About HCH

“We hunt because we are made welcome by those who hold the land.”
Captain Ronnie Wallace, MFH 
Land is what it takes to keep a hunt going, and land is what keeps going faster than a hunt can keep up with it!

In 1980 we hunted from the kennel property in Corinth, just south of Denton, and walked hounds down tree lined Post Oak Road. In 1982, we treed a bobcat 150 yards from the kennel gate. In 1987 we opened new country north of Denton, in Cook and Montague Counties and began to think our land problems were solved. By 1990, there was no kennel area hunt country left, but the Rayzor property in Bartonville was available, and we could still road hounds on Post Oak.

The kennel property itself was lost in 1993, and by 1994 Rayzor was gone, too. Housing developments and the ubiquitous golf courses felled the trees and flattened the terrain, and were still advancing. In 1994, we opened the new kennel in Boyd, and through the generosity of several private landowners (none of whom are foxhunters), obtained the privilege of hunting on land in Wise, Montague and Young Counties. 

This is the history of The Hickory Creek Hunt and its hunt country. It is not a reassuring story, but it is similar to the tales told by hunts all over the U.S. and England. The apparently unstoppable despoiling of open land appears to be an epidemic fueled by population growth and a lack of understanding of how important undeveloped land is to for both humans and wildlife and our continued existence on the planet.

Our responsibility is to be good stewards of the land we are allowed to use, to aid in the preservation of wildlife and its habitat, and to enjoy it for the priceless natural resource that it is. 

Foxhunting in America is a country pursuit in which a trained pack of hounds is sent into a covert to explore for the scent of a fox or coyote. On an ideal day, a hound picks up a fresh scent, and speaks to let his fellows and the huntsman know what he’s found. The other hounds and the huntsman honor him, and they and the mounted followers set off with him on the line. The quarry breaks from the covert into the open and the chase is on. The pack loses the line, stops to recover it, and continues. The run ends in a loss of scent, exit of game from the country, or game gone to ground. In this last event, hounds are praised, then called away from the den. Whatever the conclusion, the process is begun again.

The object is not to catch the fox or coyote, but to find, see and follow him, while delighting in the wide-open spaces, the work of the hounds, the cross-country riding, and the company of other enthusiasts. The clothes, tack and riding style all have a practical purpose and are stripped to the essentials for safety and comfort. The horses are turned out cleanly and simply, for the same reasons, with manes pulled or braided to stay out of the way. There are rules of safety and etiquette so that no one needs doubt what to do in a tight spot, or at speed, when it’s too late to debate.

The physical demands of foxhunting are just about as great or small as one’s strength. For those at the front, it is challenging, but for those in the second flight the demands can be more modest. Young and old, men and women, and people from all walks of life foxhunt. Some follow on foot, and others in cars along roads and tracks. Whatever the level of endeavor, the competition in foxhunting is with the inner man.

Foxhunting is not a solitary sport, and foxhunters are always on the lookout for others who may not have had the opportunity to hunt, but want to try. Those with an interest have a warm welcome awaiting them. Riders from other disciplines are encouraged, and invited to use their usual clothing and tack for their initial outings.

The expense of foxhunting amounts to upkeep of hounds, which is shared by the members, and the upkeep of one’s own horse, tack, clothes and transportation. While this is not insignificant, it is less than many other sports and entertainments, both equestrian and otherwise.

Foxhunting is a lifetime interest for many of its practitioners. It is alive with possibility and rich in reward, combining many sporting and outdoor activities. In it people find something fresh each time out. The houndwork is fascinating and a worthy object of serious study. Riding in company over natural terrain is challenging and exciting, calling into use long practiced horsemanship skills. A special bonus is that there is no better way than riding to hounds to form a serious and lasting bond with a horse. It makes sense to the horse and gives him a chance to show the rider what they can do as a team.

Often unconsidered is the sport’s relationship to the land and its place as a non-consumptive, conservation minded recreation. Interest in riding to hounds arose from a fascination with the complexities of the natural world such as weather, countryside, horses, hounds and wildlife. This fascination is shared by those who find rest and restoration in nature and those who know that land preservation is essential to our collective future. 

Riding to hounds after fox was first tried in the Yorkshire moors in the eighteenth century. While foxhunting was in its formative stages in England, the English traveled across the Atlantic, carrying hounds, horses, beliefs, tastes and practices. From the beginning, for these Colonial Englishmen, foxhunting was as American as it was English. However, over time, foxhunting in the U.S. has taken on a distinctly American character because of the different terrain, climate, distances, game and culture.

A common image has developed of red coated men on horseback, riding after hounds in pursuit of red fox, but foxhunting today has more significance than the mere chase. To many landowners, it is an interesting thing to do with their land and compatible with their program of land preservation and wildlife management. Lands set aside for foxhunting provide the natural habitat and eco-system necessary for foxes, coyotes and other wildlife to survive. These reserved lands protect the wildlife from urban sprawl and predations such as poisons, traps, and guns. Consequently, many hunts in the United States have become local leaders in wildlife and land conservation.

American foxhunters have not adopted practices specifically designed to kill their quarry such as digging out the fox, or stopping up holes and escape routes as done in England. In the U.S. the sport is about the chase, not the kill. When the fox goes to ground, he ends the chase and generally lives to give sport another day.

In England the game is fox, but in America coyote has presented itself as an alternate object of pursuit. This is especially true in the Southwest where the coyote is so prevalent. Fox and coyote range over most of North America. Their diet is everything from beetles, fallen fruit, and carrion to chickens and house cats, but their chief prey is small rodents.

The running patterns of the coyote are very different from the fox and require a different approach and style of hunting.Fox run circles, switch-backs, serpentines, and all kinds of other complex lines, and can run a several mile point before going to ground in a hole, culvert, barn or someone’s attic. Fox run their points looping and circling, usually staying in the area where they live.

The coyote is bigger, faster and thought to have more staying power than the fox. It is said to be able to run in excess of a 10-mile point, usually straight out of the territory. Compared to fox, coyote is thought to be harder to hunt in terms of staying with its speed, but it may be the coyote’s newness to most foxhunters that causes the difficulty. During the last decade or so, the coyote’s territory has expanded eastward across the Mississippi, changing the way people there hunt their hounds. 

In the United States there are 149 hunts recognized by the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA). In Texas there are five recognized hunts. The Hickory Creek Hunt is a member of MFHA and has been recognized since 1970. MFHA was formed in 1917 to register hunts and their territories and to bring order to foxhound bloodlines. It keeps the foxhound studbook, arbitrates disputes over territory, sets standards and rules, provides clinics and training for hunting, and speaks for the sport with a single voice. 
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