Two good staff hunts preceded our first day of cubbing, Friday, September 13. Twenty people showed up, a few of whom played hooky from work and therefore will not be named. Pushed out a red fox, Third Flight viewed but hounds couldn’t get over in time. They winded, walked as far as they could with their noses in the air, but the heat and humidity took care of that.
Today, September 15, we left from the Run-In Shed and after a dink here and there we hit and off they roared right at the edge of Mrs. Wood’s, Baldwin’s and not far from the corner of Mrs. Carter’s land. They sounded great and perhaps the mercury was in the low sixties by then. Then they split and we had two groups on full accelerator. As you would expect, I went up with the forward hounds closest to me. However, the second group hurtled down into the briars, timbered slash and there was no way the whipper-in, Mary Shriver, on that side could get around them. This oddly, turned out to be a good thing.
My fox shot right across the back of Amy Debilzan’s yard and so did the hounds. Not everyone enjoys hound music as the mists of morning are lifting. Emily Schilling and I heard the second group turn up so Emily took off as they were heading for 611. Yes, the old “cross the road” trick.
Maria Johnson now covered the open side having moved up. When hounds speak it’s a bit easier to figure things out than just hearing a toot now and then. So she moved up to the right place and Mary rode up on the hill. I was terribly glad to see her because I could also see Amy out in the back yard in her robe.
I blew and blew and hounds did come back up. The last thing anyone wants to do is offend a landowner. If I rode down, hounds would go down with me and that could cause further unwished for excitements. I told Mary to go down and she did. She said Amy was gracious and when I called my neighbor later, we had a good laugh about it. We were lucky. She certainly would have been within her rights to be vexed by half the pack in her back yard with a calf and some cattle, as well as, perhaps, not being fully awake.
But she was great and she did tell me about the bear over in the orchards that has been raising the devil with livestock, etc. She knows we have some bear over here, most of them are on the Foxden side, but we often will get a half grown bear on this side September through October. Usually, they keep their distance, but if they think there’s free eats, well, it can be dicey.
All the field sitting on the hill remained quiet, waited and I suspect, hoped we hadn’t ruined our good neighbor’s morning.
So now, how do we get to the rest of the hounds? Emily, John and Toot convinced most of them to come back over 611. One couple felt hunting was better on the east side of the road and they wound up in the party wagon. Lesson learned.
We didn’t do much after that, so returned to the trailers by a bit after 9:30 am.
Back to a split pack. Hounds are not wrong to follow a hot line. They are wrong not to listen which is why one has whippers-in. It’s natural for a hound to want to push the hotter line. When the line is about equal, and it was this morning because we pushed two out close to one another and at the same time, the huntsman must determine which group to honor, and trust the whippers-in to turn the others back.
Sounds so easy. But a whipper-in can only turn a hound if s/he gets on its shoulder or the shoulder, so to speak, of the group. How can you do that in our territory? It’s hard enough in Piedmont or Orange territory. Well, quite often a whipper-in can’t do it so what they must then do is keep in as close contact as territory allows and call them, if needs be, crack the whip. That’s why we work with hounds all summer. They must be biddable here. (Well, they should be everywhere but a more gentle territory lends itself better to swift correction.) There are two other ways to work through this in difficult territory. The first is to get ahead of the hounds. Let’s say they are in the woods, you can see them but if you go in, slash, footing, old wire, whatever, means you will fall further behind. Better to stay where you can freely move and try to get ahead of them, and then speak to them when they burst out of the woods. Often, you have a good idea where that spot will be.
The second method is if you can’t see them, but you can hear them, you surge forward to where you think they may blast out. Great, if you called it right. A real mess if they turn in the woods or stop speaking.
As you can see, whipping-in demands constant judgment made in a second. It also demands that one calm down, sit for that second or two and intently listens. This is critical in our territory. Then make your move. Like any sport, anticipation is the key.
What does the huntsman do? Prayer helps. But that’s a story for another day.
Congratulations to Sandra Dawson for leading First Flight for the first time. She did a splendid job and got her field where they should be.
See you all in the hunt field. Thank God the season has started.
Up and Over,
A red ribbon in a horse’s tail means s/he kicks. Don’t crowd.
A green ribbon means a green horse.
A white ribbon means the horse is for sale is available.
Tails down on your hunt cap means you are staff.
Tails up: a field member.
A JOHN BROWN STRAP
A professional whipper-in may wear a stirrup leather diagonally from shoulder to waist. This can be quite useful as a whipper-in will usually go through rougher territory, cover more aisles, and wear out more stirrup leathers.
An amateur whipper-in may wear a stirrup leather as a belt or over their belt, under their coat, if they so choose.