- Our Hunting World
- By Cheryl Microutsicos
Huntsman Robert Taylor hasn’t had a good rest in five years. He’s been hunting two separate packs of foxhounds in Maryland—the Goshen Hounds as Master and amateur huntsman and the New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds as professional huntsman. Huntsman Ken George has been driving hounds and horses six hours each way twice a week from Kansas to Iowa to hunt hounds in both states. Huntsmen love what they do, but each season ends with changes in the wind.
As this hunting season draws to a close, we see huntsmen on the move again. Starting in the north and progressing southward then west, here’s what we know so far; please let us know who we’ve left out.
Foxhunting Life readers may not recognize their old friend, Pete, in this story. We generally find him drunk, misguided, and irresponsible. On this timely subject, however, the author allows him a sober and a somber moment.
Pete settled himself in the chair, took a pull from his pint, wiped the froth from his mouth and belched. Outside the pub it was pitch black and a wind drove hail against the windows, but inside a fire burned in the hearth and its warmth filled the room.
“Job’s buggered,” he said. “Hunting isn’t coming back.”
I looked at him. “Bonner, Barney, and the Countryside Alliance to name but a few would disagree,” I said.
Pete took another pull on his pint and sat considering. Finally he spoke.
“What would happen if it did?” he asked. “T’ hunt monitors will go back to being sabs. Never be like it was in our day.”
Drag hunting, according to conventional wisdom, is what a hunt does when its country is constricted by suburban development. Sometimes that’s true, but, more often, hunts follow a dragged line of man-laid scent because the Masters want to. And a few hunts have been doing it for more than a century.
Each type of hunting—live or drag—has its pluses and minuses, depending on the needs and priorities of the participants. Drag hunting offers a controlled hunting experience to the benefit of hounds, riders and landowners. With a judicious laying of the drag, hounds are safer because roads and other hazards can be avoided; farmer’s crops are protected from horse’s hooves; homeowners’ lawns and yards are not trampled; and small pets are safe from the attention of hounds (all assuming that hounds don’t riot).
For riders who seek a gallop over fences, drag hunting offers a more efficient use of time, with no standing on a windy hillside while hounds search a covert for a fox (which may or may not be found). Thus the drag-hunting day typically lasts about two to three hours, with guaranteed galloping and jumping, better suiting those with a busy schedule, rather than the three- to five-hour day usually consumed by the ebb and flow of live hunting.