Through the muddy fields
and bare-tree forests of Central Indiana, the foxhounds scamper. The older animals, their black and brown spots faded to white, lead the pack with a spring in their step, their noses twitching. All of them have gone through months of training for outings like today’s.
You’ll find anywhere from 15 to 40 members of Traders Point Hunt in Zionsville spending a Wednesday or Sunday afternoon this way: fox-hunting, following on horseback as the hounds search for their prey. Only the dogs will never succeed, because there is no prey. While traditional fox hunts end with a kill, things are different at the last club of this kind in Indiana, a reflection of Zionsville’s equestrian culture. Instead of setting loose an actual fox, burlap soaked in a liquid combination of red-fox urine and glycerin is dragged along a path across acres of farmland and wooded areas. The goal is for the dogs to follow the scent to the end of the trail.
The Huntsman guides the pack of hounds. “Here! Come here!” he shouts at them. “Find it, find it!” He might blow his air horn to call back a hound who’s gone astray, or to cue direction. The Master, who is the final authority in the field, directs the hunt staff, all dressed in classic English riding garb.
Silence is crucial to avoid distracting the dogs during the pursuit. Some horses jump over short wooden gates or narrow creeks all along the trail. When the hounds reach the last of the scent, the hunt is over, and they’re rewarded with a big meal back at the barn, where the activity began.
The Huntsman’s horn blares again, for several seconds this time, to signal the end. “It’s a big thrill to watch the hounds work,” says Susan McIlwain, whose job is “joint master of foxhounds.” “To be out there running at full speed, doing jumps through the woods, being outdoors no matter what the elements are.”