Hunting Guide

A guide to hunting practice and etiquette

We very much look forward to welcoming you to come out hunting with the Monmouthshire very soon. To find out more, call secretary Mary Cushen on 01291 650698

What do we do and where do we do it?

The Monmouthshire Hunt is a Foxhound pack that from 1695 until February 18th 2005 hunted fox in a country that stretches across a large part of Monmouthshire.

Since the introduction of the highly flawed Hunting Act it has no longer been possible to play our proper role in the management of fox populations but we have resolved to hunt ‘within the law’ until the Act is repealed - an outcome to which all supporters are relentlessly committed. Currently the pack meets to:

• Trail Hunt - this involves using hounds to hunt a trail laid with a rag steeped in a fox-based scent.

• Hound Exercise - basically lots of people taking a large group of hounds for exercise.

The Hunting Year

Officially our year begins on May 1st which is the date upon which new staff or Masters begin their duties but it is easier to follow the pattern of the year if we begin when hunting begins which, for us, is when the harvest allows (normally the beginning of September).  

Autumn Hunting

In this very early part of the season meets are held early in the morning before the temperature rises and evaporates the scent. Meets are held at least twice each week and are part of the process of preparing horses, hounds and the country for the coming season.

The Main Season

The ‘formal season’ starts on the last Saturday in October or first Saturday in November with “The Opening Meet”. This is one of the highlights of the year when several hundred supporters gather to enjoy the hospitality of our host. It’s a time to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

The Monmouthshire meet twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturday) until the end of March.

On Boxing Day, a huge crowd gathers in Abergavenny Square as part of one of the great Christmas traditions.

To celebrate the New Year and blow away anyone's hangover we meet in the square in Monmouth on New Year’s Day.

Contributions to various charities are also collected.

The ‘Closed Season’

There are those who think that the summer months are a ‘quiet time’ for hunts - they are very mistaken!

Summer brings The Puppy Show - a time when the latest recruits to the pack are shown off to Subscribers, Supporters, Land-owners and most importantly, the Puppy Walkers.

For the enthusiasts there are opportunities to support the pack at the Monmouth Show as well as some of the hound shows around the country! Hounds are also paraded at various events such as Game Fairs. August sees Hound Exercise starting in earnest as hounds are brought to fitness in readiness for the new season.

In theory the “running order” is: Quarry, Hounds, Huntsman, Masters, The Field.

The basic idea is that the Huntsman is hunting the hounds who are pursuing the quarry, which will be the trail lines laid for them to follow. Whippers-in assist the huntsman while the Masters maintain a ‘General’s view’ of the whole activity. Everyone else is a spectator!

The spectators can be divided between:

• ‘The Field” - those on horse-back

• “The Foot-followers” - those following in cars, quadbikes or any other means of conveyance!

The Field have a “Field Master” who knows the country and ensures that they do not stray from the acceptable path.

The Masters are the people in charge - they make the decisions about where to go and when to pack up. The Masters and Hunt Staff wear Red. For those who thrive on arcane facts they normally have four buttons on their coats. There is universal agreement that if, on a run, you are looking over your shoulder and count four buttons on the following rider’s coat you are in trouble - it is very bad form to overtake the Field Master. Please do not forget that these people carry all of the responsibility for the day!  

Hunt Staff

Our Huntsman, Matthew Hickmott has hunted the Monmouthshire hounds for many seasons. It is Matthew alone who hunts hounds - his job on a hunting day is to control, assist or monitor the pack. Not only can he name each hound but, if given the excuse, will regale the enquirer with details of each hound’s breeding, going back numerous generations. There is much else that Matthew does that remains unseen by most followers.

Our Whipper-in is Ben Lowe, who hunts each day and assists Matthew with the hounds. The hunt groom is Shelley Timms. Fence repairs are dealt with by a team of volunteers.

Hounds

These are astonishing animals - bred for purpose over generations they each have their own characters with associated strengths and weaknesses. Soon after they are weaned pups are “put out to walk”, sometimes in couples. This means that they spend time living at the home of a hunt supporter where they learn “manners”. Once the lessons have been learned (or when the puppy walkers have come to the end of their tethers) pups return to kennels. After further lessons from older hounds the pups are “entered” which means that they go hunting for the first time.  

Dates and Times

Autumn Hunting (September & October) can start from anytime after 6.30am. This normally lasts 3-4 hours but in October can last up to six hours.

Main season (November - March) a meet starts at 11am and finishes in time for people to get back to their horseboxes in good light.

To find out when and where you can come hunting with the Monmouthshire call secretary Mary Cushen on 01291 650698  

Getting ready - what to wear

Foot and Car Followers

Warm, weather-proof clothes. Wear ‘country colours’ - we are not hill-walking with the associated need for air/sea rescue to locate us - our intention is to blend in with our environment. This will be even more important when proper hunting is restored. For “lawn-meets” especially, it is regarded as “good form” to dress “smart casual” as a mark of respect to our host. For example a gentleman might well wear a tie.

Riders

Research might suggest that this is very complicated - but this is not the case. We will be delighted to see you in basic, smart, riding kit:

• boots (leather ones recommended), or jodpur boots with gaiters.

• jodhpurs or breeches - beige is preferred.

• shirt and tie or stock (strictly speaking wear a tie before the opening meet and a stock afterwards). Pony Club Members should always wear their PC tie.

• Hacking or show jacket (tweed or dark blue/black) - again, strictly speaking we wear tweed jackets before the opening meet and hunting coats or show jackets afterwards.

• Riding Hat - these are usually to one of the currently approved ‘safety’ designs with a plain, black or dark cover.

Horses

Tack should be:

• clean and in good condition - your safety depends on it!

• Black or brown - no bright colours please.

Many people still plait their horses before coming hunting. Although this shows good manners it is not in anyway obligatory. 

The Meet

Getting there

It is very important that we show the utmost consideration for other road users. Whether driving or hacking to a meet please make sure that you do not create a traffic hold-up - pull over from time to time to let traffic pass. If you leave in good time everybody will feel better when you have completed your journey.

Most meets have an associated place to park and un-box somewhere that is a respectable distance away from the meet. It is always worth checking with the Secretary until you ‘get the hang of it’. At the end of the day why not ask one of the regulars where to park for the next meet. Wherever you park, make sure that:

• Other traffic can safely use the area

• Local residents are not inconvenienced in any way

• You do not damage tended verges

Some people have a ‘check-list’ for use before they leave home. It is surprising what people have left behind – hats, boots and coats are quite common but people (no names, no pack-drill) have been known to forget saddles and bridles!

It is always good practice to arrive in good time for the meet because a) it is courteous to the host b) you can hear the Master's announcements about where we are going etc. People should NEVER join half way through the day without permission.

Who's Who?

 

 

Hon Secretary

Mrs Mary Cushen

 

Joint Master

Mr David Harrison

 

Joint Master

Mrs Elizabeth Egerton

Huntsman

Mr Matthew Hickmott

Whipper-in

Mr Ben Lowe

 

 

At the Meet

Once you are parked safely and considerately make your way to wherever people are gathering. Try to locate one of the Masters and introduce yourself.

The other person to locate is the Secretary - the officer who is responsible for collecting your cap (your contribution towards the hunt’s cost). It is customary to enjoy a drink at the Meet and most hosts offer some nibbles (and in some cases veritable feasts). Be warned - some hosts are famously liberal with their pouring arms and you will be riding or driving very soon after the Meet! For foot-followers the Meet is a good time to find out roughly where the trail has been laid enabling you to plan your day. As the appointed time nears the Secretary will go from rider to rider collecting their Cap.

The Master will address the crowd thanking the hosts and giving out the arrangements for the day. At the meet it is announced who will be “Field Master” for the day, if it is not the speaker. It is the Field Master’s job to guide the mounted riders (The Field) across country. He will know where we are welcome and which route to take and it is essential that everyone follows his advice. Then the Huntsman blows his horn to gather hounds and they set off to begin the day. Do remember to keep your horse facing the hounds at the meet, as well as when moving off. New riders are best advised to ride towards the back of the Field.

Newcomers should be aware of two conventions - a horse that might kick must have a red ribbon in its tail and a young or inexperienced horse a green ribbon. These are warnings - it is not the responsibility of others to avoid these horses but the responsibility of the riders to make sure that their mounts do no harm to others.  

The Chase

The whole point of ‘going hunting’ is to “Follow Hounds”. For some this is about a good walk or ride in the country while for others it is about the wonder of hound-work. We only hunt with the support and good will of land-owners and so it is imperative that we respect their wishes.  

From Horseback

The Field Master will guide the riders across country making best use of tramlines and headlands to avoid any damage to crops. Sometimes it is not possible to take the most direct route and this must be respected. As well as crops we must pay proper heed to the welfare of stock - forty galloping horses are not good company for sheep that are about to lamb. Many days involve jumping. Please leave room for others at a jump and, should you have a refusal don’t circle immediately in front of the obstacle, holding others up but withdraw before you try again. If things are not going well then do not hesitate to ask another rider for ‘a lead’.

Once in pursuit you should listen out for warnings and instructions. The commonest are explained here:

• “Beware hole” - It is good manners to repeat the warning for those behind.

• “Hounds please”, “Master please” are called to alert the field to move out of the way for the passage of those who have been announced.

• “Gate please” is another call that is passed ‘down the line’ to alert the next rider to close a gate or perhaps for you to open the gate to let the Master or Huntsman through.

• “Hold Hard” may be called by the Field Master and is an instruction to stop immediately.

If you break, a fence or do any damage that you cannot repair, you should report it at once to the responsible officers of the Hunt so it may be made good. You won’t get in trouble but if you don’t report it the landowner may not allow us to hunt over the land the next time we are around.  

Foot Followers

Foot-followers do not have a Field Master to guide them but are best guided by common sense. The guiding principles are:

• Make sure that you do not inconvenience other users of the country including those who are driving down the same lanes. It does nothing for the image of hunting people if someone is held up by a long row of followers’ cars that have pulled up in the road to recce for the hounds!

• Remember that we are often guests on other people’s land - this includes verges so please be careful how you park.

• 4x4's and any motorised vehicles are not allowed to follow the hunt off-road without express permission. The terrier men and land owners whom the hunt are crossing are usually the only persons allowed off-road to follow the hunt at any given point.

Manners for all

As in any large group of people there will be those whose manners leave much to be desired and hunting has its share of these too. The vast majority of followers, officers and staff will be very fastidious about courtesy and manners at all times.

As a newcomer you most probably do not want to stand out as ‘different’ and good manners are very much a sign of belonging. We always thank those who move over to allow us to pass by smiling and raising your hand but never the one with your whip. Gentleman tend to touch the peak of their caps when greeting people (even better for those who have not perfected the full flourish of raising their hat to a lady). We like to hold gates for people and we like to thank those who hold gates for us.

Good Morning and Goodnight are used at the beginning and end of the hunting day respectively whatever the time. It may seem odd to outside ears when, at 11am when a morning’s Autumn Hunting might end, people call “goodnight”!

At the beginning of the day you should always go and find the Master and say “Good morning”. Equally if you go home before the end of the day, you should always say “Goodnight” to the Master or at least, if you are a visitor, let someone know that you have gone. That way they will know that you have not got lost somewhere in Monmouthshire.

Everyone who hunts is able to do so because of much hard work by the Masters, Hunt Supporters, Area Managers and the Hunt Staff. It is nothing but common courtesy to thank them at the end of the day.

Glossary

A few of the most commonly heard terms are explained.

Cap - The daily charge for non-subscribers. Please offer your cap, do not wait to be asked for it.

Casting - When hounds are looking for the line they are said to be “casting”. The Huntsman may direct the hounds then he is casting.

Check - When the hounds lose the line.

Couple - Two hounds. Also two collars linked on a chain seen hanging on the hunt staff's saddles.

Covert - Pronounced “cover” - the place where the huntsman thinks the trail line might begin.

Draw - To send hounds through a covert to find a trail line.

Field - The mounted followers.

Field Master - The person who leads the mounted field during the days hunting.

Foil - Any smell or disturbed ground which spoils the scent line of the quarry trail.

Line - The scent left by the trail layer to immitate the quarry.

Speak - Hounds do not bark, they speak or give tongue when they are hunting a scent.  

The Hunt Committee would like to remind all followers, either mounted or on foot, that you follow entirely at your own risk. The Hunt does not accept liability for any accident resulting in death, injury, damage or any claim arising from any accident involving humans, animals or property.

 
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