A lack of research into the practicalities of trail hunting and ongoing confusion about a possible court injunction is leading many hunts to stall their decisions about what to do after 17 February.
Senior huntsmen and masters met last weekend to discuss methods of using fox- and hare-based scent, but they are not yet ready to offer hunts advice. Their initial findings will be discussed at a Masters of Foxhounds Association meeting today.
Stephen Lambert of the Council of Hunting Associations says: “Trials on fox- and hare-based scent have not gone well enough yet and in the next month we’ll do more. The Americans have a good formula that we will try — it’s important not to get the scent too strong, which makes hounds wild, but it must make hounds speak. We expect to able to give advice by mid-February.”
Many hunts will therefore not be in a position to hunt a trail by 18 February and expect to train over the summer.
But Cotswold huntsman Julian Barnfield, who attended the CHA meeting, says: “We need to lay trails now rather than in summer because conditions — temperature and so on — vary with the seasons.”
Uncertainty over the timing of the ban (despite the fact that chances of an injunction delaying it look slim) has prompted some hunts to “wait and see”.
For instance, some, such as the Tiverton, the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray and the Southdown and Eridge, are waiting to hear about the injunction before they decide for certain on future activities — even though this could be just days before the ban begins.
Several hunts have made official statements about activities and had EGMs to change their constitutions.
The Devon and Somerset Staghounds has told subscribers: “Events… will include hound exercise rides across the moor or mock sight hunts with hunt notables as ‘quarry’. They would use their knowledge of Exmoor to evade the field until a ‘kill’, possibly at a pub. We will also use two hounds to flush deer.”
The Cottesmore has told subscribers: “The options include hound exercise rides and following an artificially laid scent. These are not activities any of us view with relish but will enable us to keep the fabric of the hunt together.”