Devon and Somerset Staghounds hunter murders stag and barges hunt saboteur with loaded gun

Devon and Somerset Staghounds murdered a young stag during the hunt’s closing meet on 20 April. Hunt saboteurs said the killer also barged a hunt saboteur while holding a loaded gun.

North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs gave a harrowing account of what happened that day. The group was joined by numerous other sab and monitor groups on Exmoor as they tried to stop this killer hunt from murdering yet another stag. The Devon and Somerset’s closing meet was attended by almost 100 field riders and even more followers on quad bikes, in cars, and on motorbikes.

The sabs gave an account of what happened, saying that the hunt sighted three spring stags in Barton Wood at 2pm, who were then separated, with one stag becoming the target of “appalling human behaviour”. The sabs wrote:

“On the stag went unable to rest because everywhere he travelled, he was observed by the ‘Quad Battalion’ 4×4’s and the field.”

For two hours the animal was chased, and then:

“The atmosphere had changed and now with the death of the stag in sight followers were getting noticeably hostile towards sabs.”

The stag ran through allotments, then tried to cross a road, but:

“a crowd of jeering followers behaving disgracefully ‘shouted’ the stag from achieving this aim.”

So he ran back into one allotment. The sabs stated:

“At one point with the dogs close on his tail, he crashed headfirst into a fence unable to summon the energy to clear it. His energy now almost depleted he ran onto Twitchen Ridge before dropping down to Leworthy and on to Twitchen.
Here there was sadly no escape from death. In the stretch of river between Ball Bottom Bridge and Twitchen Mill he lost his valiant effort to escape. After being turned by supporters at Ball Bottom Bridge, he ran back downstream where he was blocked by hunt staff and lackies. With no energy left to run back uphill, he lay down in the water barely able to hold his head up.”
The young stag is exhausted as he collapses into the river. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs
The young stag is exhausted as he collapses into the river. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs

Barging a hunt saboteur to get the kill

North Dorset Sabs said that as the gunman approached, two hunt sabs tried to intervene to save the exhausted stag. What happened next was chilling:

“Brandishing his shotgun, [the gunman] tried to barge a sab out the way in his desperation to kill. One sab managed to valiantly film, while the other ran in to try and stop the kill. But within 30 seconds the shot was taken. As the gunman loomed above him the stag raised his head one final time, looked his killer in the eye, then was shot dead.”

The sabs said that followers in their cars beeped their horns in celebration of the murder, while the killers dragged the poor stag out of the river, over a fence and up a steep slope to carve up the body. Indeed, after a hunt murders a stag, it is ritual to butcher the animal. Different parts of his body — such as the head with its antlers, and the slots (the hooves and the bottom part of the leg) — are taken as trophies. Even the teeth are taken as mementos of the murder. The landowner usually gets the stag’s heart.


The bloodthirsty gunman takes his shot. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs
The bloodthirsty gunman takes his shot. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs


Devon and Somerset Staghounds killer
This is the face of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds killer. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs


The killers drag the stag's dead body out of the river. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs
The killers drag the stag’s dead body out of the river. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs

South-west England’s bloodlust

While this account by North Dorset Sabs is horrific, it isn’t a one-off incident. The group reported that the Devon and Somerset Staghounds murdered another stag just one week earlier, on 13 April. And on 9 April the hunt chased a one-year-old stag, who “should have been deemed too young”, and who managed to evade the hunt with the help of hunt saboteurs. Sabs on the ground are also exposed to intimidation by riders, who get irritated that they’re being monitored and filmed. The sabs said of Devon and Somerset’s violence:

“Last year the gunman’s father shot a stag with a sab right in the line of fire. These people are dangerous in their single-minded need to kill no matter what.”

The south-west of England has three packs of staghounds terrorising the area’s deer. Devon and Somerset hunts on Exmoor, while the Quantock Staghounds hunts on the Quantock and Brendon Hills, and Tiverton Staghounds hunt the valleys of the Exe, Taw and Torridge.Protect the Wild has regularly reported on the Quantock Staghounds as it murders deer in Somerset, and in January, we reported on how a pregnant alpaca was killed by dogs from the Tiverton Staghounds on New Year’s Day.

While we are seeing the police taking more interest in policing fox hunting (or, at least, a little more than they used to) staghound packs continue to get away with their extreme acts of cruelty, despite saboteurs and monitors filming and photographing the kills. Stag hunting is, of course, illegal, but like fox hunters, hunts use loopholes in the law to carry out their crimes with impunity. Under the Hunting Act, a mammal can be ‘flushed’ out by a maximum of two hounds and shot, or to relieve it of suffering. It can also be killed in the name of ‘research’. Devon and Somerset Staghounds says that it is using just two hounds, yet it uses its pack of dogs in a relay – that is, it switches two hounds for two others, and then two more, over the many hours a stag is chased. These loopholes are enough to ensure that the police continue to look the other way.


Devon and Somerset hounds
Devon and Somerset hounds. Photo by North Dorset Hunt Sabs

Support North Dorset Sabs

North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs are consistently out in force, and they’re the defence stags and foxes desperately need against these brutal killers. Without them and all the other sabs and monitors, many more animals would be cruelly murdered. Despite witnessing such distressing kills – which must be traumatising to face – the saboteurs continue to put wildlife first.

You can show your support by donating to North Dorset Sabs here.