The Secret Monitor

The Secret Monitor: Stag hunting not cruel enough? There’s always hind hunting…

[PLEASE NOTE we have included a short video clip in this post. It shows a running deer and hounds but it is NOT graphic and the hind is not caught. It is used solely as an example of the Quantock Stag Hounds breaking the Hunting Act 2004 by using more than two dogs to chase a deer.]

Damaging stories from inside hunting, shooting, and the badger cull have been circulating for years, and there are always new ones waiting to be told. There is always someone watching, always someone listening. The Secret Monitor.

In the fourth post of an occasional series, the Secret Monitor is in the west of England.

Deer hunting has a long and bloody history. Confined to the west country now, it is perhaps the most abhorrent and depraved practice of the hunting community in the whole of the U.K. Even within hunting circles it has long been referred to as ‘a blood sport too far’. Pro-hunt individuals confess that it is the hunting communities’ Achilles heel. Imagine just how bad it has to be for even die-hard bloodsport enthusiasts to squirm when they think about it…


Red Deer and hind. Scotland. Source Wikipedia. Image by

As with other types of hunting there is a ‘season’ for deer hunting. For the majority of the year the male (stag) is the hunt’s quarry, but in November the hunt’s attention turns towards the females.

The Quantock Stag Hounds hunt Red Deer. The females are called hinds. Hind hunting has always been the invisible sidekick of stag hunting, far more underground and secretive. This is no coincidence, it is a shameful and cruel practice to hunt any animal, but to hunt a pregnant female is on another level of abhorrent.

Deer hunting starts in early August and goes right through the year until the end of April. Spring stags (younger stags) are hunted from early March until late April. Autumn Stags (the bigger mature stags) are hunted from early August through to late October. Hinds (females) are hunted from November through to late February.

The Red Deer breeding season takes place from the end of September through to November. This period is known as “the rut”, where mature stags, 5-6 years old, leave bachelor groups to seek out hinds at traditional rutting sites known as ‘stands’.

Gestation in Red Deer takes between 7.5-8 months. Hinds who become pregnant during the rut and will be heavily pregnant in late February can still be, and frequently are, chased and killed by the Quantock Stag Hounds. It’s an appalling ‘sport’.


Even among hunting people, hind hunting is considered to be cruel.

Once whilst ‘helping’ a pheasant shooting party back to their vehicles, a member of the killing party, disgruntled at the interruption to their day’s mass slaughter by monitors, growled something about me finding a better way to spend my time. She went on to articulate her disgust at ‘hind hunting’ which she complained was ‘taking place just up the road’. She described how cruel it was – as she bludgeoned a shot but still alive pheasant to death with her ‘priest’.

It was indeed the activity taking place just up the road. And it was the Quantock Stag Hounds that were doing it…

It may come as a surprise to many that even among hunting people, hind hunting is considered to be cruel. It appears that these people will overlook the hours of pursuit of a stag across gruelling terrain where he is chased to the point of collapse, with hounds snapping and barking at him, surrounded by hunt supporters gleefully whooping and celebrating his death. These people can somehow overlook this (and the cruelty of shooting birds out of the air for ‘fun’), but not hind hunting, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out why.


a red deer hind being chased by the quantock stag hounds


Hind hunting has some subtle differences to stag hunting, and some not so subtle.

Stag Hunting involves the selection of one stag. He is separated from the rest of the herd and the hunt begins. A stag who becomes exhausted and cornered can and will lower his head and try to defend himself with his antlers. A hind however cannot do this. At the point of exhaustion, when a hind has been hunted and cannot run any further, she will simply lay down and meet her fate.

Additionally, it is not always the case that a single hind is separated from a group preceding a conventional type of chase. The Quantock Stag Hounds and the other deer hunting packs have on occasion herded entire groups of hinds into an area where they conduct a massacre, shot after shot after shot, slaughtering the whole group in one fell swoop.

The QSH like to play with guns. I talked about that in my last post (“Want to trespass with a firearm on public land? Join a stag hunt…“) about the number of firearms out on the Hills. Another way they hunt hinds is to place guns on different areas of the main hill. The gun carriers will sit tight and ambush any hinds that come their way,

Julian Peaster (a gun carrier for the Quantock Stag Hounds) will position himself on the tree line on Black Hill on his quadbike and do exactly this. The huntsman will let the hounds hunt round and anything going towards Julian would be fair game. Not unlike a pheasant drive, in the 1990s ‘deer drives’ would be organised. An area would be surrounded with guns, often causing injuries when the hind is shot but not killed outright. When that happens the huntsmen will bring hounds on to locate the hind and finish the job. No doubt there are times when the wounded hind isn’t found and instead is left to a painful death.

The Secret Monitor recalls one gleeful comment from a member of the QSH ‘This is what happens when you flush to guns’.

Piles of dead hinds shot indiscriminately in a chaos-driven bloodbath.

It requires a morally void and callous individual to embark on a needless and pointless undertaking such as hind hunting. You will see the number of followers dwindle into almost non-existence during this part of the deer hunting season. The number of riders rarely exceeds the number of hunt staff and the inner sect of the hunt. Many of the most hardened and fervent deer hunting followers are noticeable by their absence. Of course, this could be due to the view among the supporters that hind hunting is less of an adrenaline-charged macho event, rather than them encountering an emerging moral compass.


Deer parts for sale

Just like with stag hunting there is a carve-up at the end of a hind hunt.

At the end of the hunt, a hind’s ‘slots’ (her feet, in other words) will be cut off to be mounted as trophies, her heart cut out to be given to the landowner, and her calf cut from her belly. In some cases, a calf has been cut from a hind almost able to stand.

There are many reasons to recoil in horror at the hunting of pregnant hinds. After all, in our society women and children are protected, the first to be evacuated, the first to be considered.

The extreme abuses the pregnant deer undergo during a hunt is something that should challenge anyone with a conscience.


Red Deer ‘slots’ sold at auction this year by the Tiverton Stag Hounds


An image sent to Protect the Wild of Red Deer ‘slots’ killed (‘taken’) by the Quantock Stag Hounds and offered for sale online.

This horrendous cruelty is nothing new, the only evolution is the secrecy around it.

The hunting and killing of a stag has barely moved on in the Exmoor region since the times people here were cave dwellers, save for the technology they utilise to make up for their inadequacies.

In his book Notes on the Chase of the Wild Red Deer in the Counties of Devon and Somerset, with its appendix of remarkable runs and incidents from the years 1780 to 1860, Charles Park Collyns refers to a day of hind hunting saying,

It was objected by some who had viewed the hind that she appeared big with calf, but the idea was scouted, as being contrary to all probability. The hounds were laid on, and after a fast burst to Oare, Badgeworthy, Brendon Common, Farleigh and Watersmeet, near Lynmouth the hind was killed, and was found to have a fine male calf in her.”

Further comments in the book referring to the practice of hunting hinds divulge heartbreaking cruelty:

“What makes it more extraordinary is that on being paunched [cut open in the stomach and intestinal region] a calf was taken from her almost able to stand”.

These gruesome examples go on and on.

Whilst the rest of the nation grew and expanded their morality, with education and the experiences gained from travelling away from secular communities, the tolerance people had for such bloodsport diminished considerably. But Exmoor, if for nothing else, is famous for its remoteness. Very few people who are in the thick of stag hunting are new to the area. Their families have lived there for generations and the cruelty of deer hunting goes back over generations.

Hundreds of years ago there were skilled trackers on Exmoor. They were at least knowledgeable about deer and their behaviour. Modern stag hunting is done with radios, mobile phones and dozens of vehicles. It takes no knowledge at all. And it is unashamedly brutal. One supporter admitted to the Secret Monitor that “everyone out here has a knife, you want to be at the kill”. What a terrifying thought.

It is as though someone went to the effort of conjuring up the most barbaric and evil way in which to torment wild animals and came up with deer hunting.


Deer hunter chasing a hind and her calf


Herd management? No, Just cruel barbarism.

It is worth pointing out, that many hinds will still have a dependant calf at foot in November when hind hunting starts.

Red Deer calves stay with their mother until they are weaned at around 8-10 months but will stay with her until she gives birth again. This is of no concern to the deer hunts. They simply view it as a bonus: the calf will run alongside trying to keep up with its mother, and the hunt gets twice the blood fest when they kill them both.

It is painful to try and comprehend the terror a hind must endure as she runs for her life with her calf desperately trying to keep up.

The Quantock Stag Hounds will make the claim that this is ‘herd management’. Or is it Sport? Ah, perhaps the Hunting Act ‘exemption’ of Research and Observation? Or maybe flushing to guns?

What an absolute bloody disgrace. No, this is just deer hunting. Cruel, sadistic, barbarism.


The criminal Quantock Stag Hounds

In 2007 the Quantock Stag Hounds were the first stag hunt to be convicted under the Hunting Act 2004. The trial took place at Bristol Magistrates Court, District Judge David Parsons said:

The defendants were hunting for sport and recreation to continue their way of life and are disingenuous in attempting to deceive me into believing that they were exempt hunting”.

Parsons stated that the QSH huntsman had hunted the hinds for almost three hours and over 10 miles. On the day in question the hunt had met at Crowcombe with around 17 riders, including children. The Quantock Stag Hounds illegally hunted and killed six hinds that day.

They were again convicted in 2010 at Taunton Deane Magistrates Court.

If the authorities had bothered to act on the footage submitted to them [NB: we’re posting an edited version of the longer video here] then they should have been convicted again. Stag hunts often claim they only use two dogs, as per exemptions pro-hunt supporters inserted into the Hunting Act 2004, but they’re so confident nothing will ever happen to them that sometimes they make no effort at all to hide what they’re doing and just let the whole pack join the chase…

This is NOT graphic footage and is used solely to illustrate the Quantock Stag Hounds breaking the terms of the Hunting Act 2004


A still from the video showing three dogs chasing the hind





Local people who live at the foot of the Quantock Hills dread hunt days.

For compassionate people, the knowledge that female deer with their young are being literally hounded to death in their backyard is more than many can bear. Some have even moved away to escape the torment it brings.

There is something missing in people who will gladly and joyfully undertake the torture and killing of a mother and child. One of the most poignant and emotive of animated cinematic productions of all time, Disney’s Bambi, depicts the heart-breaking story of the death of a female deer and the fate of her fawn. Of course, in reality no Stag will raise an orphaned calf as happens in the story: the calf will simply starve to death.

It does beg the question what stag hunters let their children watch? As our own children were upset and troubled by the story of Bambi, as caring parents we would provide reassurances and comfort, but what story do stag hunters tell their children? What story do they provide their children to make it acceptable and normal to scream in delight at the destruction of a mother and baby? What stories do the children of stag hunters hear which deceive them into believing that killing defenceless animals for fun is okay?

When one newbie to stag hunting was crowing about what a wonderful mother she was to bring her children along to watch a hind hunt, allowing them to “enjoy nature and see wildlife”, the Secret Monitor asked her if she had taken her children to see the carve up yet. It was impossible not to notice this creature’s faltering as she grappled to find the right answer. Perhaps realising that there wasn’t one, she scoffed ‘of course not’. Why? Why had she not? Because it’s gruesome? Because it’s disgusting? Because to stand with your children amongst people aroused and salivating at the body of a mutilated mother is inappropriate?

You’d better believe it is.

In a society where we delight to see spring images of mothers and their young, from lambs to baby birds and of course the iconic Red Deer and her beautiful spotty-coated calf, the anomie that is hind hunting can and will never be acceptable.

How dare we as a nation of alleged animal lovers point fingers at others across the world in accusations of cruelty when this utter horror takes place on our own doorstep.

Why is it that our social media feeds and documentaries are filled with exposés on bullfighting or trophy hunting – both hideous and shameful undertakings – but so little is said about deer hunting? No outrage fills our screens to rouse an opposition to hind hunting.

The desperate plight of our own wildlife is hidden, covered up by the hunts, ignored by the police, and sidestepped by landowners like the National Trust, Forestry Commission, and others.


The Quantock Stag Hounds exist outside the societal norms of the rest of the country

When you speak of hunting people automatically think of fox hunting. For many years deer hunting has been allowed to slip below the radar.

The Quantock Stag Hounds exist in the dark and murky world where it is acceptable to kill babies and their mothers. The rest of us can only wonder what type of childhood their children experience.

Hind hunting is happening on the Quantock Hills right now. It will carry on until late February. The Red Deer calves that survive the hind hunting of 2023 will be born from April 2024 onwards. This horrific bloodsport must end.

Until next time

The Secret Monitor


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