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Bijou Springs Hunt (CO) closed its 35th season with a bang, on three different coyote lines. This pack of mixed foxhounds has become quite a machine, with the strengths of several different breeds keeping pressure on the wily coyote that is the quarry in the Colorado Front Range. It has actually not been the least challenging season this hunt has ever had, but we persevered. The huntsman was thrown from a horse two weeks before cubbing season started, breaking her back and pelvis, and dropping that responsibility onto the first whip.

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Huntsman Nancy Mitchell, right, heads out with the Bijou Springs pack. Photo courtesy of Judi Tobias, Hon. Secretary.

While December’s hunting was terrific, it brought a fire and total destruction to the home of the kennelsperson, and a season-ending injury for Master Jerry Kalamen. Beginning in early January, Colorado unleashed a winter storm season guaranteed to make up for the previous two years, and went from “abnormally dry” to “above average moisture” over the next two and a half months. Then the “bomb cyclone” zeroed in on eastern Colorado, and drifted snow completely over the kennel. The beautiful ranch of Paul and Nancy King in the Bijou Basin, which houses the kennel, is off the grid, and the lovely country roads that lead to it became nearly impassable as storm after storm lashed the Colorado front range. If the drifts didn’t close the roads, the bright sunshine between storms melted them into quagmires, then froze them into ice rinks as temperatures dipped to single digits.

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Snow cancelled many meets, but hounds were ready when the footing allowed hunting to resume. Photo by Kelly Walsh.

Finally, with the promise of spring, hounds were able to actually hunt this April, and hunt they did. You would not have known that they spent almost half their season in kennels, kennel yard, or simply walking out.

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Mitchell and her daughter and whipper-in, Meridith Mitchell Hatterman, bring hounds in after Closing Meet. Photo by Kelly Walsh.

Yet another storm threatened to cancel the 35th season Closing Hunt, but the sun came out, the roads dried just enough (although everyone but staff parked at the ranch headquarters and hacked to kennels), and we celebrated with stirrup cups before heading to first cast. Hounds hit scent, and we were gone away for better than two hours, as the pack worked this and two more lines through the entire ranch. Blowing for home, hounds and staff and less than half the original field packed into kennels, and headed to the headquarters for a wonderful hunt breakfast complete with chocolate wine and watermelon tequila. We are considering a few bye days through April if the weather holds.

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