Sab Tactics

First, do no harm…

Kennel-watching: a useful tactic when you don’t have any meets for hunts in the area and know that a particular hunt should be out on a certain day – we go to the kennels early on and wait for the hunt to leave, following them to the meet.

Meet Card: it would be fantastic to have some of these because it would save a ot of kennel-watching. They are a fixture list of where and when the hunt will be meeting throughout the season. As far as we’re aware, the only hunt still advertising their meets is the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt who are monitored by the fantastic Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch. For the rest of them, let us know if you’ve got any meets or, indeed, a meet card past or present!

Hunting Horns: horns are used by the hunt to control the hounds – to encourage or call back – or to signify the end of the day, a kill or to summon the terriermen. Sabs can also use them to try and get the hounds to stop them giving chase to the hunted animal, to bring the pack over or lift the heads of the hounds, taking their noses off the scent and giving the hunted animal a few more valuable seconds to escape.

Citronella Sprays: we tend to use a mix of a few drops of citronella essential oil (the stuff horseriders often use to repel flies from the horses) and water in a spray bottle, like the kind used in the garden. This is used to cover the scent left by a fox. So if we saw a fox running from a hedgerow into a woodland and hounds were nearby or hunting the fox, we would spray in a wide area around where the fox had run, foiling the scent, even temporarily.

Whips: whips are used by the hunt (in particular, the whippers-in) to control the hounds. A whip is like an “off-switch” for the hounds; they are used to stop the hounds if they are rioting on an animal they’re not supposed to be hunting or are going too near to main roads, motorways or railways. Sabs can also use whips to try and stop the hounds giving chase to the hunted animal or going on to roads, etc.

Gizmo: a relatively new tool in sabbing for many groups, the ‘gizmo’ consists of something like an MP3 with ‘hounds in cry’ recorded on to it or horn calls and a speaker. You can play it when you want to bring the pack of hounds to you or to lift their heads, but it isn’t guaranteed to work, especially not if you try and do it several times in a day! The hounds know who the leader of their pack is and you can’t keep fooling them by playing the sound of other hounds speaking to them – they will realise there’s nothing to chase when they get to you!

Radios: very useful in order to communicate between groups, individual sabs and vehicles – much easier than having to get your phone out of your pocket repeatedly.

Voice Calls and Rating: used by the hunt and sabs alike to try and control the hounds. We ‘rate’ the hounds with shouts like “leave it” and “get back to him” to tell them off if they are hunting an animal or getting too near to a road or railway. Holloas may also be used to try and lift the heads of the hounds, distracting them for a few valuable seconds.

Cameras: can be a fantastic sabbing-tactic as some hunts will call hounds off a scent if they believe you have the hunted animal on camera (this will only work while hunting remains a legal grey-area). They will also be useful if you want to gather evidence of other illegal activity or have proof of what you or the hunt / support have been up to all day.

Baling twine: a useful thing to have with you in case gates won’t shut properly, you find a loose hound and for various other emergencies! Wire cutters have come in handy a couple of times when horses or hounds have become tangled in wire, as have first aid kits

Maps: always a useful tool. Many of us know the local areas and hunt country pretty well, but it can always be good to look at a map, find a little-known-about footpath or, of course, tell others where you are!

Extremely important things to remember while out include making sure you do not scare a fox / hare / other animal out of their hiding places or into the hounds, not calling the hounds towards you if there’s a road or railway in between or behind you and not calling them over if you can’t see the pack or if there’s an area in between you and the pack that an animal could be hiding up from the hunt.


“Antis” – that be us! Also known as saboteurs, sabs or monitors

“Artificial earth” – a false earth (fox’s home) built by the hunt to encourage a fox population in the area and to hold foxes ready for hunting

“Bagged foxes” – a practice that even many hunters look down upon which involves the capture (or breeding) of a fox in advance of the hunt, often the mistreatment of the fox to weaken it, and the release of the fox right near to the hounds during the hunt

“Bolt” – to scare a fox from a drain, for example

“Brace” – a brace of foxes is two foxes, often seen running together from hounds during mating season – be aware of this when foxes start to pair up as one may be following another or running in another direction

“Car please” – what we might say if we want to get past a road-block…

“Cubbing” – the proper term for “Autumn Hunting” when hounds are trained, usually by coverts being surrounded and noise made to stop foxes escaping – any foxes who do escape will be seen as ‘good sport’ as they’ll be good runners for the main season

“Check” – when hounds lose a scent and try to pick up – a good time to try and lift their heads or rate them as they’re not fully on a line

“Chop” – killing without a chase e.g. if a fox was scared out of a hedgerow straight into hounds and was killed

“Country” – the area/s in which a pack will hunt

“Coursing” – hunting by sight e.g. lurchers hunting hare or when foxhounds are right behind a fox and are now hunting by sight instead of following the scent

“Covert” – an area, like a woodland, where a trail would be laid or a fox’s scent picked up on

“Draw” – the huntsman will ‘draw’ the hounds through a wood or hedgerow, etc. to look for a scent

“Dig-out” – if a fox has ‘gone to ground’ the terriermen may try to flush or bolt the fox either for the hounds to continue hunting or kill at the scene or for the terriermen to shoot / bag up for later – often involves the use of terriers below ground and digging down with spades

“Earth” – a fox’s home in the ground

“Feathering” – when the hounds have picked up on a scent but aren’t ‘right on it’ and are not speaking to it

“Field” – the mounted riders who are there as spectators and support

“Flush” – scare out an animal to be hunted

“Head” – anyone (hunt support or anti-hunt) could head a fox if they scare it back into where the hounds are hunting (on purpose or by accident) by running into an area or making a noise

“Heel-line” – if the hounds are running along the ‘heel-line’ of a scent it means they’re going the opposite direction to the quarry

“Holding up” – surrounding an area, usually making some noise, to stop the quarry running in that direction

“Holloa” – a shout made to indicate the sighting of a fox or other quarry – we also holloa to try and lift the heads of the hounds or bring them to us and off the line of the quarry

“Horn” – carried by the huntsman (and sometimes the whipper-in) to control the hounds using different calls

“Hounds” – any canine that hunts using scent

“Hunt staff” – the huntsman, whipper-in and masters

“In cry” – ‘on cry’ is also used – it is a sab term derived from ‘in full cry’ for when hounds have confidently picked up a scent and are following fast, speaking excitedly

“Lawn meet” – a sociable event at the start of the hunt where the hosts of the meet are present and (in the words of a hunter) ‘their pouring arms may be a little too generous’ at times

“Leash” – three foxes

“Lifting the pack” – the huntsman taking the pack on, often when they have lost the line and he wants to take them to where the hunted animal has run in order to pick up the scent again

“Line” – the scent left by a live animal or the laying of the trail

“Marking” – ‘marking to ground’ is an indication by the hounds to the huntsman that the quarry has hidden up in a hole in the ground (an earth, sett, artificial earth, etc.) – pawing the ground, baying, trying to follow into the hole

“Meet” – where the hunt and support meet up at the beginning of the hunting day

“On point” – a rider may go ‘on point’ at the corner of a woodland in order to look out for a fox running from the area

“Pick up” – hounds ‘pick up’ on a scent

“Put up” – e.g. you could ‘put up’ a hare if you walked in an area of a field where a beagle pack were hunting

“Quarry” – the term for the hunted animal

“Rating” – the ‘telling-off’ given to hounds to try and stop them from hunting

“Riot” – hounds ‘riot’ when they start hunting someone they’re not supposed to e.g. the Cotswold Vale Farmers’ Hunt tend to pick up on deer quite a lot…

“Saddle slapping” – used when ‘holding up’ as a way of making noise with hands or whip to stop the hunted animal from running in that direction

“Save” – a word we very rarely use out sabbing unless we actually take a fox from a pack of hounds or stop a dig-out – most of the time all we do is give the hunted animal a few extra seconds to escape – even if we stop the hounds entirely on a scent, the animal may have still got away without us…

“Season” – the time period in which hunting will take place

“Sett” – a badger’s home in the ground

“Speak” – hounds ‘speak’ when they pick up on a scent

“Tally ho” – listen out for this as it will indicate the sighting of the hunted animal (also look out for the raising of a cap) and may be called by the huntsman to encourage the hounds

“Terriers” – type of dog used below ground to locate, and often fight with, a fox either to flush them out or in order for the terriermen to locate the fox and dig down and kill