The Kincardineshire Foxhounds
Review of 2004/2005 Season
by Richard Holman-Baird,Huntsman 27/3/2005
Reflections on hunting with hounds
With all the gloomy news surrounding the use of hounds in Britain today, I will buck the trend and be a bit more positive, ( if it’s possible in the current political climate ! )
As many will know, we originally set out to hunt Aberdeenshire as a traditional mounted hunt, but with the addition of ‘pest control’ days in the Spring which could then be used to barter access from our shooting Landowners for conventional days at other times. Lairds were receptive to the concept of using hounds as long as we produced results where required by other land enterprises.
Some eight seasons later, and without the intervening legislation, I think that we would have been in a position to say that this would have been achieved, had time allowed.
The legislative process has been a steep learning curve for all of us and where we have ended up is not ideal.
How often do you go to the Doctor’s surgery for a diagnosis and then tell him how he should do his job and what drugs he should proscribe ? Not often I suspect, but it is strange how many people know exactly how foxes should be controlled and by what method, even if they have never personally seen a fox in the wild or ever actually killed a mammal themselves !
There is no doubt that the hunting community has not managed to explain it’s role as a control method in fox population management to everybody’s satisfaction. The sadness is that, in this area, where traditionally non-hunting wildlife managers have now seen how effective and humane a tool the use of hounds is, it is very rarely that hounds are not now used as an integral part of their overall fox control program.
However, it would appear that nowadays, it is better to pass legislation without listening to the opinions of practitioners, rather than stand up to a vocal minority, unless of course, rather belatedly, it is viewed as a hindrance to the advances of medical research !
The major drawback of our present operation is the inability to be selective. Flushing foxes to guns is very efficient, but when a population has been reduced to a level that it can be tolerated by other land users, a selective method of fox control should be employed if possible. Using hounds to hunt conventionally achieved this, but unfortunately is not now an option available to wildlife managers under our current legislation.
However, at least in Scotland, legislators did understand that the use of dogs in the humane control of an animal species is essential and enshrined this in the Wild Mammal (Scotland) Act, which has been further strengthened by recent case law.
The winter period went well with a good number of mounted days. The new law hampers us somewhat at this time of year, as it is more difficult to find people free to act as Guns. My thanks go to those who do manage to support us and I hope more people will be able to do so in the future.
The Spring is a very busy period for us, with hounds going out at least three times a week, although as usual, the late snow somewhat hampered us.
Another good Season with increased support and more land being made available to us. Our thanks also go to the Grampian Police Wildlife Officers, with whom we liaise about our activities throughout the year.