The summer is now behind us, and with the crops harvested, hunting has started. By now everyone will have got going and will be enjoying the sound of hounds early in the morning.
As a huntsman, this is a truly selfish time. You are fully entitled to indulge yourself in your hounds with the knowledge that this is their time and not that of providing entertainment for an expectant field. The hounds need time to settle back into hunting mode. For the young hounds this will be a time of learning; some will relish this new chapter, while for others it will all be a little confusing for a while.
Over the years I have often found that those young hounds that have been such a handful during summer exercise are often the slowest to get going. Those quieter ones that simply do as they are asked just disappear into the pack and get on with it.
Patience is not normally one of my strong points, but when it comes to hounds you have to be patient. Very often hounds which did not enter well the previous year will show why it was worth persevering with them and will be among the best as time goes on.
What a special time this is for the new huntsman as he or she assesses his or her hounds in the hunting field.
Mistakes will be inevitably made and, no doubt, they will be pointed out by the hunt hierarchy. This is not to say the advice should not be gratefully received.
Every huntsman hunts hounds in a slightly different way. This will have something to do with the type of country they are hunting, the country that they have previously been used to or simply who they have been trained by.
It is, though, important to adapt accordingly. The hounds that you take over will not be the same as the ones that you have left behind, so may well need handling in a different way. This is a challenge that the new huntsman should relish. It is far easier to ruin a pack of hounds than to make one.
There should be no pressure for the new huntsman to perform miracles; they should be supported and nurtured and allowed the time to get to know their hounds properly.
We have some fantastic field masters but, with a few twists of fate, we need some new additions to the team. How hard can it be to get someone to take up the challenge?
Firstly, you need someone who crosses the country well and has the horsepower to do so. It is essential they get to know their “patch” as well as they possibly can. Land changes hands regularly, as do farming practices, so there is always something new to learn. This will involve hours of walking the country before a day’s hunting.
A good memory for names, places and people is helpful, alongside a sense of direction. They need to know where they can go and can’t go; this knowledge will be essential for retaining good will and access.
On the day they will be doing their best to entertain the field and stay in touch with the hounds without getting in their way. In time, confidence and understanding will grow between field master and huntsman.
It is not an easy task and all of this must be carried out with a firm but fair command of the field, but with the knowledge that everyone behind them is there to have fun.
Good luck to all those of you who are kind enough to take up the challenge.
Ref Horse & Hound; 10 October 2019