Wednesday, December 16, 2009

With the Buckhounds in France...

There are those who say that the Roebuck is the most challenging quarry, and that hunting him is the greatest test of hounds and staff. Agree or disagree, we had a good day with the Chevreuil hounds today.

And yes, it does sound like Chevrolet.

This was a bit of a homecoming for me, the first time I hunted in the north of France it was with this pack. I was there by accident, sent after stopping for hunting directions into the saddlery in Chateau-Thierry. When I hove up in the forest, I was a couple of minutes late. I was taken in by two women in a little car, one of whom spoke much better English than I did French. It was a good day, and the courree in the darkness wasn't the end of it. The night was one of those icy, clear skied, star spangled ones that make the trees crack. After the hounds had their reward, the horn players kept going. People brought out wine, logs were thrown on the bonfire, and it continued into late in the night.

My non-English speaking pilot and her husband took me back to their house to make sure I had good directions out. When we went in, the place was exactly what you would expect- deer horns, hunting prints, typical.

But here's the thing- it was an apartment. And not just any apartment, but one of those soul destroying Le Corbusier "machines for living" tower blocks. Amazing.

Anyway, we drove up to the meet, again in Compiegne. Husband of pilot was the first person we saw, followed shortly by pilot herself. Her English was no better, but my French slightly improved.

And she makes the BEST apple crumble I ever put into my mouth!

Her car was full though, and there were three of us, but she found us someone to follow.

We were made welcome, and we could see at a glance our guide would be excellent. In every hunt Ive seen in France, there's been a Niva.

And that Niva has been there, right far more often than wrong. So, with a cry of Cherchez La Niva, we moved off.

They were slow to find. Lots of busy roads caused the typical problems.Early on, a large stag ran out of the forest right in front of us. Hounds were not hunting him, but he did not want to wait to see if they were. He was alone, which is odd.

I am sure he said, “You women wait here, I am just going out to get bread for breakfast. I will be right back.”

When hounds did find the deer, they stuck.
The chase was in wide loops, covering a large area, but did not go far away from where we found. The hounds’ music was clear in the cold air. I think scent was not good, but the hounds worked hard. People were keen to get to the next viewing spot. Well I remember myself like this, "No, boss, he really needs to go out...

Eventually they ran him down.

Back to the meet. Some of the hounds were patient...

Some more focussed.

After the curee,
the humans had their own

with food and wine by the fire. No one bit anyone, at least not that I could see. I met two people who had hunted coyotes in the U. S., with the same pack but some 15 years apart. Small world!

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