During the summer months, fox cubs can be often seen in the countryside, exploring their surroundings with their parents close by. But those with malevolent intentions are also watching them, noting their location for when cub hunting – or cubbing – begins.
What is it?
Cubbing, now cynically re-branded as Autumn Hunting, is a form of fox hunting that specifically targets fox cubs. To an observer, the most notable difference between cubbing and typical fox hunting is that it is largely static, with activity concentrated in one area for longer periods of time.
When does it happen?
Cubbing can start anytime from the end of July, once harvesting is completed. Meets are typically early morning beginning around 6am when the scent is strongest and hasn’t been dried up by the heat of the day, gradually starting later as the summer progresses. It can also be early evening, as the sun starts to go down.
Who does it?
Cubbing is a highly secretive business and usually has fewer riders than during the main hunting season. Hunts try to keep it low key as it’s the most blatant type of hunting – there can be no pretence that a trail is being followed. Hunt riders will wear ‘ratcatcher’ – tweed jackets.
Where does it take place?
The hunt will already be aware of fox earths in their country. The foxes may even be living in the hunt’s own artificial earths and being provided with food and shelter by the hunt to keep them in the area ready for hunting. Terriermen, farmers and gamekeepers keep the hunt masters and huntsman informed on where families of fox cubs are living.
When it comes to cubbing time, riders will surround these areas – this can often be a covert (a small copse), a wood, or a maize field – while the huntsman takes the hounds through. If a fox cub tries to escape, the riders make loud sounds by saddle-slapping and whooping to scare the fox back into the covert to be killed. Fox parents will try to lead the hounds away from their cubs, sacrificing their own lives in the process.
Why does it happen?
There are a number of reasons why hunts take part in cubbing:
- Training hounds. Cubbing is predominantly a training period for young hounds. It is used to train them to kill foxes, something that doesn’t come naturally. The young hounds are taken out with older, more experienced hounds and are taught to follow horn and voice calls and not riot after non-target animals. Some hounds won’t show an aptitude for hunting and will be shot. If the young hounds aren’t trained sufficiently it can result in a poor performing pack.
- Training and dispersing fox cubs. Cubbing teaches the young foxes to run and not go to ground, thus ensuring good runs for the rest of the season. Foxes will learn that the sound of a horn is the time to leave the covert and make a run for their lives. It also disperses the cubs across the hunt’s country for future hunting, this especially benefits the hunt if the fox earth location is not accessible during the main season.
- Preparing horses for the main season. New horses are taken cubbing to get them used to riding with hounds and to exercise horses and riders ready for the main hunting season.
- Financial. After a summer without hunting income, the hunt will be keen to begin taking money off their subscribers and car followers.
How to sab it
Many foxes can be killed during the cubbing season but Hunt Sabs can stop this very effectively and also adversely affect the hunt for the rest of the season.
The HSA’s Tactics Officer explained,
“More foxes are killed during cubbing than any other part of this season and for this reason sabbing them becomes all the more important.
The fact that there is no excuse or smokescreen for this grotesque activity means the hunts are likely to be far more concerned about sab presence. Simply finding them can be a major effort however once found they will often move on and give up on that location. As cubbing takes far longer to set up and it is less fluid than a normal hunt simply keeping them moving will mean a successful morning for the sabs.
However if they don’t move it’s important to try and break up the riders surrounding the covert which will create a hole in the wall of noise and allow any cubs to escape. Shoving a camera in the face of the riders and challenging them on their activities usually has the right effect.
You can also call the hounds out of the covert with voice and horn calls but remember to only do this if the hounds can be seen and you’re not drawing them through uncovered areas and the danger of putting up a fox they haven’t scented or seen yet.”
Tip us off
If you suspect cubbing may be taking place or you hear of a meet in advance, please let us know using our confidential tip off line –
07443 148 426