Feb 12th 1907 – March 25th 1999
Kind and generous are without doubt just two of the most apt words which would describe this remarkable lady, who hunted with the Iroquois Hunt in the United States for very many years. She was one of the truest friends to hunting anyone could have ever wished to meet and was held in very high esteem by all who knew her. Although sadly I never had the honour of meeting Winifred Mooris, I am indebted to Jerry Miller Master of the Iroqouis and their Huntsman Lilla Mason for furnishing me with some most fascinating details about this remarkable person.
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It was from the proceeds of the sale of her famous stallion Munchenhaussen, that Winifred Mooris decided to purchase some land. She donated a small piece for the Episcopal Church of St Hubert to be built, and her greatest wish was that the rest was for the Iroqouis Hounds to continue hunting over. This was an act so typical of someone whose influence was almost as immense in death as it had been in life. She became a regular attendee of services held at the church and it is the place where Winifred Mooris was laid to rest in her 93rd year.
Before we progress to the truly unusual happenings of that day, it may be helpful for me to give you a brief introduction to the Iroquois and their most sporting of quarry, the coyote.
This is a hunt which is situated in and around Lexington, Kentucky where the horse rules supreme and thoroughbred farms are prominent throughout. It is also cattle country with large herds of suckler cows being very much part of the farming tradition of the area. It is approximately twenty miles square with rolling blue grass and approximately twenty percent of it woodland. The obstacles vary from wooden coops to rock wall fences. There is however one fact about this most interesting and beautiful place to go hunting, and that is although some red and grey foxes do exist, there are very few. This is largely the home of the coyote, and it is he that is at the top of the food chain here, not the fox as it is in most of the UK. He is described by long term Joint Master, Jerry Miller as the ‘King of the Hill’! When it comes to hunting them it appears they will never cease to amaze you, not unlike the fox!
However the behaviour of this animal that is somewhat different and with the experience Lilla has behind her, it not only puts her in a good place to be able to hunt them successfully, but most importantly keep their numbers in balance. I am most grateful to her and Jerry for being kind enough to share with me their knowledge about these indigenous predators. It will help enormously to understand more about them before we hear of the extraordinary day’s hunting that took place.
According to Lilla the average weight of a coyote is about 74lb, making it approximately 45lb larger than a big dog fox and unlike the fox that they are an animal which does not fight. Each year the male will actively go out to find the same female as the year before, however they do not necessarily live together. It is only during a six week period of the year that the female comes into season. Whilst not cohabitating, apparently they are always on the move and are very often seen travelling in groups, which can make the work of the huntsman incredibly difficult when it comes to splitting them. This is also the time when you may well witness the male enticing hounds away from his mate, seemingly by being intentionally visible, whilst she more than likely will head towards one of the hunt’s good coverts. They also, unlike the vulpine species very rarely go to ground but are apt to run fast and straight for many miles.
The Iroquis start in early October and hunt three days a week right through till April. This can be demanding on horse, hound and humans as the pace is normally considerable to say the least. On this occasion however, everything seemed very different. Not one person could believe what happened from start to finish and more than a shiver went down the spines of many.
It was a tough call to know whether to hunt or not but it was felt that if anybody would have wanted the Iroqouis Hounds to be hunting on the day of their funeral it would have been Winifred Mooris. So that was a decided upon and the meet moved appropriately to an area five miles or so further north of the country to accommodate all the arrangements being made.
It wasn’t long before they found their coyote, and hounds settled down to hunt well. It was not though a racing hunt in the open as is so often the case. Their quarry on this occasion seemed to want to stick to the heavily wooded limestone cliffs and creeks which luckily enough are easily crossable because of their rock bottoms. The hunt continued generally in a southerly direction and after approximately ninety minutes, hounds arrived at a covert called Ed Archers Draw, which is a tributary to Boons Creek. Running on from west to east to where the east end of the Draw is intersected by the Grimes Mill Road, is where the coyote did something very unusual. He ran the road for at least an eighth of a mile right up to St Hubert’s Church and there the hounds arrived in full voice just as Winifred Mooris’s funeral service was well underway. We have now reached the point when it is more appropriate for me to hand over to Lilla, who in her own words told exactly what happened next.
“There is a cemetery at the back of the church and to get there one would walk round the south side of the building down a long tree lined ally. At the end of the ally is the statue of Christ with open arms, and that marks the entrance to the cemetery garden. Hounds took exactly that path then stopped just before getting to the statue. They paused, lifted their heads and came back to me – silent”.