Strolls with the HASABOs


SA puppies Brookfield Traxler 01-15-12

Sault, Sawmill, and Sayit (foreground) explore some snowy branches. That looks like Sample in the background. Photo by Dave Traxler.

WHEN winter weather freezes or drowns out hunting, we’re lucky that we still get to spend time with the hounds. It’s been a week since any of the houndbloggers have hunted in the saddle, but we’ve made it out three times recently with the Iroquois Hunt’s boisterous batch–make that batches–of puppies.

Two of these litters you’ve already met: the HAs (by Hawkeye out of the great BA litter’s mother Baffle) and the SAs (by our former pupposaurus, now houndasaurus, Driver out of Sage). There’s a third litter that also has illustrious parents, and which the houndbloggers have been remiss not to introduce you to before now. They are the BOs. Their parents are two of the great Iroquois characters, easily recognizable by their color and by their prowess on the hunt field: their mother is Bonsai and their father is Samson, known to the houndbloggers as The Voice,  who famously made a scene at Heathrow airport.

We’ll start with the HAs, who have matured into elegant, leggy individuals, something you could see coming even in their early days, and they certainly have been stamped by their sire, Hawkeye.

Hawkeye. Photo by Dave Traxler.

Their training is progressing well, and you can see during this walk that they’re figuring out exactly what those powerful noses can do! There are a few wistful looks toward the rich hunting grounds of Pauline’s Ridge. No doubt the alluring scent of coyote was wafting down from the ridge and into eager HA nostrils, and although they can’t know all that that scent means yet, it already seems to pique the HAs’ interest (and instinct)!

If the HAs are the high-school set, the SAs are still in elementary school. You probably already have noticed something wonderfully unusual about them: they’re not white! A number of the HAs have a bit of subtle buff, lemon, and oatmeal here and there, but the SAs have made a dramatic departure from the paler shades that dominate the Iroquois pack. This gives the houndbloggers some hope that, at some point in the future, they will be able, finally, to reliably identify hounds galloping full throttle half a field or more away.

SA puppy walk Brookfield 01-15-12

The SA puppies and friends at Brookfield. Photo by Dave Traxler.

And here’s another tremendous thing that has the houndbloggers all atwitter about the SAs: they’re wire-haired. We had hoped, not very secretly, that matching the dark Driver and the luxuriously woolly Sage would result in some dark or tri-colored woollies, and while none of the SAs are as flamboyantly woolly as their mother, they are distinctly broken-coated and completely adorable to look at. Their names are Saigon, Sample, Sault, Savvy, Sayit, and Sawmill, the females being Saigon, Sample, Savvy, and Sayit, and the males Sault and Sawmill.

The BOs also have enjoyed romping in the great outdoors. Most recently, they’ve been out and about with their bigger packmates, the SAs, who seem to relish their roles as worldly “big dogs.” The BOs are smooth-coated and colorful, as you’d expect from the pairing of the dark, bronze-eyed Bonsai and the red-and-white Samson.

Saigon, Sawmill, Sample, Savvy, Sault, and Sayit. Photo by Dave Traxler.

Saigon, Sawmill, Sample, Savvy, Sault, and Sayit having a big time! Photo by Dave Traxler.

The houndbloggers were out for two recent walks with the SAs and BOs, first at Miller Trust and then at Dulin’s. You can see the results–including Savvy’s courageous pursuit of a waterbound dog biscuit!–in the video below. The BOs, the kindergarteners, are named Bobbsey, Bombay, Bombshell, Boone, Bootjack, Bouncer, Bounder, and Bourbon.

With three litters of puppies, it’s going to take some time for everyone, from hunt staff to houndbloggers, to learn which name goes with which hound. And, as huntsman Lilla Mason pointed out, it doesn’t really work to ID a hound by some small mark you only see when you’re up close. Come the day these puppies take to the hunt field, the staff most often will be identifying them by watching them run across a field or by looking straight down on their backs from the saddle. So everyone now is trying to familiarize themselves with the three litters’ back and side markings and tail markings, for example.

Saigon Sayit Brookfield 01-15-12 Traxler photo

Saigon and Sayit. Photo by Dave Traxler.

So far, the houndbloggers only reliably know a handful, if that. But as we follow the puppies through these initial walks, and on to spring training and summer hound walk, we’ll learn more about them as they learn more about working in a pack. Stay tuned!

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Hound of the Day, Oct. 7: Bonsai

Caption Here

"Dear me! So that's a coyote!"

Hounds out : Sayso, Parrish, Payton, Star, Sting, Paper, Hailstone, Gaudy, Barman, Dragonfly, Bonsai, Stam, Stax, Sassoon, Savvy, Saba, Sage, Saracen, Griffin

ON one hand it seems improper to pick a “hound of the day,” because a pack of hounds should perform as a pack, and thus should equally contribute to the pursuit of quarry. It would do no good to have one or two hounds far superior to the others especially when hunting coyote. A coyote can weigh anywhere from 20 to 75 pounds, and their diet includes cats and dogs. If we are to serve our landowner farmers in keeping the coyotes dispersed, we have to chase them with multiple hounds who can find their scent and push them to get up and move. Most farmers don’t mind seeing the odd coyote passing through, but they do mind seeing four or five together, because there is strength in numbers and a coyote pack is a threat to livestock and house dogs. Coyotes have no predator, because they are at the top of the food chain in the animal world. Paradoxically, because of the hunt they are allowed to peacefully co-exist in the area. We have great fun and sport chasing them, and they are less likely to bother calves and humans. So farmers aren’t likely to shoot and poison them, which they would have to do if they were a menace.

On the other hand, there are moments on a hunt day where one hound does something so remarkable as to remind us all of their individuality even though they are supposed to be “just plain cooks and dairymaids.”

The chase is like a chess game between the coyote’s intelligence, instinct, and scenting ability versus that of the hound.  The “checkmate” really goes to both if they play a long and entertaining game, resulting in the quarry finally eluding the hounds.  All go home in hopes of meeting again another day.  This special matching of the wits between God’s creatures is what foxhunters really enjoy.  It is not, as some may think, a “sight hunt,” in which dogs see a coyote and chase it until they don’t see it anymore.  Instead, it is a “scent hunt”: hounds mostly use their noses to track the path of the quarry – and the coyote, aware of this, tries to throw them off the scent.  Coyotes behave cleverly while being pursued, using their complete familiarity with their own habitat to challenge the hounds.
The Oct. 7 hunt was a good example of the casualness with which a coyote will regard the chase on a day when poor scenting conditions give him the advantage.
The meet was from Dulin’s farm.  A long procession of trailers arrived with people and horses anxious to enjoy such a beautiful fall day.  The hound list included some first-year entries: Hailstone, Gaudy, and (of course!) Paper, plus three new drafts from England: North Cotswold Bonsai, North Cotswold Dragonfly, and Cottesmore Barman.  The new drafts have spent the summer getting used to all the new smells from unfamiliar plants animals and grasses native to Kentucky but not found in Britain.  One wonders what goes through their minds when they get the first whiff of a coyote.
The first draw was the biggest covert near this fixture, Pauline’s Ridge.  It is very thick with undergrowth and would likely take a long time for the hounds to work through thoroughly.  But, as it was, they found halfway through and erupted in cry.  A dark coyote was viewed across the top of the Ridge but was not the hunted one, as hounds moved west in the covert, full cry.  Hounds lost the scent at the end of the covert, casting themselves about madly in frustration.  It was clearly a bad scenting day.  However, this is good for the puppies, as they watch and learn from the older hounds to put their noses down and work.  They don’t really know yet what they are smelling for, but they feed off the energy and excitement of the pack, and they understand something important is happening.
Hounds continued to work well together, hunt staff counting all on after the next few coverts.  They were in the corn by Salts Barn when a coyote was viewed one field west.  Later in the season, hounds would be harked to the view, but today a training opportunity presented itself, and the hounds would have to work up to the line unassisted.  This is the kind of scene that thrills the field: first Stax became electric, his nose to the ground, as he frantically moved about, searching.  Then Payton, noticing this, hurried to Stax, then Sassoon, then Barman–all smelling the same little piece of earth.  Their bodies were coiled like springs ready to lurch forth, if their noses would confirm the scent in a certain direction.  Paper, sensing the excitement, dropped the small steno pad of paper he had found in Salts Barn and rushed over to help as well.  The houndwork was brilliant, they just couldn’t work it out solidly enough but kept moving west occasionally speaking as they would find and lose again.
After about a half mile, still feathering,  hounds came up a hill through a small clump of trees.  There on top of the hill sat a big blond coyote, casually observing the approaching entourage of hounds, huntsman, and field members. Hounds didn’t see him initially, as they all had their noses down.  Had it been a good scenting day, one imagines the coyote would have been long gone, but he wisely sat still knowing that by not moving he wasn’t throwing out a lot of scent.
The huntsman couldn’t contain herself and harked the hounds to the view.  They rushed forward, noses still down.  Bonsai raised her head, probably distracted and unsure about the noise the huntsman used to hark hounds to the view.  Bonsai hunted one season at the North Cotswold, and every huntsman has his own tones and voice inflections to communicate with hounds. Suddenly, Bonsai froze in place: she was face to face with a coyote no more than 10 feet away.  She stared, then looked over her shoulder at the huntsman with her intense, black-lined golden eyes, searching for confirmation that this was the right quarry.  She faced him again as the hounds erupted in cry.  His yellow eyes seemed to squint before he shot away.
In less than a second Bonsai showed much intelligence.  She didn’t just blindly rush forward to attack, she carefully thought things through, not wanting to run riot (I could imagine her saying “Dear Me” in an English accent).
This coyote took full advantage of the bad scenting day, weaving through cattle, disappearing into a 10-acre corn field. Found there, he passed into another large, thick covert, then vanished as the temperature rose and the sun began to burn any hope of scent away for good.
Special thanks … to field member Martha Johnson, who was last in line to go over a jump but pulled her horse up and waited to let one and a half couple of hounds go by even though the field was long gone, galloping
away.

— Lilla Mason

Private Hunt with Iroquois Hounds offers rare insider’s view

 

Six members who purchased the private hunt at the 2009 Hound Welfare Fund auction got a close view of the hunt from the huntsman's perspective, as well as a tailgate and Champagne

Seven members who purchased the private hunt at the 2009 Hound Welfare Fund auction got a close view of the hunt from the huntsman's perspective, as well as a tailgate and Champagne

WEDNESDAY marked a special occasion, and the Iroquois hounds seemed to know it! One of the groups that bought a private hunt with the Iroquois hounds back in May at the Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction scheduled their hunt that day, and so 1o couple of hounds, the full staff, the field secretary, and both Masters met at Dulin’s for an intimate meet. The field consisted of just seven riders, the “syndicate” that had purchased the privilege of spending a day out just for themselves.

They had asked to spend the morning learning as much as they could and seeing the hunt as much through huntsman Lilla Mason’s eyes as they could, and, by all accounts, it gave them a new perspective on hunting. The day began with a stirrup cup with port and sherry on offer.

Although the weather was gray, rain held off. It was a great day for the hounds and the riders, who got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride in the huntsman’s hip pocket, so to speak, and listen in on the staff radio to hear everything that happened. Call it a backstage pass to the hunt, complete with detailed commentary from Lilla.

Huntsman Lilla Mason speaking at the meet

Huntsman Lilla Mason speaking at the meet

In planning the hunt, Lilla had asked Eloise Penn–who bid for the private hunt on behalf of the syndicate at the auction–what the group wanted to gain from their private hunting day.

“I told her, ‘I want to be inside your head. I want you to tell me what you’re doing and why,'” explained Eloise. “And she did. It was amazing.”

The field consisted of Eloise, Nancy Clinkinbeard, Cheri Pulliam Clark, Debbie Jackson, Maggie Wright, Mary Moraja, and Catherine Breathnach, whose husband Cormac also was a whipper-in. 

“I had no idea the amount of communication that has to go on between Lilla and the whips and the Masters about the hounds,” Eloise said. “I don’t know how Lilla can process all that information and do it so fast! It was overwhelming to me. And she has to make decisions right now. There isn’t time for thinking.

“We, as riders following Lilla, we’re back there having a good time, and we have no idea how much pressure is on her and how much she has to think about. When you’re in her back pocket like we were on Wednesday, it’s entirely different. It was a great educational day for the hounds, especially the puppies, and for us, too.”

Eloise Penn, far left, with MFH Jack van Nagell and Field Secretary Betsy van Nagell at the meet. "I can't remember the last time I had that much fun," Eloise said of the day.

Eloise Penn, far left, with MFH Jack van Nagell and Field Secretary Betsy van Nagell at the meet. "I can't remember the last time I had that much fun," Eloise said of the private hunt day.

Oh, yes, Paper was in attendance! He provided good entertainment early on when he appeared with his toy du jour (an empty plastic bottle this time) but he soon got down to the business of exploring coverts, which are especially thick this year. Seeing him also was a real highlight for Eloise.

“There was Paper, kind of looking up at me, and I said, “Hey, Paper, how are you?'” Eloise said. “And he cocked his head, like he was thinking, ‘Oh, she knows my name! Hi, how are you?’

“It made me feel so good to know a hound’s name. It really does make a difference when you know their names. It makes you appreciate them even more.”

Paper on the move!

Paper on the move!

After the hunt, the Hound Welfare Fund provided a tailgate of tomato soup with chili vodka (see recipe below), sandwiches (cherry tomato and brie, ham and Colman’s English mustard, and roast chicken with chive mustard butter), slabs of French vanilla pound cake, apple-cranberry casserole, and potato and tortilla chips with spinach artichoke dip, along with coffee, beer, or bottled water.

We’ve had several requests for the recipe for the soup. We thought for half a minute about trying to pass it off as an old family recipe perfected over generation after generation in the kitchens of ye olde Englande, but, well, actually we just got it out of The Field magazine, a favorite occasional luxury at Beagle House.  Here it is, if you’d like to try it yourself (and it is very warming after a cold day out hunting):

FOR THE VODKA, you’ll need four chilis, split. The recipe calls for “scary-hot habaneros,” but our chef used two giant jalapenos.

FOR THE SOUP, you’ll need

  • 4 celery sticks
  • 4 small carrots
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 hot chili pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 50 grams or 2 ounces butter
  • 5 tins premium chopped tomatoes, preferably good Italian ones (or so advises the all-knowing Field, with whom we are afraid of arguing!)
  • 1.5 liters or 2.5 pints of chicken or vegetable stock (our chef used chicken)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

From here we quote The Field, adding our own chef’s observations occasionally:

About a week before you want to make the soup, start by adding the split chili peppers to the bottle of vodka. It will be quite powerful after only a couple of days if that’s all the time you’ve got, but even better if you hang on for a week. (We had 24 hours, and, besides, we wanted to avoid causing any of the tailgaters to burst into flames, so we just left two in the bottle overnight)

Now go out and buy a hand blender, the most powerful you can find. Finely chop all the vegetables except the tomatoes and sweat them in a big pan with the butter for 10 minutes or so. … Add the stock and the tinned tomatoes, then simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Whizz the soup up until fully blended (with the hand blender), then pass it through a sieve (we didn’t do this, preferring it to remain a little thicker for the tailgate). Season well and transfer to a warmed thermos. Add as much chili vodka to each mug as is seemly and enjoy.

FYI, this recipe and several others that are equally wonderful-sounding are in the current issue of The Field, available at Joseph-Beth for about half your children’s college fund or several years of board for your horse. But the pictures, in fairness, are GORGEOUS, and the recipes are really, really good. Why not splurge?

The small field enjoyed an unusually close view of the hounds

The small field enjoyed an unusually close view of the hounds

By the way, we mentioned that the private hunt was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s not entirely accurate: you can bid for yours at the next Hound Welfare Fund auction on March 20! And remember … those winning bids are fully tax-deductible, and 100 percent of the money donated goes straight the retired hounds. We hope to see you there–and on the hunt field!

See you out hunting!

See you out hunting!