with Horse and Hound

Belle Meade Hunt

man in red hunt coat

Charles William Lewis, Sr., 1940-2024

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Charlie Lewis, the larger-than-life Master of Belle Meade Hunt.  My first memory of Charlie was about eight years ago when Tennessee Valley had its first joint meet with Belle Meade. At the meet, during announcements, Charlie invited us all to ride up front with him but cautioned us to be careful.  He said that a group from Virginia had come down the month before and four of them fell off on the first day.  He smiled and said in that slow, deep Geogia drawl, “We haven’t found those ladies yet, so keep your eyes open for ‘em!”
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hounds jumping over a coop during a hunt

Better Living Through Titanium Road Trip, Part Three

In February 2024 I decided to take a road trip to hunt my way across the US and back after finally being cleared to ride again after a massive back surgery. These were my fourth and fifth hunts for the month.
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Southern Hound Show 2022

The first foxhound show in North America in three years, and Hillsboro Wagtail ’20 has good reason to wag her tail...er...stern!

shs22.wagtail.wendy butlerGrand Champion of Show is Hillsboro Wagtail 2020   /   Wendy Butler photo

The fourteenth annual Southern Hound Show was memorable for several reasons. Nigel Peel, Ex-MFH, North Cotswold Foxhounds (UK), was ill and unable to come and join Co-Judge Marion Thorne, MFH, Genesee Valley Hunt (NY) and Apprentice-Judge Steven Thomas, MFH, Fort Leavenworth Hunt (KS). Ann Hughston, MBH, Ripshin Bassets (GA), who has judged foxhounds at Carolina, Virginia, the Canadian Hound Show, and Bassets at Peterborough, was a capable stand-in.

The mood was particularly festive as this was the first hound show in three years to be held in North America thanks to the Corona Virus. Sadly, Midland Fox Hounds (GA) had kennel cough and was unable to bring hounds, but eight packs showed hounds: Belle Meade Hunt (GA), Fox River Valley Hunt (IL), Goodwin Hounds (NC), Hillsboro Hounds (TN), Iroquois Hunt (KY), Live Oak Hounds (FL), Mooreland Hunt (AL), and Palm Beach Hounds (FL). Hounds competed under blue skies, but with chilly temperatures in the forties and low fifties and relentless high wind that made the seated lunch for over 150 people look like a food fight, with fried chicken, plates, napkins, and utensils flying through the air, all as the tent was trying to collapse!

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Our Hounds Were on Fire

What follows is one of Master Epp Willson’s frequent email reports to Belle Meade members to recognize and thank individuals for efforts on behalf of the hunt, apprise members of current hunt affairs, or, as in this case, add to their knowledge of hounds and hunting.

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Belle Meade hounds drew well, handled well, and listened all day. They are settling in and becoming the team we expect them to be.

Our hounds provide quality sport nearly every time we go out. They are doing it every time if scenting conditions are decent and a cooperative coyote can be found. Yesterday was an interesting day.

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The Bridges of Belle Meade

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No, this is not a professional bridge-building crew on a typical workday. They’re Belle Meade foxhunters and family members, and they build, repair, and replace bridges in the Belle Meade hunting country on evenings and weekends.

Admittedly, they could be pros. After all, there are fifteen hunt-built bridges in the country. Each bridge has a name―they’re landmarks, after all―and staff members know the location of each and how to get there from wherever they happen to be.

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performance trial. mission valley

Performance Trial Hounds to Vie for National Championship

performance trial. mission valleyMission Valley 2018 Performance Trials: Fort Leavenworth Tracker 2010 (#71) was overall High Point foxhound after two days of hunting.  /  Allison Howell photo

The schedule of Foxhound Performance Trials for the 2021/2022 foxhunting season has been released by Trial Chairman Fred Berry, MFH, Sedgefield Hounds (NC). Nine qualifying trials will be run across the country, and the tenth and final trial will crown a Grand Champion and the top ten performance hounds in North America.

"'Pretty is as pretty does' really applies to foxhounds," says Fred. The Brits invented mounted foxhunting and hound show, but they shouldn’t have stopped there.

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Belle Meade huntsman Epp Wilson MFH and 8 year old Midland Maiden 2013

Belle Meade’s Midland Maiden

Belle Meade huntsman Epp Wilson MFH and 8 year old Midland Maiden 2013Belle Meade huntsman Epp Wilson, MFH, and 8-year-old Midland Maiden 2013

Midland Fox Hounds (GA) has drafted a lot of fine hounds to us at the Belle Meade Hunt (GA) over the years. Most have worked out well for our country and our way of hunting. Most drafts are un-entered pups, but often they will draft an entered hound to us when they’ve had a large litter and find themselves with more of that bloodline than they need. That’s how we got Midland Maiden 2013, and she turned out to be one of the best hounds they ever sent us. She is so good, I think Mason may have some regret about having drafting her to us.

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The Rock Dam

This ancient rock dam, hidden within a 1,600-acre woodland, is known by all who have hunted the fox and coyote through the Belle Meade Hunt country in Thomson, Georgia. Which means it’s dearly familiar to the Belle Meade members and has been seen by a thousand foxhunting visitors from at least fifty different hunts from fifteen separate nations! It appears to the rider as he or she drops down to a water crossing, looks to the side, and beholds the massive rock-faced cliff standing over its pool in complete concert with its natural surroundings. One is often on the move while hunting at Belle Meade, with little chance to stop and absorb the peaceful beauty of the scene, which disappears behind just as suddenly as it revealed itself. So let’s pause for a moment in this off-season and let Master Epp Wilson tell us what he has learned about it.

The Rock Dam on Maddock’s Creek, McDuffie County, Georgia, is a magical place. Some like vanilla, some like chocolate, but everyone likes or loves the Rock Dam. History. Water. Strength. Engineering. It is truly timeless and holds something for everyone, young and old. City person or countryside person. If there is one place that we could say is the most popular place in our hunting country, the Rock Dam is it.

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A Gloriously Fine Hunting Day

On December 14, 2020, members of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA) enjoyed their best hunting day of the season—up to that point! Master and huntsman Epp Wilson has allowed Foxhunting Life to publish an account of the day’s sport from his informal, after-hunt notes. For the benefit of our readers who love to better understand how the top huntsmen of our times produce sport with hounds, Epp has expanded on a few of the Belle Meade methods and protocols that may surprise some traditionalists. Your editor has only to say, however, that the proof is in the pudding, and that he knows of no other hunt that draws more enthusiastic hunting visitors, year after year, from hunts all across North America, than does Belle Meade.

epp and maidenMaster and huntsman Epp Wilson and Belle Meade's Midland Maiden 2013.

We met at 3 PM from the kennels. Fifty-six degrees: good. Dew point 46 degrees: not so good. Wind from the west at 7 mph: good. Game table* was low at 14 percent average for the day: not good.

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miss rodeo and truck

Proper to Cropper: Miss Rodeo Goes Foxhunting

miss rodeo and truckA celebrity in the hunting field, Miss Rodeo USA 2020

In any sport, there are many terms that might be unfamiliar to anyone outside the circle. In rodeo, for example, not everyone might know the term bufford, dog fall, or union animal.* It was the same for me stepping out of my comfort zone to learn new terms in the foxhunting community. I rightfully earned the title of cropper within the first five minutes of the hunt. This is how it went.

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