Raised on a working family farm in Shropshire, England where hunting and country sports were a way of life, Richard Roberts developed a love for the sport of foxhunting at an early age. His father, a skilled horseman with a life-long passion for all animals, was his largest influence as a young boy. Now in his third season as Huntsman for the Deep Run Hunt (VA), Roberts, who celebrated his fortieth birthday last year, has never doubted his career choice.
e-Covertside: How many hounds do you have and what is their breeding?
Richard: We have 41 ½ couple crossbred hunting hounds and 6 ½ couple puppies who will be entered next season. We hunt red & grey fox and coyote.
e-Covertside: How did you become involved with hunting?
Richard: Every weekend my father and I would hunt with our local pack, the South Shrophshire Hunt. My idol back then was the huntsman, Michael Rowson. When the hounds met at our farm, Mum used to make mulled wine and sausage rolls as the stirrup cup. As a child, the excitement of seeing the horse boxes roll in, hounds sticking their heads out of the slots and the staff coming down to our kitchen created such a thrill in the air. I remember and love all the traditions of the sport of foxhunting as a child.
In my teens, I worked for a man who had a racehorse breeding business, but he was an avid follower of the Pytchley hunt in Northamptonshire, England. He was my catalyst to move into hunt service as a career. He once asked me, “If there was a pack of hounds hunting in one field and racehorses in the next field, which would you pick?” I undoubtedly chose hounds.
My first professional job was as Second Whipper In for the Sir Watkins Williams-Wynn, also known as the Wynnstay, where I stayed for three seasons . After the Wynnstay, I whipped in for the Oakley for two seasons and the Berkeley for another five. The huntsman and staff at these hunts created such a foundation and played vital roles in who I am today as a huntsman. I moved to America in 2005, where I joined the Piedmont Foxhounds. At Piedmont, I whipped in my first season and had the pleasure of hunting the hounds for my next five seasons. I am now in my third season as Huntsman for Deep Run Hunt.
e-Covertside: What are the best characteristics of the Deep Run pack?
Richard: Their ability to not give up. They are a very young pack, and have an incredible desire to please.
e-Covertside: What are the best characteristics of the organization?
Richard: Deep Run is a unique organization. It is a club comprised of around 250 members. The club offers activities for the non- hunting members of the family too such as yoga, swimming, tennis, pony club, horse shows etc.
We celebrated the 125th anniversary of the club last year with several different events. This club has a great sense of community. The Board and the Masters run the club openly and the communication is great. Many of the members comprise the committees that keep the club running and our club manager is the glue that keeps us together. There is something for everyone here at Deep Run. I find the members to be honest, straightforward and friendly. I have found that if I need something, they always seem to collectively band together and find a way to make it happen. The foxhunting members are a wonderful group of people. They truly enjoy hearing hounds; they love to see them work, which is important to me.
e-Covertside: Name three things you never hunt without.
Richard: My road whip Michael, my St. Hubert’s medal necklace and my hounds! I lost my original St. Hubert’s medal and said to Colleen, my wife, “There is no way I’m hunting without it…. so may I have an early Christmas present?” So now I have a new one!
e-Covertside: What makes your territory unique?
Richard: The country is mixed with a lot of different challenges; it is difficult to get through and can be trappy. We have big woodlands and sometimes the forest seems to swallow me! My background has been hunting in open country with smaller coverts so coming here has been a big change for me. Adapting to hunting in woodlands has helped me to develop my skills as a huntman. We are blessed to have a lot of territory, which is a great advantage, and we are working to continually opening it up. The grey fox seem to be more tolerant to change, while the red are more sensitive.
One of the biggest challenges here is the large population of deer hunters who hunt with hounds. Game gets so much pressure; not just from us, but from other hunters. The positive to this is that we are surrounded by a population of people who love hunting with dogs.
e-Covertside: What are your future goals for the pack?
Richard: Like I said, they’re young. I want to keep developing them and improving their abilities in the field. In our country their independence is important while still working as a pack. There are times where I cannot physically be with them, so when they come to a check, they need to know how to figure it out for themselves. Instilling confidence in them is a priority.
e-Covertside: What accomplishment are you most proud of from your time at Deep Run thus far?
Richard: No question, my proudest moment was the first day we caught a coyote. It was the first coyote of my career and the first coyote in the history of DRH. I could feel hounds improving and reaching this pinnacle….the time was close as the previous hunt they had rocked and rolled on a coyote but did not account for it. This day, hounds locked in and ran for an hour and forty-five minutes and caught him. I was so proud.
e-Covertside: Do you have hobbies/interests outside of hunting?
Richard: A good glass of wine and a soccer game. Football, really, but Colleen calls it soccer. It’s hard to keep up with teams, so I don’t really have a favorite anymore, but I love to watch a game and enjoy it when I can.