Two of Virginia’s oldest foxhunt clubs, the Old Dominion Hounds and the Rappahannock Hunt, are considering a merger, according to hunt officials.
Through an agreement between ODH joint-masters Gus Forbush and Margret “Douglas” Wise and RH joint-masters Gus Edwards and Oliver Brown, the two groups will join forces for the 2010-2011 hunt season, combining for weekly hunt meets and social events.
Wise said that masters of the two clubs began exploring the merger earlier this year. By connecting the two hunts — which have adjacent territory in Rappahannock County (Old Dominion, whose kennels are in Orlean, also hunts in Fauquier) — it allows members of both clubs to hunt up to five days per week, Wise explained. With hunt season limited to September through April, riders are often faced with difficult conditions such as last year, with persistent snow cover affecting fully three months of the season. By expanding hunting opportunities along with territory, Wise said they hope more members will be attracted to the combined club.
Old Dominion will still hunt Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; Rappahannock on Wednesdays and Sundays. Opening day is Oct. 30 at Forbush’s Foxhall Farm in ODH territory. In the regular season, Saturday meets will alternate between Rappahannock and Old Dominion. Rappahannock’s Edwards called the unique arrangement a year of “engagement” that “will tell us a lot about how this sort of merger will work.”
On the evening of opening meet, the clubs will combine to hold their hunt ball at the Marriott Ranch in Hume.
On the merger, Wise was circumspect. “We have to face the facts of hunting life in the 21st century and look ahead. While the current recession may have slowed development, that pressure will return and grow. It’s inevitable and it can’t be ignored.”
Edwards added that, “unfortunately, there just aren’t as many people who are interested in the sport as there once was. So while this is a move to improve efficiency via economy of scale, it is also a way of adding new excitement and fun to attract new members.”
Both Forbush and Brown said that the current economy is also a factor. “It costs more every year to operate the hunts,” Brown said. “Equipment, hound food, veterinary costs, fuel — everything has gone up.” By expanding both hunts’ roster, Forbush said they hope to address the bottom line. Too, another attractive feature is “the tremendous new territory, which essentially runs from Marshall in Fauquier County to Culpeper County, offers some of the best hunting in the nation,” Forbush said.
The Old Dominion Hounds were established in 1924. Their kennels are in Orlean, and their 100-square-mile territory reaches from west of Hume to east of Orlean, south to Ben Venue. Rappahannock was established in 1926, with territory around Sperryville and south towards Culpeper.
Hunt Fest set for October
The Warrenton Hunt, Rappahannock Hunt and Old Dominion Hounds will combine to offer a special “Hunt Fest” in October, an expanded week of hunting and activities in Fauquier and Rappahannock counties’ hunt country.
The Warrenton Hunt kicks off the event with a barn dance Saturday night, Oct. 23. Participants hunt with Rappahannock Sunday, Oct. 24, Monday with Warrenton, Tuesday with Old Dominion, back to Rappahannock Wednesday and back at Old Dominion Thursday.
Friday is a dark day, with the opening meet of the newly merged Old Dominion and Rappahannock Hunts on Saturday, Oct. 30 (scheduled at Foxhall Farm in Flint Hill.)
There is also the opportunity to cap with any of a dozen other area hunts at the beginning and end of the Hunt Fest, and on the “open” Friday.