More hounds, more foxes

A study has found that us­ing a full pack of hounds — rather than a cou­ple — to flush foxes re­sults in shorter and more ef­fec­tive chases

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - NEWS -

Areport pub­lished in the Wildlife So­ci­ety Bul­letin has raised ques­tions about the law on us­ing dogs to flush foxes to guns in Eng­land and Wales. The study, un­der­taken by two ve­teri­nary sur­geons, found that us­ing a pack of dogs rather than a pair re­sulted in shorter and more ef­fec­tive chases.

The Hunt­ing Act 2004, which out­lawed most forms of hunt­ing with dogs in Eng­land and Wales, al­lowed an ex­emp­tion for us­ing up to two dogs to flush foxes from cover for them to be shot. The Pro­tec­tion of Wild Mam­mals (Scot­land) Act 2002 al­lowed a sim­i­lar ex­emp­tion but did not limit the num­ber of hounds that could be used. In both cases the ex­emp­tion was in­tended to al­low fox con­trol in ar­eas of up­land forestry where other meth­ods were in­ef­fec­tive.

Lim­it­ing the num­ber of hounds used to flush foxes to two ended the long-es­tab­lished prac­tice of Welsh up­land farm­ers us­ing packs of hounds to drive foxes out of cover so they could shoot them. Since the ban came into force, the Fed­er­a­tion of Welsh Farm­ers Packs has made a num­ber of calls for the re­stric­tion on the num­ber of hounds to be lifted, so that full­size packs can be used.

In 2014 David Burles, the mas­ter of the Gel­li­gaer Farm­ers Hunt, told the writer Char­lie Pye­smith that “un­der the Hunt­ing Act, we’re only al­lowed to flush a fox with two hounds, but you need many more if you’re go­ing to find foxes in large forested ar­eas, like the ones we have round here”.

This con­clu­sion was sup­ported by Lord Bon­omy, who re­viewed fox­hunt­ing leg­is­la­tion for the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment. In his re­port he con­cluded “search­ing and flush­ing by two dogs would not be as ef­fec­tive as that done by a full pack of hounds”.

The newly pub­lished study adds weight to these claims. The au­thors ex­am­ined how ef­fec­tive a pair of hounds is in flush­ing a fox from wood­land com­pared with a pack of hounds, by us­ing the two dif­fer­ent ap­proaches on a set of coverts in the Scot­tish Borders. They found that when a pack was used, 56 per cent more foxes were flushed from cover.

The study has also demon­strated that the use of a pack also led to shorter pur­suits and re­duced times to find foxes. A pair of dogs was found to take al­most three times as long to find a fox and the pur­suit of the fox was five times longer.

The au­thors also noted that on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions pairs of hounds vo­calised but did not flush foxes, lead­ing them to the con­clu­sion that pairs of hounds were find­ing foxes but were un­able to flush them. Matt Cross

“The study found that when a pack was used, 56 per cent more foxes were flushed from cover”

Un­der the Hunt­ing Act 2004, up to two dogs may be usedto flush foxes to guns

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