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Quarrying

(The opinion of Jeremy Whaley MBH)

So, you want to be a human Quarry and be hunted by a pack of hounds, it’s easy isn’t it? You just get a map of the route and just run don’t you?

NO

The biggest mistake people make in thinking about ‘hunting the clean boot’ (HTCB) is that they think it can be compared, and is therefore similar to, hunting wild animals (WA) before the Hunting Act 2004. So let’s consider the differences.

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​1.  In WA hunting, you cleared square miles of country and only had to avoid small parcels of land. With HTCB you clear routes with landowners in advance and are expected to stick to those routes. In some cases, parts of those routes may be no more than 10m wide - even narrower for the riders. So the margin for error in HTCB is vastly tighter.

2.  In WA hunting, you hunted any target animal within the target species, and if you lost the one you hunted, you merely looked for another. Also, in WA hunting hounds frequently changed which individual animal hounds were hunting, while they were hunting, and few people knew anything about it. So you could in effect have a relay effect, depending on the number of target animals in the area. In HTCB, you can only hunt one (or one group) of target species (human) and ignore other same species you encounter on that hunt. if you lose that one Quarry, the hunts is over.

 

3.  In WA hunting, except in very exceptional circumstances, you started the hunt with seconds or a few minutes behind the target animal, ensuring that the scent was as fresh as it can be given climatic and atmospheric conditions. In HTCB, even if you started behind an olympic athlete, he/she would need at least 10 minutes start to get a hunt of any distance. I’m not aware of any hunts that enjoy the services of olympic athletes! In most cases, a hunt of a decent length would need a start of 15 to 20 minutes, or longer. I have HTCB an hour cold, but not easy. I’ve heard it said by people I would normally consider quite knowledgeable about hunting, that because a human is larger that most WA hunted, therefore the scent is stronger. But, STOP, THINK, all humans I’ve seen running for hounds, run with clothes on including shoes, therefore scent producing matter open to the environment is smaller, and cleaner that most animals.

4.  Clean boot hounds learn to adapt to poor climatic and atmospheric conditions and quickly learn that if human scent is not available where they lose it, or where they never actually pick it up in the first place, there is a line of ‘broken ground scent’ (BGS) where the runner/s have crushed vegetation and soil. By following BGS (successfully) they are always rewarded with regaining the Quarry scent on better ground, or catching their Quarry with a happy huntsman. The downside of this is that everything from wild animals, vehicles and other humans can produce BGS and that is why I always say, only a fool or a liar says “I don’t like to know where the Quarry’s route is”. If you don’t know what the Quarry’s general route is, how can you possibly know if they are HTCB or hunting BGS of a wild animal? If you repeatedly let the hounds hunt BGS up to the scent of a wild animal and then hunt on, you are teaching them it is okay to hunt those animals. Of course, sometimes Quarries go wrong and then the huntsman has to make a very critical decision - hounds are starting to run ‘off piste’, so does he/she stop them or let them run on. Stop them and they’re right and he/she damages his/her relationship with the hounds - let them run on and they’re wrong, and he/she is teaching the hounds to hunt ‘riot’ (wild animals). Only by knowing the country and the planned route can a huntsman know how much leeway to give the hounds before interfering. With WA hunting, none of this paragraph really applies.

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The boots may start clean, but rarely remain so!

2.  If running in a group, stay in that tight group, you need to be mixing one ‘pot’ of scent, not creating patches of different scents where the fastest runner runs on, and slower runners cut corners to catch up. Far better where possible when hunting in groups to ensure those groups have similar abilities, or are willing to run at the slowest person’s pace.

 

3.  On most routes, the Quarries will have enough geographical leeway to test the hounds, with 90 degree turns, running through foil, tracks, water etc. However, this does take some knowledge/skill to carry out with any effect.

 

4.  Throughout a hunt, watch out for wildlife and avoid running lines in the same basic direction as the wildlife. Better to modify your route within the agreed route’s limitations and/or cross that wildlife line at 90 degrees.​

 

5.  Avoid going close to groups of spectators or other ‘off piste’ walkers where possible - yes they might be 50 yards away, but in a just mild breeze your line can be smothered by their cloud of human scent.

 

6.  Do not run grass headlands or tracks across fields unless specifically told to do so. Continually running headlands and tracks teaches hounds to lift their heads and make for the nearest headland as they learn this is the most likely place they will find their line. As such, if they lose the line in the middle of a field, their first instinct is to run to the nearest headland, where they might find the line of an ‘off piste walker’ or resting wildlife. By running the fields, it gives the hunt staff maximum notice and room to correct should hounds go wrong. By running the headlands, it can give the hunt staff less than 3 seconds to react to a problem. Hounds are jealous hunters - they want to be first on the line - handled properly at a check they will keep their noses down while the hunt staff and Field are QUIET AND STAND STILL, and then one hound will be rewarded with gaining the line, opening (speaking), which will draw all the other hounds to him or her. In school, when the teacher asked a whole class a question and you were the first person to put your hand up and get it right - remember how that felt? That is the ‘magic moment’ that makes a huntsman’s day.

The best reward for the hounds is to hunt right up to the Quarries and then suddenly see them just feet away. If they regularly see the Quarries finished some hundreds of yards away, many hounds learn to just give up and walk to the Quarries, thus spoiling their ‘drive’. Just crouching down low can keep this drive in the hounds to the last possible minute.

There’s more I could say, but those are the simple basics. So, it could be said that Quarries are the most important people on the hunting field, and I wouldn’t disagree with that - at least, when they get it right they are.

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