The baying of hounds, the call of the horn, the clatter of hooves is this the English countryside of the 1800s? Indeed the pageantry and tradition to be seen do evoke a bygone era, but this is present day Cazenovia and the sights and sounds are coming from the Limestone Creek Hunt. Our local hunt, now in its 70th year is devoted to educating people about the traditions of foxhunting, the working of hounds, the appreciation and stewardship of nature and the conservancy of land.
The term foxhunting is actually somewhat of a misnomer. In America the fox is not considered the voracious agricultural pest that he is in England. Therefore many American hunts such as Limestone Creek could be more accurately termed fox chasing or fox viewing rather than hunting. This area is home to red fox and grey fox as well as coyote that are all in hunting language termed the "quarry." The thrill of the sport is to watch and listen to the hounds try to find the scent left by the animals in question and to follow the scent for as long as they can. Upon occasion one will even be treated to a view of a fox or coyote as they exit the area (sometimes quite nonchalantly!). While many other game animals leave their scent as they travel through an area the hounds are trained to try to ignore animals that are not quarry.
Given the sensitivity of a hound's nose one can appreciate how enticing deer, rabbits and even skunks could be to an eager hound if they had not undergone training by the Huntsman! The hounds are trained to obey commands given by the Huntsman by voice and also by horn (as this carries further than a person's voice).
The hounds should not start "hunting" (seeking the scent) until given permission by the Huntsman, and should hunt together as a pack in the area where the Huntsman has "cast" them (the area is termed the "covert"--usually a wooded or brushy area). Occasionally the covert is blank (no scent) and the Huntsman will call the hounds back to him and move on to another covert to try again. One hopes that a hound will find scent, will own to it by giving voice and that other hounds will agree with the first hound and "honor" him by opening as well and then hopefully they can follow their noses!