By Susan Heckler
Hunting has been a big part of Monmouth County since before the settlers hit dry land. Our lush landscape is home to many animals. You typically hear about deer hunts, but there are other animals hunted for sport as well as for food or fur.
Fox hunting has been a sport in our area since 1885 when Peter F. Collier, an Irish Catholic immigrant from County Carlow, Ireland built a kennel and stable on property he saw during a hunting excursion in the Marlboro Hills territory, Marlboro Township. He named his estate Rest Hill and built a replica of Mount Vernon that still stands. Meets were held from his property and surrounding areas of the eastern portion of Monmouth County through the late 1960’s.
Mr. Collier imported his horses and hounds from Ireland and traveled with them to where hunting was in season. He assisted others in setting up hunting clubs in their areas. His son Robert took over the responsibility for the Monmouth County pack of draghounds in 1904. After his father’s death in 1909, he inherited the estate but took little interest in the hounds and hunting. The hounds and horses were purchased after World War I by General Howard Borden who helped officially form the club.
Throughout the years, various individuals worked tirelessly to build a renowned stable and an exceptional pack of hunting dogs.
Most of the hunt takes place in Upper Freehold Township. According to the Monmouth County Hunt’s website, Upper Freehold Township has more horses in residence than humans. “The country consists of flat to rolling terrain with sandy, well draining soil, wooded coverts and open fields. The country is divided into two sections, the wildlife area around our kennels which has been successfully shared with other sportsman for many years and the “farm country” on the south side of Route 195 which consists of cropland, nursery and breeding farms. Jumping efforts include inviting natural obstacles and coops. The wildlife area has sandier soil with some deep swampy coverts although there is also plenty of open cropland. This part of the country borders on the New Jersey Horse Park. The “farm country” soil has more clay and also has good coverts between pastures, hayfields and nursery.”
The Monmouth County Hunt’s hounds have been a crossbred pack since the mid 1960s. The successful hound “must have nose, drive and must be extremely biddable due to the challenges of deep coverts, plentiful game and roads.”
Membership in the Hunt is based on traditional Foxhunting etiquette. In order to request membership, an individual must cap 3 times within a season. Once that is completed the individual can then request full membership from the board of directors through a written letter. Consideration of the request will occur at the next board meeting. For more information on the club and fox hunting, check out their website, www.mchconservancy.org.
By Susan Heckler