Sporting Life // 5 min Read

The Thrill of the Chase

Written by Palmetto Bluff

May 21, 2019

During any other event at Field + Fire, Palmetto Bluff’s grand celebration of sporting and tradition, a light driving rain would be nothing short of disaster.

But this event was different. Under cloudy skies and the constant prickling of invisible raindrops, the gently rolling hills of Longfield Stables took on the mystique of a storybook Yorkshire meadow. It was the perfect environment for an exhibition of a classically English sport, the foxhunt.

“In England, when cavalry officers were not fighting, they would hunt fox to keep themselves and their horses in shape,” said Nina Burke, head of Lowcountry Hunt, to the small crowd assembled under the tent. With all eyes on the horses galloping past beneath steely skies, Burke gave a master class in the grand traditions and the history of not only the sport, but also our own local hunting group.

It began with a signal from huntsman Tony Gammell, assembling his pack of 25 American Foxhounds via a staccato blare from his horn. As he rode forth, Burke shared how the first pack of foxhounds in the country belonged to George Washington, a gift from Lafayette. Those bloodlines still run strong, coursing through the veins of every one of Gammell’s hounds. The hunt thundered past the tent, ducking in and out of the odd copse of trees, encircling the far fields of Longfield Stables, while Burke explained how the two “whippers-in” were keeping the hounds close to the huntsman and how each wave of riders contributed to the chase, from the swift first field to the hilltoppers of the third field.

More than an exhibition of a centuries-old pastime and the magnificent animals that make it possible, the day showed how Lowcountry Hunt was breathing new life into a sport defined by its traditions.

Lowcountry Hunt was established in 2006, but for Burke, the lure of foxhunting goes back much further than that. “I’ve been doing this since I was two years old,” she said in her sweet Walterboro drawl. Her father had been in the ROTC cavalry at the University of Georgia, “So by God, I was going to ride a horse.”

The grand traditions of Lowcountry Hunt echo the grand traditions of the sport itself. The organization’s masters and huntsman all wear ceremonial red coats, which oddly enough are called Pinck coats, named for the London tailor who invented them. Each hunt has its own colors represented on the collar, and the colors of Lowcountry Hunt were chosen to reflect South Carolina’s agricultural heritage: blue for indigo and gold for Carolina Gold rice.

But perhaps what makes Lowcountry Hunt special is how it breaks from tradition. For example, you’d imagine very few of the
18th-century hunts organized by English cavalry would have allowed for an eight-year-old girl to join them. But seeing young Sophia Mauldin galloping across the field astride her Welsh pony, Tinkerbell, you can imagine that she’d have run circles around them.

“She used to hunt in diapers, and I know this because I’ve been with her the whole time,” Burke said with a laugh.

Sophia and her mother, Shanna, are among the 90 members of Lowcountry Hunt, which organizes foxhunts up and down the ACE Basin region (that’s the area bounded by the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers, for those in the know). Although the hunts are usually held on private plantations, the group visits Palmetto Bluff fairly regularly, putting the hounds and horses through their paces on the preserve’s rugged terrain.

“We won a national award for wildlife habitat conservation in 2009, so we always try to partner with people who are interested in doing that,” Burke said.

That preservation is key to Lowcountry Hunt’s philosophy and another way they part from tradition. To them, the thrill is in the chase.

“A red fox . . . loves the chase. They will lead the hounds through ponds, up across the top of a fence . . . they just kind of make it up as they go along. It’s a game. And when they finish, they’ll run back to their den,” Burke said. “In England, they’d send the terriers in and kill the fox. We don’t do that. When he goes to ground, we say, ‘Bye, we’ll see you another day.’”

That respect for nature made Tony Gammell a perfect fit as the new huntsman when he joined in April of 2018. More inclined to use a tennis ball launcher than a whip to keep his hounds’ attention (“That’s why these hounds love him,” Burke said. “They get treats and they get tennis balls.”), he’s that rare breed of huntsman who thrives on the pursuit, the traditions, and the chance to enjoy nature more than a simple trophy.

“I’ve never in my life shot a fox. I actually like them,” Gammell said. “They’ll beat us sometimes, and it’s like, ‘Good on you, man,’ and sometimes we beat them.”

In this case, beating them simply means chasing a red fox to ground or chasing a gray fox up a tree. And that’s to say nothing of the teeming wildlife beyond foxes that call the Lowcountry home. During their hunts, it’s not uncommon for the hounds to pick up the scent of the odd armadillo, bobcat, or even wild hog. “I hate hunting hogs, because they hunt back. They will kill your dogs; it’s a very scary thing,” Burke said. “But to see a foxhound chase an armadillo is
just hysterical.”

More and more, though, Lowcountry Hunt is turning its attention to one of the most disruptive members of the Lowcountry’s food chain: coyotes. “We end up running coyotes 80 to 90 percent of the time,” fieldmaster Lamy Buck said. “We just went up to Gray and ran two coyotes. We don’t want to kill them; we just want to run them. There are too few of them, and we want to come back and play another day.”

But it’s less about the prey than it is the spectacle of these grand hunts, organized for the sheer sport and pageantry of a bygone era. “A lot of people come out for the rides, a lot of them come out to see the beautiful plantations,” Gammell said, adding with a laugh, “but wherever we go, we just try to leave it better than how we found it.”

Find out more at

Photography by: Bonjwing Lee

Food & Wine / Fall Recipes From Buffalos

Your Pine-ness Cocktail Recipe Before delving into the ingredients and recipe for Buffalos’ delectable Ricotta Meatballs and Sauce, it is imperative that the chef has an excellent cocktail for cooking. Pairing the sweetness of pineapple with the woody flavo...

Sep 2023
palmetto bluff neighborhoods

Real Estate / Waterfront Neighborhoods in Palmetto Bluff

Coastal Palmetto Bluff Neighborhoods Palmetto Bluff, a private community nestled along the South Carolina coastline, presents a harmonious blend of luxurious living, recreational spaces, and a vibrant atmosphere. The meticulously designed Palmetto Bluff neigh...

Sep 2023
wilson landing

Waterways / Behind the Bluff with Marina Captain: Thomas Shanahan

Meet Captain Tom of Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Landing  In the tranquil embrace of Bluffton's Lowcountry, where rivers wind their way through nature's masterpiece, an extraordinary tale unfolds at Wilson Landing of Palmetto Bluff. The story belongs to Captain Th...

Sep 2023
luxury kitchen design

Architecture & Design / Designing the Southern Kitchen of Your Dreams

Your Guide to a Luxury Kitchen Design The kitchen has long been the heart of the home, where cherished memories are cooked up and shared. When it comes to Lowcountry living, a well-designed kitchen is not just a place to prepare meals but a space that encapsu...

Sep 2023
summer bucket list

Culture / Summer Activities to Check Off Your List Before the Fall

10 Activities You Have to Cross Off Your Summer Bucket List While the days are long and the sun hangs high in the sky, summer offers a golden opportunity to create lasting memories and partake in a variety of thrilling activities. Before the cooler breeze of ...

Sep 2023

Conservation / Water Way

Palmetto Bluff is an ecological wonderland, with its maritime forest and tidal rivers, its salt marsh and abundant wildlife. But perhaps one of the most unique features of this wedge of Lowcountry is the impressive inland waterway that wends through the landsc...

Aug 2023

Artist in Residence / Places Around Palmetto Bluff to Paint Plein Air

Plein Air Painting and Our August Artist in Residence Palmetto Bluff is a paradise for art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike with its breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and serene atmosphere. With that being said, the Bluff is the perfect canvas f...

Aug 2023
coastal living

Waterways / Experience Health and Happiness By Living on the Coast

5 Health Benefits of Coastal Living Did you know that life by the coast is not only the most idyllic way to live, but it also improves your health? All in all, coastal living is a rejuvenating experience for the mind, body, and soul. From the cool, salty bree...

Aug 2023
south carolina lowcountry

Culture / 9 Enticing Facts About the Lowcountry

Discover the Charm of the South Carolina Lowcountry Where history and nature intertwine with effortless grace, the South Carolina Lowcountry is a region that allures visitors and residents alike with its timeless beauty, enchanting landscapes, and diverse cul...

Aug 2023

Conservation / Behind the Bluff with Palmetto Bluff Conservancy Educator: Aaron Palmieri

Aaron’s Journey to the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy   In the heart of the Lowcountry, where lush landscapes and diverse ecosystems flourish, lies a hidden gem known as Palmetto Bluff. This breathtaking sanctuary serves as a haven for an array of wildlife, offer...

Aug 2023
Community Villages
Palmetto Bluff Club
On The Water
The Arts Initiative
About Us