I have been blessed in my role as an amateur huntsman for Long Run Woodford Hounds (LRWH) to “bring forward” juniors to ride with me while I hunt the hounds on many occasions during my career. As all huntsmen are basically charged with the duty to “show good sport to the fields,” I think as an amateur, I have an equal duty to try to pass along thoughts, information and wisdom to the next generation. It’s just like running a business, you’ve always got to be developing your “succession plan.”
Caldwell encourages juniors to ride up - and here, to bring hounds in at day's end. Photo courtesy of Long Run Woodford Hounds.
I try before every hunt meeting to meet and greet all juniors and children that have come out. To me it is very important to let them know you’re so glad that they are out with the hunt. And, as I get to know the level of skill each of these children will have, then we (the parents, the field masters and myself) can assess how much they can ride with up me. This is because I am firm believer that the tradition of sticking the young riders and children back in the rear of the fields, frankly, will do more to turn them away from hunting and push them towards other interests more than anything else. If they see the opportunity to ride up with the staff and me, this will engage them more and more into the activities of the hunt.
Regarding our hounds, LRWH is a Penn-Marydel pack. We are breeding descendants which trace back to the original draft of hounds from Andrews Bridge Foxhounds (PA) made by Edward S. Bonnie and Charles W. McLaughlin in July of 2000. I have used some outside stallion hounds from the Aiken Hounds (SC), as Aiken professional huntsman Katherine Gunter and I went throught the MFHA's Professional Development Program together. My goals are to breed the best hunting females to the conformational best males that I can. And then as Johnny Gray said, “Hope for the best from that!” Charles McLaughlin was a firm believer in the quote from Captain Ronnie Wallace, that "good hound breeding is about the mother, and of her mother, and of her mother.” I don’t think I will stray too far from this theory.
Caldwell and his Penn-Marydel pack at last fall's blessing. Photo courtesy of Long Run Woodford Hounds.
This year, we entered eight puppies into the pack. As a tradition, we dedicate Thursdays during cubbing to “puppy” hunts and then will mix a few at a time into the pack on Tuesdays during the formal season. Frankly, it was a long fall season of hunts as our country seemed to be overrun with whitetail deer. However, now that the “gun seasons” are over and the deer are not in rut, we have had some great weekday hunts and the new entry have participated in some really good coyote chases. If I can end each day on some kind of positive note, then I consider it as a win!