Sporting Classics reprints an old-time account by the great Archibald Rutledge of a plantation Christmas deer hunt, South Carolina-style… with hounds.
On the plantations that I know, deer hunting on Christmas Day is as natural as a Christmas tree, or kissing oneâ€™s sweetheart under the mistletoe.
After breakfast we gather on the plantation porch, and I smell the yellow jasmine that is tossing her saffron showers up the tall white columns. In the flower garden two red roses are blooming. In the wild orange trees beside the house myriads of robins, cedar waxwings, and a few wood-thrushes are having their Christmas breakfast. A hale, dewy wind breathes from the mighty pine forest.
The whole landscape, though bathed in sunshine, is still fresh with the beauty of the morning. Now the negro hunters come â€™round the side of the house, leading our horses, and followed by a pack of hounds. A rather motley crew they are, I think, for few plantations can boast of full-blooded stag-hounds; but they know their business. What they lack in appearance they supply in sagacity.
There is, I suppose, no grander sport in the whole world than riding to hounds after deer; and this is a sport typical of a plantation Christmas. It is almost a religious rite, and it never fails to supply the most thrilling entertainment for visitors. Indeed, I do not know exactly what the rural South would do without deer hunting as a diversion. Even in the cities, when distinguished guests arrive, the primary entertainment always provided is a stag hunt.