The Countryman's Weekly

Sporting Life

Sporting Life
February 21
08:04 2018

WEB4-21-02-18February’s focus is on following hounds

By Jeremy Hobson.

WELL, the game shooting season is now but a distant memory. As I no longer do any pigeon shooting (although to be honest, I don’t know why not as February roost shooting is a lovely seasonal sport), nor ferreting or the like, my sporting life at this time of year mainly consists of following hounds – sometimes on horseback and quite often on foot.

As I’ve mentioned before in this column, one of the best ways to watch hounds work, be they Foxhounds, Harriers or Beagles, is to follow on Shanks’s pony. However, arguably the best way to learn in detail as to how hounds work and to be able to observe how they follow a scent given all the vagrancies of wind, ground conditions, livestock and even human interference, is by watching a pack of Bloodhounds.

Hunts are generally organised so as to take place over open ground. Although there can be absolutely no benefit to them doing so, farmers and landowners seem more than happy to let horses over stubble or other areas currently not seeded or put down to a stewardship scheme. The hounds themselves can hunt over grassland or emerging crops with no damage being caused.

With viewing opportunities most often in the open, the spectator gets to see a great deal of the action. Much depends on scenting conditions but generally, once hounds are ‘laid on’ by the Huntsman and they pick up the scent of the ‘clean boot’ provided by a human ‘quarry’ (some packs actually have a team of ‘quarries’ that run together in a group), it’s rare a good hunt doesn’t ensue. Hounds can then be heard giving tongue so beautifully it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

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