Native Welshman Rhodri Jones-Evans, or just Rhod as everyone calls him, hunts the 38 couple hounds for Mooreland Hunt near Huntsville, AL. When not hunting hounds, Rhod loves to bird hunt and work with his two pointers and English Cocker Spaniel on quail, duck and dove. He is unfortunately limited to following his other passion, rugby, on television.
e-Covertside: How did you become involved in hunting?
Rhod: When I was 12 my mother suffered from heart trouble and was spending a lot of time in the hospital. A client of my father, Raymond Vaughn, aka Chief, a retired Chief Inspector of the North Wales Police Force, took me under his wing to get me out of my father’s hair, not that he had that much left after dealing with me for twelve years. Chief was a great outdoorsman who loved nature, hunting and shooting but his passion was dogs. He had several spaniels and labs that he used for picking up birds on several local shoots and being a dog person myself he got me hooked.
eCovertside: What was your next move?
Rhod: From that year on I never looked back, I started working on the local shoot helping out whenever I could, beating in the winter, helping with the pheasant rearing in the summer. That year Chief took me out with the local gun pack and that was it, I fell in love with hounds, especially with the Welsh hounds. I still remember that day, the cry of the hounds in the old forestry gave me goose pimples.
When I left school I went to one of our local colleges. There I studied Forestry and Rural Skills for a year and then moved to Hartpury College in Gloucester to study Game and Fishery management. After graduating from college I took on a couple of positions as a gamekeeper before going self employed for a couple of years. Then I applied for the kennelman job at the Wynnstay (Sir Watkin Williams Wynn Hunt ). There I spent three seasons moving up from kennelman to second whip under Bert Loud, an old-school teacher that taught me most I know about hounds. From there I came to the US and whipped-in for Midland Foxhounds and then as KH to Tony Leahy at Fox River Valley before taking the position as huntsman at Mooreland Hunt, for which I am now in my seventh season.
eCovertside: What are three things you never hunt without?
Rhod: One, my trusty Leather-man; two, my hunting license, which is tucked on the inside rim of my riding hat; and three, a piece of twine that stays in my hunt coat.
eCovertside: Shannon told us quite a bit about your territory last month, what are your thoughts?
Rhod: Our hunt country is quite unique. It’s a large peninsula that has the Tennessee river bordering the east and north and Spring Creek borders the west. The only major road we have is Highway 20 that runs east to west on the furthermost south side of the country. Even though it’s seldom we even come close to 20, every precaution is taken that hounds don’t get across.
The country itself is mostly crop land, which has changed over the seven years I’ve been here from 100 percent cotton farming to 40 percent cotton with the rest being shared with corn, soy beans and winter wheat. Because of the new farming practice, we’ve lost a lot of fences and hedgerows, making most our country non-jumping. The cotton and the late soy beans makes it a late start for us because we can’t hunt until it’s harvested, which can range from mid September to early November. This later start sometimes means the young entries don’t get much practice, almost being thrown into the deep end. The coverts are mostly hardwoods and swamps with large open country in between. This makes the running fast so Thoroughbred horses are preferred. Because of the open space, our coyotes tend to run big. It is not uncommon to cover 25-30 miles in a days hunting.
eCovertside: Ford, Chevy, Dodge or GMC trucks?
Rhod: Until Toyota brings out an engine for the Tundra that can cope with pulling a six-horse goose neck then a Ford 350 will have to do.