I haven't been able to write many reports this year, in fact none, and this year has been quite rewarding. The hounds continue to hunt well, and the puppies continue to improve. We hosted a day for the North American Field Hunter Championships in the pouring rain and managed to get one good run. We hosted the Virginia Field Hunter Championship and had a surprising quick run and accounting. We've had days when the pack has run out of country only to see the fox come back in with the entire pack shortly behind. We continued our streak; we have never had a blank day! We are proud of the superior abilities of our pack’s nose, voice and drive.
This year we've had run after run. At times, we had to stop them and force them to come in. We've had riders down and out. We've had horses down, horses up, and practical steeplechases following these hounds. We have hunted in 28 degrees with wind in our warmest winter great coats and hunts in 90 degrees in polo shirts, sweating.
Anyone who thinks Pennmarydels are slow has not hunted with us, as repeatedly they have sailed away from us across fields. At times, as fast as any pack out there! Yet, on poor scenting days, they have enough nose to carry it on when no other pack could. We have amazed guests and been very proud as herds of 10 or 20 deer have run through the pack and not a hound followed.
We have, throughout the year, entered a dozen puppies, some early, some later. All are coming along nicely, some are even starting to prove their worth. Kyle and Saddlebags in particular are honoring their bloodline. Except for a day when they left the country on a coyote, they have mostly all come in together. For me, that is quite a relief!
Many a guest has left happy, and old and new members alike have become believers! A special day for guests in particular was when we hosted a Pony Club from northern Ireland. We were all spent at the end of that day! I for one, besides the riding, had put eight horses out in the field that day and was beat. It was a blur of hard riding. At one point, first and second field were flat out chasing the hounds across Nelson's horse pastures and not keeping up. I think the kids enjoyed the sport we showed as hounds put fox after fox to ground, and then, another great Breakfast at Nelson's tack room!
Anyway, on to an account of this past Sunday. The first we've been out since 8" of snow. We started out from Glenwood Park with 17 1/2 couple, which consisted of 10 puppies and a couple of house hounds. The conditions were questionable to say the least. On several of the most recent hunts, we've had to deal with frozen ground and winds making conditions difficult. But, this day, we had melting snow and quickly rising temperatures making the footing treacherous. For one late puppy, this was his first hunt. For another puppy, this was the first time he left the trailer and joined up.
Before we left the meet, I took some time to encourage our new entries and not rush them out. The whole pack was a little over-excited, having been in good hunting form and then cooped up from this snow. One could say they were bouncing! We began the draw moving north along Polecat Hill Road. As the pack spread out into the woods below, I could see the always over-exuberant puppies running through the woods ahead. Not hunting or speaking, just rushing through. Now that they have hunted a bit, they think they know what they are doing, just like some people I'll refrain from naming!
Puppies have plenty of speed but have half the knowledge! We've all seen it before, they go flying ahead when the pack is at full cry, only to overrun the line and have to circle back to the veterans. So I called ahead to the whippers and told them to knock back any of these thrusters. Over a stone wall and down past White Hall we went. Nearly to the Wacopin when the illustrious and expert whipper-in, Liz Williams, tallyho’d a fox going east. I brought the pack down south and watched as they spread out going up Ball Hill. I knew as they spread out one of them would cross the line and open. They did. Away they went, east towards the horse field where they promptly lost. Damn Puppies! They rushed off line and took everyone with them for a moment until the veteran hounds re-cast and picked it up heading south towards the colt field.
Now, I came in behind them and saw a few dwelling at the wall while the leaders raced across the field. A few old hounds and a recent edition of late have been prone to dwelling some, which was easily remedied by a forceful word and whip from behind and off they went to catch up. Funny scenting though, where the ground was softer. In the sunny fields, it seemed to be more difficult scenting than in the more frozen woods. I would have thought the looser ground would hold the scent better than the hard frozen, but then it was colder in the woods. Scent is a fickle woman.
As they ran across into the long field, they checked and repeatedly re-cast to work that line across the field, just a little at a time. It was slow, fine hound work. And, enjoyable to watch for anyone who knew hound work. But, maybe not, for those who hunt to run.
Up into the woods at Wheatlands, near where they started, they went. At this point, the two new entries came up not sure what to do as the pack had gone on. I stayed with them to gently bring them on and left the pack to the whippers-in. After a short time, we caught up with all on Polecat Hill Road. They had lost. So, having no luck here on the west side, I picked them up and circled down below the woods to the east. Here they picked it up.
Down through the ravine by the White Hall spring house, towards the Wacopin they worked. Casting about, Sanction (named after our little unpleasantness of late), spoke as he walked down on top of the stone wall until it played out. Then off the wall where Flora and Frenchie took over. Across the Wacopin and back up into Ball Hill again. As they worked northeast, they struggled to carry this line into the hog lot. Here they picked at it until whippers Alex and Julia view-hallooed south in the horse field. Sheila and I were on the north side.
I raced around the east side of the woods, while Sheila moved back to the west to pick up in case they circled back that way. As I came south, I saw most of the pack come out of the woods and run east along a spring when the speaking stopped. Then, they cast back around west, where I saw, still coming through the woods heading south, Watson carrying the line. All rushed to honor him. Then out into the field they raced at full cry, with Yeager taking the lead. Across, west, into Ball Hill woods and out of sight. I went into the colt field, to the south where Alex had moved, and again saw the fox going south along the Wacopin. With Sheila on the north side and Liz with the hounds to the west, we sat on the south side waiting for the turn.
And we waited. They checked, then picked back up a couple of times but continued working west! We kept waiting to the south where the fox was viewed, but they kept pushing west. I even tried to cheer them up to me a couple times, thinking well, the fox had just gone farther and then circled south. But NO! I was ignored and should have kept my mouth shut and listened to what the hounds were telling me. They continued west up the ravine behind Wheatlands towards Polecat. Finally, I had to accept what they were telling me and go to catch up, as they had gone well west of me.
Our famous videographer, Chuck Woodworth, said the fox crossed Polecat. And of course, he has it all on film. When I got there, I saw the hounds crossing the road going into the woods near Glenwood Park grandstand. Sheila was with them and let us know they had gone to ground in a rock outcropping. Somewhere in Ball Hill the pack had switched foxes, not surprising as so many are in there. When I arrived all the puppies were there. They were coming in and out inspecting the den.
We had been out just under two hours, we had all the hounds, no horses had gone down on the slippery ground, the Super Bowl was coming on, and we were at the meet. Gregg suggested this was a good time to go enjoy the tailgate where Tim was cooking burgers! It was a short, easy, fun day that gave the horses and hounds a little exercise, and the puppies another good lesson.
L'Audace L'Audace toujours L'Audace!