Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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The Coyote: Thriving Through Persecution

dr. stanley gehrtDr. Stanley Gehrt and an anesthesized coyote in metropolitan ChicagoThe Belle Meade Hounds in Thomson, Georgia will once again stage their annual Hunt Week—Gone Away with the Wind—this season from January 18 to 24. As before, the week will be fun-filled with hunting, parties, a hunt ball, and the camaraderie of the field.

As a bonus, this year’s affair will feature a fascinating presentation by special guest Dr. Stanley Ghert, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and a Wildlife Extension Specialist at Ohio State University.

Dr. Ghert, who has enthralled foxhunters at MFHA meetings over the years, will talk to Belle Meade Hunt Week attendees on Thursday morning, January 22, about his special subject of research—the coyote. This much-aligned animal has survived and even flourished over the past hundred years despite the best efforts of the federal government to eradicate it.

Early in the twentieth century, at the behest of western ranching and agricultural interests that were losing stock to predators, the U.S. Government instituted program after program designed to erase the wolf, grizzly bear, mountain lion, and coyote from the landscape. The programs were mostly successful in their purpose. The wolf, grizzly, and mountain lion were driven nearly to extinction. The coyote, however, was the one predator that not only survived the pressure, but increased its population and its range, slowly expanding eastward and covering now the entire country. How it did that is one of the mysteries of the animal world.

Close Encounters with My Vulpine Friends

 barclay.signWith over two hundred years of involvement with various different types of hounds under our belt, you will understand it was and always will be the number one rule in the Barclay family to have the greatest respect for our quarry species, be it the fox, deer, or hare. The pleasure they give us is immense, and this comes from not only close observation on a hunting day but during the summer months when they are all, in their own distinctive ways, equally fascinating.

It is the fox, however, that has taken up a very large part of my life, and hardly a day passes when he doesn’t enter my mind in one way or another. And more than likely he will be discussed at some point, especially when he is being blamed for eating someone’s prime poultry! Whenever foxes are talked about, however, it is generally with a large degree of affection, except of course on the day a heinous crime has been committed in his role as the ruthless killer!

My pleasure in writing this has come from looking back and remembering moments when my vulpine friends have behaved in ways that remains etched on my mind. In the past I have recollected their somewhat strange habits after the death of a particularly well-loved character. This enters another realm, although there are places where both realms meet and it is then when it really does become all the more fascinating!

How Long Can a Red Fox Live?

fox.mary marksMary Marks photo

I believe that the ripest old age a tame fox might achieve is twelve. A wild, country fox could reach about eight. The governing factor, of course, apart from predators, is the fox’s teeth. No teeth, no food, no energy, and the end will be near, perhaps by scavenging dog or internal parasite—a death neither quick nor noble, and without Nature’s own equivalent of the National Health Service.

When I was hunting the Tiverton in Devon, the oldest fox caught by my hounds was aged six, according to that great naturalist Sir Newton Rycroft. It was the Tiverton’s first hunt in the New Forest, in 1975, and the fox’s incisors were long, very curved, and extremely dark—which prompted the discussion. The longer and more curved the teeth, the older the fox. Bob Street, who had disappeared into a bog during the excitement of the run, said that in forty years’ hunting it was one of the oldest he had seen hounds catch.

Naturalist's Notebook: The Red Fox

cathysummers5Cathy Summers photo

As a followup to our recent piece on the coyote, here’s that same naturalist’s description of the red fox. As before, I’m unable to provide a reference, book title, author, publisher, or date for this excellent bit of wood lore. If any reader recognizes it and can identify the source, we will publish that information in a future issue.

The red fox (Vulpes fulva) is one of the best-known characters in history and legend, widely spread over the temperate and northern regions of the world. For its combination of beauty and grace and intelligence it has had the attention of artists, poets, and naturalists, and merits the attention of those who would read the signs of the out-of-doors.

Naturalist's Notebook: The Coyote

coyote.jim dugganJim Duggan photoAs a followup to Mark Twain’s rollicking description of the coyote and Susan Walker’s report on the Longreen Foxhound’s recent coyote chase, here’s further information about that secretive animal that provides so many North American hunts with their sport. I’m unable to provide a source reference for this excellent bit of wood lore, but if any reader recognizes it and can identify the source, we will publish that information in a future issue.

The coyote, Canis latrans, with its many varieties, known also as brush wolf and prairie wolf, is widespread and well known.

I sometimes think that the most conspicuous coyote sign is his night song. Certainly a camp on the plains in the Southwest or in the western mountains is cozier when enhanced by the serenade of coyote in the moonlight. He who would follow the mammals in the wilds should know something of the significance of this. Unaccustomed ears, trained by traditional journalism, might interpret the coyote voice as something doleful, a sad requiem that makes one crowd closer to the campfire. Or a flippant tongue might speak of the "yapping" of the coyotes.

But if the coyote could reflect and speak he would say this is his song, simply that. However it may appear to human ears, to the coyote it satisfies the universal impulse for expression of emotion, simple as that may sometimes be among furred animals.