Huntsman Spencer Allen has gone through a rocky time in the past couple of years. He’s been forced to consider other options for his future, but he knows in his heart what he loves the most—working with and hunting foxhounds. And this is why he’s so happy to be in Monticello, Florida at Marty and Daphne Wood’s unparalleled establishment as huntsman for the Live Oak Hounds.
After serving six years in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Iraq, Allen began as an amateur whipper-in at the Bull Run Hunt (VA). Two seasons later he turned professional and moved to the Piedmont Fox Hounds (VA), serving four seasons as first whipper-in to huntsman Richard Roberts. Allen found himself working with a talented and attractive whipper-in, Rachel Gray, who also happened to be the daughter of the previous huntsman, Butch Gray. Spencer and Rachel were married, and in 2010 Spencer was named huntsman at Piedmont. He hunted the Piedmont hounds for five seasons, showing excellent sport, but trouble followed.
Foxhounds weren’t the only newsmakers at the Virginia Foxhound Show. A few people were worth noting as well!
Three individuals were introduced for induction into the Huntsmen’s Room of the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in ceremonies on Saturday evening. Before dinner under the tent, Jake Carle, ex-MFH, spoke eloquently, reverently, and at the right times humorously about the three men who have hunted hounds with distinction for many years: C. Martin Wood, III, MFH, Live Oak Hounds (FL), G. Marvin Beeman, MFH, Arapaho Hunt (CO), and the late Jim Atkins who hunted hounds for the Piedmont Fox Hounds, Old Dominion Hounds, and the Warrenton Hunt, all in Virginia.
With six hundred foxhounds from thirty-seven hunts showing in five separate rings at the Virginia Foxhound Show at Morven Park on Sunday, May 29, 2016, the hour gets late before the four individual division champions—American, Crossbred, English, and Penn-Marydel foxhounds—finally get their chance to face off for the William W. Brainard Jr. Perpetual Cup designating the Grand Champion of Show.
The hour arrived, somewhere around six p.m., as four handsome champions came together before Dr. John W.D. McDonald, MFH, judge of this prestigious class. It had been a long, hot, and tiring day for everyone—spectators, judges, handlers, and hounds alike. But one foxhound looked like he was still ready and happy to run from one end of the field to the other, which he did when asked to show his movement. With long, powerful, yet graceful strides that looked like a slow-motion camera had been set up just for him, Midland Striker made his statement and would not be denied.
“He is one of the most beautiful movers anyone could expect to see,” said Judge McDonald in admiration. “And he has perfect conformation.”
“I can’t take credit,” admits Midland huntsman Ken George, “because I didn’t breed him, but he’s one of a kind!”
A sober demon could be considered a contradiction in terms, but Ken describes Midland Striker 2015 as a foxhound possessing surprisingly contradictory traits. The handsome Crossbred dog hound was judged Grand Champion of Show at the tenth annual Southern Hound Show on April 9, 2016 at Live Oak Plantation in Monticello, Florida.
“The whole litter is fantastic,” continued Ken. “As an unentered hound last season, Striker was in on ten kills. He’s always right there.
Huntsmen sometimes worry about a first-year hound being too precocious. Often, by the second or third year, such hounds begin to think too much of themselves as individuals to fit in as good team members of the pack. Ken’s not worried about Striker in that way.
An experienced foxhunter has become Master of a pack of foxhounds and recognizes that he has a deer problem. His hunting country is thickly wooded and accessible via trails. His staff is composed of an experienced amateur huntsman and honorary whippers-in. He whips-in himself, and has experienced first-hand the problems posed by the very nature of the country.
There are no discreet coverts to draw that can be surrounded by staff to stop hounds if a deer goes out. In the event of riot, staff is unable to gallop through the thick woods to get ahead of hounds and rate them. Or to even see which hound led the miscreants astray. He understands that he must first teach puppies what the proper quarry is, but he has no access to fox pens to even help him establish good habits from the start.
Thinking outside the box, he came up with the idea of using commercially available deer scent and fox scent as a tool to train hounds.