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Middle Tennessee Joint Meets
By Tommy Brannon
On December 9-13, 2015 fox hunters from throughout Tennessee gathered for several days of sport in the Middle Tennessee hunt country south of Nashville. Ryan Johnsey, huntsman for Tennessee Valley Hunt (TVH), brought TVH’s pack of Penn-Marydel hounds from east Tennessee to hunt with Mells Fox Hounds, Cedar Knob Hounds, and Hillsborough Hounds. The latter three hunts territories are all within a short haul of each other. Accompanying Ryan and the TVH pack were several Tennessee Valley members, including three Joint Masters: Gretchen Pelham, Rosemarie Merle-Smith, and Grosvenor Merle-Smith. There were also guests from South Creek Foxhounds in Florida and Oak Grove Hunt in West Tennessee.
The first day’s hunt on Wednesday December 9 was with Mells Foxhounds near Pulaski, Tennessee. Karen Kressenberg, MFH and Huntsman for Mells, combined the two packs on an overcast and foggy day. She and Ryan cast hounds in a dense wood about a mile from the trailers. With encouragement from both huntsmen, it did not take long for the two packs settle in and start working together. This country is quite hilly and a little rocky, making it tricky to see all of the action. Both first and second flight fields stayed close to the combined packs and staff, which paid off. In typical Penn-Marydel fashion, hounds spoke to a cold trail deep in the woods and the music built to a crescendo as the quarry, hounds, and riders picked up speed. A fifteen minute run ensued on the high ground. The fields and staff rallied at the top of a mowed hill above the woods where the pack had briefly checked, sniffing out the line. The experienced foxhunters knew to look around in every direction for movement, and sure enough, there was sudden staccato of hound voices in the forest below and a big gray coyote broke cover behind the riders, running in the open and followed closely by the pack in full cry.
Day two (December 10) was a joint meet with TVH and Cedar Knob Hounds near Cornersville, Tennessee. Cedar Knob is a private pack of Penn-Marydels, owned and hunted by Albert Meneffee, MFH, and the meet took place at the Meneffee’s. Cedar Knob has recently become a registered pack with the Masters of Fox Hounds Association. Ryan and Albert combined their packs, of which some hounds share the same blood lines. Sixteen couple hounds and 32 riders (an even match) hunted that day, again including several guests. The day was even foggier and more overcast than the previous one. This is the kind of weather that carries sound well. It is important for riders to keep quiet so as to not distract the hounds, so all of the introductions and chatter took place before the first cast. Albert knew a place where a red fox was known to reside and decided to take the hounds there. The fields watched intently as the “cousins pack” worked back and forth around what looked like a fox’s den. From the way the hounds spread out and spoke, it appeared as though the ground was saturated with scent, but alas, this fox would not come out and play. The coyotes did come out and play, though. Two were run that day and there were several views.
Hunting resumed on Saturday, December 12 with Hillsboro Hounds, after a rest day for horses and riders. The other three hunts as well as their guests attended. Johnny Gray, professional huntsman for Hillsboro, showed everyone a great day of sport with Hillsboro’s pack of crossbred hounds. Gretchen Pelham stated it succinctly: “Hillsboro Hounds’ joint meet was not dull despite the warm temps! They put a red fox to ground, chased three coyotes (on separate runs) and a bobcat! We ran fast and hard, all with long gallops over beautiful country.” The day’s hunt lasted four hours and covered 16 miles of steep hills and ravines.
The last hunt on Sunday, December 13 was again in the Cedar Knob territory. This time Clare Pinney joined Ryan with the horn to help hunt the hounds. Four days of hunting with combined packs on fit horses and beautiful countryside. This was the perfect combination for any foxhunter!
Photos by Gretchen Pelham
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