independent

Tuesday 20 August 2019

IT'S ONLY NATURAL

MANY PEOPLE DISMISS HUNTING AS A CRUEL SPORT BUT AOIFE NI DHUILL ARGUES DIFFERENTLY

IT'S ANOTHER crisp winters morning and my stiff fingers clasp the leather reins that are my steering wheel. After our greetings we start on business, and plan our route for the day, while being caught off guard adorning silly frowns on camera. The kennel master releases the hounds.

We follow our hunt master and his hounds, who yelp and yap, their tanned coats whizzing by, in an ecstatic frenzy obedient to their master's whistles and calls. The master always has the final say over all the decisions in the field.

The metal clatter of horseshoes on the village tar macadam is music to my ears, it's hard to believe that that this sport dates back to egyptian times with hounds following a scent.

Somewhere in the fields in front of us there's a fox, picking up the scent of our pack, and making the day worthwhile, we're restless for the chase. The hounds knit through the hedges and soar over banks, we follow their lead. Field after field, so many shades of green fill my palette. The huntmans stalls, to monitor the wind, most importantly to test his hounds as he knows foxes only travel with the wind as to deter their hunters.

The hunt progresses steadily. We encounter several streams and rivers, in which the fox attempts to deceive us by losing his scent by traveling down stream. As we wait along the banks it offers us a golden opportunity to jump the banks and allow our steads to quench their thirst. After our splashing and short folly in the water, we're risen by the blare of the huntsman horn, gathering the hounds. They've caught the scent!

They scuttle, nip and chase. Some hounds stray, but the whips guide them back on course. In the distance the fox's zig zagging path bemuses the frothing pack. This time, he will be caught. We near on him, the hounds can almost clasp his tail with their teeth. He soars ahead escaping their clutch. A hedgerow is the last we see of him. He disappears, the hounds circle bewildered by their lost prey. Somewhere the fox stirs, smirking, thinking back on the time he defeated the Island Hunt.

For those who easily dismiss hunting as a cruel sport, how do you think we lived millennia ago? Many argue that it is unnecessary in these times, but it's not just a sport, it aids farmers by removing predators from their land. What I think is most valuable about hunting is the close knit community of hunt staff, riders, and followers, all held together by our secretary. 'Hunting is natural even foxes do it.'

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