March 21, 2018
Foxhunting in Deer Season
For the most part, hunters of all types try to be courteous to each other and not interfere with the others’ sport. This is particularly true of traditional mounted foxhunting. However, the opening day of modern gun deer hunting season can feel like a war zone in the woods. Horses moving over fields and through woods can look an awful lot like a deer to an excited hunter with a high power rifle sitting in his stand. This is why many foxhunting clubs choose not to take their hounds out on deer season opening weekend, which fell on November 17 this year, both in Mississippi and Tennessee.
Hard Away Whitworth Hunt has a solution. They book opening deer season weekend at the Black Prairie Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located in Lowndes County just north of Monroe, Mississippi. The club gets exclusive use for the weekend of the WMA’s 5,200 acres. The Black Prairie WMA is a regular fixture for Hard Away Whitworth and has enough land to hunt both Saturday and Sunday without having to draw the same coverts more than once. The hunt has access to a covered open-sided barn, which has 25 pipe fence stalls for horse care and feeding, as well as a dining hall clubhouse for people care and feeding. Many of the foxhunting membership live in Alabama and Tennessee, and across Mississippi. So, they haul many hours to the hunt and choose to stay in their living quarters trailers parked near the clubhouse/ stables. This can be quite convenient for a 7:00 AM cast!
Stephen Porch, MFH and Huntsman likes early morning cast times because the dew is still on for better scenting, and the nocturnal coyote and fox have not gone to bed yet. Stephen is very generous with his hunting knowledge, and on this particular weekend he had guest Kayla Eike of Oak Grove Hunt Club riding with him, soaking up as much information about hunting hounds as she could. Kayla said that for quite some time she has wanted to learn to hunt hounds. She has recently been mentored by Dickie Watson, MFH and huntsman of Oak Grove Hunt Club with the hopes of some day hunting Oak Grove’s pack.
Even with 5,200 acres of land to ride on, hounds can still get out of territory. One cannot direct the quarry where to go! Next to the WMA is property owned by an avid deer hunting family that will not allow ingress, so Stephen and his whippers-in had to use their skills to gather hounds to avoid trespass and move to another cast. Each day’s hunting lasted about four to five hours before scent dissipated. One bit of humor occurred on the second day. While hunting the pack back to the trailers, a raccoon popped out in front of the hounds. He quickly realized what he had done and scampered up into a hollow tree. The children on the hunt jumped off of their ponies and helped gather the baying hounds from the base of the tree.
The club hunts back to back every weekend from August to March at fixtures in Mississippi and Alabama. When at Black Prairie, they normally hunt in the mornings, and gather in the evening for dinner at MFH Robert Temkovits’ “Party Room,” which is built into one of his barns. This makes for a fun weekend on horseback, enjoying great sport, without interfering with other sportsmen.
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