Foxhunting Foxhunting Road Trips
All of the extremely wet weather that we have been having this winter in the Mid-South has literally put a damper on riding activities – not just in trying to keep dry while on horseback, but also sloppy footing for the horses when riding outdoors. It has been a particular challenge for the horseback field sports that take place this time of year, including bird dog field trialing and fox hunting.
Longreen Foxhounds have several hunt fixtures that are in the Mississippi River Delta, both in Mississippi and in Arkansas. We have all heard the term “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.” Well, not only has the creek been steadily rising this winter, but also have all of the rivers including the Mississippi. One of the Longreen fixtures near Jonesboro, Arkansas was so inundated that it could be mistaken for a lake. Thus, a joint meet that was scheduled there for late January had to be canceled. Fortunately, Longreen does have one fixture in the uplands near Como, Mississippi and Susan Walker, MFH and huntsman for Longreen, has been able to take the hounds out there for several hunts. But too many horses galloping too often on any turf will turn it into a quagmire in short order.
The hounds and horses needed to get out and run, to keep their keen edge. So what is the answer to this rain and wet footing dilemma? Answer: Road Trips!
Susan arranged for several joint meets where she knew the Longreen foxhounds would be compatible with other packs. Two hunts were scheduled, one with Cedar Knob Hounds in the hills of middle Tennessee and the other with Shawnee Hounds in southern Illinois.
The first road trip hunt was with Cedar Knob Hounds on February 16, 2020. Both the Longreen and Cedar Knob packs are comprised of Penn-Marydel hounds and many of them share some of the same bloodlines. Clare Pinney, Huntsman for Cedar Knob, and Susan rode together hunting the joined packs. Susan summarized the hunt, “It was a challenging day at Cedar Knob with spotty scent. The hounds worked hard. There were several good lines that were carried out of country, so hounds had to be stopped. They spread out well and listened to Clare’s whistling; but I can’t whistle, so it was terrific for them to experience this. The packs merged well and honored each other, going 18-20 miles. My horse Winston and I went 15 miles following Clare through beautiful hills of open hardwood. At the end of the hunt, the tired hounds fell into a deep sleep in the trailer.”
The following weekend was a trip to Pyramid State Park and Recreation area in southern Illinois for a joint meet with Shawnee Hounds, February 22. This 19,700-acre State Recreation Area (SRA) is mainly reclaimed strip mines. It consists of grasslands, upland forests and lakes, some of which are quite large and can only be accessed on foot or horseback. There is abundant wildlife, including protected waterfowl, as well as deer, songbirds, squirrels, beavers, rabbits, turkeys, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, weasels, minks, woodchucks, and coyotes.
The Longreen sojourners brought a pack of 7½ couple (15) hounds ranging in age from 2 to 8 ½.
Mark Smith, MFH of Shawnee, scheduled the hunt to commence at 1:00 p.m. because of the forecast of a rapid temperature rise and a blue sky, which would make for poor scenting conditions. By casting time, the temperature had stabilized to 47-50°F and the clouds came in, making the scenting conditions much better. The two packs were combined for the day and worked well together. Susan optimistically commented that the first half hour was “Great deer training and then the coyotes came out of the woodwork. The hounds ran three different coyotes and four additional coyotes were viewed. They got to fly and correct for swings (in the coyote scent). The coyotes ‘know’ that if they leave the state park, the hounds will be stopped; but when hounds were picked up and cast again, they would run another coyote. After the last run, we made the decision to road the pack on roadways the more than a mile back to the trailers, because with the good scenting, we knew the pack would be off on another one quickly.” The riders all came in to enjoy a tailgate party after the hunt.
Another joint meet with Longreen and Shawnee was scheduled for February 29, which included a formal hunt ball.
Another meet with Longreen and Cedar Knob is scheduled for March 15.
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