Guide to Hunting Etiquette
We look forward to welcoming you to come out hunting with the Mid Devon Hunt. To find out more call our secretary.
What do we do?
Since the introduction of the Hunting Act it has no longer been possible to play our proper role in the management of fox populations. We hunt within the law, but are committed to the Act being repealed.
Currently the Mid Devon Hunt 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 a walk.
• Flushing to a bird of prey - Using a pack of hounds to flush to a bird of prey.
Autumn Hunting (September & October) can start from anytime after 6.00am. This normally lasts 3-4 hours but in October can last up to six hours.
In this very early part of the season which starts when the harvest allows (normally the beginning of September). 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
In the Main season (November - March) a meet starts at 11.00am and finishes in time for people to get back to their horseboxes in good light. Some followers take second horses from 1.30pm onwards.
The ‘formal season’ starts on the first Tuesday 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 Mid Devon Hunt.meet 2 days a week (Tuesdays and Saturdays.
On the 26th December (or the 27th if Boxing Day falls upon a Sunday) a huge crowd gathers in Chagford Square as part of one of the great Christmas traditions. To celebrate the New Year we meet in The Kings Arms South Zeal.
On a hunting day in theory the “running order” is: Quarry, Hounds, Huntsman, Masters, the Field. The idea is that the Huntsman is hunting the hounds who are pursuing the quarry. Whippers-in assist the huntsman while the Masters maintain a ‘General’s view’ of the whole shebang. Everyone else is a spectator. The spectators can be divided between:
‘The Field” - those on horse-back
“The Foot-followers” - those following in cars and motorbike
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 Gentleman Masters wear Green. 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.
What to wear - 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. What to wear - Horses Tack should be: • Clean and in good condition - your neck 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.
What to wear - Foot and Car Followers
Warm, weather-proof clothes - Masters are pretty powerful folk but even they cannot control the weather! 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. 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.
Getting to the Meet
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. Most meets have an associated place to park and un-box. It is always worth checking with the Secretary or Area Managers until you ‘get the hang of it’. 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
It is always good practice to arrive in good time for the meet because it is courteous to the host and you can hear the Master's announcements about where we are going etc. People should NEVER join half way through the day without permission.
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. 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 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.
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 some 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 a round.
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 watch 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 countryman 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
Hunting people have an unjustifiable reputation for arrogance and rudeness. Admittedly, 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 fools. The vast majority of followers, officers and staff are perhaps rather more fastidious about manners than other groups.
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 pefected 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” - but that’s the way we do things and we’re proud of it!
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 on the moor.
Everyone who hunts is able to do so because of much hard work by the Masters, Area Managers and the Hunt Staff. It is nothing but common courtesy to thank them at the end of the day.
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 line might begin.
Draw - To send hounds through a covert to find.
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.
Line - The scent left by the quarry.
Speak - Hounds do not bark, they speak or give tongue when they are hunting a scent.
Antis - Although the Mid Devon Hunt complies fully with the Hunting Act the anti-hunt monitors still grace us with their presence.