Farewell to the “Happy Huntsman”

Incoming Huntsman, Jamie Bragg (left) and outgoing Huntsman, Charlie Halley (right) during the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty Hunt’s 2023 season. Photo: Debbie Stevens.

After a decade as Huntsman for the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty Hunt, Charlie Halley has retired and handed over to Jamie Bragg.

Under the name of Rotorua Hunt Association, the hunt was formed in June 1928, recording a membership of 138.

The first Master was Dr Herbert Bertram, and his 100-acre estate Glenholme, was the home of hunting in Rotorua for more than 30 years.

In 1932, the hunt extended into the Bay of Plenty as hound numbers increased thanks to hound donations from the Pakuranga and Waikato hunts. It was renamed Rotorua and Bay of Plenty Hunt and registered with the New Zealand Hunts Association.

Current hunt master, Craig Hurst, is a local farmer/land owner.

“I’ve hunted all my life and my father has been the club president. I felt it was my turn to do my bit and became the master in 2022,” says Craig.

The kennels have been in Dalbeth Road, Rotorua since 1960. Geographically the hunt covers a large area from Pikowai to Katikati in the East and Reporoa to the top of the Kaimai-Mamaku Range in the West. This offers members a huge variety of hunt country.

“As a gesture of appreciation, the Hunt offers $9000 worth of scholarships for tertiary education or skill training to our landowners’ families or those managing Maori Trust or corporate farms we hunt on.”

Craig describes the 164 members as a “very dedicated group”, consisting of the stalwarts, an increasing number of urban members, and families.

He sums up the ten years that Charlie Halley gave to the hunt as huntsman.

“For Charlie, hunting was all about whanau. Whether it be his own, other families or the hunt family in general, he made it fun and he was very approachable. He was known as the “Happy Huntsman” and that is what he will be remembered for.”

Charlie Halley

Charlie grew up in the Hawke’s Bay on sheep and beef farms with his ten siblings.

“We were riding horses by age three or four and as soon as we were able, one of my brothers and I had our own dogs and were riding off into the hills shepherding. We didn’t do much school work!” says Charlie.

He began hunting as a child and remembers the best turnout they had was seven, his mum and dad and five of the children.

He married his wife, Dolly, and they have four daughters. They rode with the Mahia Hunt where Dolly’s father, Lionel Stone was Master and Charlie whipped for them when required.

“Our family got into rodeoing and it was hard to compete out of Gisborne, so we moved up to a Maori Trust Farm near Rotorua.”

Charlie and his daughter Kiwa won a team roping competition in 2008 she became the first female to win a roping title in New Zealand.

The family hunted with the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty Hunt and Charlie took the huntsman position in 2013. They relocated to the hunt property, and he drove for an agricultural contractor in the hunt off season.

“I’ve really encouraged hunt members to bring their families and the hunt has regular riders of all ages.”

Charlie has a love of hounds. In his last season in 2023, he was proud to see some of the hounds he bred coming into their own.

“Hounds are so different to other dogs. They’re very loving towards humans, wanting to be around them, eager to please and are the gutsiest animals I know.”

He favours the black and tan hounds, with not too much white, but has added in some speckle, breeding with hounds from Waikato. Charlie bred Ebay who did well at hound shows.

Jamie Bragg

Jamie Bragg was appointed to take over from Charlie at the end of the 2023 hunt season. Unfortunately Charlie had an accident which abruptly ended his season. Jamie stepped in early and saw the hunt through with help from Craig and Rotorua’s whips.

“I had whipped for Rotorua previously, but it was hard coming in mid-season when the hounds were bonded with another huntsman”, says Jamie.

Jamie has hunted since he was five. His working life revolved around the racing industry, doing work such as racecourse clerking, trackwork and travelling foreman for Shaune Ritchie Racing.

He was the huntsman at Maramarua for three seasons, gaining a love and understanding of working hounds.

“My wife, Eilish and I, and our one-year-old and 12 horses have moved into Dalbeth Road, and I’ve officially taken up the position and care of the 23 hounds and 11 pups.”

Jamie plans to increase the bitch ratio of the hound pack. He’s bringing in new bloodlines, Gamble and Lancer from Mahia, Fletcher from Maramarua and Lamu from Pakuranga.

Jamie will have the spring and summer to bond with the hounds ready for his first season as huntsman.


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