As part of our community outreach, Green Mountain Hounds provide a foxhunting demonstration every fall at Fort Ticonderoga, on the New York/Vermont border. Built during the French and Indian War (circa 1757), the fort sits just across Lake Champlain from our home territories. Eighteenth-century military history buffs will know it as a key linchpin in the struggle for North America, first between the British and the French, and then between the British and Americans.
Perhaps I should say Vermonters, rather than Americans, as Vermont’s own patriot Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys are renowned for bloodlessly capturing the fort, with his famous declaration, “Open the door in the name of the Continental Congress and the Great Jehovah.”
Green Mountain Hounds show off their scenting technique. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.
More than 200 years onward, we Vermonters are still annually invading the fort, but at its invitation. For several years now, Green Mountain Hounds have been invited to demonstrate foxhunting to the crowd at Fort Ticonderoga's Heritage Harvest and Horse Festival. The Director of Interpretation, Stuart Lilie, has hunted with us and several years ago added us to the program, which also includes the First Vermont Cavalry and other equine demonstrators. We do have a hound named Ethan, and I cannot refrain from making the same bad joke about his Revolutionary War namesake every time.
The scent line is laid to allow spectators to watch hounds work. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.
As a drag hunt, it is relatively easy for us to arrange a short line within sight and sound of the spectators. The only stipulation is that the Fort has asked us to please not gallop across the centuries-old ramparts. I bet that they didn’t say that back in 1776! During our pre-hunt spiel answering the usual questions — what are the whips for, what kind of horses are those, do people REALLY foxhunt around here, do you watch Downton Abbey — it is all we can do to keep the hounds from slobbering all over the kids, or the kids from slobbering all over the hounds. We are not aided by the fact that the sharper among the youngsters quickly learn the hounds’ names and call them over for a quick ear scratching.
Our demonstration is short but sweet. We have never failed to get terrific cry from our pack, and we’re treated to a round of applause from the crowd at the conclusion. Everyone’s a bit more relaxed at this point, and we let the hounds mingle with the visitors and get as much petting as they can.
Curious tourists met hounds, horses, and asked questions about foxhunting. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ticonderoga Association.
Aside from the Fort proper, there are another 2000 acres of woods and croplands, and we also hunt there during our regular season. It’s a gorgeous spot on Lake Champlain, with views back to the Green Mountains. It’s a lot of fun to get to be ambassadors of our sport, and in such a beautiful and historic location.