A tenacious group of Bull Run Hunt (VA) members made the trek to Belle Meade Hunt, in Thomson, Georgia on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016. Talk of a weekend snowstorm was circling in the news, but it did nothing to dampen the excitement of the upcoming foxhunting adventures during Belle Meade’s Hound Trials. Charles Montgomery, the huntsman for Bull Run, and his wife Boo trailered 10 1/2 couple hounds and four horses to Belle Meade.
Charles was anxious to see how his beloved best hounds would hunt in the coyote country. Rosie Campbell, MFH, and her husband, Chris, set forth with four horses and lovely memories of the excitement of past journeys to Belle Meade, as did field master Jerrie Wade and his wife, Meri. Whippers-in Sally Outten and Leta Stalnaker, as well as Susan Travellin and Adrianna Waddy, rounded out the crowd.
Dress Greys: Leta Stalnaker, Boo Montgomery, Charles Montgomery, Bull Run huntsman, Sallie Outten.
Epp Wilson, MFH, Bull Run, welcomed us with a superb cocktail party at his lovely Foxboro home that night. Southern hospitality flowed throughout the evening, as well as through the days to come.
Wednesday was a mild day with good scent as the Belle Meade and Bull Run hounds took off from the kennels at 3pm. The hounds ran well together, and it was rumored that a total of seven coyote were viewed throughout the hunt. The pack split on two coyotes, but the whippers-in were able to quickly get them back together and we brought the pack back in before dark. Once horses were put up for the night, the smell of fried chicken and oyster stew wafted through the air. Nora had a lovely dinner waiting for us at Boots Hall, and we all enjoyed recounting the days’ excitement over dinner. Aside from the hunting, everyone was talking about the impending snow storm forecast to hit Virginia on Friday. Blizzard warnings prompted Jerrie and Chris to leave Georgia early Thursday morning, so they could man the farms at home. Adrianna also decided to leave on Thursday, so just seven of the original members would remain, including Barbara Smith from Maryland, an associate member of Bull Run.
A cold, steady rain greeted us Friday morning. Hounds from Hillsboro Hounds (TN), Midland Fox Hounds (GA), Mill Creek Hunt (IL), Genesee Valley Hunt (NY), Belle Meade, and Bear Creek Hounds (GA) were ready to compete in the Performance Trials, which were delayed an hour to try to get in a dry moment to hunt the hounds. At 11:15am, Epp Wilson cheered, “Let’s go and hunt while we can!” Charles Montgomery did a wonderful job with the 18 1/2 couple hounds. The hounds ran well and we came in after about two and a half very wet hours. Reports from Virginia were dire. Huge snow drifts from the wind and snow accumulation, the roads were closed and we were glad we stayed in Georgia!
Charles Montgomery and juniors at the Performance Trials. Leta Stalnaker photo.
Saturday started off a little brighter, with snow flurries and a little warmer. We gathered at Belle Meade Kennels again at 10am, and hounds were already working better together on the second day. After running a coyote for nearly 45 minutes, we had a check. As Charles cast hounds again, they took off and ran with intense cry, crossed the road and accounted for the coyote in a pine cover; a nice black coyote as a good end for two days of Performance Trials.
While we were all hunting in Georgia enjoying milder climates, poor Virginia was getting dumped on with almost three feet of snow! Chris and Jerrie called and gave us updates on the weather, road and clearing projects! Sunday was lovely, sunny and mild so we put horses on the trailer and took off to ride in Hitchcock Woods in Aiken, SC.
Monday dawned a lovely day, with warm sunshine and 50 degree weather. With roads still impassible in much of the north from the blizzard, Epp organized a first ever Tri-meet with Belle Meade, Bull Run, and Genesee Valley at his home place, Foxboro Farm. When hounds got going they ran fantastically as a pack, and gave a tremendous voice. After a good 31 minute run, the hounds accounted for another big black coyote near the swamp. Epp, Charles and Marion Thorne were proud of how their packs worked together so well.
Tri-Meet, Belle Meade, Bull Run, and Genessee Valley. Epp Wilson, MFH, at left; Charles Montgomery at right. Leta Stalnaker photo.
We returned home with heavy hearts, gilded with joyous memories of old friends reunited, new friends made, of the fraternity of hunting, the camaraderie shared by all; north, south, east and west, young and old. All this put together combines into copious laughter, full bellies, lubricated spirits, with plantation homes, impromptu bonfires, and the resounding primal cry of the world’s oldest sport echoing in the background. It was a great finish to an extraordinary week of hunting!