This section is from the book "Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting", by J. Otho Paget. Also available from Amazon: Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting.
I have felt considerable diffidence in offering my opinions on the subjects already reviewed, but in venturing to write on the mysteries of the huntsman's science, I am more than ever conscious of the magnitude of the task I attempt. Every one who has hunted hounds, and most of those who have followed them, have formulated in their own minds certain theories and ideas as to the way a fox should be pursued. It would be impertinence on my part to think of teaching such as these, and consequently I address myself solely to the rising generation. I cannot hope to leave no point untouched, and when I have finished much will be still left unsaid. Hunting is a sport on which the last word will never be spoken.
I think the best plan will be to begin with the commencement of a day's hunting, and then we can discuss the questions affecting each particular moment. We will suppose you have drafted your hounds the previous day, and all are ready to start when the kennel-doors are opened. A very important thing here occurs to me, and it is, that your horse should be quiet with hounds, for when they first greet the man who hunts them, they are certain to jump up in a way liable to frighten any horse unused to them. Hounds should be always taken slowly to the meet, and in warm weather the horses should hardly go out of a walk, but on ordinary occasions the rate may be set down at six miles an hour. The whippers-in like to have the pack in close order, all crowded up together; but when going to the meet the huntsman should see they have plenty of room. At this time the first whipper-in should be fifty yards in front of the huntsman, and the second the same distance behind him.
On a fine morning, after an early start has been made and there is no need to hurry, as he jogs quietly to the meet, the huntsman will look leisurely from one hound to another, marking the good or bad qualities of each, and arranging in his mind matings for the future.
I need hardly tell you that it is very necessary you should be punctual and should never keep your field waiting. If the hour fixed is eleven o'clock, move off at ten minutes past and wait for no one ; but you should let it be understood what law you give, or you may cause a good sportsman some day to lose a run. When you employ a professional huntsman or leave the whip to bring the hounds on, you must see they have reliable watches, as ten minutes is quite long enough for hounds to stand about on a cold day. Eleven o'clock is, however, the time of meeting for the regular season, and before we come to that I have some words to say about cub-hunting.
Cub-hunting is the period when the pack and the coming season are made. If the master and huntsman then work hard, they may look forward to enjoying themselves later on. Not later than the first week in September nor earlier than the middle of August may be set down as about the time to commence operations. Whilst the weather is hot, hounds should be at the covert-side as soon as there is light enough to view a fox away. Pay no attention to what people may say about the ground being too hard or the weather too dry. If you have given hounds plenty of road-work during the summer their feet won't suffer, and there is very often the best scent in exceptionally dry weather. In cub-hunting you need never consult the wishes of your field, and all you have to think of is what will be the best for hounds.
The first morning you take out the young entry, go straight to a covert where you are certain there is a litter, and if you know of one in a small spinney that is not a regular draw in the season, it is the very thing you want. You must use every means in your power to catch a cub, and do whatever you think most likely to attain that end. Do not sicken the young hounds by giving them a long morning to start with, but take them home directly they have killed a fox. If you have plenty of country, they would be all the better to be hunted every other day, instead of a long hard day twice a week.
You must remember that if you kill a fox in a small covert, you cannot expect to find a really wild one there for at least two months afterwards. Therefore, in your anxiety to get hold of a cub in October, do not forget your future sport in November. I know that many well-known authorities will not agree with me ; but I consider that you ought never to kill a fox in any except very large and strong coverts. Those places which command your best country ought to be treated with the very greatest care. I would never stop cubs from going away, but would always rather trust to catching one in the open. If there is a drain not far away which your earth-stopper knows they have been using during the summer, it is a good plan to have it unstopped, and then you will be pretty certain of running one to ground, when by the aid of a terrier or a spade you will be able to accomplish your object. Of course, with large woodlands well stocked with foxes you will have no need to resort to any of these devices, and may kill them wherever you get the chance. It is better to visit every litter twice before the regular season commences, and do not scruple to exact heavy toll if there are plenty of them ; but if you find only old foxes, leave at once and do not go there again until November. When foxes are too plentiful in a certain district and you wish to reduce their numbers, cub-hunting is the time to do it, as later on you will find it impossible. Kill all the smallest foxes first and those that look like vixens. You only want one vixen in every covert, but after the first of January you should be careful to see she is spared. All your best runs will come from dog-foxes ; and if you can keep one vixen in a covert, she is certain to have plenty of visitors of the other sex. In order to have the best sport, there ought to be one vixen in the country to every seven dogs, as in that case the males wander about to different coverts, and will consequently give you good runs. In my opinion, one of the chief causes of short-running foxes is a preponderance of females over males. The white tag at the end of the brush is no guarantee of sex, and, of course, it is not easy to distinguish one from the other ; but if you allow all the biggest cubs to go away unmolested and hunt the small ones that stop to the last, you will not be far wrong. The instinct of the dog-fox teaches him to go away at the sound of hounds, whilst that of the vixen bids her stay at home.