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Chula Homa Opening Meet


By Allison Crews

The Chula Homa Hunt hosted its thirty-second annual Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds at Tilda Bogue, the
home of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Crews, on November 8, 2014in Canton, Mississippi. More than 40 riders and 200 spectators attended, coming from all over the country – as well as special guests from England and Canada.  Six ladies rode aside, or sidesaddle, and two of them led the field.

Janice Clemons and Allison Crews of Canton co-chaired the event. Hunt festivities began with a catered breakfast and a silent auction. Masters and staff gathered the hounds for the Blessing and Stirrup Cup. Then it was off to find and chase the quarry!

The hounds had good runs and at one time a gray fox ran right out in front of Crews and first flight! The terrain is nearly all woods, so it is tricky to keep the pack together; but they ran beautifully all morning on foxes. The first flight field also crossed the famous “River Crossing” used in James Franco’s adaption of Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, filmed at Tilda Bogue. We only lost one rider – and she was just soaked, not hurt, and the horse was collected unharmed. Quite a fun day!

Foxhunting has existed in North America since Colonial days and was enjoyed extensively by night hunters, farmers, and landed gentry. The earliest record of imported hounds is on June 30, 1650, when Robert Brooke arrived in Maryland with his family and pack of hounds. By the early 1700s, the sport of foxhunting was increasing rapidly.

The earliest surviving record of American foxhunting in the modern manner is for the pack instituted by Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax in 1747 in northern Virginia. Much of what little is recorded about early hunting comes from letters written by Lord Fairfax and the diaries of George Washington. Washington was an ardent foxhunter who owned his own pack of hounds. Washington’s diaries are laced with frequent references to foxhunts. On one occasion while Congress was in session, hounds ran near the Capitol. Many congressmen ran outside to watch hounds and some jumped on their horses and joined the chase.

North American foxhunting has evolved its own distinct flavor, which is noticeably different from the British tradition. North American foxhunting emphasizes the chase rather than the kill, and 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 signals 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. Mississippi's Chula Homa hunt has two members who regularly ride aside.

Hunting gear has changed little since foxhunting began and is based on practicality. Heavy boots and breeches protect riders from branches and brambles. The Melton coats are almost waterproof. A stock tie, fastened with a plain gold safety pin, can serve as a bandage for man, hound, or horse in case of an accident.

Foxhunting continues to grow. Currently there are 167 organized clubs in North America and Canada, three of them hunting regularly in Mississippi. Chula Homa is the only hunt 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 stops the heart. Today’s hunters have a special reward, 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.

Allison Crews is author of a foxhunting novel trilogy: Antithesis, Impasse, Nemesis, and Wild Turkey Tales, lighthearted, funny tales of Mississippi turkey hunters. View a trailer from the movie “As I Lay Dying” on YouTube:

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