Oak Grove Opening Meet

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By Tommy Brannon, MFH

Oak Grove Hunt Club, founded in Germantown,Tennessee in 1946, started its 75th season November 13, 2021 with the annual Blessing of the Hounds at Lodge Farm near Holly Springs, Mississippi. This fixture is the home of Master of Fox Hounds (MFH) and Huntsman Amanda McGee, her husband Shannon McGee, DVM and their daughter Evelyn. The Oak Grove kennels are also located on the farm and this is one of Oak Grove’s best territories.

The officiate for the Blessing of the Hounds was Rev. Dr. Paul Criss, pastor at New Salem Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Lakeland, Tennessee. Dr. Criss has offered the blessing of the Oak Grove hounds for the past several years.

 As St. Hubert’s medals were passed out to all of the riders, Tommy Brannon, MFH told the story of St. Hubert (635-727 AD) who is the patron saint of hunters and fishermen. St. Hubert was born in the Ardennes Forrest region of what is now Belgium. A man of nobility, wealth and privilege, he spent most of his time hunting and fishing and, for the most part, neglecting his duties at court. His wife died in child birth and, in his grief, he retreated to the forest where he gave himself entirely to hunting. Legend has it that one “Good Friday” he went hunting while the faithful were in church. He was stalking a stag when the animal turned toward him and he had a vision of a cross between the stag’s antlers. Hubert heard a voice that told him to give up his selfish ways and follow Jesus. From that point, he turned his life around, gave his wealth to the poor, and became a priest, eventually becoming the Bishop of Liege. He did not give up hunting and fishing completely, however, but put his priorities to serving God not himself. Hubert is honored among sport hunters as the originator of ethical hunting behavior, such as honoring all of God’s creatures, not shooting does with fawns, and culling the old and weak rather hunting for trophies.

After the blessing, Huntsman Amanda McGee cast the hounds west, in part of the territory that Oak Grove only hunts several times in the season. This part of the hunt country is heavily forested with some open, no-till row crop land, but enough dirt tractor roads to make it traversable without getting into the crop. A clear blue sky with temperatures around 50 degrees made a comfortable ride for hunters in their wool coats.

Just as the hounds were cast, a red tailed hawk was spotted circling overhead, perhaps watching all of the excitement. Hounds moved north toward the Coldwater River bottoms into the forest, opening on a line of scent. The quarry lead them east behind the McGee’s house into an area that is quite overgrown. Amanda’s Haflinger “Fin” pushed his way through the underbrush leading the way. Amanda likes Haflingers not only because they are comfortable, steady, energetic and bold, but they make great “bulldozers” in thick undergrowth. The hounds moved eastward across the 150-year-old abandoned rail road tracks over to the McGee’s big lake, where they checked. The hunt picked up a speed again and ended across Hudsonville Road from the Oak Grove kennels. Several female hounds in the kennels that could not join the hunt that day because they were in season voiced their protest at being left out. When the hunt ended, the entire pack was already at the kennels.

Riders retired to a sumptuous feast served outside under a clear November sky.

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