FOX HUNTING 101 | TSLN.com

FOX HUNTING 101

Jordan Thurston-Miller
for Tri-State Livestock News

The fox hunting concept was born in England and was known as the sport of chasing fox on horses. The men wore fancy red jackets and rode beautiful horses. The horse and rider would jump logs and ditches chasing after the fox. This sport was used to catch and kill vermin. The vermin may have been killing chickens or other animals on farms or ranches. As a general rule, the hunting season begins when the crops come out of the field and ends when the crops are planted. Hunting does not take place when there are pups. These general rules are put in place because of the respect for the quarry, as well as the land owner.

From October through April, riders, horses and hounds gather at the Mantle Ranch near Three Forks, Mont., and set off in search of the thrill of a chase after coyotes in the rugged ranching country and rolling wheat fields near the headwaters of the Missouri River. Each weekend welcomes dozens of riders and horses, including young and old, new and seasoned, brave, and curious.

Riders from across the globe have participated in the Mantles' hunts. They come from as far as California, Ireland and England.

According to Renee Mantle, vermin are plentiful on the east coast, giving cause for numerous fox hunts. At the Mantle ranch, the sport of fox hunting is done with coyotes because they are abundant. Renee and Kail Mantle's hunts also do not require traditional dress for their hunts as the more fundamental hunts hosted in the east would. "More often than not, everyone wears the warmest garments they can find," stated Renee.

The horses that are used for these hunts need to be a grittier horse, as well as be in very good shape. The Mantle's lease out their ranch horses for their hunts or for the Red Rock Hounds annual hunt. Sharp shoeing is a basically mandatory. Sharp shoeing not only protects the horses, but the riders as well. "In the areas that we ride there is always snow and a chance for ice," said Renee.

Red Rock Hounds out of Reno, Nev., hosted their first annual hunt at Renee and Kail Mantle's ranch ten years ago. Red Rock Hounds hosts traditional fox hunting at all of their sanctioned events. A paid membership is required to participate in Red Rock Hounds hunts.

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Renee and Kail became involved with Red Rock Hounds because they were leasing their horses out to participants for the Red Rock Hound annual hunt. When people came from England and Ireland they did not always bring their horses with them on the long journey. Instead, they would lease a horse from the Mantle Ranch to use for the three day hunt. Last year Renee and Kail were gifted four hounds from Red Rock Hounds to start their own hunts. This truly encouraged the sport to grow within the community. "The popularity was astounding," stated Renee.

In a traditional sanctioned hunt there must be between 23 to 25 hounds. The hounds are generally trained in the summer. Lynn Lolyv trained the four impressive hounds that are on the Mantle Ranch. When training young hounds an older trained hound is literally clipped to a young hound. The hounds are then commanded by a horn and voice. The Red Rock hounds have a very strong instinct for the job that they perform.

The Mantle's offer a more light-hearted alternative in a non-sanctioned hunt or "farmer pack" every Sunday through the season. These laid-back events are free and open to the public.

Renee hunts the small farmer pack. Kail Mantle accompanies the riders, or "field," guiding them through the rugged terrain, helping them with their horses, and giving them the best opportunity to view the hounds hunting. Neighbors, friends, and volunteers take essential "staff" roles during the hunt, like "Whipper In." When the day is through, the group enjoys a potluck "hunt breakfast" back at the ranch house.

You can hunt with the Three Forks farmer pack any Sunday by simply showing up. Bring your own horse, or arrange for a lease horse.

This year's annual hunt at the Mantle Ranch will take place on April 4, 5, and 6. There is a hundred dollar capping fee for this event. This is the one time a year that a full set of hounds will be used. More information on this hunt or information regarding Red Rock Hounds can be found at http://www.redrockhounds.com.

To learn more about the hunts that Renee Daniels-Mantle offers, please visit: info@montanahorses.com or visit http://www.montanahorses.com. The Sunday hunts are coordinated through http://www.facebook.com/MontanaHorses.MantleRanch. Renee can also be reached at 406-285-3541.