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Chula Homa Hounds Opening Meet


By Allison Crews; photos by Stephanie Billingsley

The Chula Homa Hounds hosted its thirty-eighth annual Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Crews on November 14, 2020 in Canton, Mississippi. Riders and spectators from Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana braved the COVID-19 pandemic, masking up and kicking on to make it the largest mounted fox hunting event in central Mississippi.

New huntsman, Petra Kay, hunted fourteen hounds or “seven couple” in foxhunting terms. Father Elvin Sunds of St. Francis of Assisi in Madison, Mississippi blessed the hounds, horses, and riders, while Tim Gordon of Carthage, Miss. serenaded all with his marvelous bagpipes. Hounds hunted for coyote, fox, or bobcat, but found none to chase on this Saturday. Riders were able to see deer, turkey, and rabbits along with brilliant rusting cypress and golden hickory foliage rarely seen in Mississippi.

This year, the committee made many changes to protect the participants by providing Primos boxed lunches, masks, and hand sanitizers. Tables and chairs were widely spaced in smaller groups and the former Tally-ho wagons became Tally-Ho-On-The-Go personal vehicles. Undaunted, loyal followers turned out, resulting in a spectacular success.

Julie Wooley and Allison Crews co-chaired this event. Photographers, Stephanie Billingsley and Amanda Goodwin were on hand to capture the pageantry and action. Mark Millet also created a video of the event, which you can view here:

North American foxhunting has evolved its own distinct flavor, which is noticeably different from the British. North American foxhunting emphasizes the chase rather than the kill. Hounds predominately hunt coyote rather than foxes. The larger coyote usually provides longer and faster runs than foxes.

Even in today's casual dress world, formal attire still stands for foxhunters. Black leather boots, breeches, heavy or light hunting coat, a shirt with a tie or stock tie and a protective hat are essential. Every hunt has two seasons - cub hunting when young hounds are introduced into the pack and the formal season. Opening Meet signifies the beginning of the formal season. When the formal season opens the staff wears its livery, often red coats with white breeches and black boots with tan leather tops. Members wear black coats, buff breeches, and black boots. Most hunts allow gentlemen to wear red coats. Lady Masters and members of the staff also often wear red coats. Some ladies add to the elegance and ride sidesaddle.

Foxhunting continues to grow in popularity thanks to national efforts to encourage students and young adults to participate. Currently there are 167 organized clubs in North America and Canada, three of them hunting regularly in Mississippi. Chula Homa is the one of only two hunts with its kennels in Mississippi. The others are in Alabama and Tennessee.

Galloping over the countryside on a fine horse flying his fences well is a thrill for anyone. And for those not wanting to move along quite so rapidly, just the sights and sounds of a huge pack of hounds in full cry stop the heart. Today’s hunters have special permission to ride over private and public land, which still constitutes magnificent open spaces. No group of individuals is more aware of this privilege, nor is there a group more outspoken in their desire to protect quarry and preserve their environment. People from all walks of life and any age enjoy foxhunting. It is wonderful fun for the whole family that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

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