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Title: Advice on Fox-Hunting
Author: Verney, Henry
Language: English
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                               ADVICE ON
                              FOX-HUNTING



------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: Henry XVIIIth Baron Willoughby de Broke]



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               ADVICE ON
                              FOX-HUNTING

                                   BY
                           HENRY XVIII BARON
                          WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE

                        WITH PREFACE BY HIS SON
                            RICHARD GREVILLE



                      JOHN AND EDWARD BUMPUS LTD.
                     350 OXFORD STREET, LONDON, W.
                                  1906


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                PREFACE


IN response to a suggestion that some of my father’s writings upon
Fox-hunting should be collected and published in a separate volume, I
have chosen the three papers contained in this book.

His claim to be heard rests upon accomplishments still fresh in the
annals of the chase; it may, however, be of interest to recall that he
became Master of the Warwickshire Hounds in 1876, availing himself of
the services of a professional huntsman until 1881, when he commenced to
carry the horn himself, and continued to do so till ill health caused
his retirement in the autumn of 1898.

                                                    WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE.

KINETON, WARWICK.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                    I. TO MASTERS OF HOUNDS         9

                   II. TO HUNTSMEN                 29

                  III. TO WHIPPERS-IN              55


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   I

                          TO MASTERS OF HOUNDS



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         Advice on Fox-Hunting



                        I. TO MASTERS OF HOUNDS


THE first thing to be done on taking a country is to get the land and
covert owners on your side. Write to all of them asking leave to draw
their coverts, and express a hope that they will extend the same
kindness in the preservation of foxes to you as they have always done to
your predecessors.

I would advise as much compliance with the wishes of game preservers as
is consistent with hunting the country fairly. But there is one thing I
could never find it in my heart to do, which is, to stop the hounds when
running hard for a game-preserver’s covert. If you are Master of a pack
which belongs to the country, I say you have no right to spoil the
hounds belonging to the county gentlemen by disappointing them in this
way. No; by all means steer clear of the shooting-parties, and meet the
shooter’s wishes as much as you can, but by no means, and for no man,
stop your hounds when running.

I should never advise anyone to take a country in which there is an
old-established huntsman, a favourite with everyone, and one whom it
would be something like high treason on your part to dismiss. He will be
master, not you. You will simply be a paying machine to settle all the
bills and mount him, and he will constantly be grumbling about his
horses, and perhaps will even give vent to his feelings in his speech at
your puppy-show luncheon. Far the best plan is to start fresh with your
own man, keeping perhaps one of the old staff to show the rest the way
about at first. Choose a man of fair experience, and above all do not
listen to the accounts of hunt-servants’ riding, and be led into taking
on one of the boys who get huntsmen’s places in these modern days. The
majority of hunting-men seem to think that, if a man or a boy will only
jump big places, he must be a good huntsman, and boys get pitchforked
into good places as huntsmen before they know how to whip-in or even to
behave. When I began hunting, whippers-in did not look to be huntsmen
before they were well past thirty. Nowadays it is no uncommon thing to
find the huntsman the youngest of the three servants. I do not mean to
say that a huntsman should not ride; of course, he should ride up to his
hounds and see how far they have carried the scent, but everyone can
ride if he only gets a horse good enough; the difficulty is to get a man
who knows when to ride, and will do so only to get to his hounds, and
not to win the approbation of an ignorant field. But always mount your
men well, if only for economy’s sake; they will take care of good
horses, but will not do so of bad ones.

Be careful how you breed your hounds. In forming a pack you will have to
be dependent, in a great measure, on sires from other packs. But do not
be tempted to run after a hound because he has won at Peterborough, or
is very good-looking, or is even said to be very good in his work, if he
comes of a strain that you do not like, or if his pedigree contains a
lot of soft blood, or if his ancestors come from a kennel that you
cannot trust. A chance-bred foxhound is like a chance-bred racehorse: he
may be very good at his work, but he is worthless for breeding. Not
being carefully bred himself, the faults of his progenitors are certain
to be reproduced in his offspring. There is a good deal of nonsense
talked about looks in these days, but, depend on it, the best working
hounds in a pack are never the worst-looking, though, of course, a real
beauty, a Peterborough winner, may turn out useless in the field. This
is a good lesson. Turn up his pedigree, and you will find where the
mistake in his breeding has been made. Never breed from a hound in his
first season. He may develop all manner of faults, and you cannot breed
a fault out: you must stamp it out. Some people think that if you breed
from a noisy bitch and a mute dog, or vice versa, you will have hit the
just medium in tongue. Far from it. In all probability half the litter
will turn out mute, the other half noisy. Of course, neither hound ought
to have been kept, much less bred from. Always draft a mute hound. There
is no fault so bad, and the better he is in his work the more harm he
will do. Then there is straightness. Everybody in his heart of hearts
likes his hounds straight. In my experience it is only those who cannot
breed straight hounds who prefer crooked ones; some even go so far as to
say that a straight hound cannot be good in his work! But I always
notice that, when hound breeders of this sort happen to breed a straight
hound, they are as proud of him as a hen is of one chick. Of course, you
must have plenty of good walks to breed a good pack of hounds, so that
you can mercilessly afford to draft mute, noisy, skirting, or lame
hounds, without getting your pack too short. A puppy show and a luncheon
after it are good things; but do not have your huntsman’s health
proposed. Indulgence in post-prandial rhetoric save by the experienced
is apt to be dangerous. If you, or your huntsman, or both of you, are
new to the country, I should say certainly go cub-hunting yourself every
morning, so as to learn the locality yourself, or show it to your
huntsman, as the case may be. And let cub-hunting be cub-hunting; keep
your hounds on the dark as much as possible, and never try to have a run
across the open. No man can ride to the hounds, in the Midlands at
anyrate, while the leaf is on the hedges, consequently fences get pulled
about, gaps are made, the farmers’ stock, especially the grass bullocks,
injured, and altogether much more damage done by a few horsemen than is
done by many in regular hunting. In dry, hard weather the hounds’ feet
get injured, and in any weather at all they run a risk of being spoilt.
They check: no one is with them, off go some of the entry after a hare,
taking most likely a few of the one- and two-seasoned hunters with them,
and in about half-an-hour all the trouble you have taken in breaking
during the summer and autumn is lost. Sport for the field cannot be said
to begin till November 1, but it is in the two or three months prior to
this that a pack of hounds is made or marred, and these months must be
given up to the Master and Huntsman to make the pack. I am fairly
astonished to see that some establishments have actually taken to
advertising their cub-hunting fixtures. This is the height of folly.
There is no greater nuisance than a parcel of men, women, and grooms,
the two former most likely smoking, all of them out on fresh horses, and
talking in the rides of a covert. The Hunt servants cannot get about to
do their work, and the hounds get kicked. Never commit “the fatal
mistake” of not beginning cub-hunting as soon as the corn is cut; and
never take fright, and leave off, because the ground gets hard. To do
this is ruination to your entry and to the one- and two-seasoned
hunters, who will begin forty times wilder than the young ones. Breed
your hounds with good legs and feet, and they will not take much harm,
and if you do screw up a few old cub-hunting horses, what matter?

In breeding your hounds make up your mind what sort you like and stick
to that sort. If you like Welsh hounds (of which I have little
knowledge) breed Welsh hounds and have a Welsh pack; but if you prefer
English hounds, try to breed them as good-looking as possible. In the
Midlands I am quite certain that the best sort to aim at are the
best-looking. I do not mean the largest-boned animals—they do not have
to carry weight—nor do I insist on great spring of the ribs. There is a
medium in all things, and ribs and bone must be kept up to a certain
extent, or your hounds will look shallow, and, as Mr Bragg said, “only
fit to hunt a cat in a kitchen.” But I will never believe that a hound
tires because he is light of bone; my experience has been all the other
way, against “that useless appendage,” as Lord Henry Bentinck called
bone. In my opinion, the thing that makes a hound stoop to the scent
easily is a good neck and shoulders, so that the hound is running at his
ease and within himself all the time. I would never sacrifice necks and
shoulders to bone, straightness, or ribs. But I hear someone say “Nose.”
Well, I suppose there are hounds more tender-nosed than others, and if
these are found out they should, of course, be bred from. But I am not
quite sure that dash, intelligence, and perseverance do not ensure what
is called a good nose. A hound may have ever such a sensitive organ of
smell, but he is no use if he is shy, idle, or slack. Any hound will run
hard on a real good-scenting day, but give me one who will try for you
on a bad-scenting day; who will jump a gate when casting himself, and
will jump it back again if he does not hit the line off; in short, one
who is miserable if he is off the line, and does not go and contentedly
lie down and lap in a pond. I have often been quite sorry for good
hounds who have worked so hard to no purpose on a bad-scenting day. But
these are the boys to keep and breed from; if one could get a whole pack
of them, very few foxes would get away.

I think the best size for hounds is 23½ inches for dogs, and rather
lower, but not much, for bitches. In a grass country no hound, however
big, can jump a stake-and-bound fence with a ditch to him, to say
nothing of bullfinches, and small hounds do get through these fences
quicker and with less tailing than big ones. In a wall or bank country I
do not suppose it matters so much, though I doubt whether big hounds are
able to jump better than small ones. Foxes must be bustled to be killed.
Mr Jorrocks says: “Full well he knows, to kill their fox they must have
nose,” but also he knows “that to kill their fox they must press him at
some period or other of the chase.”

There is great difference in foxes. Some come to hand easily, but there
are some that will beat any pack of hounds, unless at some time or other
in the run they are hard pressed for half-an-hour at least; indeed,
there are some foxes who seem, over grass, in dryish weather, to be able
to keep going nearly all day. It is certainly not bone which enables
hounds to catch foxes of this sort. They must have good necks and
shoulders, and they must be in tiptop condition. That is how the foxes
are killed, by care and careful conditioning in the kennel, and by being
in good heart and confidence, with plenty of blood.

Lastly, unless you are genuinely fond of hounds and hound breeding, do
not have anything to do with their Mastership. The blanks in an M.F.H.’s
career are many compared with the prizes. A good day and a kill in the
open is a splendid thing. Everyone is pleased; the ride home seems
short, and the port tastes well in the evening; but continuous bad luck,
bad scent, and everyone taking a pleasure in telling you how well the
neighbouring Hunts are doing is hard to bear. Still, it is a consolation
when you get back among your hounds, which you have carefully bred
yourself, to know for certain that the temporary loss of sport is not
their fault, that they will do all they can for you, and that your turn
must come again.

Buy your forage, and as many of your hunters as you can, from the
farmers in the Hunt, and never use moss litter or any other substitute
for straw.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   II

                              TO HUNTSMEN



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            II. TO HUNTSMEN


STAY at home and look after your hounds. Remember Garge Riddel:

                   “Let fools go travel far and nigh,
                   We bides at home, my dog and I.”

So stay at home and look after your dogs summer and winter, and do not
go gadding about all the puppy shows in the kingdom. At your own puppy
show, if your master is foolish enough to allow your health to be drunk,
simply acknowledge the compliment, and do not follow the present
practice of huntsmen in making what you doubtless think is a clever and
facetious speech.

When the hunting season is over, and your young hounds will go pretty
quietly without couples, get on the hacks and have the old hounds also
out. I do not mean to fast exercise, but long walking exercise, keeping
under the trees and in the shade as much as possible. Anything is better
for hounds than lying all day on the hot flags. Give some boiled
vegetables in the old hounds’ food this time of year. Young nettles
gathered before they get tough and stingy are as good as anything. The
young hounds will do very well on navy ship biscuits soaked and mixed
with some good broth.

Towards the latter part of July, say about the time of the Peterborough
Shows, you will begin to trot the old and young hounds along, and will
find as many hares, deer, etc., as you can. Keep your hounds moving
right up to cub-hunting, and have them on the light side to begin with,
or if the weather is hot they will tire before the foxes, get disgusted,
do themselves no end of harm, and will very likely leave the foxes
instead of breaking them up properly. It is a grand thing for hounds if
you can show them some riot just before throwing them into a covert
where you are sure to find a litter of cubs. Allow plenty of time to get
to the meet; five to six miles an hour is quite fast enough, but when
cub-hunting you can travel a bit faster than in regular hunting. In
cub-hunting always let the hounds find their own fox, and do not have
him holloaed over a ride at first. Do not have him headed back, or held
up till he is beat, and then do so for fear of changing. The more foxes
you kill cub-hunting after good work for hounds, the steadier and keener
your pack will be, but do not go and surround small places and pick up
two or three foxes at once. This does not benefit the hounds more than
killing one, and in a good country is wanton waste. Always dig your fox
cub-hunting if he goes to ground in a practicable place. In regular
hunting it is better to go and find another than to keep the field
starving in the cold; but always remember that you cannot have steady
hounds without plenty of blood, and that in a country where foxes are
numerous, if the pack are riotous it is always the fault of the
huntsman. So begin November with your hounds “blooded up to the eyes,”
as Lord Henry Bentinck wrote. Never mind what people say about letting
foxes have a chance and letting them go. In a small covert let the best
foxes who break covert first go, and stay and kill the worst one, but
never be tempted by what anybody says to try and have a run in the open.

It is all very well for those who come out. Their horses are fresh, as
they have been standing about, while you and your whippers-in have been
working yours hard. They can jump or not as they like, and if they lose
the hounds they can go back to breakfast, while you and the whippers-in
must stick to the hounds at all costs. Besides, the young hounds do not
understand it at first, and simply follow the old ones, and do
themselves no end of harm by getting lost, stopping in ponds, etc.

Always remember you are the servant of your master, not of the field,
and his orders should always be not to get away in the open in the
cub-hunting season.

In regular hunting the whole system is reversed. Then you try and get
away with the first fox that leaves, presumably the best one. If you
cannot get all the hounds, and at all events enough to go on with,
because the pack are running another, do not stand blowing, still less
move a field or two away and blow, but gallop back as quickly as
possible, get up wind of your hounds, and blow them away. If by good
luck they happen to throw up for a moment, out they will come to your
horn, and you can lay both ends on the line together. Unless the fox
goes straight away up wind, it is almost always better to blow your
hounds out at a place where the fox has not gone, and lay them on all
together. Always have one way of blowing when the fox is away—one that
neither the field nor the hounds can mistake—and unless the latter are
running very hard, you will see how they will come tumbling out to it.
All hounds hate struggling in thick covert, and are more or less anxious
to get away. But never be tempted to use this note for any other
purpose. If you do, its charm is gone. You cannot, to quote Lord Henry
Bentinck again, lie to your hounds with impunity. Indeed, in hunting a
fox in the open you should hardly use your horn at all. I am no advocate
for much horn; as Mr Vyner says, in season it is like a word: “How good
it is”; but when it is blown I like it to give forth no uncertain sound,
that everyone may know what is meant by it, hounds and all. If you are
always blowing your horn, whether you want hounds or not, you might as
well be playing the concertina for all they will care for it.

When you come to the first check it is almost a certainty that the fox
has turned right or left. Of course, if a good one, he may turn again
and make his original point, so do not sit still. Try and keep the field
off the hounds, and encourage them to try, up wind at first if possible:
the fox has most likely turned down wind, but the hounds will almost
swing their own cast unaided up wind; and if the fox has turned in this
direction and they hit him off, he is yours; nothing but an open drain
can save him. Meanwhile, cast your eye well forward and down wind, and
see if you can see the fox or anything suggestive, such as a man
running, sheep running, or having run together, to show where he is
gone. When the pack have finished their cast, then, and not till then,
go to them: do not stand and blow; whisper a word of encouragement in
their ears, and cast them, on the best scenting ground you can see, in a
body in front of you. You will be able to keep the field off their backs
much better in this way than if you started off jumping with the pack at
your horse’s tail and all the hard-riding fools of the field mixed up
with them. If the assisted up-wind cast and the down-wind cast both end
in silence, it looks bad; but always remember that if your down-wind
cast is a wide one the fox may have gone to ground short of it, or you
may have cast over his line owing to a bit of bad scenting. All you can
do then is to use your discretion. I remember a season or two ago, after
having come a considerable way, the hounds threw up among a perfect sea
of greasy wheat-fields, in which there seemed to be positively no scent
at all. The orthodox casts having produced no result, I noticed there
was one grass field about a mile and a half ahead—an oasis in the
desert. I thought: “Well, the fox is lost anyhow, but if by good luck he
has crossed that field, the hounds will show a line.” I cantered on, and
they did show a line, with the result that we were able to keep on after
the fox and eventually kill him in a neighbouring country.

When you come to a covert let your hounds hunt the line through it. I do
not like the plan of having them whipped off the line and casting beyond
it. Never take the hounds off their noses if you can help it. Similarly,
when your fox is beat, and you see him before hounds, hold your tongue,
and by no means take them off their noses unless you are perfectly
certain you can give them a view. If the fox pops through a hedge and
they do not see him, you will have lost a lot of time, as the hounds
will not hunt for a few minutes, but will stand staring about, expecting
to see the fox. The only time it is allowable to lift them after a
beaten fox is when they are running for a head of open earth or a covert
full of fresh foxes. But never, under any circumstances, go and ride the
fox, leaving your hounds. I have seen many huntsmen do this, but I never
yet saw one catch a fox by himself, though I have seen some very nearly
do it.

Your fox is dead and the day over. Travel home quietly, and do not have
the hounds hurried. Stop somewhere if the day has been very hard, and
give your horses some chilled water or gruel if you can get it; but do
not stop long, and never go inside a house, no matter whose it is. When
you get home feed your hounds yourself, with judgment. The man who hunts
the hounds should always feed them; not because feeding them makes them
any fonder of you, but because the huntsman knows, or ought to know, how
much each hound requires. Never let them eat to repletion; if you do,
what is the result? In every pack there are some slow, shy feeders:
while these are playing with their food the greedy ones are fairly
gorging themselves. The next day’s hunting will find the light feeders
some two or three fields ahead of the gorgers, to the detriment of the
looks and sport of the pack. Years ago hounds were always washed after
hunting. I do not think this a good plan—they will soon clean themselves
in the straw; but if it is pouring with rain when you return to kennel,
so that whatever you do you can make the hounds no wetter, I can see no
harm in throwing some nice warm broth over them, and it certainly makes
them look well the next day. Always have two lodging-rooms for your
hunting pack: put them in one directly after feeding, and shift them
into another for the rest of the night in about an hour and a half’s
time. This will prevent a lot of kennel lameness, which is really
rheumatism.

In breeding I see no reason why pregnant bitches should not run with the
pack if you are at all short: of course, they must be stopped in good
time. They should then be turned out of the kennel and given their
liberty all day. I know this causes some complaint if the kennels are
near a village, as these old ladies are sad thieves; but having kennels
near a village is such a manifest advantage to the latter that complaint
really ought not to be made. Five puppies are quite enough for any
mother to bring up. After the middle of May four is plenty. Do all you
can to induce farmers and others to walk puppies; without good walks
every pack must deteriorate. Show an interest in your puppies by looking
them up at summer exercise. When they come in from quarters, and
distemper and yellows break out, you will have your hands full, and must
not mind having to get up in the night and attend to the sick ones.
There are all sorts of recipes, homœopathic as well as allopathic, but
the best medicines are warmth, care, and attention. It is not sufficient
to drop the food down before the puppy; you must stay and see that he
eats it. Yellows is a much more dangerous disease than distemper, and
coming with it, as it often does, is almost always fatal. Calomel in
some form or other seems to be the only remedy, and that a very
uncertain one. Never let the old and young hounds lodge or feed together
till cub-hunting. If rabies breaks out, it almost always comes from some
hound having been bitten at quarters. If you have once had rabies in
your kennel you will never forget it.

Ride your horses fairly, and do not try and gain the praise of ignorant
onlookers by jumping unnecessary fences; and do not be always
quarrelling with your horse and jagging at his mouth—the best riders are
those who are on good terms with their horses. Do not grumble; do not
quarrel with the stud groom. Remember you are one of the luckiest men in
the world, paid for doing what is or what ought to be your greatest
pleasure. Do not be down-hearted if you get into a run of bad luck and
are tempted to think you will never catch a fox again, and when you hear
things said which would try the patience of Job. Luck will change, and
you will begin to think you can never lose a fox again. Talk to your
hounds and make much of them; never speak angrily or uncivilly to them.
Whatever you do, always try and get them to think they are doing it all
themselves. If you have to stop them at dark, or off a vixen, try and do
it when they come to a check; but if you are obliged to stop them
roughly, get off your horse and make friends with them again. Show them
they have done no wrong by persevering on. Always ask to have the mute
hounds, skirters, and noisy ones drafted at once. They are faults that
always get worse, and as Jorrocks says, a skirting hound, like a
skirting rider, is sure to have a lot of followers. I do not call a
hound a skirter that cuts corners going to the cry. This is what every
good hound ought to do.

Be kind to your whippers-in; do not try and slip them. When you turn
back drawing a covert always let them know by a good loud “Yooi over,
try back!” They will work all the better for you if you help them in
their little ways. When you have made up your mind to go to a holloa,
take your hounds off their noses and travel along. Do not, if you can
help it, let them hunt again till you have found out from the man who
holloaed exactly which way the fox really went. He very likely turned
him, and the hounds may take it heel way: it is poor consolation to be
told by a grinning rustic, after the hounds have settled with a good
cry, “They be a running back scent.” It is easier to strike the line
heel way than people think. Casting you may get on the heel line of
another fox which has left the covert since you did. I have often been
laughed at for doing it and told to trust my hounds; but even if they
are running hard, and I come across a man who has seen the fox, I do not
think a few seconds are thrown away in finding out which way the fox’s
head was. As my father used to say, take every advantage you can of your
fox. He will take every one he possibly can of you.

Look out along a road. It is a curious thing, but hounds hardly ever
turn out of one exactly where the fox has gone. They either go too far
or more commonly not far enough. If you can manage to get half the pack
in the road and the other half in two lots on each of it, you are in a
capital position; and when those in the road throw up you can press on
without fear of overrunning the scent. Do not hurry the hounds in a
road, and beware how you encourage one that is always making a hit under
these circumstances. If you make too much of him you will turn him into
a rogue. Always acknowledge to your master when you have lost the fox,
and do not go dragging on, and slip the hounds into a covert and count
the fresh fox you find as the one you have been hunting. Your master may
wish the covert drawn in a different way. Be cheery in drawing woods;
make plenty of noise, so that the hounds may know where you are. If they
are very fond of you, they will be listening about for you if you go on
the silent system. Hounds that habitually hang back in covert should be
drafted, but after you have drawn one blank you will only make these
offenders worse by standing and blowing. Move on, and they will catch
you up. Once more, but it cannot be too often repeated, never interfere
with your hounds at checks till they have made their own casts first. To
quote Lord Henry Bentinck once more, hounds that are repeatedly messed
about and cast will in a short time become demoralised so that they will
do nothing to help themselves.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  III

                             TO WHIPPERS-IN



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          III. TO WHIPPERS-IN

               SUMMER EXERCISE AND BREAKING YOUNG HOUNDS


OF course, during the first few weeks of horse exercise, no young hound
should be allowed to break away at all, or the whole entry will soon
become wild and demoralised.

Later on, if a hare gets up, or any other temptation to riot arises, the
hounds should be allowed a good look at the cause of it without anyone
saying a word. The steady hounds, when they see what it is, will do
nothing, but if one of the wilder customers wants to have his fling, let
him go for at least two hundred yards, as long as he gets through no
fence over which you cannot follow him, and then ride quietly and
quickly to his head, and let him have it as hot as you can. When he has
felt the lash then, and not till then, rate him soundly and frighten him
back to the huntsman.

If you ride after a riotous hound, holloaing at him from behind, you not
only destroy your chance of hitting him, but will, by your ill-judged
noise, as often as not make some of the others join him. Similarly, in
the hunting season, when the pack is being cast, and a young hound
starts after a hare, the quieter you are, and everyone else is, the
better. Get to the offender and punish him severely if you possibly can,
but do not begin holloaing at him, and thereby causing the rest of the
pack to get their heads up. It is far from an easy thing to hit a hound
when he is running riot, and it is an accomplishment that few
whippers-in, in these days, seem to possess; but remember, the less
noise you make before you get to him, the better chance you have, and
above all never be tempted to revenge yourself, by hitting him at some
future time when he is doing no harm.

If a hound hangs back in covert after it has been drawn blank, ride in
and give him a hiding if you can, but never hit one and cut him off from
the huntsman after he is outside. Hounds that habitually hang back in
covert should be drafted speedily.

Always be attentive when the pack is travelling along a road to prevent
their picking up anything, and always be ready to open the gates in
turn.


                     DRAWING AND RUNNING IN COVERT

Remember that the moment the hounds throw off you are as much on duty as
a sentinel at a Royal Palace, and if any of the field is foolish enough
to try and engage you in a conversation you should respectfully, but
firmly, decline to have your attention taken off the hounds. Always
remember that the Master is your master, and not “the field” or any
member of it. I have actually seen a whipper-in standing in a ride, in a
wood, where we had a beaten fox before us, and where there were several
fresh foxes, waiting while one of the field fumbled for some time in his
pockets, to find a sovereign for him, I suppose.

When a large covert, where there are plenty of foxes, is being drawn up
wind, which should always be done if possible, the whippers-in should
both keep near the hounds, about level with the leading ones and a bit
wide, one on each side of the pack, and should not ride on to view a
fox. You will get no credit from the huntsman for holloaing a fox a
quarter of a mile off when the pack have unkennelled a brace and are on
the point of dividing close to him. I have more than once seen a
whipper-in get so far up wind of the pack that the latter have found a
fox and turned short back down wind, and he has gone riding on and known
nothing about it. Besides, it is far better for hounds to find their fox
for themselves than that they should be holloaed to him over a ride, and
they should always be allowed to do so in the cub-hunting months. The
case is altered later on in the season, and if a woodland is drawn down
wind, or there is no wind at all, or if foxes are very scarce, or the
covert is very thin. In most of these cases one whipper-in should keep
well ahead of the huntsman, or the best, or perhaps the only, fox may
slip off without being seen, and get a long start. There is a vast
difference between up and down wind, and thick and thin covert, yet some
whippers-in never seem to understand this.

Wherever you are, as soon as you hear the hounds find, and your huntsman
cheer them, get to them as soon as you can, and take a ride parallel to
that along which the huntsman is riding, so that you may have the pack
between you and him; do your best to maintain to his horn and holloa,
and prevent the pack from dividing. If they cross a ride into another
quarter let him know at once. Stick to your hounds and never mind the
foxes.

In cub-hunting when your orders are to head the fox back, be careful to
stand well out from the covert, keep your eyes, as the American saying
is, skinned, and crack your whip and holloa at the fox the moment he
shows his face; it will be too late to do so if he gets twenty or thirty
yards away before you see him. When you have turned him back, let the
huntsman know by holloaing “Tally-ho-back!”

If you are in a ride which you have been told to prevent a fox from
crossing, a little judicious use of your voice may help to do what is
wanted, and will do no harm, as long as the pack are running with a good
cry; but the instant they throw up, shut your mouth and tap your saddle,
or you will get their heads up at the very moment when every hound
should have his down looking for his fox. Nothing is more irritating to
a huntsman than to have the attention of his hounds taken off at this
critical moment by a whipper-in holloaing “Loo-Loo!” just when he ought
to be perfectly quiet.

In watching a ride or looking out for a view anywhere, never take your
eyes or your attention off for a moment. If you do, the fox will surely
cross at that very instant, and you will look an idiot if you tell the
huntsman the fox has not crossed or gone your way, and the pack come and
take the scent up with a good cry. When the hunted fox crosses be sure
you holloa “Tally-ho-over!” and if he turns back “Tally-ho-back!”

You will do more harm than good by turning a fox back in a wood unless
he is almost done, as hounds will run him better on fresh ground, and if
he keeps straight on. But when he is beaten he should be kept back in
one quarter if possible. This should always be done, both in cub-hunting
and regular hunting; also if there are many fresh foxes in the covert,
so as to avoid changing on to one of them.


                   BREAKING COVERT IN REGULAR HUNTING

Where your object is to view the fox away, stand close to the covert,
and in a position where you can see as far along the side of it and over
as much country as possible; let the fox get right well away, a good
field, at least, and then holloa “Forward away!” as loud as you like.
Watch him as far as you can, and observe, at all events, where he went
through the first fence. If he goes away a long distance from you, do
not ride up to the place where he broke and begin holloaing down wind,
where no one can hear you, but rather turn back towards the huntsman so
as to make certain of being heard.

Similarly, if you hear a holloa that the huntsman cannot, do not ride on
to the person who is holloaing, for if you do the huntsman will be no
more able to hear you than him. Turn back towards the huntsman and pass
the holloa on to him.

Never ride after the fox or on his line at all. Should the fox show
himself and turn back, keep perfectly quiet, and he will probably go
away directly. If, however, the day is a very bad scenting one, and the
huntsman is evidently going to draw over his fox, you must let him know
in some way or other that there is a fox in the covert. When the fox is
away, and the huntsman is coming up with the pack, ride close up to him
and tell him quietly what has happened, and how far you saw the fox.

Always remember that the whipper-in who gets most credit from the
huntsman is he who makes the latter’s task the easiest.

If one or two couples of hounds come out on the line of the fox ahead of
the rest, it is your duty to stop them at all hazards. If they get two
or three fields’ start in a stiff country they will spoil any run,
however good the scent. This is especially the case on a wild windy day,
when the fox has started down wind. On days of this sort, and indeed on
a good many others, it is better for the huntsman to blow his hounds out
of covert at a place where the fox has not gone away, and lay them on in
a body afterwards. One minute judiciously spent in giving every hound a
fair start will be saved over and over again in the course of the run.

When the hounds are away it is usual for the first whipper-in to go on
with them, and for the second to stay and see them all away; but if the
second whipper-in holloas the fox away, and the first is a good way
back, the former should go on with the huntsman till the latter comes
up, when the second whipper-in can fall back and save his horse, which
may have to carry him all day.

When you are bringing up the tail hounds, and you are near the body of
the pack, be careful not to make any noise, or you will infallibly get
the leading hounds’ heads up should they happen to be at fault. If the
latter are running hard those with you will soon leave you and join
them.


                       HUNTING A FOX IN THE OPEN

When you have to turn hounds remember that you cannot do so unless you
get to their heads. Very often one sees a huntsman blowing his horn, an
unjumpable fence between him and the pack, and the whipper-in on the
same side of the fence as the huntsman rating and holloaing at the
hounds. He is really doing his best to drive them still farther from the
huntsman and increasing his difficulties. No huntsman who knows anything
of his business will be angry with you for not being at the heads of the
hounds on all occasions, as it is often a physical impossibility for you
to be so; but he will be angry, and rightly so, if, just to show you are
somewhere near, and are doing something, you get between him and the
pack and rate them farther away from him. Similarly, when he is blowing
them away from a covert after a fox, get to them and rate them on if you
can, but if that is impossible, do the next best thing and hold your
tongue.

When the pack are running riot or heel, and you go to stop them, take a
look at the fences and gates before you start, and make up your mind
exactly where you will get to their heads, and do not ride crossways at
the middle of the pack only to cross the line behind them just as the
tail hounds are going through a fence.

In the open when you have turned the hounds, which, if you get to their
heads, is done with a word, your work is finished for the moment; on no
account ride after them cracking your whip and rating them, or you will
very likely drive them clean over the line of scent, and on a bad
scenting day are nearly sure to do so. Your best plan is to canter back
towards the huntsman so as to be ready to help him to prevent any of the
hounds from taking up the line heel way. This stupid bungle is generally
the huntsman’s own fault, as he ought to cast his hounds in front of
him; but sometimes on windy days, when the fox has gone straight down
wind, it is a little difficult to prevent it. When you are sent on to
obtain information from someone who has seen the fox, find out as
quickly as you can all he has to tell you and then take off your cap,
and point out the fox’s line. If you point with your hand only it is
almost impossible to see it from a distance.

When the pack run into a covert of moderate size the first whipper-in
should watch which side the huntsman goes, and should ride along the
other, taking care to keep as nearly opposite him as possible. The
second whipper-in, especially if the hounds are running up wind, or have
a tired fox before them, should hang back till he is quite certain they
are “forward away” on the line. If they are running with even a moderate
scent, the whippers-in will do more good by acting in this way than by
galloping on to the end for a view, as they will run no risk of heading
the fox and perhaps spoiling the run of the season. If the fox keeps
straight on the hounds will run him if there is any scent at all, but he
will very likely be lost if the whole establishment goes forward and he
lies down and slips back without being seen.

Some huntsmen, on nearing a small covert, are fond of catching hold of
their hounds, and holding them forward so as to hit the fox’s line if he
has gone through. If this is done it is an absolute necessity that one
of the whippers-in should hang back till the line has been hit off. If
the covert is a large one, the huntsman will, of course, go in with his
hounds, and the first whipper-in should take a ride parallel to him, so
that they may have the hounds between them. If the hounds are running
down wind the second whipper-in may with advantage get on to the far
end, but if it is up wind or the fox is tired, he will do better to keep
a quarter behind the huntsman, as in these cases the fox is sure to turn
back before he has gone far, and if he does not the hounds will soon run
into him without help.

A hunted fox is a most difficult thing to be certain about, and at times
even the most experienced will be deceived. A fox that is very tired
indeed will at times, and especially if he is being holloaed at, look
and move exactly like a fresh one; but if you are lucky enough to get a
good view of him without his seeing you, you can generally tell. If you
are a good way ahead of the hounds, and the hunted fox comes up to you
and lies down, and you hear the pack hunting up to him, let him lie;
watch him, but do not say a word. Every minute he lies there is bringing
his enemies nearer to him, and making his death more certain. Of course,
if the hounds are manifestly at fault, or have changed on to a fresh
fox, you must attract the huntsman’s attention somehow. In the open this
can generally be done by holding up your cap without moving the fox; in
covert you will probably be obliged to give him a holloa, but you must
not do so till other means have failed.

Lastly, save your horses as much as you can consistently with doing your
work, and save them before they are tired; it is too late to do so
afterwards. Always choose the best and soundest going you can. Jump no
large fence when a small one or a gate will land you as near the hounds.

Try and keep up your zeal and attention all day, and be as keen in the
evening as in the morning; and as long as the huntsman thinks it worth
while to persevere after his fox do you persevere too, and do your level
best to help to end the day with a kill, however hopeless such a result
may at times appear.

Always be neat and tidy, and take a pride in cleaning your hunting
things well and putting them on smartly.



                THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED, EDINBURGH.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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