Chippokes Plantation Southern Heritage Deer Hunt 2011
a hunting tradition
Ethical hunters obey the rules
Managed hunts at Virginia State Parks
Monitoring the health of the animals in the herd
Hunting with dogs is a colonial tradition in Virginia
The love of the sport is evident and the camaraderie
“Despite the fact that the American economy continues to languish, a group of (so called) hunters, staff members, volunteers and assorted hangers-on assembled once more to hold the 2011 Chippokes Plantation State Park Southern Heritage Deer Hunt and spent an unjustifiable amount of money in the hope that this event would serve as the spark that would reinvigorate this country or at the very least provide a decent excuse to go hunting…” So starts the official “Certification of Guilt” that is earned by each hunter in this special game management program that was held for the 17th time on December 3rd of this year. If you haven’t guessed by now, this is not just a group of hunters who shoulder their shotguns and tramp into the woods in an attempt to help control the number of whitetail deer on the park’s lands. The Chippokes Southern Heritage Deer hunt is a special event that combines hunting with a good dose of fun, food, tradition, and camaraderie.
The “heritage” that this hunt recreates each year is the tradition of the big social hunts that were once held on the large estates of the South and other areas of the U.S. in the pre-automobile era. Landowners invited their friends and acquaintances to big annual events, where food and hospitality were as important as number of game animals harvested.
The Chippokes hunt starts with a hearty hot breakfast followed by a blessing of the hunt and an address by the Huntmaster (park staffer Chuck Wyatt) who reminds the hunters of the history of the property and its lineage of inhabitants, and who also warns the hunters that “Each hunter is guilty of something and the Huntmaster intends to find out what it is” … foreshadowing the evening Huntmaster’s Court. Other staff members go over the rules of the hunt and safety precautions; and then hunters draw their morning deer stands, load up in vehicles and head out to the woods.
One thing that draws hunters to this event is the chance to hunt with deer hounds, a technique that isn’t found in all parts of the country but one that is suited to this type of hunt where hunters can be safely assigned to specific stands. Many hunters will tell you that they enjoy the opportunity to listen to the chase even if they never get a shot.
And speaking of hunters, a great group of men, women, and children turned out once again for this year’s hunt. Over half of the hunters are repeat customers year after year. They come from as far away as New York and many are families that enjoy the chance to hunt together in a safe and fun setting. The youngest hunter this year was a six-year old who was tagging along with Dad and the oldest were probably the Hartman brothers (age undisclosed) who just wouldn’t miss a hunt. Park staff members who work the hunt have literally watched a number of youngsters grow up over the years.
At the end of the day, the group gathers to go over the day’s harvest, enjoy a fine supper and, of course, stand before the Huntmaster’s Court. True to his word, the Huntmaster finds everyone guilty of something. Crimes include getting a deer (“Excessive Showing Off”), not getting a deer (“Failing to Bring Home the Bacon”), missing a deer (“Wasting Ammunition”), and many others. Sentences are always “5 Days of Hard Hunting” plus a voluntary fine. The fines, plus the raffle of a Muzzleloading rifle donated by the Friends of Chippokes, netted over $450 that was donated to the charitable organization Hunters for the Hungry. Additionally, a number of deer were donated that will be distributed through area food banks.
By end of the day the sun was down, everyone was full, and hunters departed until next year. And by the way, the hunt harvested 13 deer this year, including a couple that might end up hanging on someone’s wall. Reservations for next year’s hunt start on January 2, 2012. Call the State Park Reservation Center at 1-800-933-PARK (7275).