Fox Hunting with Hounds

Recently I have read a lot of articles, blogs and press releases about fox hunting with hounds. The vast majority was negative. They were pointing out the cruelty of the endeavour and the callousness of participants. There were even reports about protesters clashing with hunt supporters. Also in my own circle, fox hunting with hounds is often criticized by people who otherwise don’t have an issue with hunting in general. In fact, this type of hunting has its opponents in other parts of the world too. For example, American outdoorsman Steven Rinella in his book Meateater, which I reviewed in episode 2, tells his own story about hunting with hounds. He describes how his initial negative childhood experience was turned around in his thirties when he hunted with a professional houndsman.

The best way to form an opinion is to have a first-hand experience. Early this year, I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with a fellow outdoorsman, and our guest on episode 33, Aaron Turner. After finishing breakfast in his farmhouse, we headed for the hills where a few houndsmen and their dogs were in the middle of a hunt. We quickly took an elevated position on one of the fields and began glassing to locate the hunting pack. Initially, we spotted only two leading hounds, but after a short while the main pack of about 16 dogs emerged from the nearby forestry. Soon we could hear the dogs baying.

Baying is a loud sound made by a hound when it picks up a scent trail. It resembles something between barking and howling. It is meant to let other hounds in the pack know that a new trail has been picked up. I must admit that it was truly remarkable to observe those dogs hunting. They ran the surrounding hills like it was nothing! We could see them crossing the field a few meters away in one direction, and just a few minutes later we could see the entire pack again on the skyline on the hills a few miles away in the opposite direction. It was also amazing to see the phenomenal level of control a houndsman has over the pack. Once he started calling his dogs, they quickly dropped the trail, aborted the hunt, and began running towards him. My friend observed that often people who criticize hunting with hounds are unable to call their toy dog back from the park.

The hunt itself is quite random in nature. Hounds pick and lose scent trails many times during each hunt. Some dogs in the pack lose the trail and others pick it up. There is no guarantee however that they will pick up the same trail that the previous dogs lost. In addition, dogs can’t tell from the scent which way the animal went. As a result, they might hunt in the opposite direction and eventually lose the trail again. That is not a problem however, as catching or killing an animal is not really the purpose of the hunt. In reality, dogs are often fed before the hunt which makes them slower and consequently less likely to catch fast-moving critters like hares. What counts is the time spent outdoors with the dogs.

It is hard to avoid the impression that most of the critics of hunting with hounds either live in urban areas or just moved to the countryside from a city. This usually means that they are missing the connection with the land and the wildlife. They only kind of understand the circle of life. They do not farm and are oblivious to issues like the necessity of predator control. The sight of a dead aminal is alien to them as they were comfortably isolated from such things while going about their city lives. However, if a fox snatched their cat or small dog they’d be up in arms that someone should do something about it! Then, I suspect, they would be much more tolerant of lethal fox population control.

No furry animals were hurt during the hunt.

Episode 33: Game Management with Aaron Turner

Aaron is a professional gamekeeper, farmer, veteran of the war in Afghanistan and all around badass. I keep meeting Aaron at various outdoor events and training courses.  Since our interests are definitely aligned, we finally decided to get together and record an episode of the podcast. During our conversation, we talk about general game management issues, woodcock shooting and conservation, lethal fox control, badger cull, hill farming and how to move forward with the wildlife and habitat conservation agenda.

Episode 24: Deer Hunting with Paul Dowling


In this episode of the podcast I talk with my good buddy Paul Dowling. Paul is an avid hunter and shooter. Before recording the podcast we attended the Rut Walk in Killarney National Park organized by The Wild Deer Association of Ireland. Paul is an active member of the aforementioned organization and was one of the co-organizers of the Rut Walk. As you can imagine, we talk all things deer hunting and deer management, from proper clothing to education of hunters and non-hunters alike. We also discuss what we heard and learned from the park rangers during the Rut Walk. Even if you’re not a hunter, but you love deer and are concerned about their wellbeing as a species, you should definitely listen to this episode.

Episode 23: Hunt Fish Travel with Carrie Zylka


A very special episode with a very special guest. Carrie Zylka is a fellow podcaster and also an avid hunter and angler. She hosts a number of podcasts but, for us, her Hunt Fish Travel podcast is especially interesting. Some of you might remember that I made an appearance on the Shark Week special of Carrie’s podcast. There are also other reasons why this podcast is special. It is the first episode of the Tommy’s Outdoors podcast recorded over the Internet and it is the first episode where my guest is an American. So it was a great occasion to talk about the specifics of hunting and fishing in the United States. We discuss the tag system, sheep hunting, anti-hunters, the issue of CWD in deer and many other topics. Also don’t forget to subscribe to her Hunt Fish Travel podcast!

Episode 19: Irish Deer Commission with Damien Hannigan


This episode is a deer season opener special! The 1st of September is approaching fast and it marks the beginning of deer hunting season in Ireland. My guest on the podcast is the Public Relations Officer for Irish Deer Commission, Damien Hannigan. We discuss deer conservation in Ireland, the position of various stakeholders on deer management, wildlife crime and many other deer related issues. It is a must-listen for all deer hunters and stalkers. Also, don’t forget to email info@irishdeercommission.ie to book your place on the Rut Walk in Killarney National Park, taking place on the 14th of October. The event is free of charge but places are limited, so make sure to book early.

Episode 14: Wild Adventure Way with Caroline Birch


In this episode my guest is Caroline Birch, CEO of the Wild Adventure Way. Caroline is an energetic, positive and open-minded person. We cover a whole host of topics. We discuss what adventure is and why we need it. We cover in detail various types of surfing. We also talk about hunting and connection to the land. I hope that you will have as great a time listening to this episode as we had recording it.