Hunt club dinners a rural tradition

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Short Rows Header

EDITOR’S NOTE: Managing Editor Diana McFarland and Staff Writer Ryan Kushner attended an end of the season hunt club dinner Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was reminded of similar visits and the column that they prompted, published back in 2001. It follows.

I spent the past two Saturday nights among some awfully nice folks. Separate invitations led me to the annual game dinners of the Isle of Wight and Moonlight Hunt Clubs, and I came away not only pleasantly full of venison and gravy, but with a renewed appreciation for hunt clubs, which have been and remain an important part of this county’s social life.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The events were different. Isle of Wight’s was a member affair, a man’s evening, but with plenty of sons and a few daughters among the hundred or more guests. Moonlight’s was a family event, with wives, parents, children and grandchildren in abundance.

But there were more similarities than differences. Both, as noted, were multi-generational, and that is an important part of the tradition which is at the heart of the clubs.

Elders hold a special place among hunters. Visit a hunt club and you’re almost bound to find snapshots on the wall of people long since dead, alongside pictures of more recent generations. And this respect for elders goes beyond pictures on the wall. As hunt club members grow old, they are cared for by a new generation. A hunt club member who has enjoyed the sound of hounds on the chase all his life need not worry that he can no longer walk great distances — or even drive. Somebody in the club will make sure he spends time in the field, listening from a truck cab if necessary, to share in hunts each year.

And children of hunters find among other hunters a group of adults who care about them and their development — adults who will help teach them a respect for property rights, the responsible use of firearms, working with other people, and plenty more. The lessons may be cloaked in good humor and joshing about deer missed and other learning experiences, but they are taught, nonetheless.

Here too is a respect for the land and those who care for it. Landowners are important guests at hunt club dinners, as well they should be. Landowners and farmers bear the primary expense of maintaining Virginia’s deer herd. They depend on hunters to keep the herd in check, and hunters depend on them for the space to hunt.

Anti-hunters often depict hunters (and deer hunters in particular) as beer-drinking, wild driving gun crazies. They aren’t. Today’s clubs know that alcohol and firearms don’t mix. They may enjoy a beer or drink of bourbon at the end of the day, but they don’t tolerate it during a hunt. And because of the need to work with landowners, they’re also careful about tearing up property any more than necessary with vehicles.

Certainly, there are irresponsible hunters, just as in any segment of the population. But in today’s world, the hunt clubs perform a valuable service by channeling the energies of those who like to hunt and by weeding out those who don’t want to play by the rules. And in the process, they have a darned good time. To top it off, they sure can cook venison! It was a pleasure being among them.