As the cubbing/cub hunting season gets closer to the full day proper fox hunting season it slowly morphs into what looks like the more traditional fox hunting day.
It varies up and down the country as to when the cubbing season starts and ends, and what time in the mornings or late afternoon/evenings they’ll be out training hounds to kill foxes. Many hunts start the season mid to late August or early September and continue until the full hunting season which is for most the end of October or start of November.
Later on in the season, long gone are the 5am and 6am starts, as we lose morning daylight the hunts also change to a later meet time, or for the evening meets earlier to give themselves more hunting time before it goes dark. Each week or every couple of weeks the meets will get later, some as late as 9am or 10am just before the start of the full hunting season and then their usual 11am starts. The temperatures drop which results in the scent of the foxes lingering longer. At the start of cubbing it’s all about training the new hounds to know the scent of a fox, to then attack and kill the fox giving the hounds the taste for fox blood, but, as the cubbing season progresses, they they want the foxes to flee and to be chased by the hounds – it then becomes all about “the thrill of the chase”.
As we get out of summer and further into autumn the crops are harvested, early on there’s nothing more they like than to surround a maize field to keep the young foxes in as they send in the hounds. Once the maize has gone then the hunt will have to focus more on woodlands and other areas they believe they’ll find foxes. Or in some cases areas they know foxes live in their artificial earths.
At the start of the cub hunting season this year’s cubs are still with their families, but as it goes on some of these young foxes have left their families, often due to the hunt moving them further away. They are now seeking their own territories, which gives the hunt more hunting area come the full season, rather than the small areas they’d focused on earlier in the season. Some hunts will attempt to stay and hold up the same woodland for the whole meet early on, until sabs come and move them on. But later in the season the hunt are holding up less without crop fields to hunt, the hunt will be on the move more to search for their quarry, and to train the hounds to give chase, which by now has slowly morphed into something which resembles a full season hunting meet.
Those early meets are no problem for the dedicated sab groups from all over the country, even during cubbing when there’s not so many riders out with the hunts, which makes it easier for them to change their days to try avoid us. You can rest assured that sabs will be doing their utmost to be out in the fields stopping this barbaric pastime.
The cubbing season isn’t only the time of year when new hounds are trained to hunt and kill foxes but it’s also the first hands-on experience new sabs that have been recruited over the summer will have in the field on a hunt day. Sabbing any hunt is very tactical, and it could be argued cubbing even more so. You don’t want to be putting any wildlife in danger by standing in the wrong place or rushing in and flushing out a fox yourself. If you want to get involved in protecting wildlife from hunting, then your best bet is to contact your local sab group. A link to find your nearest group can be found on the HSA website. New sabs know they’ll be out with experienced hunt sabs who’ll offer training and advice. Getting your hands on a copy of the official HSA book ‘The Traditional Art of Hunt Sabotage – A tactics manual’ will also be most helpful.
One of the most successful ways of making a cubbing meet unsuccessful for the hunt is to keep them moving as they attempt to hold up covers or crop fields. By keeping them moving you are stopping them from doing what they are there for, training hounds to get the taste for fox blood. You cannot stand too close as they are holding up, as you are then likely to turn the fox back towards the hounds yourself. You don’t want to be spread out along the edge of a woodland or around a maize field, so you’re not acting the same as the riders who’ll stand on-point to scare the fleeing foxes back to the hounds.
In more recent years we’ve had a lot of success in moving the hunt on with the use of drones, they absolutely hate the drone above them filming from a birds-eye view, capturing footage of foxes fleeing and the hunt attempting to turn them back to the hounds.
The importance of sabbing a cubbing meet is beneficial in the longer term. If the hunt are not successful in training the hounds to pick up the scent to chase and kill a fox, then come the full season the hunt will have a load of hounds that aren’t so good at hunting.
It’s safe to say if you’re into abusing wildlife, no matter the season, the weather, or the time, expect to see the Hunt Saboteurs.