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.
With one eye on the pack and the other roaming the country ahead for a sight of the form that shall gladden your heart, you have little time to note the fences you are jumping, or otherwise you might hesitate to ride at some of them with a fast tiring horse. He is skimming the binders unpleasantly close, and he clears the ditches with very little to spare.
Steady now ! Watch the pack as they run down that hedgerow on your right. You will notice that a young hound is leading and that most of the old are following on, as it were under protest. The fox, I think, has run down to the angle where two hedges meet, and, finding no convenient hole, has doubled back to a stile which he passed on the way. Under ordinary conditions you would be right in casting the pack forward, but now you have no whip. Some of the old hounds are already trying back, and if they don't hit it off, you can then get forward with them, but they will run all the better if they can recover it without your assistance. Old ' Rhapsody,' making use of the footboard, hops lightly over the stile, and proclaims the line down the footpath beyond. Foxes seldom run paths except when tired.
' Forrard ! forrard ! little bitches !' A cheer now will do no harm, if the pack know the difference in your voice between when you are cheering them on a scent and you are giving them a view.
The line of stiles leads to that grey spire which you saw some time ago, and which is now less than half a mile away. There are hoarse yells and shrill screams ahead. You see people rushing and frantically waving their arms. Your eye travels quickly in the direction indicated and absorbs every detail. See ! yonder goes the fox, stealing along under that high fence to the right. They have headed him at the village, there is only a field between you now, and this is the time to give the pack a view. Hounds are for the moment at fault where some cart colts have galloped over the line, and your opportunity has come. With a quiet ' Here, come along,' you catch hold of the pack and lift them forward. You meet the fox as he emerges from the shadow of the tall hedge, having cut off a corner. Now for a tally-ho and a scream from your heart. Up go their heads and they get a view. He doubles through the fence, gets a moment's respite, and then makes straight for the brook below like the gallant fox he is. Hounds, though, are not to be denied ; they view him again as he rises dripping from the brook, and race him up the next field. Nothing could stop you at this supreme moment, but twelve feet of water at the end of such a gallop is a high trial for any horse. You get over with a scramble, and are alongside of hounds as they run into their fox in the middle of a grass field.
Forty minutes by your watch to the second, and an inspection later of the map makes it a six-mile point. Your horse, with loosened girths, is being led about by a boy, and you are holding the fox above the baying pack, when your whip, followed by three or four of the field, turns up. Don't keep hounds waiting too long for their fox; tantalise them for a moment or two to increase their keenness, and then throw him up.
This is the sort of gallop that will only occasionally fall to your lot, but you must be sanguine enough to hope for the best every time you go out, and yet content when the reality does not come up to your expectations. Luck is a very important factor in fox-hunting, and there are many things to spoil your sport over which you can have no control, but with a decent pack of hounds in first-rate condition, you will not often have to complain of fate.
Keep your hounds well in blood, and if they go more than three days without killing, you must not go home on the fourth day until you have by some means got hold of a fox. I think I cannot do better than quote you here what Beckford says:—' When hounds are out of blood there is a kind of evil genius attending all that they do; and though they may seem to hunt as well as ever, they do not get forward; while a pack of foxhounds well in blood, like troops flushed with conquest, are not easily withstood.' This is an indisputable fact now, and was probably equally true when these words were first written more than a hundred years ago.
At the finish of the gallop, which we have just brought to a successful conclusion, you lifted hounds to meet the fox. In this operation you were running a certain amount of risk, and it would be as well you remembered this for future occasions. You had no whip with you, and if the fox had heard or seen you coming, and had laid down in the fence, the pack would probably have run heel, and you would have lost your fox. A tired fox often escapes at the moment when the huntsman thinks he is going to handle him, and it is generally the result of too much halloaing or the man losing his head. A fox never gives up a chance of saving his life, and until he is dead he is always liable to defeat you. Never halloa in such a manner as to excite hounds or get their heads up, unless you are certain of being able to give them a view. You must take every advantage you can of a fox, and keep the pack as near to him as possible ; but when they are running well you must use your own judgment about lifting them forward. You have to take into consideration the pace they are running, the corner that is to be cut off, and the amount of time to be thus saved. Then you have to allow for a loss of time in stopping hounds when they are running, and a further loss before they again settle to the scent. No rule can be laid down, as in every instance there will be some slight difference, and the huntsman must decide the point for himself. The man of moderate ability and slight experience should, however, remember the old proverb ' to leave well alone.'
When a fox has been bustled along smartly at any period of the run, you should never give him up whilst daylight lasts, as you may be certain he will stop, and if there is any scent at all you may possibly hunt up to him. It is at these times that hounds out of blood will not persevere, and when there is a slight improvement in scent they do not make the most of it. The huntsman must then supply perseverance for both, and if he is successful, he will be fully-rewarded for his trouble the next time the pack are out hunting. When the master does not carry the horn he may on an occasion of this kind become weary of dragging on, and by all means then let him go home ; but he should allow his huntsman to persevere, if that official thinks he has the slightest chance of catching his fox.