I asked Mike Long, MFH of Bull Run Hunt (VA) how had he bribed the coyote to be waiting for us on Cedar Mountain’s ridge trail five minutes into the first day of March Madness. He grinned and shrugged, saying something about having FUN! That coyote proceeded to duck and dodge all over Cedar Mountain before deciding he had enough and leaving for the northern edge of the country.
It was a beautiful, warm, blue sky day and the joint packs of Bull Run Hunt, under huntsman Charles Montgomery, and seven couple of Belle Meade Hunt (GA) hounds had given us a terrific run to start Bull Run Hunt Week, known as March Madness (or the Run-e-Meade event).
Huntsmen Charles Montgomery and Epp Wilson. Photo by Liz Callar.
Every year I look forward to the final week of hunting in March, which for me, means hunting every day for six days with Bull Run in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The week features hunt breakfasts every day, cocktail parties most evenings, and culminates with the Bull Run Hunt Ball. I warn you that a vacation is needed after the week! It kicks off with the Sunday evening annual Oyster Roast-Pork BBQ at Mike Long’s beautiful farm in Locust Dale. This event includes the whole Culpeper community, as it is also a fundraiser for a local equine rescue organization. Foxhunters, farmers, and politicians all enjoyed the incredible oysters that Mike had driven seven hours to bring back that day from North Carolina. There was truly something for everyone.
Bull Run Hunt is located in Culpeper, Virginia and under the able leadership of joint Masters Rosie Campbell, Mike Long, John Smith and Jay Moore, it is the hunt that definitely has the most fun! This year they invited Epp Wilson, MFH, and the Belle Meade hounds to join the revelry. Epp grew up with Charles and they remain best friends. When I first met Charles, I realized he had been the co-conspirator in many of Epp’s escapades that I had heard about on my Georgia adventures (ask them one day about the ranger tower they “blew up!"), so I knew this year’s hunt week would be epic.
At Monday night's cocktail party, Charles toasted Epp and thanked him for bringing hounds up from Georgia. Epp then raised a glass to our hosts and gave us a short account of the recent performance trial at Belle Meade, where Bull Run hounds swept the judges' opinions as “best of the pack.” It was a warm and welcoming tribute between friends.
On Tuesday, we met at Bending River, a lovely Colonial home dating back to the mid 1800’s. The scent that morning was difficult, however, so we kept moving along, putting hounds into coverts by the Robinson River before fording and hunting into Quiet Shade, where coyotes abound. Liz Callar, the renowned photographer, was on the Feedlot drive and was able to get some great photos of the wily fellows crossing back and forth. Eventually Epp’s horse lost a shoe, Boo’s horse went lame, Billy Frederick had to go to work and I was on the wrong coyote most of the time! Great day and all hounds on at day's end. We had a simple steak dinner with Mike and Betty Long that night. Toasts were made and friendships strengthened, tall tales and hunt stories retold.
The next morning was a little chillier and we met at Hawfield Grange for the customary stirrup cup. Mike told us that this place was a favored lookout for the Confederates, as there are views of 20 Virginia counties from the top. In May of 1862, 70,000 Confederate soldiers under General Lee were camped on this very spot, as he scouted the Union troops camped on the other side of the Rapidan River.
Only Rosie and myself were whipping-in that day, and I crossed fingers my black mare would behave. She doesn’t like cows and there are lots of cows in Bull Run's country. I moved north to cut through the Boy Scout Christmas tree farm and watch over the turkey farm fields. I never saw Boy Scouts or turkeys, but lots of cows. I was trying to get past some cows (to no avail) when I viewed the hunted coyote running right through the herd of Black Angus. I urged Boo, who was in the hunt truck, to watch the road as I was losing the fight. My mare gets so mad about cows she then refuses to jump, so, as I was opening a gate she hit the hot wire beside it and was really mad at that point. Between hot electric fences and moving cows the coyote got the best of both the hounds and me and slipped away. Standing and looking into the covert for hounds, I realized I was looking at a small black bear, on the creek, watching hounds. I mentioned the bear to Boo Montgomery, who laughed and said the field had viewed an earlier one going up the hill from the creek. Probably two cubs, Charles said, and as I wasn’t eager to meet momma bear, I happily headed home. All hounds on and some delicious soup and sandwiches were waiting in the Grange.
Adriana Waddy had everyone over to her beautiful new home near Mount Sharon that night for cocktails. One of the prettiest views of the Blue Ridge was presented with a sunset from her new porch, as we enjoyed roast beef and shrimp and toured her lovely home. It was very impressive and delicious!
On Thursday, hounds met at the Hill, Larry Levy’s sprawling farm and hunt fixture extraordinaire. Trailers park on the top of the hill with a wonderful view of the Blue Ridge to the west.There are lots of foxes here and one was quickly found along the creek. The field was treated with excellent hound work and views. Back at the trailers, Boo was not moving well after a fall and was sent off to the hospital to get checked out. The rest of us went into Larry’s house for refreshments. Adriana brought wonderful leftovers and the Bloody Marys and mimosas were rapidly disappearing by the time I arrived. We were relieved to hear that Boo had not broken anything.
Friday’s highlight was a 1 1/2 hour long mad gallop, reminiscent of the Rough Rider hunts at Belle Meade, on both fox and coyote. We met at the Preserve at the base of Cedar Mountain, south of Culpeper. Lots of big coops and long gallops, everyone was grinning and out-of-breath at a final check. While we collected hounds, flasks were passed and the camaraderie of the hunt field, after a rousing run, was readily apparent. Grosvenor and Rosie Merle-Smith, joint Masters at Tennessee Valley Hunt (TN) were out, as well as Beth and Erwin Optiz, joint Masters at Thornton Hill Fort Valley Hunt. Fieldmaster Jean Derrick of Belle Meade Hunt had accompanied Epp up from Georgia, and there were also guests from Ohio and New York.
Master Rosie Campbell, third from left, leads the first field. Photo by Liz Callar.
Riders enjoyed another beautiful day of hunting on Saturday, with several long runs. As the Hunt Ball was that night, everyone retired fairly early to get ready. The Ball was a great success, well-attended with much hilarity provided by the five huntsmen in the room giving a rousing display of horn call prowess on the kazoo!
It is a testament to Charles Montgomery and the Bull Run pack that all hounds were safely home at the end of every day. We were treated to excellent runs and watched some great hound work by the combined pack. We all realize the future lies in attracting new foxhunters and generating goodwill and enthusiasm for our sport. So as Runnymede and its Magna Carta heralded a new era for the kings of England in 1215 AD, our “Run-e-Meade” or March Madness week was an example of the excitement that we can create together.