Autumn Staghunting is now just around the corner, with the Devon & Somerset Staghounds starting the first week of August, and the Quantock Staghounds and Tiverton Staghounds a couple of weeks later.
As in cubbing, they are out early to begin with, before the heat of the day dissipates the scent. The opening meet for the DSSH occurs midway through August, and the Quantock Staghounds and Tiverton Staghounds begin their main season in September.
In autumn stag hunting, stags over four years old are targeted. These magnificent animals are in the prime of their lives and have the biggest antlers for the hunters’ trophies.
Ideally, they want one at least five or six years old, with antlers featuring all the “rights” – brow, bay, and trey, as they are called – and at least two points atop each side. If such a “warrantable” stag is not found they will go for one they consider “imperfect”, this could be something as trivial as one with a broken antler!
They will often try to claim a deer was wounded and needed putting down. Setting aside the fact that chasing a wounded animal is beyond barbaric, stags often pick up small strains during the rut which quickly heal themselves without interference. But any excuse, right? Deer are, in fact, far more likely to be injured during the chase itself, often running into fencing or busy roads in their desperate attempts to escape.
At the end of the summer, stags will be big, hefty animals after months feeding on good ground. Their newly grown antlers may even still be in velvet. These new are sensitive and stags will lay up in cool areas trying to avoid the flies attracted to the delicate new flesh.
Chases during autumn staghunting are usually shorter than spring stag hunting. At the beginning of the season, their extra weight slows them down, and then the rigours of the rut begin and stags are in a constant state of exhaustion from 24 hours of fighting and mating with very little food or rest. This all gives an extra dimension to the cruelty. Viewing a beautiful stag being chased to exhaustion in these conditions is heart-breaking and feels especially unfair. The more experienced stag will try to outwit the hunt by hiding and covering his scent, rather than attempting to purely outrun them. Unfortunately, with hunt members posted on point pretty much everywhere, all connected by radio, this is virtually impossible.
Sabs have not been idle through the summer. We have been busy working with the newly formed Action Against Staghunting which is shaping up to be a gamechanger, targeting the very heart of what enables these hunts to keep going. We had a productive meeting, featuring a very inspiring talk from Ian Pedlar, a sab who pioneered sabotaging stag hunts, and gained some valuable tactics and ideas for the coming season. A number of sabs attended and had the opportunity to talk with locals and experienced monitors including ‘The Stagman’, Graham Floyd, a deer expert who was a long-term investigator with the League Against Cruel Sports. And now with a year’s experience sabbing them under ‘apprenticeship’; with expert independent activists, we are ready to take them on for a second year, “storming the castle”; to get right in the midst of the hunts, saving animals and capturing more groundbreaking footage to expose their despicable practices.
We have more sabs, more experience, new equipment and ideas, and a renewed energy and drive built from our shared experiences and teamwork. Footage captured by sabs last season has been making waves across the board, even capturing the attention of Avon & Somerset Police who we have been told are doing “a lot of work” on stag hunting, and the National Police Lead on hunting with hounds, Superintendent Matt Longman.
We have several cases from last season still being processed by police and CPS. The hunts themselves are rumoured to be worried, with some members and supporters even finding themselves struck off mailing lists in a futile attempt to tighten up their security and prevent us from finding them!
As we’ve long known though, there is no loyalty in hunting! See you in the field!
If you see a stag hunt, call the Hunt Sab Tip-Off line on: 07443148426