Twenty-eight year old Georgia native Shannon Roach, Whipper-in for Mooreland Hunt, has a zest for hunting and for life. Introduced to riding to hounds as a child, her tremendous grasp of the lay of the land afforded her the opportunity to ride with staff and set her on the path to a professional career.
e-Covertside: How did you start your career?
Shannon: I left hunting for a few years to go to college, but once I graduated, I knew I needed to get back into it. I got my first job as a professional back with the Bear Creek Hounds which had gone from a farmer’s pack to a recognized pack while I was in school.
e-Covertside: Name three things you never hunt without.
Shannon: Whip, compass, and a deep breath!
e-Covertside: What makes your territory unique? What types of modifications have you made for this territory compared with your previous experiences?
Shannon: One huge advantage we have is that our main territory is bordered on the north by the Tennessee River. Nothing is going across that. Mostly it is farm land. On paper it looks like we have a pretty large chuck of territory to hunt. Being that it is farm land there are not a whole lot of covers to hold the game in, particularly the coyote, which is mostly what we hunt, so if we didn’t have the amount of land that we do it would be very difficult to get rolling on anything. We would constantly be trying to turn game or stop hounds. It is very well suited for running coyotes. Since it is so open, we do have the advantage of seeing what hounds are doing what, who is excelling and who is along for the ride.
We tend to get a later start than a lot of other packs, around the middle of October or so: we have to wait for the farmers to get their crops out of the fields.
We (meaning mostly Rhod, our huntsman) also have to take into consideration what crops were on the fields that year. The farms around us all rotate what they plant. I know that scenting changes in the blink of an eye on any given day out hunting, but the type of ground cover you are hunting over makes a difference as well: whether it is cotton stubble, corn stalks or winter wheat; not to mention the chicken litter that gets spread as fertilizer about half way thru the season. I just try to pay attention and figure out why Rhod handles different situations the way he does on particular days.
e-Covertside: What characteristics do you appreciate about Rhod? What in particular stands out?
Shannon: Rhod has a wicked sense of humor, when he is on, dancing around the kennel to LMFAO or some random lyrics he has made up, you can’t help but laugh! Rhod has an incredible feel for his pack of hounds. Some days I am sure he knows what they are going to do before they do. I am truly in awe of it. I hope that one day I can have just a bit of that intuition and not always trying to guess what the pack will do next.
e-Covertside: Any memorable experiences you’d like to share?
Shannon: We were hunting at our northern-most meet site, right on the Tennessee River, towards the end of my first season with the Mooreland. We had had a good run on a coyote. They were running right along the river, behind the water works plant when they just shut down. We thought that maybe we had lost them, nobody had a bead on the pack. But we had the area surrounded, there was no way that they had blown out of there without notice. Rhod was starting to get a few hounds trickling back to him. He knew something fishy was going on, though. The hounds he was still missing were third and fourth season hounds that he trusted implicitly. If they had a coyote somewhere, they were not going to leave it. We narrowed it down that they must be right down one of the bluffs, on the river, right behind the Water Works. Rhod took his horse out on a tiny peninsula where he could see some of the hounds swimming the river trying to find a bank that they could get up to get back to him. Another whip and I went in on foot from opposite ends of the Water Works. After a little confusion, I got right up to where the missing hounds were: the top of about a 25 foot bluff, the hounds were at the bottom.
“Rhod, I’ve got them here” I said over the radio.
He said, “Can you get to them?”
“Yes, but I won’t be able to get us back up.”
Down I went, we would think about that later. Get to them and make sure they were okay and see if that coyote was down there. I shimmied down that bluff, pistol, whip and radio. By the time I made it down to them, there was only one couple of bitches down there, the rest had figured out how to get out in the river, swim downstream with the current and get up a lesser bank. These bitches kept jumping in the river and trying to swim upstream.
Now what? I was there with them on this little ledge, but how was I going to get us back up. The way I came was not an option since there was a lot of dangling and dropping involved in my decent.
“Flag down a bass boat”, Rhod said over the radio.
I didn’t have many options at that point, so that was exactly what I did. The first boat I tried came right over. Who wouldn’t come to rescue a girl with a gun, a whip and two hunting dogs stranded on the side of a river? After a bit of a struggle, I had the two bitches on that little bass boat and we were motoring, up stream, to where Rhod had made his way right down on to the river. We came around some rocks that jutted out into the river, before we were in sight of Rhod, and there was that coyote, sitting on a tiny shelf of a ledge! They knew he was there the whole time!! The fishermen couldn’t believe it! I started carrying my phone after that, to take the odd picture that no one will believe.
e-Covertside: Ford, Chevy, GMC or Dodge?
Shannon: Jeep! But the kennel truck is a Ford.