Robert McCarthy: ‘Hopefully the worst is behind us’ *H&H Plus*


  • Let’s put the past season behind us and look ahead, says Robert McCarthy

    Would we get going? Wouldn’t we get going? It has certainly been one of “those” hunting seasons…

    I think everybody will agree that we were very lucky to get out trail-hunting at all this season. All credit has to go to the Hunting Office, masters, chairmen and hunt secretaries for making it happen and for putting the work and many hours of time in to facilitate our short season.

    All hunts have also fully appreciated their subscribers for their support in these uncertain times. Not knowing if we would be able to go trail-hunting but simultaneously maintaining the fitness of hounds and horses is no mean feat for anyone.

    Puppy love

    Now is the time of year most packs will be thinking about breeding hounds. A lot of thought goes into which dogs and bitches to use so that, if all goes well, you end up with a nice litter of pups to shape future generations. In May or June this year, our January and February-born pups will be ready to go out to walk.

    Puppy walkers are vital to every hunt. Here at the Percy, we’re lucky to have many excellent walkers – some well-established and some new. Having pups out at a good walk will make any huntsman’s job a lot easier, giving the hound a variety of experiences and a great start in life.

    Lynn Walker is one of our longest-serving puppy walkers, having walked more than 70 hounds for the Percy for three different huntsmen from five different houses in three different hunt countries.

    When Lynn used to live way out in the sticks of rural Northumberland, she would catch the bus with her two pups, taking them to a small town called Rothbury. Here she’d do her shopping, leaving the pups tied up outside each shop. I can be sitting at a meet and watch Lynn’s puppies go straight to her, regardless how many people are there. No matter how old they get, they never forget her, which is really quite touching to see.

    We have blacksmiths, farmers, plumbers – people from all walks of life walk pups for us. One young family has a walled garden the puppies live in, which is great, but the best thing for hounds out at walk is that they get to see lots of different things. The more animals they meet and places and people they see, the better.

    They are also great time-wasters and our pups from last year thoroughly enjoyed their time out at walk over the first lockdown.

    May Day changes

    Every year, 1 May is a very important day in hunting. On this day, masters and hunt staff move on to new jobs and countries. Our whipper-in, Harry Davidson, moves on this year to gain further experience under another huntsman and we wish him well.

    Also, Andrew Higgins, the current Tyndale kennel-huntsman, is retiring. Andrew has always been very well thought of wherever he’s been in hunt service. Hounds in his care always look exceptionally well. Best of luck to him and all hunt staff moving this time.

    Hopefully – with fingers very much crossed – the worst of this awful pandemic is behind us. We’re looking forward to a more normal summer this year catching up with members of the hunting community where we can.

    This exclusive column is also available to read in the Thursday 25 March issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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