This article is a compilation of true stories from the hunting / shooting field over the years, the focus being upon some of those rather dodgy and funny little moments that we all experience from time to time.
Antis and Wild Men
One time back in the early 80s when I was amateur huntsman to the local (hare-hunting) beagle pack, we were having a bit of a disturbed day due to a group of about 20 hunt saboteurs. They were quite active, noisy and more mobile than many of their kind across country. In the usual way they false hollered, shouted, whistled, blew horns etc. to try to split and confuse the hounds, used sprays, obstructed, swore at and insulted us. Some had cameras ready to snap away at any signs of robust retaliation, ‘cruelty’ or killing, and to gather mug-shot information of all staff and followers (no cheap mini video recorders / video phones in those days). But though purposely annoying and offensive they did not seem to be a very aggressive or violent bunch; they didn’t have to be as we were almost outnumbered and many of our followers were older, “kwaite naice” middle class types, including a number of ladies, who offered neither physical threat nor firm resistance.
After about two hours of rather messed-up patchy hunting after several different hares, scent being poor anyway, I found myself alone with the hounds, checked, several fields away from all other staff and supporters and almost encircled by about a dozen of these antis. Nothing much was happening yet there was a growing unease to the situation, especially when a distant supporter was seen signalling a view. There had been no violence so far (but you never know) and the huntsman is a key figure – a prime target – as are the hounds themselves. Now as I said they were a relatively fit crowd, but I reckoned and observed not so fit or fast as I was (then) and lacking stamina and technique over wet fields and ditches.
So I called the pack together. They came to me easily being well disciplined and handy, totally ignoring all the little twits’ tootling and shrieking. Then I set off with the hounds at a good fast jog towards a narrow old gateway where I could see and hear only one stout looking hairy bloke in a camouflage coat, while a few sab’s tried to keep near us. The gateway area was very muddy despite having been built-up with rubble & broken bricks, and it was tactically my best way away from the sab’s and on towards where the hare had been seen. But this guy looked and sounded pretty damn scary – especially when I saw him pick up a brick and start waving it about! I thought I was in serious trouble now. Well, I had a word with myself, turned my hunting whip round so’s the handle end could be used if necessary, then fists clenched, head down, ran straight at him as fast as I could. I was sure he was going to try and kick, trip and wallop me with that brick so I was on red-alert, ready for combat so to speak. Whilst I’ve never been what you’d call a fighter, I’ve stood up for me and mine on occasions, and the words of some more thuggy / punchy old school friends ran through my head… “Always hit the biggest one first”. There was a lot of effin’ and blindin’ and blood-curdling threats, but as I got within a few yards he stepped to the side, grinned at me and said “Not yoo young ’un, yoo’m alroight, ’tis they baaasturds… yoo cum on throo’ wi’ the dogs”. Phew! He was a local farm worker and very much on our side (we had a few days foxing with him in the years to follow). He then proceeded to use the main group of antis for target practice with chunky bits of rubble flying in all directions. “Ged orff moi laand”. They did not pass. They gave him a very wide berth, and it took them some time to re-group.
Being perfectly honest our day was rather spoiled by the antis and we went home early, but theirs wasn’t much better either – my new mate, the wildman farmhand had certainly seen to that!
Watch Your Mouth Boy!
Stupid, thoughtless, selfish acts or comments can cause big trouble in the hunting / shooting field just as in all other walks of life. So it is always worth thinking what you are doing or saying in front of anyone, but especially people that you don’t know well, if at all. Over the years I’ve seen and heard some truly ridiculous, inflammatory, plain stupid and appalling things from some hunt supporters, masters & staff, and even the odd game-keeper. But sometimes even the most innocent comment can cause ‘aggro’.
I remember one evening, about 35 years ago, being in a pub with some friends and a whole bunch of others after hunting with a west country harrier pack some 30 miles from home. A hunting mate of the time was one of the terrier men, and he and I were by the bar casually chatting to a local farmer who apparently hadn’t been contacted by or about the hunt; he wasn’t exactly happy, but certainly not angry either. Anyway, my friend just said something like “Oh yes, you know we come here every year a couple of times. We always start on Mr Blank’s – he’s a good bloke…” At this the man we were chatting to turned really shittish. “I’m a bloody good bloke too,” he bellowed, banging his glass down, “but I don’t want you ****s charging about my land without asking. I shan’t have it. And as for that **** Blank…” Oh dear! I had to buy him a pint to calm him down (suddenly my mates all seemed to have vanished to the other end of the bar) and I managed to smooth things over diplomatically.
The thing was, though it wasn’t my pack, my dogs, my territory, or my place to have had to deal with that man I did it for the greater good of hunting, so to speak. The harriers people should have made better arrangements with the farmers, but even so it was just an innocent comment that almost got them barred from a piece of land.
Double Trouble down the Gulley
Another time, over 25 years back, I was out with two others with terriers, lurchers and guns as a guest of an older chap, Mr ‘C’, who then gave us about 4 or 5 days every season. Mr ‘C’ was a very good shot who’d had some fair dogs in his time, though latterly he had no active workers of his own. Anyway, he now made arrangements for a number of ‘guest days’ for various friends, still having extensive permission for foxing on a lot of hill ground with deep gulleys full of cover and holes. All we had to do was to turn up and hunt with him. Nice!
My terriers at the time were youngish, a bit unsteady and inexperienced for these big deep earths, but my lurchers were very fit, sharp, lean and mean! So another chap whose terriers and lurchers were (still are) first class was with our guide working down a gulley that was absolutely honey-combed, while I stood about 150 yards ahead in an open space with my dogs ready to ‘field’ any foxes breaking cover. Another chap, who also knew a fair bit about terriers and lurchers, stood with a shotgun some 50 yards off to my right on the other side.
Suddenly came a shout and a terrier yapping in the gulley. Bang (dead fox). Then another shout from below; two foxes had bolted. This one broke cover up a grassy slope some 70 – 80 yards from us. I slipped the lurchers and they put in a desperate run to close-up on the fox just on the brow, but also just on the edge of a hillside cottage garden. Ooh-er! They disappeared through the garden hedge and some shouting was heard. Oh shit! At that moment another shout from the gulley and within seconds a third fox appeared, running directly towards us, and the chap to my right stopped him with two shots. My lurchers did not re-appear for 4 or 5 minutes, but when they did it seemed as though their fox had got away.
Shortly after I saw two people striding purposefully towards us across the fields on both sides; one from the cottage above, the other from the farm below. It looked like trouble, double-trouble in fact. They both reached me (+ 4 dogs, + 1 shot fox and the nearest shooter) at the same time, and I got it in stereo. On the left – the chap from cottage – “Those dogs chased a fox across our lawn, heard gunshots too, frightened the cat / little girl.” On the right, from cowman, “Who the bloody hell are you? Who said you could bring dogs up here hunting? There’s shotgun pellets falling on the barn roof and cow yard” (which would have been impossible as all shots were fired at least 150 yards away and in the opposite direction). I tried to give brief apologies and explanations to both, but now they started on each other… “And as for you, I’ve told you to keep off these fields, your trespassing, and it’s ***k-all to you whose hunting here, now bugger off.”
“Not doing any harm, don’t be like that.”
“On your way. Now!”
I was on the point of sniggering out loud now, but fortunately I had a nice hip flask in my pocket filled with some oh-be-joyful. So I offered them both a calming pull! It was like the old Hamlet cigar adverts on tele’ (remember that tune?).
Now we had a bit of hush and I explained to the cowman that Mr ‘C’ who was still in that gulley had brought us here, being friendly with the farm owner and having long standing permission. Unfortunately, the cowman hadn’t been told. Also that the shots were fired safely away from the farm, and that yes my lurchers did run a fox through the other chap’s garden, and that I hoped there was no damage, and I apologised for any upset. I gathered that the lurchers had almost caught the fox in the garden (!) but that he had dodged ’em under the front gate and escaped unsighted up the lane.
In the end they both walked off, much less irate. If only I had smoked cigars!
[Our dear old mate Mr ‘C’ died just recently aged 83. He came out with us for an hour or so the season before last, and he used to ring up from time to time to see how we had been getting on.]
Silly Spaniel Story
Another time, over 20 years ago, on a big shoot fox drive with a good crowd, we were working through a coppiced area when ‘Boris’, one of my steady Lakelands, marked a very small rabbity place and began digging hard to get in, just whimpering now and then. Several people were quick and exceedingly pleased to declare that my dog was rabbiting (you know the sort). I thought and hoped otherwise as Boris by then was a steady, clever dog and I had great faith in him. But you only ever know for certain when you’ve dug in don’t you?
The matter must be proven. I had to enlarge the hole and trench on a bit for the dog. He was on the big side for a lot of earths, and though game he physically could not get in where some of my smaller dogs could; but there were no other smaller dogs fit or available on this day. He kept digging on, increasingly keen. It was no more than two feet deep but very narrow, stony and rooty.
Twenty minutes passed and about 15* people had gathered around, including a jolly fat bloke (who helped out keepering) with a rather boisterous spaniel on a lead, and it was just too close to the dig for my liking, whining and lunging about, while my lurchers stood by, alert, silent and ready. I asked the porky fella to move back with his dog and said it could have a look at the fox when I broke through if he wanted. He did move back, but not really far enough. So I asked him again and he shifted another step or two. It was annoying because he knew me well and should have known better than to crowd me at a dig.
I carried on digging for a few more minutes. Suddenly two things happened at once: a rabbit bolted from a tiny hole about 6 feet away causing some jeering laughter from the ranks of onlooking shooters (oh you unbelievers!), and my dog started to speak, hard and steady. I chipped off a couple more spadefuls and there was ‘Charlie’ facing us just inches away round a tight rooty bend. I then heard someone say they knew it was a fox all along! At this moment the bloody spaniel launched itself and bit my dog who was 100% focused on the fox. The terrier barely flinched, gave a quick snap and snarl back at the stupid hyped-up spaniel then continued to keep up the pressure on his fox with full on baying. But I was not having it, I kicked that damn spaniel almost into orbit with extreme force (he flinched considerably under the pressure with full on yelping). And I had some stern advice for the owner too. Grrrh! We fell out big time and didn’t speak for 6 months! Quite honestly they’d both deserved a big hard kick up the arse for that behaviour.
I then dug out a bit more to have a clear view of the fox’s head, shot it cleanly with the old .410, then let Boris and my other dogs draw and rag it.
We had another one from a really crumbly, stony place (an old overgrown quarry) same day soon after. The dogs drew that one as Boris latched on and pulled him back before we got right down in there. Good job too, it was a nasty place to dig.
The big man and I made it up eventually and we’ve stayed on good friendly terms now for many long years. He comes foxing with us once or twice every season, when we are out near his place, and he’s always very generous with ‘refreshments’ on these occasions. While other times in passing he asks “How be’e getting on wi’ the dogs? ’Ad many foxes lately?”
[*As a sad and disturbing aside, in recent years two of those present on that day have committed suicide, whilst another has been done for child pornography computer images.]
Scarlett the Harlot
Another time, not so very long ago, we were on a favourite bit of ground where permission for the taking of all things was held by one of my close hunting friends. We went there frequently for deer, foxes, hares and rabbits, as well as pheasants and ducks more occasionally. On this particular day we were foxing and we had marked to ground in a horrible big bad place about 9-feet down on a steeply wooded bank, under ash roots and bloody great slabs of stone. The terrier, a good little Border bitch ‘Polly’, loaned to me over 3 seasons, was marking steady according to the collar signal (but could not be heard) and had not been seen for an hour or more. Digging was under way, but not going terribly well. It was hard, slow work, the weather was chilly, and the other dogs including my three big lurchers of the time were getting bored and cold.
Did I mention that my mate was a wicked philanderer who shags for England? Well, sometime during the dig and guided in by mobile phone, his latest doxy turned up. She was quite posh totty too: horsey and that; late 20s – early 30s; pretty, slim & quite petite; long brown hair; cap, waxed coat, tight cords and riding boots (phwoah!).
As she approached my lurchers stood up and began whimpering with glee and wagging their tails furiously. I felt much the same myself but hunting matters had to take priority and it was my (on loan) terrier in the ground. Greetings and introductions had barely begun when all three dogs converged upon this attractive young woman and without hesitation pushed their long bony snouts right up between her legs, crotch and arse, back and front, nearly lifting her off the ground. At first she tried to be demure about it, a polite giggle or two, but they just wouldn’t stop and seemed to be… er… getting more excited! Then she started to squeal a bit and slap them. “Get awff you horrible dogs”. I called ’em away, but not without some difficulty, as they were really keen on the scent of her; tails well erect, flagging furiously, arched backs, and I’m sure one even made a few pelvic thrusts! We were all choking with laughter bar for our mate, ‘the stud’.
I then said to him quietly “You know they only ever do that to women who are on, or who’ve just had sex”. Well he nearly had a fit! “She’s not on and she’d better not have been having any sex,” he hissed (meaning with anyone other than himself). He was a well-agitated man by now, poor chap, close to apoplexy. So we left it at that and returned to our excavations, with little smirks and sniggers here and there.
What happened next? Well, “Scarlett the Harlot” got cold and buggered off after another hour or so. Meanwhile we were within inches of the terrier when we hit a seam of rock. Eventually after some ineffectual clanging of spades the terrier and quarry suddenly moved. I think the fox tried to bolt but saw other dogs, or dozing guns, and flipped back down again. Polly the terrier showed out briefly dashing between entrances and we grabbed her. Time was getting on, rain was coming down, enough was enough. So we didn’t get our fox that day. But I hadn’t told my friend a lie either!
Good luck, good hunting, goodbye for now.