A 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.
If you know from experience which coverts the hunt is likely to draw. beating a covert before the hunt arrive can have the effect of clearing it of foxes. Beating should be done no earlier than about 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 the 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 be shunted should 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 can be very difficult due to communication problems in the dark and over rough terrain. Also there is the danger that foxes driven from a covert will wait in hedgerows and field borders where they will actually be easier for the hunt to put up.
Coverts can 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.
With 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 occasionally. 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 the wind direction and try to work out how a fox would run from each one. If there’s time lay several trails through the wood so that the drawing pack can’t miss them. Start at one end of the covert and walk with the wind through the wood. continuing the trails into the open. If time is short you could simply lay a trail around the perimeter of a covert, in the hope that the hounds will switch to this from a genuine scent. You’ll only need two or three people to lay the trail. with one dragging the cloth or bag and the others walking ahead to check that the way ahead is safe, that it doesn’t lead into danger for the hounds, and that it doesn’t lead to any fox earths.
Remember that roads and dry ground will not hold the scent, and if it looks like raining, only lay the trails inside coverts. as they are likely to be washed away in the open. Obviously false trails are going to be less effective in poor scenting conditions. Trails will be most effective when laid shortly before the hunt arrives. The longer the trails, the more time will be consumed by the 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 be able to encourage 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 Tactics
Whilst carrying out any of the above tactics, keep an eye open for blocked earths. If these 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 fox. 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 unblocked, thereby affording a hunted fox another refuge, with little chance of it being dug out. Gates 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