Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2024

Three Magnificent Days Of Open Spaces And Hard Runs

Four Winds Foxhounds
29 NE 4 Ave.,
Delray Beach, Florida 33483.
Established 1990.
Registered 1991.
Recognized 1994.

Green Creek Hounds

145 S. Glassy Mtn. Rd.,
Landrum, North Carolina 29356.
Established 1988.
Registered 1991.
Recognized 1994.

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Four Winds Foxhounds
29 NE 4 Ave.,
Delray Beach, Florida 33483.
Established 1990.
Registered 1991.
Recognized 1994.

Green Creek Hounds

145 S. Glassy Mtn. Rd.,
Landrum, North Carolina 29356.
Established 1988.
Registered 1991.
Recognized 1994.

Don’t go to Florida and hunt with Four Winds unless you want to have a rip-roaring good time. The Green Creek Hounds (N.C.) members who enjoyed a three-day joint meet on Jan. 4-6 came to that unanimous decision and decided the trip was one that will be talked about for years and stored in their foxhunter memory books.

The Four Winds hunt territory makes a definite first impression—think huge. So, all were excited when the first day dawned with a slight mist and pleasant temperatures in the 50s. John Stanley, MFH and huntsman for Four Winds, and Tot Goodwin, MFH and huntsman for Green Creek, moved off from the ranch owned by Four Winds MFHs Carol and C.R. Stanley. The Four Winds and Green Creek combined pack numbered in the 40s.

The hounds were cast north, not far beyond the barn, in a thick covert. The pack searched hard for a short 10 minutes, and riders began to relax and settle in to watch some good hound work. First-day tension had barely vanished from the reins when the voices of two packs working in harmony filled the air. Hounds raced north and then flipped back toward the stable. The field wheeled around.

The swamp to the north was the normal choice of the wily fox, and this maneuver toward the south caught all by surprise. Sound carried across the fields with the hounds hot on the tail of a fox. The few members who had chosen to go through a gate and were a bit behind the jumpers enjoyed a nice view of the pack as they raced to the southeast.

Carol Stanley galloped to open a gate and headed toward the highway and difficult territory. John Stanley followed close behind and stopped the pack before they reached the road. It was a thrilling way to start the morning, and the foxhunters were all smiles. Both huntsmen agreed that the hard pressure of a full-voiced pack had caused this quarry to choose a new route.

Miles Of Smiles

Next, John and Tot hacked the pack back toward the north and then drew toward a large hay field. The land unfolded to the horizon, with palmetto groves, beautiful pools of water and open cattle pastures greeting the eye as far as one could see. The hounds scoured the ground between Myrtle Slough and the Hammock. Palmetto green and towering pines shaded inviting trails. The pack moved as if their blood still raced from the earlier run.

A hound spoke. Horses and riders, their breath barely back to normal from the first chase, straightened to attention. Another hound joined in. The huntsmen encouraged. The sound grew. Fieldmaster C.R. Stanley set an exhilarating pace as the hunt was off again.

The hounds roared. It was hard to hear the galloping hooves over the call of the hounds. They powered by the orange grove to the north side of the Hammock, a large wooded area filled with oaks dripping Spanish moss and lush green vegetation.

From there, the gray fox took them east then west. No one ventured into the Hammock area, leaving room for the chase between fox and hounds. The east whips guarded the border. The rest of the whips did a superb job of watching their sides of the territory and keeping the race interesting.

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Reynard led the pack back north toward an area called the “camp” and then back again. Riders sagged, and horses blew. Sweat ran down foreheads and lathered necks. They’d raced for 40 minutes. The Florida sun took its toll on those in wool coats. All stopped to regroup.

John and Tot decided to give this race to the fox, tipped their hats and called it a day. The ground was inviting, the trails safe, and everyone enjoyed galloping and jumping while listening to the music of hounds and huntsmen. Though riders were tired at the end, there was not one without a mile-wide smile.

Four Winds had graciously allowed Green Creek staff to join their own capable group for the day. Whips for Four Winds included Carol Stanley, Tom, Kirsten, Adam Brown and Bob Heater (wheel whip). Green Creek was represented by Sheila Grymes, Corry Casperson and Ann Shue. Green Creek guests were Deborah Bundy, her daughter Karen Bundy, CeeCee Wilmanns, Ron Picarri, Shanna Mauldin, Phil and Emmie Osborne, Kem Ketcham and Roger Smith, MFH, Green Creek.

Welcome To The Jungle

The next day, the group traveled by trailer to The Ranch, in Vero, Fla. The meet was at 8 a.m., and Reve Walsh hosted, having made this wonderful fixture available to Four Winds for the past three years. The Stanleys worried about the hot weather, while the guests looked about, in awe of the huge territory. Cattle roamed in the distance over open fields that beckoned and reminded some of Kansas prairies. Kenneth Haddad, executive director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, joined the group on Day 2.

After the barn burner of the first day, John decided to head to the cool depths of a cypress swamp. A wide trail ran around its perimeter, the center being nearly impenetrable.

Like the day before, the hounds found quickly. This time, instead of fox they were on bobcat. Around and around they went within the deep green jungle. Their voices carried not only to the field watching close by but also across the meadows to the most distant whipper-in. Suddenly, as if a switch had been flipped, all was silent. Then the roar began again.

After listening to the second mad chase for quite some time, and the same moment of silence, and then a third roaring of hounds, Tot and John dismounted and attempted to enter the swamp on foot. Tot worked his way in so far that John, upon emerging from the quagmire (without finding Tot), declared the man must be part hound and part bobcat. Tot mumbled something over the radio about hard going. When asked if he’d like a machete, Tot requested a bulldozer to help him get out.

The field, which wisely remained mounted and on the groomed trail, grinned ear to ear from listening to hound music for almost two hours.

The joint pack accounted for three of their quarry and still didn’t want to quit. The morning grew hot. The decision was made to call it a day, and with some persuasion all hounds were collected. The field hacked back to the trailers in a pleasant oak grove where a breakfast of champagne and wonderful food awaited atop picnic tables. Hosted by Reve Walsh, it was like finding a king’s feast in the middle of the forest. Satiated, tired riders loaded their horses, and all trailed back to Four Winds to clean tack, care for horses and prepare for the next hunt.

The Heat Is On

By Day 3, hunt members were used to rising early and were prepared for the 7 a.m. start at Four Winds Pond. All questioned how the horses and hounds would fare after two such grand days of hunting. Most agreed it was a good thing that Day 2 had been more listening than galloping.

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A mist blanketed the fields and lent a hint of old world mystery. The huntsmen hoped the moisture would aid scenting. The sun blazed above, with no clouds in sight. The Stanleys worried about the prediction of temperatures in the 80s, hot even for Florida at this time of year. Their guests regaled Palm Beach Hunt (Fla.) members and MFH Bob Pelio, who had joined in for this final morning of hunting, with tales of the past two days.

The huntsmen began with a patient, steady plan. They headed to a distant vicinity of Four Winds Ranch, just north of the area called the “camp.” They encouraged their 46 hounds to look through clumps of palmettos, and the plant, prolific in this area, made hard work for the pack. Wonderful wide trails for riders wove through the thick covers and provided a pleasant hack for the field. Members unbuttoned their jackets as the temperature rose. Not a sound was heard for almost an hour.

John and Tot conferred, decided on another strategy and encouraged the pack further north. The whips on the east side were positioned to keep an eye out for game as well as to stop the hounds in the event they headed off the territory.

Right after Carol Stanley apologized for the possible blank draw, Deborah Bundy viewed a coyote leaving Frog Pond Point. Simultaneously, Carol Stanley viewed a quarry emerging from the same palmetto thicket. The hounds took a look at Carol’s huge coyote as it headed east. Then the hounds chose the line of the smaller coyote viewed by Deborah and barrowed off at breakneck speed toward the south.

A Great Finale

Carol and Deborah raced to the gates near the boundary. John, Tot and the field leapt over a coop lower down the fence line. The chase went straight for miles, headed in a southerly direction. The quarry followed this by turning at least four times. Then the coyote made several figure eights within a 2-mile radius. Whips signaled tally-ho all along the way. Bob Heater streaked ahead on his four-wheel “mule,” and Carol Stanley encouraged her excited mount. The two kept Reynard in the territory.

C.R. Stanley led the field up close throughout the chase, heat forgotten in the thrill of the hunt. John traded his tiring horse for Green Creek’s fieldmaster, Ron Picarri’s, fit Thoroughbred. The race had now lasted almost an hour—long enough on this hot day.

Whips Tom Stanley and Adam Brown, stationed on the north Four Winds pastures, went to stop the hounds. The pack immediately responded to their request. The hounds were tired, the quarry was not, but of course the wily coyote hadn’t hunted the two previous days.

The huntsmen collected and hacked the pack to the side of a pond for a much-needed rest. The joint staff was thrilled that hounds were “all on.” They were tired, too. Three days of hard chasing and all hounds accounted for at the end of each day seemed surreal.

The whole meet had produced perfect hunting. Much of the fine atmosphere was attributed to the team effort of the huntsmen. They both took responsibility for hound performance, and no negative comments were heard. Each was quick to praise each other’s hunting and pack.

All decided the words that described this wonderful joint meet the best were expressed in Goodwin’s low, soft voice. He was heard to say he couldn’t remember any better three days of foxhunting, nor better hound work, in his 50 years of hunt experience.   

Deborah K. Bundy

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