Rose’s last hunt

YOU’VE probably been around us long enough to know that the Houndbloggers are partial to old hounds (even when they are as bad as our Harry) and hounds that won’t give up (even when, as in the case of our Eider–late of the Clear Creek Beagles–their desire to hunt anything and everything, all night if necessary, results in their being expelled from a respectable pack with a disgraceful report card). We can’t help ourselves: we love them.

We also have a real soft spot for The River Bottom, a quietly wonderful blog about life in the country with beagles. The posts over there are a highlight for me, and when a new one goes up, I stop whatever I’m doing and pay attention, right then, in order to savor whatever news there is from River Bottom country in Litchfield, Minnesota. They came up with a beautiful one today that spoke to us, partly because it was about an old beagle who is a tried-and-true hare-tracker. Didn’t hurt that it reminded us a little of Mr. Box who, in his youth, failed to return from a hunt with the sun going down and the snow blowing in (to read about his great adventure, click this link and scroll down the page to “Mr. Box’s Epic Journey”).

Here is how The River Bottom began this afternoon:

I’m listening but I can’t hear anything. The spruce trees are all covered in snow, big snowflakes are drifting down. It’s getting dark, And cold. I don’t think Rose is coming back.

Pete is down on the south road waiting and listening. We covered all the roads looking for tracks, two or three times. No dogs crossed the road.

I’ve been in and out of this trail it seems like ten times. Under that dang jack pine that hangs over the trail. Its branches slide up over the windshield. I swear it’s going to pull off my wiper blades next time through.

The woods are deep to the west, she could have gone a few miles that way. Even if she is right here and something happened, I could never find her in this stuff. Me and Pete have walked all over this spot looking for her.

When I was loading dogs this morning Rose was there waiting. I was going to put her in the house. She would have cried all day. She’s about 14 now. I loaded her in the dog box too.

I guess I would rather see her disappear into the spruce trees running a hare in the snow than live a long and unhappy old age.

This spot is loaded with hare. Thick heavy spruce trees, aspen and brush when they go out the west side with thick alder and willow swamps. The dogs ran steady all day long.

Rose hasn’t hunted much the last couple years, she mostly just follows me around. I didn’t think she needed a tracking collar.

She started a hare on her own. Her voice is just as loud and pretty as ever. I heard her a couple times after that. With all these dogs running it was tough to pick her out.

When we started catching them up we hadn’t heard or seen Rose for a couple hours. Now we are trying to guess what happened to her.

Read on, please do, at The River Bottom. It’s fine writing telling a good story. With pictures that will make you smile. Enjoy.

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The Full Cry Film Fest: Hounds on the Web

The Iroquois Hunt field on Blessing Day last year. Dave Traxler photo.

EVERY now and then we like to spotlight some hound-related videos you can find on the internet, and a recent discovery prompted us to go on and get the 2011 version of the Full Cry Film Fest under way. After all, hunt season isn’t too far off  for those of us hunting in the northern hemisphere, and for some of our more northerly neighbors it’s already in progress.

A Facebook friend alerted the houndbloggers to the following funny series on foxhunting as “therapy” for Irish hunters (and visitors). The narration, by the German videographer, is entirely tongue-in-cheek. But the video of the ditches and banks (not to mention the mud) that Ireland’s Limerick Hunt faces are anything but fiction! The series comes in 19 parts that are eccentrically edited, in that one part might be six minutes long and the next might be 58 seconds long. If you can put up with that, there is a reward: the videography includes great shots of foxes and hounds running, Irish scenery, and humorous commentary. Here is a hint, from Part 18: The Run:

You can find the entire series–well worth watching–at Andreas Haberback’s YouTube channel here. And you might spot some familiar faces, such as that of Hugh Robards.

In hound videos, of course, the Holy Grail is the shot of hounds in full cry. It’s not easy to catch, but here are some nice examples we’ve collected from around YouTube:

And to see a nice move by a clever fox:

For a nice slideshow, check out this one from Yankee magazine showing the Myopia Hunt.

The Roscommon Hunt went out on foot during snowy, icy weather back in January 2010, and someone cleverly though to take a video camera. It’s short but scenic!

And, of course, winter or not, the fox has to hunt, too:

Speaking of Ireland … have you heard of the midnight foxhunt? Full cry AND full moon! This video explains all, starting at the 50-second mark:

Have you “winded” some good hound-, fox-, or coyote-related videos? The houndbloggers would be glad to use them in upcoming Full Cry Film Fests!

Snow is general all over the hunting world

… to paraphrase James Joyce’s last line in one of my favorite short stories. It might not be strictly true that it’s snowing everywhere in the hunting world; I suspect, for example, that Cheryl and Ivan Bunting’s hounds in Australia aren’t beset by snow at this time of year! But snow certainly was general all over Iroquois Hunt country today, where, alas, we have been unable to hunt due to current conditions, as generously depicted by the Beagle House hounds (one-and-a-half couple) and their joint-Master ( as far as our mastery goes, which isn’t very), Mr. Houndblogger:

Hounds also had snow underfoot in James Joyce’s native country, Ireland, where David Ryan plies his trade as a photographer. We’re always interested to see what he’s been working on, and he recently compiled some good photographs of hounds and their people in winter. You can see them here. Personally, our favorite one is this one.

Finally, it’s not specifically hound-related, but I wanted to suggest some good reading about dogs. Heather Houlahan has search-and-rescue dogs and writes a blog we like called Raised By Wolves. This week, as part of the The Shelter Pet Project’s “Celebrate Shelter Pets Day” on Nov. 30, she wrote a post about her dog Cole, a shelter pet–actually one rescued from an abuser and kept in a shelter, where he was tagged as Evidence #X-10 in the legal case that followed. Heather adopted and trained him, and he’s now a search and rescue dog. We thought it was important and interesting stuff that was worth passing along to all dog lovers (and specifically working-dog lovers), which certainly includes hound followers.

An excerpt:

When he was seized from his abuser, Cole was about four or five weeks old. (I estimate, based on his presumed litter seeming to be about seven or eight weeks old when I first met them a few weeks later.) Yellowstone County gave a letter designator to each location on the property where animals were found, progressing alphabetically, and a number to each animal prefixed by the location designator. One day I’ll write about the legendary “J” pen.

The trailer where Cole and a dozen other pups were found was designated X. The last place from which living or dead dogs were removed. Cole was the tenth pup removed from the X trailer. To Yellowstone County, the law, the judge, the keepers of proof, he became Evidence #X-10 in Case #DC09-018.‡

I’ve never found out who named him Cole. I’m just grateful there was someone who cared enough to do so.

The shelter where Cole lived for the next nine months was unique. On the one hand, the consistent nature of the sheltered population and the dedication of the employees and many of the volunteers simplified the work of raising and rehabbing. On the other hand, Evidence #X-10 could not go for a damned walk. The law in Montana would not permit his caretakers to take him out from behind the walls that formed the sheriff’s perimeter. He couldn’t be fostered in a home. A good-faith legal effort to have him declared fungible property, post a bond for his “value,” and release him for adoption failed. He and his relatives continued in limbo.

I’m told that initially normal dogs who spend a long time in shelters develop “cage rage,” become depressed, are rendered unadoptable.

Maybe. Maybe in your “shelter.” Maybe if no one cares enough to exercise, play with, and train the dogs. Maybe if there is no volunteer program, because volunteers are troublesome. Maybe if the staff and volunteers are presided over by decision-makers who assume they are stupid and untrustworthy. Maybe if there’s no commitment to ensuring that every dog who comes in “normal” gets out alive, and — dare we expect? — no worse for the experience, and perhaps improved significantly.

I’ve watched ordinary people with little or no dog-training experience do extraordinary things in the past two years. Enough so that I now question the idea that anyone, properly motivated, is “ordinary.” Certainly there are stupid and untrustworthy people. They need to be fired to make room for the others, the ones who will rise to meet extraordinary expectations.

Bingo: a former shelter dog branded "unadoptable" before we adopted him. He's been trouble-free. Photo by Dave "Biscuitman" Traxler.

Read the rest of Heather’s great post, “Agent X-10 Reports for Duty,” here. And the Beagle House hounds urge you to consider adopting a shelter animal if and when you’re looking for your next companion. There are many, many animals in need, just looking for a home and someone to love.

No hunting? At least we have the Olympics

Even Shaun White's second gold in the men's halfpipe failed to get a rise out of the house hounds. And, yes, we'll be changing out the wallpaper below that chair rail this spring!

IT’S NICE to know that some people are making good use of the snow and ice these days.

We foxhunters have been sitting around twiddling our thumbs and cleaning and re-cleaning our tack (okay, okay–but we should be cleaning our tack) while waiting out the big winter of our discontent. We got word this week that the hunt season in Virginia, where they’ve been under yards of snow since human memory, essentially has been abandoned. Pretty much everywhere (San Diego and the Sahara probably are exempt), the bleak equation looks like this: too much snow = too much water = too much damage in the country. Too much ice = too much risk of injury to horses and riders. And so it goes. But in Vancouver, totally different story. Have you seen what those people do in this weather? Amazing. All without borium.

With no hunting possible here, we and the house hounds have been watching the Olympics every night. The other resident houndblogger is partial to snowboarding, and my tastes generally run to downhill skiing, snowboard cross, and anything where you get to ring a cowbell, so that means luge and skeleton, too. My personal favorite competitor, though, is men’s figure skater Johnny Weir. We both like Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” (I know. I can’t explain it). And for reasons that are clear to anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with my hunt horse Sassoon, Johnny Weir reminds me of him. Camp. Good jumper. Long black forelock. Very, very witty.

UPDATE, MAY 2010: Okay, I figured that video might get pulled at some stage, even though it actually was not from Olympic competition. Sadly, I can’t find another video of Our Johnny’s “Poker Face” routine, so here’s a nice clip previewing his TV show on the Sundance Channel. It would be better with hounds in it, but you can’t have everything.

Interestingly, it turns out that Weir started off as an equestrian. He had a dapple gray Shetland-Arabian cross, and let me just say right now that I don’t care whether Weir has a penchant for pink tassels, anyone that can deal with a Shetland-Arabian cross has got some guts.

Weir showed hunt seat until he was about age 10, if I’m reading an accurate bio, and then his parents laid it out: they could afford either figure-skating or showing, but not both. So he chose figure-skating, although to his credit it was apparently a tough decision. Reluctantly, he said goodbye to his pony, named My Blue Shadow. I can kind of see why he made the choice he did. You get to wear more sequins in figure-skating, and, from the available evidence, it looks like sequins are a priority for our Johnny.

Johnny Weir didn't impress Mr. Box

Mr. Box didn't share my enthusiasm for equestrian/figure-skater/fashion designer/Lord Gaga Johnny Weir. But I ask you: who else could look that stylish with a crown of roses around his head?

For the record, he finished sixth in the men’s figure skating on Thursday night after an excellent performance that should have, in fairness, notched a diamond tiara or something instead of a “hey, thanks for showing up.”

The former equestrian has plans to become a fashion designer. I wonder what his take on the hunt coat would look like? I smell pink feathers and Swarovski crystals!

So until the weather improves, we’ll be watching the Olympics. If nothing else, it’s an object lesson as to why horses and ice don’t really mix. But we’ll also be visiting the kennel, profiling the artists who have kindly donated works for the upcoming Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction, and keeping close tabs on the possible Will Goodall horn! Needless to say, we miss the hunt field as much as you do.

Hooray for twisty, turny rabbits! (now with pictures you can actually see)

AS we settle in for yet more snow (okay, yeah, I concede that you Midatlantic residents got a lot more than we did, so I’ll be quiet, but still. I hate to sound like a whinebag, but it’s really messed up our season) … As I was saying, there’s more “frozen precipitation” forecast, so It doesn’t look great for foxhunting. As we’ve seen in recent posts, it ain’t easy getting a horse across frozen mud.

The Clear Creek Beagles and huntsman Buck Wiseman in the snow

Not so with beagles! The little hounds can go out with their foot followers in much worse weather than we can. It makes sense for foot-following, because rabbits tend to run tighter, twisty-turny lines in a smaller area than coyotes do. They’re slower, too.

As we contemplate the snowy forecast and the possibility of another foxhunting freeze-out, we’ll take some comfort from this report from our friends over at the Clear Creek Beagles. Clear Creek whipper-in Jean MacLean takes it from here:

I DREADED the thought of going beagling yesterday!  I thought it would be horrible because of the snow cover and the cold air temperature. But Buck (huntsman Buck Wiseman) was convinced that it would be a good day, possibly close to his all-time best hunting day of a zillion years ago when he ran a hare for five hours, covering 25 some odd miles, with similar snow, ground and air temps! I was the ultimate skeptic.

Eleven couple of hounds and 4 people met in Shelby County yesterday.  We only stayed out for about an hour and forty five minutes, but hounds ran for almost the entire duration!!  We made a false start down the farm lane to the brushy banks of the creek.  At that point we returned to put a lame Sunlight in the trailer and picked up Nate Lord and Preston Thomas.

We returned to the creek and started working down the near bank.  A tricky rabbit slid out of the covert behind the pack, but I viewed it out.  Hounds were on it.  They all made a few loops around, quickly crossing the very cold creek and seemed to go back to ground in or near the original brush pile.  All humans crossed the creek, without much damage.  The hounds worked up the banks on the other side of the creek and got a new rabbit up.  I had to return to the creek and assist Enid in her crossing.  She thought it was too cold the first time and did not want to do it again.  All hounds worked hard on the snow.  Fortunately for them the ground was soft and muddy underneath.   Those with jet packs had to slow themselves down some to work the lines on the snow.   Socket and Snuffbox were dynamite working out the twisty turny lines of this rabbit, but again it went to ground.  At this point I believe the first rabbit moved and was picked up again.  This time great circles were made back across the creek in a winter wheat field, through a junk pile and then back tiptoeing through the creek.  Hounds worked hard to stay close and ran this rabbit at least twice around his intricate “lose them quick” path!!  The front end of the pack pushed him hard enough that he went to ground – to stay!!

One more rabbit was run around through a field of flattened sorghum, an old barn, down a tight wire fence row and then across a field back to the creek.  At this point it was really cold and time to call it a day.  It did not measure up to the best hunting day ever BUT it was a great day to be out to see all of the hounds working so well and together!!!

Nature points – 3 coyotes seen on the way to the meet, countless Canada geese, a covey of quail, 3 or perhaps 4 rabbits.

THANKS, Jean, for that cheerful report, and I’m only sorry the houndbloggers weren’t there to enjoy it (but that creek did look c-c-c-cold).

Mr. Box, late of the Clear Creek Beagles, on the lookout for rabbits--and, incidentally, breaking the rule about No Standing On The Breakfast Table. It tells you something that we even need this rule, but ... apparently we do.

Here’s hoping your weather, wherever you are, isn’t too terrible!

Cold day, warm hearts: the kennel open house (with video!)

Undaunted by bitter cold, more than 30 people attended the Iroquois kennel open house Sunday to meet the puppies, hunting pack, and retirees

IT was so cold the cream for our coffee froze in its pitcher. But it didn’t matter a bit. The brave souls who arrived Sunday for the Iroquois Hunt kennel’s open house at Miller Trust Farm were in excellent spirits. Then again, it’s pretty hard to be in a bad mood while snuggling a hound!

Still, I think the crowd that attended the open house deserve the second Game as Grundy Award for showing up on a day when the high temperature was about 25 degrees.

Driver, one of the puppies born back in the spring of 2009 and easily the biggest pup of the bunch, figured he was the host of the whole deal and was really, really pleased to see this interesting crowd at his house! When someone went out to visit the puppies in their turnout field, Driver wormed through the gate and made a beeline for the guests. And, like any good host, he mingled, but at high speed, bounding around until kennelman Alan Foy reminded him that it was time to leave the grownups. Driver is expected to join the hunting pack next season, if all goes according to plan.

Iroquois joint-Masters Jerry Miller and Jack van Nagell were on hand, as was huntsman Lilla Mason, who talked about some of the things that make the Iroquois kennel special. Two especially interesting features are the 15-acre fenced turnout field and multiple indoor-outdoor runs that allow hounds to live among smaller groups that they are comfortable with (this differs from the traditional set-up, in which the hounds are kept in two large runs, one for doghounds and one for bitches).

The hounds were as interested in the visitors as the visitors were in them.

Another kennel feature worth noting: the warm room, where older, ill, or injured hounds can keep out of the cold. The warm room has a television, too, where some of the Iroquois retirees–whose care is supported by the all-volunteer 501(c)(3) charity Hound Welfare Fund–were listening to a game show while visitors recalled their exploits on the hunt field.

The retired hounds enjoyed the extra pats, and the puppies were delighted to meet some kids their own age for playtime in the turnout field. We were most impressed with one of the parents on hand, who managed to negotiate all the puppies–including Driver!–without spilling his hot chocolate.

Thanks to everyone who came, and to all who helped prepare the smorgasbord of edible treats: hot coffee, hot chocolate, and three kinds of Liquid Warming Additives to put in said beverages, plus warm little quiches, chips and dip, cookies, and more.

Thanks also to the Masters, Susan Miller, and kennel staff Michael Edwards and Alan Foy for making the day so much fun and for making the cold day seem a whole lot warmer.

Want to see who came? Check out our group photo, and try to identify your friends under all their winter woollies:

Unfortunately, the weather forecast has only gotten worse since the weekend. Now they’re talking about things like single-digit lows and accumulating snow.

*sigh*

Well, if you’re stuck inside this weekend and need a pick-me-up, please consider making a donation to the Hound Welfare Fund. Your donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the retired hounds.

Snow hounds, a hunt country panorama, and some random jottings

Rosie Wilson sent this picture-postcard-perfect photo of her hound puppies

THE YEAR is winding down, it’s the holiday season, there’s a little Bailey’s in my glass, and it’s getting on toward bedtime–a potent mixture for inducing nostalgia in the sleepy houndblogger.

Out with the hounds this afternoon, it occurred to me how lucky we are to have use of the beautiful land in the Iroquois hunt country. Landowners and farmers really are the backbone of foxhunting–along with the hounds and the game–and we should appreciate them every chance we get. Standing atop a breezy hill this afternoon on Boone Valley Farm, the thought occurred to me that those of you who aren’t familiar with Iroquois might like a quick peek at some of our hunt country. This view rpresents one of the most beautiful panoramas in the hunt country and takes in a few places very fsamiliar to those who regularly follow hounds over it, such as Boone Valley Farm and Wee Young’s Covert. I’m still learning the names and locations of some of the coverts, which turns out to be a good deal more complicated than you might think. To give you some idea, here’s a rough map that Steve Snyder sketched out for us this afternoon while we were following the hunt in the four-wheeler:

Try keeping all THAT in your head! The hunt staff do, which strikes me as a minor miracle. Steve’s map helped keep me oriented properly as we buzzed along the roads around Boone Valley, Foxtrot, and other notable landmarks in the country. But it was no match for the sheer beauty of the land, even on a cloudy afternoon with a chilly wind blowing in. This brief video panorama hardly does it justice but gives you some idea:

We were in the middle of a lovely piece of land watching one of man’s ancient pastimes, but it is striking to note how much modern technology now contributes to our ability to protect the hounds and to carry on hunting even as development encroaches–in fact, the gradual incursion of roads and subdivisions is one of the reasons technology has become a feature of many hunt fields. Back in the 1800s, huntsmen and Masters bemoaned the coming of railway lines. And well they might: the railway lines didn’t just cause a nuisance in bisecting the hunt country and making it more difficult to cross, they also endangered hounds. Reading periodicals of the era when railways were relatively new, it is sad how often notices appeared reporting the death of hounds on railroad lines. Today, the car is the biggest risk to hounds in many hunt countries.

The hunt staff at Iroquois carry radios, the hounds wear tracking collars, and the kennel staff work the roads in their hound trucks, cell phones and radios on, all part of maximizing safety.

Foxhunting equipment today includes radios and cell phones for the humans, and tracking collars for the hounds

Even so, as we scanned the countryside and watched the horses and hounds from our vantage point on Boone Valley Farm’s highest hill, we were reminded that even with modern technology now on the hunt field, huntsman and hounds are part of an old, old ritual, and no technology can replace the hounds’ instincts and training or the close bond they have with the people who hunt them. And thank heavens for that! You can’t manufacture a hound’s sagacity or bravery.

Speaking of bravery … something we saw today has inspired us to inaugurate a Game as Grundy Award, named for the late great Iroquois hunting and stallion hound. Huntsman Lilla Mason, leg still in a cast, returned to the saddle for an hour today to accompany the hounds with joint-Master Jerry Miller, who has been carrying the horn while Lilla is recovering from a broken ankle. It was great to see her out again, and we wish her a speedy full recovery!

And now the houndbloggers will have to hie off to bed to dream of hounds. It’s just a few minutes now until Christmas Eve! We hope you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas!

A Christmas fox wishes you a happy holiday season!

Doing your end-of-year tax planning? Don’t forget to consider a donation to the Hound Welfare Fund! Donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the care of the retired hounds.