The Hunting Year
The hunting year officially begins on 1st May. Although no hunting is taking place, it is when the Masters are re-appointed by the Committee or new Masters take up their positions. Also, any new hunt staff will begin their duties.
Riding activities actually start as soon as the harvest allows and is termed Autumn Hunting. The meet is usually held early in the morning before the temperature rises and evaporates the scent. It introduces the young hounds to the older members of the pack and is part of the process of preparing horses, hounds and riders for the coming season. This time of the season is an ideal start time for newcomers since the pace is quite gentle. The dress code for Autumn Hunting is called ‘Ratcatcher’ (see What to Wear or Glossary for a description).
The Main Season
The ‘formal season’ starts at the end of October/early November with “The Opening Meet”. This is one of the highlights of the year when supporters gather to enjoy the hospitality of our host. It’s a time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. If you would like further information, please contact either the Hunt Secretary or one of the Masters. (See Who’s Who)
The Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt is run by a Committee, led by a Chairman.
The Masters are in overall command of the hunting activities. They decide when and where hounds will meet, what coverts are to be drawn and when hounds will go home. They are responsible for hounds showing the best possible sport under existing conditions; and are responsible for the hounds, the staff and making sure the Field only go where they are permitted. In this hunt there are four joint masters, each one looking after a different section of the country (the area we hunt over).
One of our Joint Masters may be Field Master for the day and his or her word is law! The Field Master is responsible for and leading and controlling the Field across the country in pursuit of hounds. Whilst also seeing that the Field does not interfere with hounds in their work; and he or she is also responsible for seeing that the Field avoids damage to the landowners’ property.
You will know the Masters because they wear coats with four brass buttons and black riding caps. The other riders with five brass buttons and dark blue caps will be the Huntsman (who will be surrounded by his hounds) and his Whipper-in.
The Huntsman controls the hounds, indicating to them by his horn or voice when he wishes them to follow a trail or flush to the bird of prey. He attempts to be sure that hounds work together as a pack by encouraging the tail hounds and steadying the lead hounds. In the case of a check he must be prepared to assist hounds to recover the line by use of a cast if necessary. His technical decisions must be quickly made, and staff and Field must abide by them.
The Whippers-in assist the Huntsman in controlling hounds by turning them back to the Huntsman or by encouraging them forward to him as necessary. Whippers-in are also used by the Huntsman to retrieve the hounds should they engage a hare or deer. No one except the Huntsman gives orders to Whippers-In. No one, except by request of the Huntsman or master, should accompany them or attempt to assist them.
The Field Secretary
The Field Secretary assists with the administration of the hunt, collects the cap (the payment for the day) at the meet and is happy to help you in any way.
The Field consists of the mounted followers and is controlled by the Field Master who rides at the head of it. The Field should follow the Field Master and follow his instructions.
How it is Funded
Hunts are expensive to run and most Hunts struggle just to break even. Riders who hunt regularly with a hunt pay an annual subscription (see the Subscriptions page). Visitors pay a daily fee – the ‘cap’.
The success of the Hunt is dependent on the support of the hard work and financial contributions from the Team Chase committee, the Point to Point committee, the Patrons' club and all those individuals who lend their support. The main Committee also arrange fund-raisers, such as the Hunt Ball held annually in February / March. In addition, the Supporters Club make a major contribution to Hunt funds and organise many social events that bring together subscribers, foot followers, farmers, landowners and hunt staff.