By Barbara Smith.
On the first weekend of March, eight Penn-Marydel packs traveled to Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area (NRMA) on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to participate in Wicomico Hunt’s Regional Performance Trials. This was the only Penn-Marydel-exclusive performance trial and the next-to-last of the season. The series of hound performance trials are held every three years and the top-10 hounds from each event qualify for the MFHA Performance Trials Grand Championships, hosted by Sedgefield Hunt, March 25-27. More than 40 hunt clubs are expected to showcase their qualifying hounds in Hoffman, North Carolina.
The flat, open country of the Maryland Eastern Shore presents an ideal fixture for fox hunters and car followers to view 20 couple of hounds working along the shores of the Wye River, through the wooded covers and across cropland. Ashley Hubbard, huntsman from Green Spring Valley Hounds, said he was honored to be the guest huntsman.
Members and staff of Red Mountain Foxhounds (North Carolina), Marlborough Hunt (Maryland), De La Brooke Foxhounds (Maryland), Andrews Bridge Foxhounds (Pennsylvania), Mt. Carmel Hounds (Maryland), Golden’s Bridge Hounds (New York), Red Oak Foxhounds (Virginia) and Sedgefield Hunt (North Carolina) kicked off the festivities at the Friday evening welcome dinner at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center in Grasonville on Kent Island. During the judges’ meeting, introductions included head judge Chris Moll of Sedgefield Hunt and three returning judges, myself (Marlborough Hunt and Bull Run Hunt), Rosie Campbell, MFH, Bull Run Hunt, Alison Howard (Wicomico Hunt). They welcomed Bennett Opitz (Thornton Hill Hounds) and Melissa Wade, MFH, Wicomico Hunt. Mitzi Cabeen from Moore County Hounds served as a car judge. Allen Hungerford was invaluable as a scoring software expert.
Fred Berry, MFH, Sedgefield Hunt and Performance Trial chairman, welcomed everyone and thanked Ed Fry, MFH, Wicomico Hunt, for hosting. Fred and Ed are enthusiastic supporters of the Penn-Marydel. Ed remarked that this was “the ultimate Penn-Marydel hound trial in the world.”
They introduced the huntsmen, Drew Daley (Red Mountain Foxhounds), Jason Cole (Marlborough Hunt), Kami Bitting (De La Brooke Foxhounds), Dan O’Toole (Mt. Carmel Hounds), Adam Townsend (Andrews Bridge Foxhounds), Codie Hayes (Golden’s Bridge Hounds), Teresa Miller, MFH, Red Oak Foxhounds. Fred introduced Sedgefield Hunt’s new huntsman, Randall Carty, who will pick up the horn next season. Erin McKenney, the huntsman at Millbrook Hunt, attended to support her friend, Codie Hayes.
MFHA’s Director of Hunting Andrew Barclay spoke. He said that the Penn-Marydel hound is “the fastest-growing pack in the country.” The Penn-Marydel hound has become the most requested hound for new MFHA packs or for a pack looking to reinvigorate its breeding. The wonderful traits that exemplify the Penn-Marydel; drive, voice and biddability are desirable and they have improved their speed and conformation. He said that he was looking forward to hearing “that booming voice.”
Ed Fry thanked the sponsors, Cargill’s Nutrena Feed and River Run Feed and all the members who helped put on the event, especially Rebecca Morani and Melissa Wade.
Drew Daley, Jason Cole, Marty Morani, Fred Berry, Dan O’Toole, Randall Carty, Codie Hayes, Adam Townsend and Ashley Hubbard.
Saturday was cool and slightly overcast. Guest huntsman Ashley Hubbard loaded the hounds in the trailer for about 20 minutes to let them get acquainted. Then, they hacked to the southernmost point of the day’s fixture. The hounds don’t know each other, don’t know this huntsman talking to them and often come out of the trailer and scatter. It was impressive how the long hack settled the hounds. A few held back, but after a mile or so, they all came together and were quietly hacking behind the huntsman. It was well done. Ashley then turned toward the shoreline and put hounds into the first cover.
The judges need to stay very close to the front of the pack but try not to interfere. They need to see the hounds‘ numbers as they progress through the four categories, hunting, trailing, full cry and put to ground. It is a tricky dance.
In the first cover, the pack spoke quickly and jumped right to full cry within the first 15 minutes. The first run lasted over an hour, up the shoreline, through bogs and briars before slipping across the road to repeat it on the other side of the fixture. It is satisfying to be in the right spot to get to the lead hounds as they fly across country. This run offered many full-cry and trailing scores as the hounds were steady on the line. It provided great views for the field of followers as the hounds exited the cover, then swung back and picked up the line over and over. The hounds continued to work several more lines. The scent seemed to be disappearing in the open fields, and while hounds continued to pick in the woods along the shore, we eventually called it a day just before noon.
Red Mountain Foxhounds won the first-day hunt scores with Marlborough Hunt second and De La Brooke Foxhounds were third. Marlborough Hunt’s Xman placed first in hunting and trailing scores, with Golden’s Bridge Hounds’ Yeti earning the highest full-cry score. There were no marking scores either day.
All returned to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center for the Saturday night dinner with thanks to Chef Dave Perry. Codie Hayes won the whip-cracking contest, with Chris Moll a close second. Codie also delivered a beautiful “Gone Away” and “Gone to Ground” on her horn, but Ashley Hubbard left no doubt as to his prowess on the horn and was the winner.
Rosie Campbell, Barbara Smith, Bennett Opitz, Alison Howard, Chris Moll and Melissa Wade. Photos by Wicomico Hunt
Sunday, the high temperature was forecast to be near 75 degrees. It was overcast with light rain in the morning. The group had hopes of good scenting. Ashley repeated the hack down toward the southern fields but moved to a cover about halfway. The hounds opened quickly. There was some confusion, and hounds regrouped and put back onto a similar hunting line as the previous day. Hounds worked very hard in the coverts near the water and spoke every few minutes. The scent seemed more elusive and full-cry scores were short, with the hounds fanning out and repeatedly regrouping as they searched for the line. Then, Ashley moved back toward the northern edge of the fixture, and they picked up a steadier line and circled, speaking with that big Penn-Marydel voice.
We moved into crop fields towards the northern shoreline and the hounds kept diligently working through the shore briars. Rain moved in and a squall opened up. As Ashley let them work around the wood line heading home, a lightning bolt ripped across the sky, followed by a booming crack of thunder. It was a prudent decision to call it a day.
Scores were quickly tallied and everyone loaded horses and hounds before trailering to Pintail Point, a nearby sportsman’s skeet shooting lodge. A lovely spread of food was enjoyed while the scores were tabulated.
De La Brooke Foxhounds was the overall hunt winner. Golden’s Bridge Hounds’ Yeti #62 was the Huntsman’s Choice.
Wicomico Hunt’s Blister, #3, was the top hound and Marlborough Hunt’s Xman was third, with Golden’s Bridge Hound’s, Yeti tallying fourth place. The group enjoyed two wonderful days of hunting in country that showcases the Penn-Marydel hound. All had the opportunity to enjoy their big voice and watch the best of the breed do what they love.