It’s fox hunting season with the Red Mountain Hounds
by P. Gaye Tapp
photographs by Geoff Wood
It was a perfect day for rider, horse, and hound at the opening meet of Red Mountain Hounds foxhunting club. Bracing weather and fall colors made a beautiful backdrop as lovers of the sport gathered for the first official day of the season at Quail Roost Farm in Rougemont, north of Durham.
“There’s a saying among experienced fox hunters: Some hunt to ride, some ride to hunt,” says Greg Hoit, an experienced foxhunter and member of the Red Mountain Hounds. Established in 1969, the club began as an offshoot of Triangle Hunt, which in the mid-1960s hunted at Horseshoe Acres at the edge of Umstead Park.
Today the club, 60 members strong, hunts in the Rougemont area with Penn-Marydel foxhounds, which are known for their nose and voice and considered more suited to the dense woodlands of central North Carolina than their English counterpart. Their voice, or “hound music,” is a glorious full cry as they run over field and wood in pursuit of their quarry’s scent. “The fox is still the focus of the sport,” says Hoit, “although in our area and much of the United States, the coyotes are displacing the foxes. So many times it’s a coyote we’re chasing.”
On opening day of the season (which runs from November to March), the club’s members wear formal riding attire and perform The Blessing of the Hounds. Indeed, the traditions of the hunt are longstanding, and Red Mountain Hounds is steeped in these protocols, set forth by the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America.
Most members wear black boots and hunt coats, while Masters, Huntsman, and a few esteemed members wear scarlet coats. All can wear the Red Mountain Hounds’ colors on the collar and lapel, which are scarlet with hunter green piping, if awarded those colors by the club; otherwise their coats must be black and their riding breeches must be buff. Riders with scarlet coats, for their part, wear white breeches and brown-topped black boots. A white shirt is worn under all hunt coats, as is a white stock tie with a gold pin. “It’s not haute couture, it’s functional,” says Hoit. “Along with the pin, the stock tie can be used a bandage or sling if rider or horse is injured.” Safety helmets are covered in velvet.
Overseeing it all is the club’s Huntsman, Drew Daly, who began his career with Red Mountain Hounds as Kennelman. As Huntsman, he must care for and train the hounds, and lead them in the field with the assistance of his Whipper-Ins, who help direct the hounds and act as scouts during the hunt. While there are also several Joint Masters of Foxhounds who oversee the hunt, it’s the Huntsman who carries the hunting horn that communicates with the pack and riders.
It all makes for a beautiful spectacle. The club invites spectators to attend the opening meet, which typically lasts two to three hours and offers a Tally Ho wagon that provides refreshments and a front-row seat. The wagon is also a fundraiser for the club, says Raleighite Richard Moore, a member since 2001 who enjoys the sport’s camaraderie and exhilaration.
The club makes a point of reaching out to new members. Justin Boyle of Apex began his second season foxhunting this fall. After taking part in the club’s Hunter Paces, which are competitive rides on trails designed to imitate the exhilaration of an actual foxhunt, he decided to participate in a hunt and found his horse, Cowboy, to be a natural at the sport.
After a morning’s hunt, the Red Mountain members gather for a hearty breakfast. Always referred to as breakfast no matter the time of day, the meal allows the riders to relax, relive the day’s hunt, or reminisce about their exploits from past hunts. Whether they are Cubbing, which is the term for hunting prior to the season’s opening; holding Hunter Pace competitions; or dancing at the club’s formal Hunt Ball, all involved say that camaraderie is the real draw. Red Mountain Hounds has that in abundance.
Origins and Terms
Tally Ho! (quoted from the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America) “The halloo when anyone sees the quarry, and only then; if desirable to halloa it loudly. Field members do not use tally ho or halloa when riding the field. They report the sighting to the Masters.”
Colors (quoted from the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America) “Every hunt has their particular color. This color is worn on their collar and lapel when wearing scarlet. When hunting in formal attire, riders have either scarlet or black coats, but the colors on their collar are always the same. Only members who have been awarded colors can wear that color on their coats. Members without colors must wear a plain black coat. When a member has been awarded their colors, it is considered an honor acknowledging them as full status members of the hunt. Once awarded colors, they must wear hunt buttons on any coat with colors.”
Pinks (quoted from the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America) “A term used to describe the red or scarlet hunt coat. Originated from a fable of a tailor whose last name was Mr. Pinque, who supposedly made the first red hunt coats. People started calling red coats pinks after the tailor and it caught on. Maybe this came about because some red coats bleach out to pink after enough use, or it was a name-dropping trend for those in the know. The correct term is red or scarlet.”
The tradition of The Blessing of the Hounds dates to the eighth century’s Saint Hubert, patron saint of hunters. While hunting, he had a vision of a stag with a crucifix lodged in its antlers. This led him to release the stag, and then dedicate his life to the church, establishing a monastery where he bred hounds.
Hear our humble prayer, O God, for all animals, especially those in whose companionship we find joy and help. We entreat for them Thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them, we ask a heart of compassion, gentle hands, and kindly words. Make us all to be true friends of animals and to share the blessing of the merciful, for the sake of Thy Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Bless, O Lord, riders and horses that run in the running. Bless and shield these riders from danger to life and limb.
May Thy children who ride and Thy creatures who carry come to the close of the day unhurt.
Bless those over whose lands we hunt, and grant that no deed of ours may cause their owner hurt or trouble.
Bless all creatures who partake in this hunt, and grant that they may find their true destiny under God.
Bless these hounds to our use and their lowly part in Thy service.
O God, who sanctifieth all things by Thy Word, pour down Thy blessing on their Thy servants and horses, and their hounds; to all who shall take part in this hunt, grant protection of body and soul. Grant that the true sportsmanship may prevail in all we do this day through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Unto God’s gracious mercy and protection we commit you. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord, lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace, this day and evermore,