A. The Law
Holford Parish includes a lot of land making up the Quantock Hills AONB, which has historically been used for hunting, particularly of stags. This changed with the passing of the Hunting Act 2004, and has caused differences of opinion within our village community. Here we try to explain what is and is not legal.
The Hunting Act 2004 text in its entirety can be found at:
Clear and simple advice about hunting mammals is available on the government website:
The traditional pursuit of a wild mammal across the countryside, with horses and hounds is widely no longer accepted as a sport. The aim of the law is to prevent undue suffering to the mammal that is being hunted. Pursuit and killing by a pack of hounds has been banned based on scientific evidence. Chasing for prolonged periods of time is legally agreed to cause suffering so, in any hunt situation, guns should be positioned so that the wild mammal can be shot dead as soon as possible after being found and flushed from cover. Dogs must not continue to pursue the wild mammal once it has left cover or has been found.
The following is a criminal offence:
- Hunting with more than two dogs
- Hare coursing
- Deer hunting
- during the closed season (stags May 1st – July 31st / hinds April1st – Oct 31st)
- at night (any time year)
- without a license
- pursuit with a vehicle
4. Hunting on land where rights are reserved.
5. Following the hunt in a vehicle off road without permission. 6. Trespassing with a firearm
Flushing a wild mammal out of cover is permitted under the Hunting Act, for the following activities:
a. to prevent or reducing serious damage to livestock, game birds or wild birds, food for livestock, crops, growing timber, fisheries, other property or biological diversity of an area.
b. to recapture a wild mammal which has escaped
c. to capture a wild mammal that the hunter reasonably believes is or may be injured and it is necessary to relieve the wild mammal’s suffering.
d. hunting is undertaken for the purpose of or in connection with the observation or study of the wild mammal.
Hunting of a wild mammal is subject to the following conditions. a. Permission of the landowner or occupier is required
b. No more than two dogs may be used
c. Each dog is kept under sufficiently close control to ensure that it does not prevent or obstruct achievement of the objective
d. The wild mammal must be captured as soon as possible or shot dead by a competent person
e. The wild mammal must not be harmed, released or permitted to escape for the purpose of being hunted
B. Landowners and access
The Quantock Hills are made up of land owned by private individuals and organisations including National Trust (NT) and Forestry Commission (FC). Notwithstanding ownership, much of the land is managed by Natural England as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Stag hunting is banned on both NT and FC land. NT is also no longer issuing licences for any trail hunting activities. NE has an agreement with all landowners about vehicular access on local trails. To assist residents and Quantock Staghound supporters Holford Parish Council has endeavoured to clarify the
position by publishing two maps, the first showing areas where hunting rights have been reserved and where the hunt has no rights to be there other than for using the public bridleway as a public bridleway, or footpaths as public footpaths.The second map shows permitted tracks where the owners have given permission for hunt- related vehicles and followers to use them.
The Parish Council has received a number of complaints regarding the following:
- Aggressive or intimidating behaviour by hunt followers and supporters
- Prolonged pursuit of deer by horses and hounds
- Quad bikes, motor bikes, 4×4 vehicles driving beyond the trackspermitted, including NT land
- Dogs pursuing deer uncontrolled
- Hunt personnel trespassing on private land to flush out deer
- Armed hunt personnel trespassing on private landThese incidents are regularly reported to the police, National Trust and Natural England, and the parish council continues to follow these up to ensure that hunt members and followers respect the framework within which they are allowed to operate in.
At a meeting with the Parish Council, the Neighbourhood Partnership Police Sergeant emphasised that any confrontation with members of the hunt should be reported to the police using the 101 telephone service. Any issues related to threatening behaviour involving firearms should be reported by calling 999. The Parish Council would appreciate it if any reports of either nature were forwarded to the Chairman of the Parish Council.
It is hoped that by developing a co-operative relationship with the Quantock Staghounds we can avoid any unfortunate incidents.