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Oak Grove Opening Hunt


By Peggy Hart

Why would normally sane people want to get up even before the sun is up to prepare their horse for a morning fox hunt?  Just to wear those red coats and frolic around the countryside?

 When it comes to fox hunting you do truly have to experience what it is like! And you also have to be lucky enough to be out on a day when the scenting is right, the hounds are perfect, the day is beautiful and the sport is tremendous.
Such was the day for Oak Grove Hunt’s opening meet on Saturday November 10, 2012.  It was a warm day, a little windy as a front began to head our way, but bright and sunny.  The stirrup cup, a family tradition of the Harold Walker family, tasted just as sweet as when Harold rode to hounds and Foxy stirred the mixture about in the silver engraved President’s punch bowl.  The Huntsman, Dickie Watson, Master of Foxhounds, escorted the hounds to the altar and the riders gathered around.  The minister blessed each hound, each horse, and each rider preparing to go out, and also the quarry that we were to run. He prayed for a safe and happy day, and it was time to go.

Hounds and riders walked sedately past the big Dock Lake and up the hill to the first big pasture.  Anticipation was in the air! The hounds were cast with a blow from the hunt horn, and they were off to see if they could find that elusive creature they were bred to discover.  Whippers-in scattered to take up positions to help keep the hounds in sight as they coursed through the territory. The Huntsman and Field of riders followed behind. 

It was only moments before the strike hounds opened to announce, “We have found what we dearly love to smell and we are following the scent most carefully and with great vigor!” 

 A tally-ho from Tommy Brannon and Bill Lackey, as a coyote ran past the rabbit coop fence, indicated the quarry was headed east to the road. Joyce Mckibbon soon learned how valuable a road whip is as she turned the quarry back into the territory, thus protecting it and the hounds from traffic.  The surprised coyote turned north and the hounds followed.
 Hounds made a big sweep through woods, around a lake, and then up the hill to the big hay bales and on through the woods past the baby calf coop.  Hounds were now two to three minutes behind!

A foxhound hunts strictly by scent, and if they lose the scent, they must find it again to keep hunting. The pack spreads out when the scent is lost so at least one of the pack members can find it again. 

The chase continued across the 1200 acre rolling pastures and woods of Blackwater Ranch. The coyote hurried on, only to find Brynda Read positioned to keep him from crossing out of the territory again. Brynda turned him back and he ran parallel to the fence 100 yards until he could slip past her and into the woods on the other side of the fence. Wiley coyote!

Moments of quiet left the hunting members wondering what was going on.  Had the hounds lost the scent?  Finally a hound voice opened saying, “Here it is!”  Hounds that were so intent on hunting that the Huntsman and staff began to worry whether the heat was affecting them.  Some hounds had begun to stop and return to the huntsman only to grab a drink at a pond or puddle, and then hearing the cry of the opening pack in the woods, went back to the chase.

Silence.  A voice.  They have it again!  As Tommy Brannon, Peggy Hart and Brynda Read stand silently by the fence, the coyote, a big dark thick-coated  gray, slips under the barbed wire fence back into territory at the slide, a sandy eroded area, taking little notice of the three riders. 

Wait for it! Yes, there is the first hound Tipsy, then Gravy, now Sadie, Garfield, and Ulysses.  But where is the scent?  There is nothing in the sand and they spread out to find it.  Garfield drops down into the woods on the other side of the slide and opens, and they are off again! They head east, through the woods and across Armadillo Alley into the ditch and up into the woods near where the quarry was first seen.

 He is headed east again and the hounds are hot on his scent!  Another view as he heads for the old cabin and the lake.  He is making another attempt to run east, and this time he makes it, coming out to cross the road between two hills so that he is not seen. 

As the hounds hit the road, they are stopped and collected. Their day is done.  They have hunted and stayed on their quarry several hours. It is hot, and their health and that of the quarry must be considered. Back at the ranch house a huge breakfast of ham, cheese grits, cool drinks and desserts await the intrepid hunters who have kept up with the hounds on this wonderful November day.

Now you tell me if you would rather stay at home in bed or get up with the sun and have the ride of your life on that horse you own?

Our thanks to Wiley Coyote for giving us a great opening hunt and allowing so many of us to view you!

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