It may come as a surprise to those of you who know my appetite for hunting that I’m quite relieved the season has now finished. The Pytchley, like many other packs in this part of the country, called time a couple of weeks earlier than usual. The reason for this was the unprecedented wet that has dogged us all winter from about 1 October onwards and a general desire not to take advantage of the extraordinary generosity our farmers have shown us all season.
As a huntsman, the season is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I look forward to each and every day with eager anticipation – then there is the comedown if it’s cancelled or if things don’t go to plan, or the elation of a good day.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” William Shakespeare famously wrote. I would amend this to: “Uneasy lies the head that carries the horn.” Possibly only a huntsman’s wife would understand the range of moods we come home in after a day’s hunting, which can lead to many sleepless nights. These can be grouped into roughly four categories:
- Disappointed. This can be due to all kinds of things, including poor scent or bad weather, and usually leads to a quiet gloominess.
- Frustrated. This is a tough one and is usually because things went wrong or, at least, could have gone better. Hounds behaved poorly or ran heel-line, the whipper-in wasn’t where he should have been, the field or car followers got in the way or hindered the progress of the hunt or, worse still, I made poor judgements. Whatever the cause, it leads to an agitated state of mind and a constant desire to rewind and start again.
- Full of adrenaline. It flows strongly after the good days and definitely makes it hard to sleep. When things have been exciting or hair-raising, it leads to a highly alert state that is hard to switch off. Hounds running very far or very fast, jumping exceptional obstacles or anything that happens during the day with a higher than usual element of danger all lead to this state.
- Content. This comes as a result of a good day when hounds have worked hard and nothing went wrong. This is the most relaxing state of quiet reflection and, although I wouldn’t swap it for the exceptional adrenaline-filled days, is the easiest to switch off afterwards.
So as you can see, with the constant rise and fall of the season from September to March, as well as the physical toll a long, wet winter takes, I am now very ready for a break, and some sunny weather would most definitely add a revitalising touch.
As 1 May approaches, the staffing changes at the kennels take place. We have been lucky enough to have two exceptional hunt servants here in Danny Burton and Paul Davis, who have served as countryman and first whipper-in respectively. We wish them both well in their new challenges and thank them for their time at Brixworth.
Paul is moving on to hunt his own hounds and it will give me great pride to watch him progress. We also look forward to welcoming their replacements into the team for many exciting adventures ahead.
Ref Horse & Hound; 12 March 2020