Cubbing and the Autumn Hunt
Early in the morning a Hunt of mounted riders quietly surrounds a thicket they know to contain a family of foxes. The female fox or vixen hears the movement but will not leave her cover as she has cubs to protect. The huntsmen surround the thicket, they slap their saddles, holler and shout to prevent the fox and her cubs leaving the thicket. They want to have their fun.
The hounds are sent in and the vixen comes out to protect her cubs, young fox cubs do not have the skills and knowledge of their parents, they are playful and trusting and unlikely to flee danger. Their inquisitive nature ensures they investigate anything new.
Autumn Hunting refers to the period formerly known as "cubbing". Traditionally, this was the time when the new entry of hounds learnt how to hunt their quarry. Meets were held early in the morning and the field was present to help "hold up" covert (i.e. prevent a fox from leaving the area). The hunt's riders surround the covert and shout and holler and slap their saddles, young riders shout and laugh in order to keep the cubs in the covert so the entry hounds can be sent in.
The dress code is different from formal hunting dress and is often referred to as "rat catcher". "Ratcatcher" refers to the tweed jackets that are worn. http://www.clandchunt.co.uk/AboutUs/the_hunting_code.html
During the hunting season, between 8,400 - 10,000 of these are cubs. These cubs will not reach 6 months of age.
The registered packs are estimated to kill some 21,000 - 25,000 foxes a year. About 40% of the foxes killed by the registered packs are killed in the autumn/cub hunting season. In Wales and other upland areas, a high proportion of foxes are dug out, using terriers and shot. Outside the registered packs, many more foxes are dug out and shot or are killed by people using lurchers or other "long dogs". Some of these activities are carried out by farmers, landowners and gamekeepers. www.huntinginquiry.gov.uk
"Never lose sight of the fact that one really well-beaten cub killed fair and square is worth half a dozen fresh ones killed the moment they are found without hounds having to set themselves to the task. It is essential that hounds should have their blood up and learn to be savage with their fox before he is killed."
Cubbing as described in an extract from Fox Hunting by the late Duke of Beaufort, Master of Fox Hounds, published by David & Charles, 1980.