Wenchdays are always exciting. Usually a smaller group of riders (mostly a wildish group of gutty women – hence the nickname), we dispense with the formalities of attire and structure and just hunt. I have heard from the real huntsmen that the mood (for lack of a better word) of the huntsman dictates the mood of the pack. Each Wednesday, I expect a higher level of sport, more energy, drive, and take on a no-holds-barred attitude that somehow permeates throughout the pack and the country to produce exactly that. When you join us on Wednesdays, bring your fastest horse, don’t expect a field master, keep up or know the country, don’t fall off, show up on time to get the earliest start possible, and have a backup plan for getting the kids from school or be prepared to go in early, because we take the day as it comes. It is the best of times.
Wednesday, September 21st was a nice cool calm day, with a little residual moisture from the prior day’s rain to help with scenting. Whipping in were Marie Griffis and Corie Downey, and the field consisted of members Coco Kirchhoff and Sheila Smart with guests Wayne & Trina. Under normal circumstances, Wednesdays don’t include guests new to the sport or men, but Wayne and Trina fell in behind Sheila like naturals on their capable horses and they can both now proudly wear the title “Wench” (which should be fun for Wayne).
JR Morden released the hounds, we rode out around 9:45am, went out the East Gate (opened by Rick Daniels – thanks, Dad!) and trotted through the Flats toward Bone, where we cast at the bottom and started south. Within seconds that wonderful cry started, the one that starts with the crazy high pitched sound of Gaith saying THIS IS REAL! and ZB backing her up to tell the rest YES IT’S GOOD!, then the rest chimed in. They were off! From the west side high up in the Golf Course, Corie spotted our Tally Ho climb out of Bone to the west then circle south and fly east down the fenceline between State and Greens, with Eddie literally inches from the tail and Emily close behind. Marie started her roller coaster trek east as fast as she could, and we started the arduous climb out of the bottom of Bone to crest on top of the flat to the east between Bone and Blind. My new horse “Bernie” stopped for one tiny recovery breath at the top and I looked back to see the field coming along so I took off with a few straggler hounds who were more winded than my horse. The hounds dove along the line dropping down into Blind, but we couldn’t see them. This is where VOICE comes in, especially here. Big voiced hounds in the lead are essential in our terrain because we just can’t get to where we can see in time to determine whether the 300′ climb to the top is really worth it. I couldn’t hear the two lead hounds, but luckily Nell came along in front of me, nose down, hot on the line and I dropped the slower end onto it and sent them to her. From that vantage point, I could SEE (blessed be the white hounds) the lead crest east over the ridge between Blind and Picnic. Corie flew to it and Marie viewed Charley, then headed north to Cabin Bowl to stay north of them and prevent them from bailing once again too far into Big Davis (if that is where it was going to end). After a few moments of indecision and haphazard starts both north, then south, then north, then south (I hate it when my brain tells my body to cue my horse to follow those epileptic moments of second-guessing), Sheila stopped to watch my tennis tournament ahead of her and saved the horses at least a quarter mile of running around. Off toward the head of Picnic we went. Luckily, Bernie has incredible heart and stamina for a couple mile long-trot up then down into the bottom, and the old and lost hounds that followed me kept up. Corie joined me there. Marie radioed that she had heard them in Middle Finger, so we dropped them onto the line in Middle Finger and climbed out east to the south (the only way out of Middle Finger, and only before the hard freeze) following what we assumed was the same line that the lead had. By now, we have climbed up and down three canyons, even though we had taken the long flatter route, so that we could get the hounds back in the game. We had three couple with us, and were enjoying our own little pack hunting, though by this time the lead was so far gone we didn’t know if it was even the same Tally. We basically had two packs on the same line and if it weren’t for the lasting scent, long stretch between hounds that allowed us to spot and hear the line, and eagerness of the tail we might have simply been on a recovery trail ride.
I am pretty sure that at this point in the blog, one of those real huntsmen would insert a comment here about the day so far.
Meanwhile, Sheila (ever the whip) stayed west of Picnic and Greens. I spotted and heard hounds heading south along the top of E Picnic and followed my hounds in cry heading that direction. Sheila radioed that she heard hounds (our lead) down in Greens near The Very Interesting Rock, so we looped around to join them. Once again, and for the third time, we pulled our rear hounds up forward to drop them further up in the line. (HMMMM.)The field had a fabulous view of the hunting all day! We followed, miles later and still hunting, up out of Greens, out the SE corner of State, and the field joined us heading toward Greens house on the south side. Somewhere in between we lost. There, we met Marie who had brought hounds with her who had finally lost in Sheep (!) and we gathered at the mudhole again for a check and regroup. By now, we had run for two hours. Bernie finally said enough for the first day, I have proven myself worthy and so we packed up with the help of Coco and took the long road home to the east of Sheep to see if we could gather the lead hounds presumably out there. As we walked we heard nothing, and looking to the east we couldn’t see anything in the vast 10 more miles of continuing country.
This is the part most don’t want to talk about it (or admit, maybe): leaving hounds out. The truth is, sometimes we do. I was hunting from my kennels with an old pack of hounds that always come home. Whip horses were tired, I was dizzy from blowing, we had been out three+ hours hunting, we had NO IDEA where the lead went, and do not own a helicopter. We are fortunate to hunt out our back door through big continuous ranch country with no roads and no houses (except our ONE landowner’s). So, we came home without some. I got a call within an hour of getting home, from Pat Green saying they were tracking us back through her yard, heading home. (This also told me that Marie had picked up hounds still on the line, but way back from the lead and wandering to find it.) Within a couple hours, all were accounted for and safely tucked in.
Radios are an essential part of our hunt. I use them. A lot. In big country where you cannot see or hear each other, you can save a lot of horse and time by keeping in touch the only way possible since we have no cell reception. The wind howls on the ridges lifting sound and scattering it, so I keep the whips privy to the direction I’m headed and sometimes we are so far apart the Hilltoppers have to relay messages back and forth. If you like (read: staff, this is highly recommended), get a Motorola XPR 3300 and program it to our channel. They are about $400. You can order these from a Reno supplier to Red Rock and then when we have joint meets we are all on the same channel (much to Lynn Lloyd’s chagrin, as they are much more traditional in their radio use. Note to self: radio etiquette discussion in order.) In our hunt, we like to have anyone wearing a radio in a staff position wear red. Thank you to Catherine Mee for allowing BSH to use two of hers, and to JR Tonjum who fund-raised for the third.
It is now also apparent, after two good Wenchday hunts that we have a bit of an issue with our pack. We actually have two packs – The Fast (the puppies and the bitches — and ZB and Glaser) and The Rest (and ZB and Glaser, who go both ways). Maybe we have three, because sometimes Nelson or Michael are a pack unto themselves. We’re working on this by drafting a few new hounds this fall, maybe sending Eddie over to hunt with her faster litter mates for a season, and reorganizing what hounds we draw for the day. Stay tuned for the solution to this.
Thanks to all for another Wonderful Wenchday.
See you Sunday, September 25th. Be saddled and ready to ride at 9:30a and please EVERYONE meet OFF your horses at 9:30am on the deck for introductions and stirrup cup. Potluck hunt breakfast follows.