Local hunter participates in Blessing of the Hounds

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At Belle Meade Hunt Club in Thomson, Georgia

Masters of Foxhounds – Jack Dalton (in camouflage) joined the Masters of Foxhounds as they walked the hounds forward for the Forty-ninth Annual Blessing of the Hounds in Thomson, Georgia in November. (L-R) Dalton, Gary Wilkes, Epp Wilson, and Charlie Lewis. (Photo courtesy Wayne Parham/The McDuffie Progress)

By David Meade

Although the fall/winter hunting season is now over, at least until later this year, the stories continue. Jack Dalton, of Williamston, has one that neither he nor his family will soon forget.

Dalton and members of his family, were invited to join the Masters of Foxhounds for the forty-ninth Annual Blessing of the Hounds at the Belle Meade Hunt Club in Thomson Georgia.

The Blessing of the Hounds, and the hunters, is an event held annually at the start of fox hunting season, traditionally on the first Saturday in November. Fox hunting season lasts through February.

Now Georgia fox hunters are a curious sort, at least for most of us here in the upstate. They dress funny and they ride horses as they follow their hounds across the countryside in the pursuit of a fox, or sometimes a coyote. Fox hunters in Thomson could probably say the same thing about Dalton.

Dalton. 81, has deer hunted on approximately 1000 acres of leased land near the Belle Meade fox hunt for decades. Last season, 2014, was his 25th year hunting on the property which is leased by 16 members of his hunt club. Several of those members are family.

Dalton is an avid deer hunter. In addition to hunting in Georgia, he also makes an annual hunt trip to Michigan, which he did for the 30th straight year this past season. He is not a fox hunter, but he said he does enjoy hearing them run.

The Blessing of the Hounds takes place as part of The Belle Meade Hunt Opening Meet, which is one of the most popular events in Georgia and the largest Opening Meet in the world.

Following the blessing ceremony, the event offers the opportunity to experience an old English-themed fox hunt, including the horses, the hounds, the fox, the beautiful hunt country and the fellowship.

Scarlet-coated hunters and well-trained hounds then participated in a simulated fox hunt.

Dalton, clad in camouflage, was joined by grandchildren and great grandchildren for the special day.

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In addition to walking with the Masters of Foxhounds as they walked their hounds forward for their blessing, Dalton and family members received the blessing of Saint Hubert, and a medal, from Rev. Charles E. Broome, Chaplain for Belle Meade Hunt.

Saint Hubert is the patron saint of hunters.

“He is the man of the hour, and beyond that he is one of Belle Meade Hunt’s closest allies,” Charlie Lewis, one of three Master of Foxhounds at Belle Meade Hunt said in an interview with The McDuffie Progress, the local newspaper that covered the event.

Dalton was featured in two photographs taken during the event which were published along with a feature story in The McDuffie Progress.

Epp Wilson, master of foxhounds and honorary huntsman at Belle Meade Hunt said in the same newspaper article, “He is just a wonderful friend and leader: He is a family leader and a leader in his own club.”

“He’s always upbeat and positive. He’s just a great guy and it was a good opportunity to honor him and his family.”

Following the Blessing of Saint Hubert and the Blessing of the Hounds, spectators boarded horse drawn “Tally Ho” wagons for an afternoon of trailing behind the hunt.

Dalton said he has been going to the Blessing of the Hounds for 23 years, but was shocked when he found out that he was being honored as the fourth Master Hunter during the ceremony.

“I was shocked,” Dalton told The Journal. “I still am.”

(See complete article on Dalton and the Belle Meade Hunt Opening Meet reprinted courtesy Wayne Parham, The McDuffie Progress in this issue of The Journal)