March hails the end of the hunting season for most, although some areas of the West Country continue well into the spring, as was traditionally the case in the Lakeland fells, although less so in latter years.
The end of the season comes with mixed emotions. For some it is relief, for others disappointment or a sense of loss. I know of one foot-follower who is positively bereft at the end of each season, and on more than one occasion I have been quoted, at the end of a season, asking how many days we have until the start of the next.
For me it is a combination of feelings. I am always sad that it’s over. Despite the Pytchley conducting in the region of 100 hunting days annually, I always have an appetite for more. I guess if this were not the case, then I’d be in the wrong job.
The sense of sadness is more acute if the weather is still cold and wet and the recent sport has been good. Conversely, it is replaced by one of relief if the weather has been balmy and warm and a succession of scentless days has led to frustration building.
There is also a sense of fatigue that sets in towards the end. Hunting three to four days a week in all weather, for eight months straight, is great fun but it takes a high level of stamina and motivation which outweighs any weather conditions or personal rise and fall of energy or emotions.
It is very timely that most of the best sport occurs in the latter part of the season when enthusiasm might otherwise be waning. Many people in other walks of life hate the end of winter and find it dreary, some choosing to find sunshine abroad, while others hit the ski slopes for a more adrenalin-filled change of scene.
For professional hunt staff this is clearly not an option — fortunately there is nowhere in the world I’d rather be in February then hunting in England.
We have enjoyed a very open season this year with only minimal weather disruption, in contrast to the frequent ups and down of last winter. Like many other packs, the Pytchley stopped hunting briefly because of the equine flu outbreak but resumed activities as soon as racing was back on.
Repairs and improvements
The end of the season brings a change rather then a break for hunt staff. With a busy hunting schedule there are many larger repair jobs, such as bridges and new hunting gates, that must go on the back-burner until the end of season.
There is also a long list of improvements to be made, such as covert-laying and planting, and hunt jump repairs and replacements. For those of us still offering a fallen stock collection service, March and April are our busiest months of the year with lambing and calving in full progress.
It is important too that staff have a chance to “freshen up”; be that with rest or recreation. For me this involves riding in point-to-points. I love the adrenalin and competitive nature of it, and it is a complete mental break as there is no chance of mulling over work as you rattle along at 30mph towards sizeable obstacles!
However you choose to spend your non-hunting time, I wish you all a joyful spring.
Ref Horse & Hound; 28 February 2019