels, he sees such hounds at Virginia. And he has the opportunity to socialize and chat, in a magnificent setting, about the merits and traits of the canine objects of his desire. With your support, the best matings may continue to be made in Heaven, but they’ll be arranged in Virginia!

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