PRE-MEET TACTICSA lot can be done to sabotage a fox hunt before it starts to hunt, by ensuring that there are unlikely to be foxes in the area, by covering the scent of those foxes that remain, and even by leaving false trails. Pre-meet tactics require that you know where the hunt are going to meet, as they all take quite some time. Often it is a good idea to arrive at the area to be hunted early to familiarise yourself with the land around the meet, with special reference to roads and footpaths. Check the wind direction and try to ascertain the scenting conditions.
Pre-BeatingIf you know from experience which coverts the hunt is likely to draw. beating a covert hefore the hunt arrive can have the effect of clearing it of foxes. Beating should be done no earlier than bout half an hour before the hunt are likely to draw a covert, as foxes will return fairly quickly. To carry out beating form a line at the up wind end of the covert and walk through thc wood using whistles horns and hunting calls in an imitation of the hunt. The line should beat right to the end of the covert. as foxes are often loath to leave. Care should be taken to keep the beating line straight. The area to he shunted hould he beaten systematically in this fashion covert after covert away from the meet. If only a small number of sabs are available rook scarers could be used to flush the wood . If timed to go off up until the time of the hunt they will ensure that flushed animals will not return. You must make sure that the rookies are set well above head height in ever green trees (to avoid fire risk) and away from footpaths and bridleways. It must be stressed that pre-beating call be very difficult due to communcation prohlems in the dark and over rough terrain. Also there is the danger that foxes driven from a covert will wait in hedgerows and field horders where they will actually be easier for the hunt to put up.
SprayingCoverts ean be sprayed with a scent duller (see tactics article in HOWL 55) before the hunt arrive.to confuse hounds. Spraying should be conducted at hound head height with particular emphasis on gateways and bridleways. This will negate any scent in the area though any foxes may well remain. In woods too large to spray completely or when just a few sabs are available it may well be worth spraying a section or two. particularly at the down wind end so that hounds that do pick up a scent elsewhere in the covert will be likely to lose it as the fox is forced out of the wood and through the sprayed area.
False TrailsWith false trails the intention is to simulate the scent trail left by a fox. making the huntsman and hounds believe they have found a scent. They are ideal when you find it hard to get onto the land once the hunt has started or when there are large numbers of thugs or police intent on preventing you from sabotaging the hunt in other ways.
The best results are obtained using a dried blood solution. For those not keen on dried blood. fox bedding can be used if you know of a sanctuary that has a fox. The bedding must be fresh. so you will need to collect it early on the morning of the sab.
For blood. use an absorbent cloth. and carry the container to re-soak the rag occationally. For bedding or a road casualty use a netting bag tied to a string. Having decided which coverts the hunt is likely to draw, assess thc wind direction and try to work out how a fox would run from each one. If thcrc's time lay scvcral trails through thc wood so that thc drawing pack can't miss them. Start at one end of the covert and walk with thc wind through the wood. continuing the trails into thc opcn. If time is short you could simply lay a trail around the perimeter of a covcrt, in thc hope that the hounds will switch to this from a genuine sccnt. You'll only necd two or three people to lay the trail. with one dragging thc cloth or bag. and the others walking ahead to check that thc way ahcad is save, that it doesn't lcad into danger for the hounds, and that it doesn't lead to any fox carths.
Rcmcmber that roads and dry ground will not hold the scent, and if it looks like raining, only lay thc trails insidc coverts. as they are likely to be washcd awaly in the open. Obviously false trails are going to be less eftectivc in poor scenting conditions. Trails will be most effective when laid shortly before the hunt arrives. Thc longer the trails, the more time will be consumled by thc hunt on a false run, but a trail that can take thirty minutes to lay might be covered by hounds in just a few minutes, so 'jink' when you can. and lay circular trails wherever possible.
During the hunt. you may bc able to cncourage hounds onto your trails with voice and horn calls. If you don't know the meet in advance, you could try laying some last minute trails when you have found the hunt, though usually there is not enough time for this.
Other Pre-Meet TacticsWhilst carrying out any of the above tactics, keep an eye open for blocked earths. If thcse are in soft soil don't unblock the earth, as this could create an opportunity for a dig out. If you unblock such an earth and a fox goes to ground, the terriermen are more likely to block any exits and dig out the tox. If the soil is very hard, frozen, particularly full of roots or stones, or the earth is a large warren, it can usually be safely unblockcd, thereby affording a hunted fox another refuge, with little chance of it being dug out. Gatcs can be secured with wire, or even padlocks and chains. This will delay the hunt and perhaps even force them to hunt in less favourable country. Finally, if hunting conditions have been bad for a day or two before a meet, it is sometimes worth ringing any local newspapers that advertise the hunt, and tell them that the hunt has been cancelled. This can have the effect of losing the hunt some supporters and create confusion
GROUSE SHOOTINGSeason: August 12th-10th December
Grouse are smaller than pheasant and larger than partridge which they resemble. They are found in coveys, large and small, sometimes singly, sometimes of 20 birds or more. Later in the season they often pack in large numbers. They feed mostly on heather shoots, occupying bleak moorland. They are very hardy birds living in cold conditions, breeding and maturing early. They take to their wings within a week of hatching and in spite of endemic disease on most moors, they are one of the strongest flying birds.
Although not in the strictest sense of the word artificially reared, the moors are keepered and the grouse population kept artificially high e.g. the heather is burned to encourage the growth of new shoots, every form of winged and fourlegged predator is rigidly exterminated etc.If left alone the population would stabilise at a much lower figure and natural immunity to endemic disease develop in most cases.
Birds are shot in two ways; walking-up or driving shooting.
Walking-upentails the guns walking in a line across the moor, with the wind, sometimes with a variety of gundogs to disturb concealed birds, shooting as they take off. This method is employed mainly in the later part of the season when the numbers have been depleted by driven shooting or on moors where grouse are in short supply anyway.
Shooting driven birdsis the traditional form of grouse shooting. Grouse are driven by a long line of beaters over the waiting guns, concealed behind shooting butts. The drive can cover miles of moorland and often be out of sight until within reach of the shooting butts.
WHERE ARE GROUSE SHOOTS ADVERTISED?
- On the roadside. Notice boards at the beginning of footpaths or public tracks leading onto a grouse moor. They will tell you when the moor is closed for shooting.
- National Park Planning Boards will supply on request a list of dates when moors will be closed for shooting along with a photocopied map showing moor boundaries. They have negotiated access agreements with shoot owners in the area, that allow the public onto the moors at certain dates, providing that the moors are allowed to close on certain days for shooting.
- In some local newspapers, under the public notices column, they will list moors, that are accessible to the public, and when they will be closed.
- Some County Councils have negotiated public access agreements with the owners of grouse moors and it becomes their task to inform the public that these moors will be closed. These county councils will keep lists of such moors and when they are closed.
- It should be remembered here that most grouse are huge, private, fenced-off tracts of land where no member of the public is ever allowed. You will have great difficulty in finding shoot dates for these moors, because the owners are under no obligation to warn the public and publicise the dates. It should also be pointed out that those moors which have had access agreements negotiated with them and allow public on, have to fix days of shooting well in advance of the 12th August. Once decided on, the dates cannot be changed - so if one shoot is disrupted by sabs, they cannot hold another to make up for lost sport. Unfortunately, these shoot dates are never available until the first week of August.
- reflecting light into the eyes of shooters to disrupt their aim
- materials that will reflect light and warn grouse of impending danger at the butts. Hand mirrors would also be useful.
DRESSWear white/yellow/light colours that will assist in clearing the grouse whilst pre-beating and make you stand out when in the shooting butts. Otherwise try and look like a hiker as it may provide you with a cover story on the moors. Strong sensible footwear is a must for high, often boggy rocky slopes. Also of course clothing that can protect you from the elements is a must. Fog, rain and winds are a common feature of the Pennines and Dales. Lastly, don't forget grouse are colour-blind; so a colour like red is not as effective as it may at first appear.
PLANNING A GROUSE SHOOT SABBecause regional or joint hits are needed to sab a shoot effectively, the organising groups really need to explore the shoot moors and it is vital that someone knows their way around the moor. A good sab is really dependant on the planning that has led up to it. The following points have to be known:-
How far does the shoot boundaries extend - they cannot shoot willy-nilly over the nearest 100 miles of moorland. The moor is divided up into say 5 or 6 shoots and shooting your neighbour's grouse just is not cricket.
You need to know all access points onto the moor. How far can you get a Landrover up the track? Most of the access to the butts will be little better than dirt tracks. Remember also, grouse shooters are often sickly creatures and hate walking uphill. Nine times out of ten there should be some means of getting a Landrover up to the butts.
Lines of shooting butts are marked on the 2 1/2" scale maps as are shoot boxes. All these lines have to be marked onto the O.S. map; there could be as many as six lines of 12 butts. Once they are marked it is possible to determine which stretches of moor belong to which line of butts i.e. what particular stretch of moor is beaten for each butt line. Once all the facts are marked on the map, you can determine the direction the beat-line will take, the size of moor you have to beat for each line of butts and indeed even the line of butts that will be used. Ensure all butts have been checked and correspond to those marked on the map. Also some may be "double butts"; can be shot form the front and the back and used for two beats.
With this information in hand, obviously moving across the moors and directing sabs becomes a lot easier.
TACTICS BEFORE THE SHOOT STARTSPre-beating is the most effective method, and it should be done:-
- With the wind - no bird wants to fly into the wind.
- Away from the line of shooting butts that are to be used first and indeed beyond the point that shoot beaters will start their beating.
- If possible downhill; it is a lot easier to force birds to move in this direction.
TACTICS AFTER THE SHOOT HAS STARTED (DRIVEN)Depending on how many sabs there are and how well the pre-beating has gone there are a number of options open.
As in hare coursing, counter-beating or flank beating can take place. However this should not merely be an opposing line of sabs parallel to grouse beaters. The aim is to move or funnel grouse in a particular direction. Taking into account wind, land gradient and position of shoot butts, a line of around 45 degrees to grouse beaters and shoot butts should be formed. This should be as tight as possible - as birds approach and are turned down the sab line, so the noise should progress down the line. If the whole sab line is a block of noise all the time, not only will you simply turn the grouse back but you will wear your voice out. So the grouse have to be funnelled away from both shoot butts and beaters. Controlled noise and constant attention are required for counter-beating to work as it should.
As the grouse beaters advance on butts and sabs so the counter-beat line will have to slowly retreat, as beaters meet the front end of the sabs line, so these sabs should move down the line. Alternatively, they should fall back to the butts and block the line of fire of the shooters.
If it proves impossible to form a static counter-beat line at an angle than a line of sabs should be placed approximately 200 metres out from the butts. This line should be very tight and noisy; the object being not to turn the birds back into the beaters but to make them rise up into the air, out of range (50 metres) of the guns. This however is a somewhat dodgy tactic, the best means of defense of the grouse is low flight hugging the hill gradients. By forcing them up higher, they are denied this natural defence. Sabs have to ensure birds DO fly high and must watch that shooters do not shoot behind their butts after the birds have flown over and started to descend.
The "ultimate" tactic is to occupy butts and block the line of fire at both the front and the rear of the butt. The shooting butt is usually made of natural materials i.e. timber, turf, stone and is usually shoulder height. Its prime task is to provide camouflage for the gun-wielder, hence their tweedy attire. Clearly then no shooter is going to want white sheets, banners, piles of non camouflaged bodies, lots of silvery reflective items, screams and shouts etc., as it just might ruin his camouflage cover. By standing in front and on top of the butt it becomes more difficult to shoot accurately. Sometimes shooters will put away their guns when sabs resort to this tactic, others will attempt to carry on; groups must be prepared to assist areas that persist in shooting around sabs. Good communications and quick thinking should take care of most trouble spots. This tactic is not as stupid as it may sound. The majority of shooters will not shoot in close proximity to people, and indeed the BFSS official line on such confrontation is to advise shooters to put away their guns immediately, and in fact to lock it in a secure vehicle (well you can never be too sure these days, with crime as high as it is!). If shooters persist in shooting past you, bring up the fact that the shooter is refusing to toe the accepted line of the god-like BFSS.You never know, it might work!
During the day, guns and beaters will move to different lines of butts on their moor. Always keep with the guns, just as you would keep with the hounds on a fox hunt.
Remember the Country Code.
WALK-UP SHOOTING TACTICSBeing well ahead of the shooters is the main tactic to adopt here. At times shooters will abandon their butts and forming a long line, move across the moor with the wind and shoot as grouse get up in front of the moving line. Sab beaters should form an arc 400-500 metres ahead with the two ends furthest from the shooters and keep ahead of them clearing all bird-life as they proceed.
Care has to be taken that sabs proceed at the same speed as guns and that guns do not switch direction, leaving the sab line too far away to swing back in front of them.
PHEASANT SHOOTSSeason: October 1st - February 1st
Wild pheasants are now almost a thing of the past and the shooters now breed and rear their own birds to satisfy their demands. Shooting syndicates are set up to ease the cost and in many woods can now be found the rearing pens. You will come across them as you pre-beat woods on fox hunts.
From incubation the chicks are kept in large sheds and as they get older they are placed in larger and larger pens until they are old and "ripe" enough to be released from their holding pens into the countryside. Feed is kept permanently for them in hanging containers, i.e. old plastic drums to ensure the pheasants remain in the area where they are to be shot. Also, an aniseed solution is put around coverts, the smell from this appeals to the pheasants and they stay in the vicinity.
The shoots take place regularly and will be advertised in shooting magazines and locally. Most shoots take place just before Christmas. A large shoot will generally take place with beaters and the shooters remaining stationary. Several beats will take place during the day. Smaller shoots may be of the walk-up fashion.
TACTICSAction has to be taken early in an attempt to prevent birds from remaining in the area they are released into. The feed containers can easily be located and you should act accordingly.
Pheasants have been known to follow a trail of the feed for some distance and remain if enough food is left. They will particularly follow an aniseed trail which can be sprayed from a garden spray. The aniseed fluid, bought from chemists, should be mixed with spirits such as white spirits. Grain soaked overnight in aniseed as a trail will also work.
BeatingMuch the same as grouse shoots, when their beaters and shooters are in position, beat away towards their beaters. If there are enough of you, stand in front of their guns and prevent them from shooting.
On a walk-up shoot, position yourself ahead of the shooters and beat away at the same speed as the shooters walk, always watching to see if they change direction.
No of clubs in England and Wales : 27
Ireland : Coursing is governed by the Irish Coursing Club and the rules differ slightly, as the hares are gathered before the meet and released from a man-made tunnel into the coursing field when needed. This is known as "park coursing".
Season: September 15th-March 10th
Usual start: Any time after 9.00 am.
Hare coursing, as opposed to other forms of blood sports involving hounds, is not a pack event. Only two dogs are involved on any one "course" and the area involved in the chase is usually enclosed. The hounds hunt by sight. According to the NCC (The National Coursing Club, the governing body) coursing does not claim to control hare numbers, but conserves them by ensuring that some grounds regularly coursed are not shot over outside the season. However, in most coursing areas hare shoots, to reduce numbers, does take place.
HoundsGreyhounds are the most popular dogs used in coursing and the NCC has a standard set of rules drawn up to regulate the proceedings. Greyhounds may be trained by using dummy hares or live hares in competition with another hound in open country. Several reports have been heard of live captive hares and rabbits being used, and also cats. Greyhounds used in greyhound racing may be trained at course meetings and retired hounds from racing may finish their lives in coursing surroundings. Other hounds used are Whippets, Saluki, Deerhounds, Borzois, Afghans, Lurchers.
The average days spent coursing in a year amount to 120 days for greyhounds and 25 days for whippets, saluki and deerhounds.
SlipperThis is the person who "slips" (releases) the two hounds onto the selected hare. He uses a special attachment provided with twin collars which enables him to release the dogs simultaneously. He will judge whether the hare is fit enough to be coursed (i.e. strong and without "balled up" (clay clogged) feet), if it is found to be "lacking" then he will wait for the next hare. He is registered and trained by the NCC.
JudgeMounted on a horse, for better visibility, he awards points to greyhounds according to their ability.
BeatersA gang of people, using white flags on poles, who form three sides of a box and drive wild hares towards the coursing field. At large meets such as Altcar, they may be controlled by a system of walkie-talkies. They take advice from the local game keeper as to the normal feed paths taken by hares, as they say that a hare will not be driven in a direction not normally followed. At Altcar, and possible other grounds, hares are kept in the area by placing feed in the surrounding fields. Beaters form in a different way for "walk-up" coursing. Beaters are usually paid for their services and the club may employ children. Other persons involved will be mentioned in the text.
LAYOUT OF THE COURSING AREAThe field used for the actual chase is normally grass or unploughed, and is, ideally surrounded by a hedge or ditch and ridge. Hounds hunt by sight and should lose the hare when it passes through the hedge - this is not always the case and both animals have been known to disappear over the horizon. The coursing club may get permission to build a "sough" (an artificial shelter, usually dug into a bank or hedgerow) into which the hare can escape. This may be necessary in more open country, such as the Fens where shelter is not guaranteed. Spectators, bookies and owners stand outside the coursing field. The only persons allowed in this area are the Judge and the Slipper (on larger courses maybe also the owners of the two coursing dogs and possibly four pickers-up). The pickers-up are there to make sure the hare is dead if it gets caught by the dogs. Silence and static positions should be maintained by the onlookers, and under NCC rules, the hare must not be headed back into the field (not always upheld).
A TYPICAL DAY'S STATIC COURSINGThe programme for each club is sent out about a month before the season starts, so that the owners may enter their dogs. Entry fees may vary, but obviously the more prestigious the event the higher up the scale the fee. The entry money goes towards the prize money.
Names of entered dogs are drawn from a hat to pair them for each course. A knockout competition then takes place for the final pair. The first dog listed in each pair wears a red collar and stands to the left in the "slips" (as the collar is known), the owner standing to the left of the field. The other dog wears a white collar and he and his owner stand to the right. The slipper will position himself in the shelter of a wall or hedge or, as at Altcar, a specially constructed hay or wooden shed. A number of beaters, anything from 30-120 will form a beating line some 1-3 miles away from the coursing arena and will drive hares with the wind towards the coursing field. This will take up to 45 minutes. As the beating line approaches the coursing field, the centre of the line will remain straight whilst the flanks will curve forward to form a funnel through which hares can be channelled onto the coursing field. As the hare enters the field the slippers will judge its suitability to be coursed and , satisfied, will let it run up to 80 - 100 metres ahead of him and then release the dogs.
The object is not to kill the hare, but to test the hounds against each other, and points are awarded accordingly. As the hare runs it will turn sharply to evade the jaws of the hounds, and because greyhounds are faster than the hare, they will overshoot and will have to double back. Some dogs have a smaller turning point than others, but some may make up by being faster on the straight. As the hounds twist and turn after the hare points are awarded thus:
1/2 - 3 points for the lead dog at the first turn
1 point for the dog that leads the hare beyond 90
1/2 point for the dog that turns the hare less than 90
1/2 - 1 point for the kill (although not the object of the exercise, but points are awarded in special circumstances)
The judge will indicate the winners by raising the appropriate coloured handkerchief (i.e. red or white). Other colour used - blue indicates a "bye" meaning that a dog has been withdrawn), therefore, raising a blue and red means white has been withdrawn and that red is the winner of the bye, and vice versa. Yellow means that a tie has occurred and that the dogs will have to run again later. Some dogs are not capable of running a second course and normally no dog runs more than three times in one day. The judge's actions are duplicated by a Flag Steward, thus passing the message onto spectators. When all the hares have been beaten through and there are still courses to be run, a new area may be chosen. If insufficient hares are to be found to complete the card, the prize money is awarded between the heat winners, unless the match takes place over a few days.
WALKUP COURSINGAfter a mornings "static" coursing, the club may switch to "walk-up" coursing in the afternoon, if it is felt that more hares will be found by this method or if the surrounding fields are not suitable for beating. Walk-up coursing is sometimes practised as a rule, rather than an exception, by "unofficial" coursing clubs - this is known as lurching. The layout now changes and a line of beaters, with the slipper and dogs in the centre, will walk over the fields putting-up hares in front of them. When a suitable hare is moving the line halts and the dogs are loosed. Points are awarded in the same way as in static coursing.
Only the judge is allowed in front of the line and if not enough beaters are there to form a line then spectators and owners will join in. The picker-ups also have to remain behind the slipper, so if a hare is caught they will have to run forward in order to kill it.
GENERAL OBSERVATIONSIf a greyhound catches a hare, it will grab any part of the animal. Once it has hold it will not drop the hare and may run off with it. Both hounds may grasp the hare and the much disputed, but well documented, tug-of war will ensue. That the hare suffers cannot be disputed but "torn-to-shreds" is not the best way to describe the outcome. Internal injury is more likely and the screams of an injured or distressed hare resembles that of a human infant. We are told that a caught hare is despatched by a picker-up within three seconds, but this is by no means always the case. In a well-documented and much sneered at instance in 1975, a hare was screaming in the jaws of a hound for over two minutes before having it's neck broken by a picker-up. (The event was filmed but labelled as rigged by bloodsports supporters who were shown the extract as part of the evidence against coursing in the House of Lords enquiry)
HARE COURSING TACTICSEstablish beforehand which are the coursing fields. Determine the areas and direction which hares are beaten in from and the likely location of the funnel (which is the area where the hares will be held before release into the coursing field). The funnel is normally always in the same place for each particular coursing field, as the beating will normally follow the same pattern. There are three main sab tactics:-
Pre-beatingThe beating of hares is a lot more difficult than pre-beating fox hunts. To have effect, the line has to cover the width of the area covered by the coursing beaters, which can be up to two miles. Taking into account wind direction and the location of the coursing field, use the beating line to drive hares down wind, outward and away from the coursing fields to a position which will make it difficult for them to return (i.e. over a road or stream or into a large patch of woodland. Obviously care must be taken when beating over roads to position sabs to control traffic). Clearly, large numbers of sabs are required for pre-beating. The best distance between sabs in the line is 10-120 yards. Sabs should wear bright clothing and have white flags or fertiliser bags. It is imperative that the line is kept straight as possible. It should continue at the pace of the slowest person. The use of CB's and the use of appointed stewards to control groups of say, twenty sabs in the line will be helpful in ensuring that the line remains straight. Noise is all important, but it must be controlled. Too much noise can panic hares into running back through the beating line. Whistles and horns are recommended. Equally important is ensuring that the line goes to the very end of the pre-arranged destination. To do this successfully, the outside flanks should curve in until the only open gap gives access to the required destination. At this stage there will be a lot of hares in a panic ridden and confused state within the funnel. Movement of flags must be increased and the lines tightened up to ensure that hares attempts to break through the beating lines fail. If there is no suitable place to which the hares can be pushed into safety, then they must be beaten away from the coursing field and some sabs must remain to prevent them from returning to within the coursing range. This may be necessary anyway, as hares do not like to be on unfamiliar ground.
Counter-beatingWhen pre-beating is finished, sabs should wait for the coursers first beat line to form up. Then sabs should form an opposing line between the coursing arena and the coursers beat. Sabs should then advance their beating lines toward the coursers beat. On approaching their line, the flanks should curve in to prevent hares from running around the sides and the sabs should pass right through the coursers line. This tactic needs to be repeated each time their beating line forms. In order to scare the hares back through the coursers beat, it is necessary to make more noise than them. Smoke flares and air-horns can be of assistance here in forcing hares to flee in the desired direction.
Funnel beatingIf the beaters are persistent, they will eventually succeed in bringing some hares to the coursing arena where they will be held up in a funnel or V shape at one end of the coursing field. Sabs must make every effort to break up this formation by breaking through the lines of beaters and panicking the hares into running in any direction. This can be done by charging through, but if this proves to be impossible, rockets can be fired over the formation to panic the hares out. If this is successful, the funnel formation will be ruined and beating will have to be resumed by the coursers. In this case resort to tactic two - Counter-beating. On no account should any attempt be made to run onto the coursing arena, as this will prove to be ineffective and you run the very real risk of attack by supporters and/or arrest.
Be on your guard against the coursers moving to a different area at lunch time. Also if you have been particularly successfully they may resort to rough or walk-up coursing, in which case they will split up and go across country in search of hares. In this event walk about 50 -60 metres in front of each group and put the hares up by making a lot of noise, so clearing them from the coursers path. As rough coursing is not official, you could encounter it at any time, even outside the usual season.
The meets are advertised by the National Coursing Club and a full list usually appears in the national "sporting" journals. A list of coursing club secretaries is available from your local sab group. Hare coursing meets have been known to be violent in the past, so think hard and plan well before attempting to organise one.
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