FROM THE MASTER OF FOXHOUNDS
hunt because we are made welcome by those who hold the land.”
Ronnie Wallace, MFH
is what it takes to keep a hunt going, and land is what keeps going faster
than a hunt can keep up with it!
1980 we hunted from the kennel property in Corinth, just south of Denton,
and walked hounds down tree lined Post Oak Road. In 1982, we treed a bobcat
150 yards from the kennel gate. In 1987 we opened new country north of
Denton, in Cook and Montague Counties and began to think our land problems
were solved. By 1990, there was no kennel area hunt country left, but the
Rayzor property in Bartonville was available, and we could still road hounds
on Post Oak.
kennel property itself was lost in 1993, and by 1994 Rayzor was gone, too.
Housing developments and the ubiquitous golf courses felled the trees and
flattened the terrain, and were still advancing. In 1994, we opened the
new kennel in Boyd, and through the generosity of several private landowners
(none of whom are foxhunters), obtained the privilege of hunting on land
in Wise, Montague and Young Counties.
is the history of The Hickory Creek Hunt and its hunt country. It is not
a reassuring story, but it is similar to the tales told by hunts all over
the U.S. and England. The apparently unstoppable despoiling of open land
appears to be an epidemic fueled by population growth and a lack of understanding
of how important undeveloped land is to for both humans and wildlife and
our continued existence on the planet.
responsibility is to be good stewards of the land we are allowed to use,
to aid in the preservation of wildlife and its habitat, and to enjoy it
for the priceless natural resource that it is.
in America is a country pursuit in which a trained pack of hounds is sent
into a covert to explore for the scent of a fox or coyote. On an ideal
day, a hound picks up a fresh scent, and speaks to let his fellows and
the huntsman know what he’s found. The other hounds and the huntsman honor
him, and they and the mounted followers set off with him on the line. The
quarry breaks from the covert into the open and the chase is on. The pack
loses the line, stops to recover it, and continues. The run ends in a loss
of scent, exit of game from the country, or game gone to ground. In this
last event, hounds are praised, then called away from the den. Whatever
the conclusion, the process is begun again.
object is not to catch the fox or coyote, but to find, see and follow him,
while delighting in the wide-open spaces, the work of the hounds, the cross-country
riding, and the company of other enthusiasts. The clothes, tack and riding
style all have a practical purpose and are stripped to the essentials for
safety and comfort. The horses are turned out cleanly and simply, for the
reasons, with manes pulled or braided to stay out of the way. There are
rules of safety and etiquette so that no one needs doubt what to do in
a tight spot, or at speed, when it’s too late to debate.
physical demands of foxhunting are just about as great or small as one’s
strength. For those at the front, it is challenging, but for those in the
second flight the demands can be more modest. Young and old, men and women,
and people from all walks of life foxhunt. Some follow on foot, and others
in cars along roads and tracks. Whatever the level of endeavor, the competition
in foxhunting is with the inner man.
is not a solitary sport, and foxhunters are always on the lookout for others
who may not have had the opportunity to hunt, but want to try. Those with
an interest have a warm welcome awaiting them. Riders from other disciplines
are encouraged, and invited to use their usual clothing and tack for their
expense of foxhunting amounts to upkeep of hounds, which is shared by the
members, and the upkeep of one’s own horse, tack, clothes and transportation.
While this is not insignificant, it is less than many other sports and
entertainments, both equestrian and otherwise.
is a lifetime interest for many of its practitioners. It is alive with
possibility and rich in reward, combining many sporting and outdoor activities.
In it people find something fresh each time out. The houndwork is fascinating
and a worthy object of serious study. Riding in company over natural terrain
is challenging and exciting, calling into use long practiced horsemanship
skills. A special bonus is that there is no better way than riding to hounds
to form a serious and lasting bond with a horse. It makes sense to the
horse and gives him a chance to show the rider what they can do as a team.
unconsidered is the sport’s relationship to the land and its place as a
non-consumptive, conservation minded recreation. Interest in riding to
hounds arose from a fascination with the complexities of the natural world
such as weather, countryside, horses, hounds and wildlife. This fascination
is shared by those who find rest and restoration in nature and those who
know that land preservation is essential to our collective future.
IN THE UNITED STATES
to hounds after fox was first tried in the Yorkshire moors in the eighteenth
century. While foxhunting was in its formative stages in England, the English
traveled across the Atlantic, carrying hounds, horses, beliefs, tastes
and practices. From the beginning, for these Colonial Englishmen, foxhunting
was as American as it was English. However, over time, foxhunting in the
U.S. has taken on a distinctly American character because of the different
terrain, climate, distances, game and culture.
common image has developed of red coated men on horseback, riding after
hounds in pursuit of red fox, but foxhunting today has more significance
than the mere chase. To many landowners, it is an interesting thing to
do with their land and compatible with their program of land preservation
and wildlife management. Lands set aside for foxhunting provide the natural
habitat and eco-system necessary for foxes, coyotes and other wildlife
to survive. These reserved lands protect the wildlife from urban sprawl
and predations such as poisons, traps, and guns. Consequently, many hunts
in the United States have become local leaders in wildlife and land conservation.
foxhunters have not adopted practices specifically designed to kill their
quarry such as digging out the fox, or stopping up holes and escape routes
as done in England. In the U.S. the sport is about the chase, not the kill.
When the fox goes to ground, he ends the chase and generally lives to give
sport another day.
England the game is fox, but in America coyote has presented itself as
an alternate object of pursuit. This is especially true in the Southwest
where the coyote is so prevalent. Fox and coyote range over most of North
America. Their diet is everything from beetles, fallen fruit, and carrion
to chickens and house cats, but their chief prey is small rodents.
running patterns of the coyote are very different from the fox and require
a different approach and style of hunting.Fox run circles, switch-backs,
serpentines, and all kinds of other complex lines, and can run a several
mile point before going to ground in a hole, culvert, barn or someone’s
attic. Fox run their points looping and circling, usually staying in the
area where they live.
coyote is bigger, faster and thought to have more staying power than the
fox. It is said to be able to run in excess of a 10-mile point, usually
straight out of the territory. Compared to fox, coyote is thought to be
harder to hunt in terms of staying with its speed, but it may be the coyote’s
newness to most foxhunters that causes the difficulty. During the last
decade or so, the coyote’s territory has expanded eastward across the Mississippi,
changing the way people there hunt their hounds.
the United States there are 149 hunts recognized by the Masters of Foxhounds
Association (MFHA). In Texas there are five recognized hunts. The Hickory
Creek Hunt is a member of MFHA and has been recognized since 1970. MFHA
was formed in 1917 to register hunts and their territories and to bring
order to foxhound bloodlines. It keeps the foxhound studbook, arbitrates
disputes over territory, sets standards and rules, provides clinics and
training for hunting, and speaks for the sport with a single voice.