Trail hunting FAQs

Winter panorama, Parke, Devon

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions that we received on trail hunting, as well as some useful background information:

Do we allow fox hunting on your land?
No. Hunting with packs of dogs has been illegal since 2004. The law does allow what is known as ‘trail hunting’ to continue. It effectively replicates a traditional hunt but without a fox being intentionally chased, injured or killed.

We licence trail hunting under certain conditions designed to allow participants to take part in this activity where they are compatible with our conservation aims.

Anybody who uses our land must comply with the law, regardless of whether they do so under our licence conditions or under rights retained when the property was transferred to the Trust.

Revised licensing conditions

Why do we publish specific dates and areas where trail hunts take place on your website?
It’s been a long standing licence condition for all hunts to publicly provide details of areas and times. We are now publishing details on our own website, including specific dates, to ensure they are accessible.

Why do we ban animal-based scents?
We believe it's right to minimise as far as possible the risk of foxes or any wild animal being accidentally chased during a trail hunt; moving to artificial scents is part of achieving that aim. It is up to trail hunts to decide which artificial scent they use, and we will check this periodically.

How will hounds or beagles trained with fox scent be retrained? Will they become useless for hunts? 
Our licence system for all outdoor activities places the onus on the parties undertaking the activity. How they retrain is a matter for the trail hunts themselves. We believe it's right to reduce as far as possible the risk of foxes or any wild animal being accidentally chased.

How do our licence conditions regard hounds, hunt followers and terrier men?
The licensed hunt is responsible, under the conditions of the licence, for the behaviour of the hounds and followers associated with it. This means that bad behaviour from followers or hounds will affect our decisions as to whether to licence, or continue to licence a hunt. Terrier men have no place in a trail hunt and are explicitly prohibited under our licence conditions.  

Unlicensed hunts

Are we aware of reports of unlicensed trail hunts using Trust land and what are we doing about it?
We take any reports of unlicensed trail hunts on our land very seriously and we seek urgent clarification from the relevant trail hunts. In prior years we've declined to issue, have suspended, or have revoked trail hunting licences when either licence conditions have been breached or where we have lost confidence in a trail hunt’s ability to adhere to the conditions.

Trail hunts understand that they need to apply for a licence if they wish to use Trust land. The majority of trail hunts are responsible and recognise the importance of working with us to ensure this lawful activity takes place in a safe way, within the law. Clearly, it is unacceptable to disregard the long established rules and wilfully disregard landowners.

Will we take legal action if unlicensed incursions continue?
We take any validated reports of such incidents seriously and they are considered on a case by case basis dependent on the available facts and evidence. Hunts, like other groups, do not require licences to cross our land if they remain on bridle ways, public footpaths, or other public rights of way.

Are we just ignoring the unlicensed trail hunts? 
No. Our staff record any incidents where unlicensed trail hunts take place. We then decide what action to take as a result and on a case by case basis, having consideration to our obligations as a charity. 

If anyone witnesses anything that they believe to be illegal, we advise them to contact the police directly, in addition to reporting the incident to National Trust staff.

Trail hunt routes

Why do we publish trail hunt areas and not specific trail hunt routes?
We've always required trail hunts to be transparent and provide details of where and when the activity will take place.  

Information on our website includes details of the specific dates on which named hunts are permitted to use our land and maps of the licensed areas through which they will pass. This provides transparency for visitors to make informed decisions over whether or not they want to avoid or see trail hunts in defined areas on specific days of the year.

Following discussions with a range of stakeholders, including with the police, we decided not to publish details of start and end points, or specific hunt routes. This decision was made in order to protect public safety by minimising the potential for confrontation between groups of differing opinions and the potential for public disorder.

Where do you publish information?
As a charity with five million members, we believe we should be transparent and share information of public interest in an easily accessible way. 

We publish details of the areas, together with the dates on which trail hunts are licensed to take place on our list of licensed trail hunts.

In addition, all hunts are required to provide an email address to enable members of the public to contact them with questions regarding hunt dates and locations on our land, which can also be found on that page.  

Licensing procedures

How do we monitor trail hunts under licence?
This season, our staff will be carrying out on the ground monitoring of licensed hunts, including random scent sampling and spot-checks for those trail hunts that we licence. If any of the terms of our licence agreements are proven to have been breached during these checks, we’ll take strong, immediate action with the relevant hunt.

How do hunts apply for licences to trail hunt on our land?  How long do we take to fully consider each application?
Any hunt that wishes to apply for a licence to trail hunt on our land has to submit an application form to their local estate manager in the first instance. Completed application forms should be accompanied by a number of supporting documents – such as proof  of insurance and written permissions from tenants.

These documents are then reviewed along with the potential impacts on our conservation and access objectives in order to determine whether a licence will be issued. There's no set timeframe in which a decision will be made. 

Under what circumstances do we suspend trail hunt licences?
Any potential breaches in our licensing regime are taken very seriously. We may suspend or revoke licences when we suspect conditions have been broken or where we have lost confidence in a trail hunt’s ability to adhere to the conditions.

We will always establish the facts from all relevant parties before concluding any investigation. We will not go into detail over specific allegations against hunts.

What happens if our tenants give permission for a trail hunt without our knowledge?
We keep in regular contact with our tenant farmers. Since the creation of trail hunting post-2004 Hunting Act, we've led on  licensing this type of outdoor activity; tenants have never been the licensor. Hunts need to seek permission from the Trust directly but we also ask hunts to gain tenant’s consent for any trail hunt likely to cross their occupied land. Tenant farmer permissions are given in writing.

Why are we recruiting a national trail hunt management team?
To help ensure trail hunts follow our new licence conditions, we have agreed to step up our existing monitoring regime as soon as possible. To do this we are augmenting our existing teams with some new and dedicated, national support. Recruits should be in place for the start of the new season in the autumn.

How are hunt meets on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day licensed?
The hunt meets that take place at some of our sites do so under strict conditions. Even when no trail hunt is planned, hunts must still apply for an activity licence to access our land. We only grant any licence to a hunt after assessing the potential impact on conservation or visitor access.  

As these meets are just ceremonial events, with any trail hunting happening on land that we do not manage, these activity licences do not mirror all of the details in our trail hunting licences.

However, should these groups intend to use our land for trail hunting, they must apply separately for our standard trail hunting licence, and the details of their planned event(s) will be published on our website.

Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District

List of licensed trail hunts 

See where licensed trail hunts taking place and maps of the areas concerned.