Notes on Trail Hunting

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INTRODUCTION Since the Hunting Act (2004), Hunts have continued to strive to hunt within the law. A day’s hunting may include some of the activities or a combination of activities shown below:

• Trail hunting;
• Hound exercise;
• Using no more than 2 dogs to flush to a gun(s);
• Rabbit hunting;
• Rat hunting;
• Hunting hares which have been shot;
• Flushing to a bird of prey;
• Using no more than 2 dogs to rescue of a wild mammal;
• Using no more than 2 dogs for research and observation of the various quarry species.

These notes concentrate on trail hunting.

AIM The aim of trail hunting is to simulate traditional hunting as practised before the ban.

SCENT A trail is laid using a fox based scent – usually founded on fox urine. This is important because the aim is to keep the hounds focused on the scent of their historical quarry during the time of this ban.

METHOD The trail is laid across the country taking a route that might be taken by a fox – ie through hedgerows and woods and along ditches in essence simulating the natural movement of a fox across the countryside. It is laid by dragging a scent infected sock/cloth/sack along the ground. This can be done from a horse, a quad-bike or on foot, though good results maybe best achieved using a combination of all three. Common sense dictates that it is easier to walk or run through thick cover than to try to ride a bike through it.

The trail is not laid constantly, but is occasionally lifted for a distance of, say, 400 yards and then dropped again thus allowing the hounds to cast (ie to fan out to search (using their noses) for the scent) as they would have done when hunting a live quarry. The less that the Huntsman or the followers know of the route of the trail, the more the hunting will mimic its realistic and challenging form.

CONDUCT OF THE DAY Packs of hounds will meet and then go hunting from the same places they have traditionally met for years. The general conduct of the Hunt remains as it always has been and should mirror that of a day’s fox hunting thus keeping the traditions and practices alive. In essence the only difference is that the Huntsman now sets off with the intention of encouraging his hounds to find and hunt the trails rather than the live quarry. The Huntsman will continue to encourage and control the hounds using his horn and voice in exactly the same manner as he did before the ban. When hounds find the trail the excitement will be the same for the hounds, the Huntsman and the mounted field. Throughout any hunt the hounds may (depending on the scenting conditions) need help and encouragement from the Huntsman and perhaps the Whipper-in if the pack gets strung out and needs to be brought back up together. During the day hounds will hunt the trails that have been laid but will also come across both fresh and stale scents left by many different mammals. It is highly likely that foxes, deer, hares, rabbits will be seen during the day as well many species of bird associated with the countryside.

CRY OF HOUNDS The sound made by the hounds when hunting a trail is called the cry. The cry will be the same as when hunting a live quarry, though it will vary from day to day and during the day. This is due to factors that influence scenting conditions, such as ground and climatic conditions (including the wind), growing crops and density of livestock – the less the scent the less the cry. The number of hounds and balance of dog hounds to bitch hounds will also impact on the volume and depth of the cry.

DRAGHUNTING Vs TRAIL HUNTING Many think draghunting and trail hunting are the same activity – in reality they are poles apart. The term draghunting is the property of the Masters of Drag and Bloodhounds Association. Draghunting is an equestrian activity where the drag is laid over a pre-determined and generally known route taking in lines of often marked fences. Trail hunting is a hound based activity where the trail is laid along the line a fox might take when moving across the countryside. The scent used by Drag Hunts varies enormously, but for trail hunting it should be a fox based scent.

Tim Easby
Director
14th December, 2012