New Forest Buckhounds

Operating on and around the New Forest this hunt made a pastime of hunting and killing Fallow deer bucks. They were regularly monitored and filmed by courageous volunteers in particular from the Wildlife Action group. The hunt closed down in 1997. To contact Wildlife Action now please go to:

Here is a short clip from one of their films dated September 15th 1995:-

And here is a short clip from one of their films dated November 13th 1995:-

Here Joe Hashman writes about the success of Wildlife Action:-


This article was written fifteen years ago after the historic folding of a once-Royal deer hunt. Lots of individual campaigners worked tirelessly to make this happen. Direct action in the heart of hunting country was blended with political lobbying; a war of words was fought in the streets and through the press; a powerful coming-together of folk which really did work wonders!

Since 1991 virtually every meet of the New Forest Buckhounds has been attended by hunt saboteurs. Now, in late 1997, this will be unnecessary. Fallow buck are no longer chased for up to five hours over miles of forest and moor, they won’t be jumped upon by hunt thugs, or held with their heads under water, or savaged by hounds, or escape their tormentors only to die slowly from hypothermia and exhaustion.

This won't happen anymore because the New Forest Buckhounds have disbanded.

In an historic announcement made by the Buckhounds Mastership this summer, they pre-empted their inevitable demise and called it a day voluntarily. The subsequent ban by the Forestry Commission of deer hunting on its land only reinforced the Buckhounds’ decision.

Throughout the summer of 1991, sab groups in the South enjoyed a fine run of non-violent direct action against the Ytene Mink Hunt. Mass hits were the norm, week in and week out. The courage, inspiration and friendship that developed amongst activists was carried on in the New Forest, with the Buckhounds receiving sabs' attention.

Knowledge of this hunts peculiar ways were quickly learned in the hunting field and through the study of old hunting literature. Sabs soon sussed out the quirks and foibles of this unique form of hunting. Consequently countless buck were saved by their actions. The hunt was followed by sabs entirely on foot. Open public access and a lack of roads made this the best way. Anti-mate, hunting horns and whips were all used in the traditional style: cover the scent of the buck with a spray, use the voice and whips to rate (shout and crack at) the hounds, then horn 'em off in the other direction. CB radios were essential in the Forest too and employed with coded language to scupper pro-hunt scanners and earwiggers.

Sabs also organised kennel blockades with military-style precision. Hundreds of sabs turned out on these occasions and prevented the hunt from leaving its Brockenhurst kennels. Sabs vans would sandwich the hound van, making its progress impossible and the day would be won! Strange Forest by-laws meant that frequently the police were rendered powerless. Time and time again during the early 1990’s sabs were getting the upper hand.

One hound van ambush that sabs executed for the Opening Meet in 1992 resulted in criminal convictions for five of the sabs involved. But the blockade was a huge success, with over two hours of hunting lost and no kills on that day. It made national news headlines. However, court appearances became more frequent. Obscure New Forest bye-laws were employed. These often prevented sabs from interfering with the hunt in any way. The police and Forestry Commission Keepers would be quick to report anyone seen sabotaging the hunt. Although not serious, continual convictions for breaking bye-laws were a pain in the neck.

It wasn't just sabs getting done, though. John Stride, the Huntsman, was convicted of assaulting a hunt saboteur in the Southampton law courts. Sabs were empowered. Week in, week out, they were there. Sometimes in large groups, other times with just one or two. Mondays and Fridays in the Forest became a way of life for some.

The hunt was getting annoyed. The life-saving work of sabs was attracting the attention of many hunt thugs. They were using violence, as all heavies do, and they were succeeding. The hunt themselves began to kill more buck. This was identified as a knee-jerk reaction to effective hunt sabotage: the hounds would be diverted off the scent of a tired buck, only to kill a fresh one. Sabs received this with utmost suspicion. Talk of chaperoning deer and dodgy cowboy-style activities was rife. Something had to be done.

In 1994 there were not many active sabs left concentrating on the Buckhounds. With a recent increase in hunt violence and buck kills morale was low and sabs were desperately looking for new tactics. The work of other anti-hunting groups in the New Forest was noted. They tended to simply monitor the hunt with video cameras. Their stand-offish, non-confrontational tactics afforded them some freedom from the heavies and respect from the police. In other words, they got away with it! However, no serious cases of cruelty by the Buckhounds had yet been recorded.

The remaining few sabs downed their traditional sabbing tools and, with money raised through weekly street collections, purchased video cameras.

Under the name of Wildlife Action, days were still spent on foot, running with the hunt. Now though, they would not interfere. The hunt was allowed to continue as normal. Of course this did mean that many buck were killed. There was much criticism of this form of sabbing at the time and, although it proved to be ultimately ill-judged, it was hurtful. It goes against the grain to stand aside while atrocities are being committed against wildlife. For those sabs still active in the Forest, these were not easy days.

But their efforts were not in vain. Over the next four years the Buckhounds were to be exposed for cruelty time and time again in a relentless campaign which was waged by hunt sabs who literally ran the New Forest Buckhounds into submission.

In 1994 three hunt followers were filmed standing on an exhausted buck prior to its death. After that, scenes of carve-ups were filmed, with money appearing to be exchanged for 'trophies' (bits of dead deer). Buck were held under water in streams before being shot. Twice Wildlife Action also filmed buck being savaged by the hounds with no hunt personnel in attendance. Even the textbook kill, where a tired buck is held at bay by the hounds and then shot, was turning the stomachs of a nation of TV viewers who were seeing these scenes on local news and in documentaries.

The pressure on this hunt was intense. The Forestry Commission, whose offices were ambushed and occupied by campaigners, was forced to suspend the Buckhounds twice after hounds were filmed savaging deer. Public opinion turned against them. MP's clamoured to make their disapproval official. Co-ordinated action between Wildlife Action and their allies was unprecedented. From raw footage out of the woods to questions being asked in the House of Commons, everyone opposed to the cruel sport of deer hunting was working together at this time.

When the Labour Party announced their intention to ban hunting on Forestry land the death knell for deer hunting in the New Forest was sounded. Despite rallying calls from hunting apologists, a Labour landslide forced the buck-hunters into final submission. When they disbanded on Monday 28th July 1997 it marked the happy conclusion to a long and dangerous battle against the New Forest Buckhounds.

Thanks must go to everyone who went out there over the years!

Wildlife Action can be contacted now via Hounds Off,

© Joe Hashman, revised 2012