Hunting the hounds of the Genesee Valley Hunt has been a family affair for Marion Thorne for decades. Thorne’s stepfather, W. Austin Wadsworth, was Master and Huntsman of the pack during her childhood, and Thorne spent many days hunting, walking puppies, and whipping in before assuming the duties as Joint Master (2006) and Huntsman (2001) herself, presiding over the care of the 44 couple Crossbred and ½ couple English Foxhounds kenneled in the bucolic college town of Geneseo, NY. Her husband, Travis, serves as professional Whipper in and Kennelman.
e-Covertside: Name three things you never hunt without.
Marion: My breastplate, cell phone and lucky stock pin.
e-Covertside: What makes your territory unique?
Marion: We have some very steep gullies that we slide up and down while hunting in some parts of our country.
e-Covertside: What type of modifications have you made/will you make for the changes and challenges that have come to the territory? How do you modify your season with regard to the snowy winters?
e-Covertside: I was whipping in for my stepfather Austin Wadsworth when the coyote came to the Valley. We immediately started hunting them. It was interesting to watch the hounds adjust to the new quarry. We still run fox more than 75% of the time 35 years later. Our pack is good at both quarries. We hunt a younger pack than we used to when we ran just fox. To adjust to the coyote we added radios, radio collars and GPS tracking to our equipment. We always have a hound truck driver following.
We start staff hunting July 1, and try to hunt in the winter/spring if possible. I put snow pads on my horses before Thanksgiving to be safe. I don't waste time starting my young entry. I hunt a bitch and dog pack the first few weeks of cubbing and all puppies go out every other time in order for each puppy to get the maximum experience early on.
e-Covertside: What are your goals for the pack and for the organization?
Marion: I have tried to expand and maintain a larger hunt country. I am constantly trying to improve our hounds. I would like to see more young people in our organization become involved with the hounds for the future of our hunt.
e-Covertside: Any memorable experiences you’d like to share?
Marion: We were galloping down the rim trail of a beautiful hemlock gully. The hounds had just struck and were full cry on a coyote. As I came around a bend in the trail a huge buck with an arrow sticking out of his side came flying towards me on the trail. Our horses screeched to a halt and so did the buck. We just stared at each other still as a statue. He took about three big frosty breaths and crashed to the ground dead. We could hear the hounds roaring and leaving the cover but we could not get our spooked horses to go by the dead buck to catch up with our hounds!
e-Covertside: You perform double duty as Joint MFH and Huntsman; what are some of your biggest accomplishments? What are some of the challenges of holding both positions?
Marion: I am lucky to be able to be both Master and Huntsman. I am able to make decisions about my pack based on my experience each day with my hounds. I believe many professionals are hampered in their breeding and culling decisions by their masters. I believe that these decisions are the most important part of making a pack and should be handled by the huntsman. If a young huntsman is allowed to make these decisions he/she will grow and learn, even if they will make some mistakes. A master who sits in their office all week and field masters on Saturdays cannot possibly decide which bloodlines should be saved and which ones are useless.
I find that I am also not weighed down by the pressure that can be put on a professional to show good sport. Not that I don't try my hardest every day, but my job does not depend on it, and I can relax and let the hunt unfold each day. I think pressure can be damaging, especially to a new huntsman who needs time to develop their pack. Too much pressure can cause dishonesty in staff and hounds.
e-Covertside: Ford, Chevy, GMC, or Doge trucks?
Marion: I pull my trailer with a Dodge, the hound truck is a Ford.
e-Covertside: Are you able to enjoy any hobbies/interests outside of hunting?
Marion: Raising my four children, eventing, skiing, horse camping, and horse swimming.