Can you spot the signs of a good or bad scent out hunting?

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“There’s nowt so queer as scent, ’cept women,” declared Mr Jorrocks.

Who could disagree with any part of that statement?

Scent in its nature is consistent only in its inconsistency.

For a hunting person, what can be more mysterious, confounding and intriguing?

This is, of course, the essence of hunting, the ingredient that, as much anything, adds to the great uncertainty of the chase.

It plays its part in the theatre of venery, making it interesting and exciting. For no matter where the trail layers run, without a “scent” and a capable pack of hounds, there is nought.

Hunting is an inclusive sport and those who participate just to “leap” are as welcome as those that take more interest in hound work.

Whatever your thing, a small amount of knowledge — which is all I have to impart — will surely enhance any hunter’s day.

Knowing when not to press too hard, thus giving hounds chance to settle, and knowing when to push your hat down and ride like the devil will be in everyone’s interest.

What could be worse than returning to the stable at 2.30pm after an indifferent morning, only to find the hunt of the season, over the best of the vale, began at 3pm…

So, can you spot the signs? Which indications are good and which are bad? Old huntsmen’s tales, or the auspices of a good day? You decide…

Good signs

  • Hounds sitting quietly, watching the huntsman intently, mouths tight shut
  • When the hedges look black, with a sharp outline
  • The wetter the better, once it’s settled in — but not usually during or immediately after heavy rain
  • Smoke from a bonfire or chimney hanging in the air, or better still, sinking, is a very good sign
  • When snow is forecast
  • After snow

    Bad signs

  • Bright sunshine
  • A blue haze — always bad
  • Frost coming out of the ground — but when it starts to go in again, the afternoon can be great
  • Gossamer visible in the grass
  • Hounds rolling at the meet. Why? Haven’t a clue…

    To read the full feature about scent see the current hunting special issue of H&H (25 October), which includes this season’s hunting directory

    Read all the latest hunting news

  • Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk