Receives blessing – Jack Dalton of Williamston, receives the blessing of Saint Hubert from Rev. Charles E. Broome, chaplain for Belle Meade Hunt in Thomson Georgia. Other members of the Dalton’s family, shown in the background, also received the medal. (Photo courtesy Wayne Parham/The McDuffie Progress)
Belle Meade Hunt holds Opening Meet
(Reprinted courtesy Wayne Parham/McDuffie Progress)
Nov. 1 2014 – Thomson Georgia – As the hounds were walked forward for the forty-ninth Annual Blessing of the Hounds at Belle Meade Hunt’s Opening Meet 2014 a different kind of hunter walked among the fox hunters.
Clad in camouflage, 81-year-old Jack Dalton walked in stride with the masters of foxhounds of Belle Meade Hunt. Dalton, a deer hunter from Williamston, S.C., has hunted on leased land near the fox hunt for decades.
“He is the man of the hour, and beyond that he is one of Belle Meade Hunt’s closest allies,” said Charlie Lewis, one of the three master of foxhounds of Belle Meade Hunt.
Epp Wilson, master of foxhounds and honorary huntsman at Belle Meade Hunt, knows Dalton well.
“He is just a wonderful friend and leader. He is a family leader and a leader in his own club,” said Wilson. “He’s always upbeat and positive. He’s just a great guy and it was a good opportunity to honor him and his family this year in a special way and we’re glad we had the opportunity.”
Wilson depicts this as an example of how fox hunting and other land uses such as deer hunting can co-exist. Wilson pointed out that the hounds do not chase deer and are trained not to from an early age. But, all the activities of the hounds when running a coyote or fox can help stir the deer and get them moving for people like Dalton.
This is Dalton’s 25th year leasing hunting land near Belle Meade Hunt.
“I’ve got seven grandsons and they’ve all killed deer with me here,” Dalton said.
The deer hunter was not in the woods Saturday morning — his focus of the day was the Blessing of the Hounds, where he and several grandchildren and great grandchildren were blessed and received the Saint Hubert medal.
Wilson said Saint Hubert is the patron saint of hunters, all hunters including fox hunters and deer hunters. It is customary for many of the fox hunters to be blessed and receive the Saint Hubert medal. But, in this case members of Dalton’s family that are still too young to deer hunt received the honor and the blessing. Rev. Charles E. Broome, of St. Mark United Methodist Church, performed the blessings.
“The important thing is he’s got family members here today that are going to be blessed that have never been to anything like this,” Lewis said.
Earlier in the afternoon while waiting for the event to start, Dalton bumped into Tommy Maxwell, a McDuffie County resident who hunts the property with Dalton.
“This gentleman right here has been with me the 25 years that we’ve hunted this property,” Dalton said.
Dalton hunts on approximately 1,000 acres leased by 16 members. He is looking forward to a trip later this month to hunt in Michigan for his 30th straight year.
Following the Blessing of the Hounds, in front of the Larry Knox Country House on Wrightsboro Road, spectators boarded Tally Ho wagons for the afternoon of trailing behind the hunt.
“I thought it was one of the best that we’ve ever had,” Wilson said in talking about the Opening Meet. “It was just a super fun time for those of us on horseback as well as those in the wagons.”
Although parts of the CSRA received a wintery mix very early in the day, by the afternoon the day had improved yet stayed cool.
“It was delightful weather for those of us on horseback because usually it’s too hot,” added Wilson. “It was just a really, really nice afternoon.”
The hunt performed two simulated hunts in which the hounds then riders follow the trail of a scented drag. Wilson said despite the windy nature of the day, both worked out perfectly. At the end of the second drag one of the whips saw a coyote south of the group in a briar patch. They put the hounds on his line and the coyote turned north and riders followed him for miles.
“We had a really nice run. It started out on a brown coyote and switched somewhere onto a big black coyote and he ran a couple of figure eights and ran right back within 100 feet of the wagons. The wagons were coming up stagecoach road at that point,” said Wilson. “The way that coyote ran, if we had trained him to run that way we couldn’t have scripted it any better than the way he ran to give us a really nice sporting day through our best country.”