Now autumn trail-hunting is nearly over, most packs will be preparing for one of the biggest days in the hunting calendar: the opening meet.
In order to get to this point in each season, opening up country and keeping it open is a massive and very important job. The key to a good day’s trail-hunting is organisation and good communication.
At one time, just one or two masters would clear country for a day, but this aspect of the day-to-day running of a hunt has changed a lot.
Masters often have full-time jobs of their own and, as all of us know, life in general is getting progressively busier. Nowadays masters, committee members and sometimes huntsmen are more involved in clearing country.
The countryside has also changed so much in recent times. Commercial shoots are growing in size, methods of farming are becoming more intense and roads and houses are extending rural villages.
The way the country is cleared changes from hunt to hunt. Here at the Percy, we try to get all the shoot dates in as early as possible, working on from there. Most shoots will be relaxed about you hunting the week after they’ve shot but not the week before.
It’s extremely important to talk either on the phone or face to face as planning is in progress. The more notice you can give landowners, farmers, shepherds and keepers, the better. If for some reason they don’t want the hunt on a certain date, this is always respected.
I’m a great believer in clearing a lot of country for a day as you can never have enough ground to go at. I’ve also yet to meet a hound that is happy to head home because we’ve run out of room!
Once country has been cleared, the next job is to confirm plans with local farmers, landowners and keepers in writing. For us, this means sending cards out to all those whose land we are planning to hunt over or near. The cards give the time and date for when we’re in that area.
It could be argued that some time, money and ink may be saved by sending texts or emails rather than handwritten cards. However, although carding is more time-consuming, it shows that you’re communicating with each farmer personally.
The 900 or more cards we send out over each season aren’t easily forgotten and, for us, are definitely worth our time.
No matter how much time and effort you put into organising a day, sometimes things can and will still go wrong. If a landowner, farmer or keeper is upset, it’s far better to go back and see them as soon as possible, rather than leaving it.
Whether travelling home exhilarated from the day’s events or thinking they haven’t had the best day, all followers should try to remember that someone has put an awful lot of effort into organising a country.
The other thing to remember is that anyone is encouraged to hold a meet, whether this may be from a car boot, your back garden or within the grounds of your stately home.
Best wishes to all for the upcoming season. Enjoy your horse, the hounds and what our countryside has to offer!
Ref Horse & Hound; 31 October 2019