Gail and Larry Sellers, MFH, Melissa Hyde-Town, MFH, daughter-in-law Shannon Roach Clifton, grandson Josh Clifton, Phil Town, Stephen Clifton, Hal Barry, ex MFH (deceased), Linda Barry, son Sam Clifton, granddaughter Madison holding Clifton’s youngest grandson William. Photos by EQ Media.

This year’s prestigious legacy award goes to a Huntsman who has dedicated his life to animals and nature and has passed that passion on to the next generation.

By Josh Walker

On the eve of this year’s Virginia Hound Show in Leesburg, Virginia, Steve Clifton joined an exclusive group of honorees who have blown the legendary Ian Milne’s horn. As a recipient of the 2022 Ian Milne Award, it is a tradition and honor that only five other Huntsmen have enjoyed before Clifton. He now serves as Huntsman for Bear Creek Hounds in Georgia.

The MFHA named the prestigious award after Milne (1942—2000) because of his organic, lifelong commitment to the sport and the example he had set for young huntsmen. A kind, generous, and uncomplicated giant of the world of mounted hunting with hounds, the namesake award has been given since 2012 to an active professional who embodies Milne’s passion and dedication to the sport; a quiet but confident leader who has demonstrated consistent good sport and leads by example.

For Clifton, who grew up in England with parents who dedicated their lives to training dogs and horses, animals and the outdoors have always filled his life. “Steve is woodsy. He’s a dog man,” said Fred Berry, MFH, Sedgefield Hunt, during the award presentation. “He finds his sweet spot being out with God’s creatures in the fields hunting.”

While born into foxhunting, Clifton started his professional career in his teens. Former MFHA President Tony Leahy, Huntsman and MFH, Massbach Hounds and Fox River Valley Hounds in Elizabeth, Illinois, knew him at the time and said he had been recognized early on as the “golden boy” by the “king makers” of the sport; individuals like Capt. Ronnie Wallace and Capt. Simon Clark.

Clifton crossed the pond in the early 1990s and served as Huntsman for Eglinton and Caledon Hounds in Terra Cotta, Ontario, Canada, for many years before joining Bear Creek Hunt in Coweta County, Georgia, in 2015. His son, Sam, is also a professional Huntsman for Rolling Rock Hunt in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Fred Berry presented the prestigious award.

MFHA Director of Hunting Andrew Barclay handing Steve Clifton the Ian Milne Award.

“He’s not limited to foxhounds,” Berry added. “He’s got a pack of bear dogs and hunts with falcons, too.”

“He hunts with hawks and falcons in our territory in the afternoons,” added Melissa Hyde, MFH, Bear Creek Hounds. “Through pure and unadulterated love of hounds and hunting, Steve has dedicated his entire life to the sport.”

Bear Creek Hounds’ terrain, which lies about 45 minutes south of Atlanta, varies from rolling farmland to vast woodlands and open fields. It requires fast hounds with good noses and strong voices. Clifton’s finely tuned pack of mostly crossbreds track fox, coyote and the occasional bobcat.

Beyond his deep experience with horses, hounds, and hunting, Clifton’s motivating passion and patience are what have so thoroughly exemplified the spirit of Milne and so effortlessly transcended beyond his own generation.

“His hunting style is an organic methodism in which he guides and trusts his hounds to utilize the talents he very specifically bred into them for our quarry,” Hyde explained. “He moves through the territory quietly and doesn’t interfere with the hounds’ focus or concentration and only speaks to them when he determines a course of correction is necessary. He directs staff to do the same and as a result, we have a very confident pack. After more than 50 years, Steve continues to dedicate each day to the well-being, training and breeding of exceptional foxhounds.”

Steve Clifton congratulated on his award by the 2018 Ian Milne Award recipient, Donald Philhower, Milbrook Hunt.

Steve Clifton congratulated by the 2014 Ian Milne Award recipient, Larry Pitts, MFH, Bedford County Hunt.

Steve Clifton with his daughter-in-law Shannon Roach Clifton, grandson Josh Clifton, son Sam Clifton holding youngest grandson William and granddaughter Madison.