Home > #Bateson > Staghunting On The Quantock Hills 08.10.18

9th October 2018

Staghunting On The Quantock Hills 08.10.18

Scene from Quantock Stag Hounds carve up at Staple Farm, West Quantoxhead, Somerset, 8 October 2018. Scene from Quantock Stag Hounds carve up at Staple Farm, West Quantoxhead, Somerset, 8 October 2018.

There was a moment yesterday when I thought that the Quantock Stag Hounds had decided not to go hunting but alas it wasn’t so. In the end they killed a stag and took the body to a farm to carve it up. Men and women supped cans of drink and watched in gory fascination as the Huntsman, elbow deep in warm blood, dished out bits of inneds and butchered the animal at their feet, in front of their eyes.

They started not far from Bishops Lydiard which itself is a stones throw from Taunton. I was part of a team of Hunt Monitors. We were parked near the beauty spot of Lydiard Hill, by some horseboxes. We anticipated that the Hunt would come in this direction.

Shortly after 11am my radio crackled and the message came through that there was movement our way. Then a gaggle of hunt riders came along the lane, gave us a bit of verbal, loaded their horses into the boxes, and drove off. That was when, fleetingly, I vain hoped they were going to leave stags on the Quantock Hills in peace.

Instead, the Hunt relocated. We got a message that they were up Crowcombe and sure enough that’s where they were hunting.

Staghunting on the Quantocks is not what it was. Prosecutions, campaigning pressure and changing attitudes from the police have forced them to stop using a pack of a dozen or more hounds to chase stags to exhaustion. This season, which started at the end of August, they’ve been using two hounds and an army of riders and vehicle followers to chase and chaperone their quarry. It’s a tactic which staghunters on Exmoor have employed for years now and I think they believe it exempts them from prosecution under the Hunting Act.

There were a couple of huntable stags in Crowcombe Park but an especially big fellow was the target. It took a while for the Hunt to flush him up onto the hills but eventually their pressure forced him out.

I was tracking the Quantock Stag Hounds (QSH) in a vehicle, in communication with others who were both mobile and on foot. From hilltops you get some fantastic views but the Quantock Hills are characterised by large blocks of woodland and numerous steep, deep valleys known as ‘combes’. The staghunters know this landscape intimately and are skilled at operating simultaneously in the open yet out of sight, if that makes sense.

The stag was somewhere below a high spot called Bicknoller Post. Horsemen and women lined the tracks and combe sides. The stag didn’t appear keen to run. It’s mating season for Red deer in Devon and Somerset (the ‘rut’) so likely he was pretty tired from all that. I thought they were going to shoot him there and then but no, they wanted some sport.

What followed was not a high speed, high adrenalin gallop and chase over the countryside. It was more akin to a slow walk. The stag kept low among whatever cover he could find to hide in and the hunters, co-ordinated by radios and aided by their two dogs, pushed the deer along and steered him away from our eyes and camera lenses.

We drove into the picturesque village of Holford. By now we had a hunt supporter tailing us. We waited to let a party of schoolchildren pass. I hoped they saw the anti hunting stickers in the car window and that’s why they smiled and waved and shouted hello as adults in yellow tabbards shepherded them safely to the side. Or, more likely, they were just naturally excited to be exploring such a beautiful place.

A sharp right and left and we were in the car park with dog walkers and tourists. Our hunt tail parked up herself and ran to keep tabs on the foot team we deployed. I drove up a remote, single track lane and at the end was a gathering of elderly hunt supporters in cars.

A number of wooded combes with streams converge at Holford and in the recent past it was a favourite killing place for the QSH. But these days they are no longer Kings of the Hills. They skulk more. Red coats have been swapped for fawny brown. They’re quieter. They still take up a lot of space but they try to avoid clogging villages with four-wheel drives and quad bikes. They are adept at chaperoning their stag quite discreetly away from public gaze.

There were moments while we were in Holford. We heard the hunting horn and urgent, loud shouting. Vehicles travelled at dangerous pace on bumpy lanes back and forth. But nothing more than that came our way.

Our teams of Hunt Monitors communicate by walkie-talkie and telephone, neither of which work well in this area of Somerset. It’s hard to be in the right place at the right time anyway but when communications are poor because the signal isn’t great it’s even harder. We believed that the hunted stag had left the Hills for farmland near Kilve but weren’t sure.

The stag was killed south of the A39 near Kilve late in the afternoon, in the depths of private property, and taken to a nearby farmyard for the post-orgasmic ‘carve up’. They were not happy about us trying to take some pictures and it was difficult anyway as they’d hidden themselves behind buildings. Out of sight but not out of our minds.

That was the bloody reality of staghunting on the Quantock Hills this day, 8th October 2018.

Volunteers from Hounds Off and Somerset Wildlife Crime continue to monitor staghunting on the Quantocks, bear witness and gather evidence to show how hunts are operating. You can support our work here. Mark your donation ‘QSH’ and we will dedicate it to this specific fund.

© Joe Hashman

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7 Comments | Leave a comment

  • Terry Dite says:
    Posted October 09, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    It is virtually impossible to find adequate words to express my feelings for these despicable specimens of humanity, who actually ENJOY participating in the slaughter of defenceless animals. Cowards to the core, who in spite of their evil would not have the courage to face up to animal prepared and capable of defending itself.
    And to think they actually all look like normal humans, with arms, legs, faces and presumably brains.

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    • Ruby Falco says:
      Posted October 11, 2018 at 10:08 am

      up close these people don’t look normal at all. What I see is men devoid of humanity, gentleness and compassion. They don’t seem to see beauty in nature and can only think that they, as very young boys and girls, were brainwashed and had all that stuff that makes a human gentle and appreciative of animals and nature , removed. To add to this, they may be people unable to communicate and have found a sense of belonging in the evil hunt’s activities. tragic.

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  • Llyn Humes says:
    Posted October 09, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    This is disgusting. I can’t believe that this barbaric practise still goes on in 2018. If it was a working class ‘sport’, it would have been outlawed years ago and the police would have upheld the law then. What a pity they don’t uphold the law now in stag and fox hunting.

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  • Marta Falco says:
    Posted October 09, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    there is no necessity to inflict this terror on stags, hinds and their fawns. It is purely done for the thrill and what is so depraved about it all is that followers are jkust as involved in it all as the huntsmen.
    I knew yesterday late afternoon that they had killed this big stag and we were all deeply saddened . this morning when I woke I thought imemdiately about the stag and that now he was probably cut up into pieces in a freezer isntead of being free, standing tall and strutting his brilliant stuff. felt so down today. jsut went off driving all day on Exmoor, around and about.

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  • Alan Kirby says:
    Posted October 10, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Reading this account brought back terrible memories of monitoring the stag hunts on and around Exmoor and the Quantocks in the 90s. At least then we had the banning of deer hunting on National Trust land, following the damning Bateson Report, and the prospect of a ban on all hunting being brought in by the newly elected Labour government [ha, ha] to comfort us.

    Joe refers to the Quantock SH change of tactics this season, switching to using just two hounds. The Devon & Somerset SH have been doing this ever since the Hunting Act became law. An attempt by the League to convict them for hunting in this way in 2014 failed when the CPS concluded they could not get a conviction and dropped the case.

    The Quantock SH have been twice convicted of illegal hunting, in 2007 and 2010. They made the mistake of relying on the ‘flushing’ exemption [Hunting Act 2004, Schedule 1.1], but on one occasion the court found they had continued hunting the deer after ‘flushing’ and made no attempt to shoot it as it broke cover and on the other that they chased it in the open with more than 2 dogs. A further prosecution in 2013 was dropped by the CPS pre-trial. Since then, until this season, they have hunted with a full pack and, in April 2017, drove a hunted stag over a road bridge. It landed and died, in front of horrified motorists. Hunt lackeys soon cleared away all but the bloodstains. There was strangely little media coverage of this ghastly event – and the report I copied for the POWA website’s UK Hunting News Pages has since been removed from the DevonLive site.

    However, thanks to work by League investigators, two Quantock SH hunt servants are due to stand trial yet again in November. The message of the D&S’s successful exploitation of a different exemption seems finally to have sunk into the Quantock’s minute brains.

    The exemption is Schedule 1:9 of the Act – ‘Research and Observation’. This allows hunting with two dogs ‘… for the purpose of or in connection with the observation or study of the wild mammal.’ Note that this places no obligation on the hunters to explain why they wish to ‘observe or study’ the wild mammal, nor why they want to hunt it in order to do so. The DSSH make up some nonsense about a ‘research project’ but there’s actually no legal need for them to do so. What the Hunts lose in hound power by being restricted to two dogs, they make up for with horses, quads and motor bikes and helpful car supporters to guide the fleeing, terrified and increasingly fatigued animal where they want it to go.

    Quite what they’ll do with the dozens of now surplus deer hounds is moot. Their hunting is medieval, barbaric beyond belief. Those responsible for allowing it to continue should hang their heads in shame.

    Because the exemption also requires the dogs being kept under close enough control to ensure they don’t injure the wild mammal, it has really only been of value to the deer hunts, since their hounds are trained not to attack their quarry, but, rather, to chase it until it is so exhausted it can run no more [anything up to about 7 hours]. The dogs can hold it ‘at bay’. It is then shot from close range with a sawn-off shotgun.

    So slack is this exemption’s wording that it must surely be the case that it was either inserted as a deliberate loophole [as, doubtless, must Schedule 1:6 – ‘Falconry’ have been. Remember, Tony Blair fessed up to having ‘sabotaged’ the Hunting Act in his memoirs] or those responsible for it simply did not understand how deer hunts operate and, as with all other hunters, just how ruthlessly they would exploit the tiniest loophole.

    There may be legitimate reasons for proper scientific researchers to want to use dogs to track wild mammals [but NOT to hunt them]. POWA believes that the exemption should either be removed altogether or must specify that the maximum two dogs must be kept leashed throughout.

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  • Claire Keir says:
    Posted October 10, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    This is a gainst the law what is wrong with this country. If this was people of a council astate they would be arrested and put in prison. But these people have friends in high places

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  • Diane Hanner says:
    Posted October 11, 2018 at 2:19 am

    I witnessed the hunting of a stag at withypool 9/10 I’ve never been so disgusted or more upset – unable to help the poor creature and the mentality of the sick dregs of humanity involved – will unfortunately never forget the appalling spectacle

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