Spencer Allen saw a lot of the world before taking up the horn for the Piedmont Fox Hounds, where he hunts the 40 couple American and Crossbred hounds. As a member of the United States Marine Corps for six years he served a tour of duty in Iraq before returning home to work cattle and ride broncs in the American West. Duty called again, this time family related, and he moved to Virginia, taking up a career as a blacksmith, where in life’s funny way, he found foxhunting, and in the process, found his true passion and, in turn, himself. And although Spencer is seen driving around town in an equally well-traveled Jeep Wrangler, he one day aspires an upgrade to a Dodge Ram 3500. With a Cummins diesel engine, of course.
e-Covertside: You were not introduced to foxhunting until you were well into adulthood. How did you start?
Spencer: My mom got sick with cancer and moved to Virginia to be with my dad, who was in the Air Force and at the time stationed at the Pentagon. I went east and ended up staying to help my dad with everything after mom died and I started shoeing horses. I met a girl through shoeing who used hunting as a training tool for event horses. Now, I made fun of it. I was arrogant and ignorant about the whole thing, having never known it actually existed. She said to me “Well, if you think it’s so easy, go do it.”
e-Covertside: And what happened next?
Spencer: I went out second field with Bull Run on a 14.2 hand Connemara. At one point in the day, we were by “Bear Tree Hill” at Larry Levy’s The Hill, and a fox blasted right by me. Hounds came roaring down the hill in full cry and the hair stood on the back of my neck! I decided I couldn’t live without it, so at the tailgate afterwards, I went to Billy Frederick to find out more. I worked at kennels and ended up whipping in as an amateur for two seasons. I even had the opportunity to hunt hounds for three weeks when Billy got hurt. I could hardly make the horn squeak, but the hounds were so broke, I made a go of it and decided to pursue it.
When a professional whipper-in position came open at Piedmont in 2006 I applied and was flattered to even be considered. I was hired and spent four years whipping in for Richard Roberts, who taught me a ton. Being an amateur whip was great, but it didn’t prepare me for what it takes to be professional. I mean, the only professional experience I had until recently was under Richard, and the foundation of my education came from him.
After he left, I was interim Huntsman and then was officially hired in December of 2010, so I am going into my third season as Huntsman.
e-Covertside: What are your goals?
Spencer: I want to play a large part in resurrecting the American hunt servant. There are plenty of people in this country who would love the opportunity to get involved, but like myself, don’t know that it exists. There are a lot of hardworking, skilled farm and ranch guys out west, for example, who would jump at the chance. It is a phenomenal way to make a living. It is a good, honest way to make a living.
Secondly, I’d like to bring Piedmont hounds back to their roots and have an American pack. We are in a very special place where the sport is as good now as it was twenty years ago, and American hounds are best suited for this territory. They can be hell to break, but do it right and you’re going to have a hard hunting pack.
My third goal is to continue the stewardship of this territory. I believe we’ve had the best sport in Virginia since 1840 for a reason. I want us to continue to preserve what we have and be a die-hard forge of red fox.
e-Covertside: Do you carry anything in particular with you hunting or have a lucky charm?
Spencer (pointing at the blue bracelet on his left wrist): I always wear this! I put it on the day my son was born and haven’t taken it off since. When it starts falling apart, I am going to tape it together. When it disintegrates, I am getting it tattooed.
e-Covertside: You’ve no doubt had a great many memorable experiences, but could you name one or two that stick out in your mind?
Spencer: One is definitely seeing my first kill. I watched the whole thing unfold; the fox was doing everything it could do to escape, but the entire pack was on it, gaining and gaining. Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re out hunting, it’s quite a while. Three hounds slid down an eight foot creek bed and ran him down. I jumped off my horse and into the creek, bent down armpit deep in water and pulled the dog fox out from the clay creek bottom. The whole experience was hounds at their truest.
Another time was completely different. Many people say they finally find God when they are on the battlefield. I found proof of God through hunting. It was during staff hunting and it had rained all night, it was just letting up before dawn. The sky was black as can be and the stars were brilliant. The hounds were singing in kennels, the horses were snorting in the barn, and this mist came off the creek. The mist drifted into the sky as the sun was coming up and everything just came into focus. Everything was just right. Foxhunting gave me a connection to God, nature, animals, and myself that morning. I couldn’t find it on the battlefield or elsewhere, but I found it there.