John Holliday: It can be hard, let’s say character-building *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Recently, as the mercury was rising, a wise man reminded me that hunting is not an exact science. Quite. There are too many things out of one’s control for everything to go according to plan all the time. We have had many days with several hunts of an hour or more, but at a slow pace, which of course is very nice for the opportunity it can afford people to see hounds working, but not so many days where you have to gallop like the very devil just to keep up. And in truth, those are the ones we all love and hope for.

    It can be hard, let’s say “character building”, for a huntsman through prolonged periods of difficult scenting conditions. All I can say is that there are no short cuts or quick fixes; all one can do is “hold the ship on a even keel and sail into the wind”. Just as game shooting is not just about “the bag”, hunting is not just about galloping and leaping. Good sportsmen know this and, if they aren’t good sportsmen, their opinions don’t matter.

    Warm welcome

    We recently enjoyed a trip to the South Shropshire, a return match, as it were, following their visit to Belvoir last season. The meet was at Gatten Lodge and was hosted by the wonderful Pamela Sykes, who once hunted the South Shropshire hounds herself.

    About 20 Belvoir subscribers made the journey, as well some old friends from the Ledbury country, and we had a nice day in the beautiful Shropshire hills. Afterwards, we were welcomed, housed, warmed and fed in fine style.

    I enjoyed it very much and can heartily recommend a day following Otis Ferry, who is one of the best huntsmen of hounds at the moment, before he steps down from the role at the end of this season.

    Damaging reporting

    The recent furore over Conservative party policy regarding the Hunting Act sent the Twittersphere into another meltdown and the national press largely misreported, or at best misunderstood, the situation. As far as I can make out, nothing has changed. Maybe it should; field sports should not be a party political issue for one, and secondly, the promise of a repeal vote proved a massive distraction during the election campaign, taking attention away from, dare I suggest, more important issues.

    Shooting and hunting are an obsession for some elements of the media, and one which is no longer confined to the tabloids. Most, it would seem, are happy to repeat any rubbish, almost always untrue, fed to them by animal rights extremists, and call it a story, especially if accompanied by a grainy video.

    Publishing these stories without any basic fact-checking is indefensible. I realise bad news sells and I am very much in favour of the freedom of the press, but this constant drip, drip maligning of anyone with a hunting dog or gun will eventually infect the national psyche, if it hasn’t already.

    It’s ironic that some of those who own the newspapers spend much of their time enjoying field sports themselves. Is it really too much to expect a basic standard of reporting?

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 February 2018