The Countryman's Weekly

The real hunting season is upon us

June 30
15:39 2015

EARLY November and the real hunting season is upon us. Autumn hunting was difficult for most packs here – too dry (nearly a first!) and far too warm – but useful mornings were put in around the country.

My first opening meet was with the Ormond on my own mare. Heavy showers were predicted and for once the forecasters unfortunately got it right! The meet was at The Thatch pub in Crinkle where a warming glass of mulled wine awaited all.

Denis O’Sullivan, in his third season, had on 14½ couple of Old English, all looking very well. First whipper-in, Paul McGloyne, was on Field Master duty as the draws were all in his area. Second whipper-in, Tadgh Carey, is sidelined with a broken leg (not horse related) and third whip, Oliver Ryan-Purcell, was on duty to lend all his expertise to the proceedings.

The previous Saturday the Hunt had organised a very well attended newcomers’/children’s day from the Pike at Ballingarry. Most of this instructional day took place on Hunt chairman Johnny Kenny’s land and, despite one squall, all went well up on the high grounds.

The first draws from the opening meet were thick ditches (hedges) on stubble fields around Birr airfield, but nothing was afoot. Then there was a horrendous downpour – the skies literally opened! We were far from any shelter and so all got drowned, as they say here.

Crossing over boggy land of Daggs – too wet to find here – and on up into Kieran Egan’s plantation, a fox was soon afoot. Seemingly it was very thick in there as hounds made slow headway. But eventually he left covert and ran straight down to the bog and away left-handed. This was unfortunate as there were still stock out and the mounted field had to go a long way round on the road.

Off the Sharavogue/Clareen road we could hear good music. Then, unfortunately, the pack was running towards more cattle and reluctantly Denis and Oliver stopped them. Then it was back to a plantation. Finding here, they hunted on on a poorish scent, finally marking to ground in a badger sett.

My second opening meet was on foot with the Suir Vale Harriers and my guide for the day was Micahel Greene. Emma Ryan is in her second season as first whip/kh and is doing a great job looking after hounds in kennel. Master, Seamus O’Dwyer, is in his 11th season hunting hounds.

The Suir Vale are, of course, well known for their foot hunting festival each spring. For hound lovers this week of hunting is a must.

So from Killea (up on the hills) Seamus, with 13½ couple, moved off with Emma, Brian Walsh whipping-in, and 43 mounted following. Up at the first draw, a lovely valley east of the Devil’s Bit, Field Master, Raymond Burke, welcomed everyone, wished them a good season and asked them to remember to respect the farmers, especially now when there is stock still out.

It was a bright, sunny day with no wind, but clouded up mid afternoon. Hounds drew well but there was never a whimper. I suspect the wild, wet night the night before had foxes underground. Also, with the ‘glass’ yo-yoing there was probably little scent.

So back across the road and, following several blank draws, they found on the edge of Kilduff forestry and ran on in. This being part of 10,000 acres forestry, no one was sorry when hounds checked and were collected up and brought down to Sean Kennelly’s bog. Only a hare was roused here and hounds ignored her.

By now it was nearly 4pm and getting dull and cold, but Seamus persisted and drew Guilfoyle’s plantation. Here a brace were afoot but scent was poor and, after some circular hunting, it was time for home. Back at Sullivan’s Bar there was soup and refreshments aplenty.

My third opening meet was also a first for me as it was the first time I’d been out with the Nenagh Harriers, who are a foot pack. The North Tipperary Foxhounds were originally the Nenagh Harriers, but that was a mounted pack.

Jimmy Foley, Joint Master and Huntsman, started the current pack in 2004. His Joint Master is John Flannery, chairman of the Master of Foot Harriers Association. Hounds are kennelled at Jimmy’s yard, near Ballycommon.

The meet was at Annagh, not far from the eastern shore of Loug Derg. It was a cold, drizzly day. Fiona Wood and Jason Quigley were whipping-in and Paddy Morgan had the terriers (which are used only for bolting).

There were about 18 followers, which included many small children, such as eight-year-old Emma, who is very keen. Foot Harriers basically have no livery, but many of the Nenagh followers and staff had green anoraks emblazoned with ‘Nenagh Harriers’ and a fox’s mask.

Jimmy, who whipped-in to the North Tipperary Foxhounds for 29 seasons, had on ten couple looking well fed and eager. They quickly found and there was good music resounding in a valley south of Annagh. They ran on through another covert, swung right and ran into a mixed plantation. Then, swinging left, they came back to the second covert and marked. This was 55 minutes of hunting.

Picking up an old line, hounds hunted intermittently between two coverts, on two foxes – scent had sadly diminished.

A real ‘storybook’ fox ran past me. He was less than ten yards away but I don’t think he saw me! He ran up to a smallish covert on top of a hill. Jimmy blew hounds on but, once in covert, there was silence and the fox apparently evaporated. Apparently this had happened before and also to the North Tipps. Thinking he might have run on out unseen and through some sheep, Jimmy cast them on round past the big house but to no avail.

Drawing on, a brace was put up and hounds split, neither pack being able to really run on. So hounds were collected up for one last draw. Finding again, unfortunately the fox crossed the main road. Hounds were called back but a couple crossed and went on. They hunted the fox in a loop and brought him back and marked very near the find.

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