A Conversation with the Author, Grosvenor Merle-Smith
Grosvenor Merle-Smith’s new book is a labor of love. Between its covers, you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know―even things you never knew you wanted to know―about hunting horns.
Your editor knows of no resource that compares to this meticulously researched, artistically designed, and lavishly produced book. The book’s title and cover design were heavily influenced, with the author’s tongue in his cheek, by an old pamphlet written by L.C. Cameron for Köhler and Sons, The Hunting Horn: What to Blow and How to Blow It. That pamphlet was the subject of a recent Foxhunting Life article. For any foxhunting library, these two publications―Merle-Smith’s and Cameron’s―constitute the sum and substance of just about all that's known concerning the hunting horn, its history, materials, manufacture, sources, and music used in hunting the fox with hounds.
Three foxhounds from the Shawnee Hounds (IL) finished among the overall top ten scorers (out of twenty-four hounds that completed the trials) propelling Shawnee to first place among the six other competing hunts. Following Shawnee, in order of finish, were Hillsboro Hounds (TN) second and Tennessee Valley Hunt (TN) third. Other competing hunts were Belle Meade Hunt (GA), Midland Foxhounds (GA), Mission Valley Hunt Club (KS), and Bull Run Hunt (VA). The trials were hosted by Belle Meade in their Thomson, Georgia country on January 17-18, 2020.
Shawnee supporters were ecstatic as the results were announced. Not bad for first-season huntsman Kalie Wallace! Shawnee Master and former huntsman Dr. Mark Smith, who has been the brains behind the hunt’s breeding program, handed the horn over to Kalie at the start of this season.
Dr. Todd “Doc” Addis, one of the great champions of the American Penn-Marydel foxhound, died suddenly on July 24, 2019 at his home, Fox Hill, in Elverson Pennsylvania. He was eighty-five and with his family.
Doc was Master and huntsman of Warwick Village Hounds and a zealous advocate for the Penn-Marydel foxhound. He made it his crusade to convince foxhunters across North America of the advantageous traits, and superior abilities of his beloved Penn-Marydel compared to any other breed. He not only converted many successful Masters and huntsmen to his convictions, but was also personally responsible for helping, advising, and drafting good working bloodlines to those packs. In so doing, Doc was instrumental in extending Penn-Marydel bloodlines from their Pennsylvania/Maryland/Delaware roots to so many other hunts across North America.
The author, as we reported in our last issue, is the new huntsman at the Camargo Hunt (OH). During his career, Andy Bozdan has served as huntsman in England, Australia, and the U.S. Recently, he’s been whipping-in at the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA). Foxhunting Life asked Andy what it’s like to carry the horn again and be The Man in Front!
So, after a couple of seasons whipping-in to Graham Buston at Blue Ridge Hunt, I took up the horn again at the Carmargo Hunt in Kentucky and Ohio. I can remember one or two of my friends jokingly asking if I’d remember how to blow the horn, or get on the right side of the horse, etc. But it is, for sure, very different when you take on a pack and suddenly ... your it!
Everything becomes your responsibility, and very quickly you have to make decisions on the care of the hounds, how best to hunt the country, and plan ahead with a breeding program. To be honest I’ve been so busy since I arrived here that I have barely had time to stop and think!
It’s time for our annual report on the recent moves of huntsmen across North America. The huntsman is my hero. From the time we mount up and for the few hours that follow, it is he or she most directly responsible for the day’s sport. How the huntsman has bred, trained, deployed, and communicated with his troops—the hounds—has everything to do with the satisfaction of our day in the field.
The moves have been numerous this season, and, in a two cases, we have experienced whippers-in finally achieving their dream of a pack of their own to hunt. We’ll catch up with Alasdair Storer, Andrew Bozdan, Kathryn Butler, Stephen Farrin, Danny Kerr, Emily Melton, and Timothy Michel.