The sounds of the New Forest Hounds meeting at the Rhinefield House Hotel, before starting their day of hunting using a scent trail, (thus, no foxes are harmed in case you’re wondering)….
During the main hunting season, which typically runs from early November to the end of February, the hunt will meet Tuesday and Saturday mornings at 10.45am. The meet will either be in a forest car park, or it will be by invitation at a private house, hotel or pub. These are referred to as lawn meets, and it is customary at these for participants to enjoy a small tipple before setting off.
Once the meet is over, usually after 20-30mins, the huntsman will sound his horn and move off with hounds to the first covert where he will cast his hounds and encourage them to search for their quarry.
Sometimes the trail may be found immediately, and the chase begins in earnest, or the huntsman may have to move on from covert to covert, recasting his hounds several times before a trail is found.
The unpredictability of hunting is one of the elements that adds to its appeal. Once the hounds are on a scent, they “give tongue” or “make music”, and once the hounds have left the covert, the field master will lead the mounted field in hot pursuit.
Once on a run, the control which the huntsman has over his hounds, and the respect and trust the hounds have in the huntsman, is a pleasure to behold. A run may be brief and fast if scent is good, or it may be long and slow with hounds having to work hard to keep on the line. In any event, the huntsman will re-cast, and the day will go on until 3 or 4pm. (Based on information from newforesthounds.co.uk. Visit the site for more details and an absolutely fascinating history that dates back 900 years!).