While conditions in Britain are not quite so tumultuous as that this year, the recent hoof-and-mouth outbreak has created a somewhat analogous situation. Quite simply, a fewer than average number of hunters are availing themselves of the opportunity to go afield in England and Scotland, and that has resulted in some good hunting going begging.
But let's start at the beginning.... Hoof and mouth disease never was any kind of pandemic in Great Britain. It was an epidemic that broke out mostly in the southwest and northwest of England, posing a threat to livestock only, not humans. In order to contain the epidemic, the government essentially closed down the countryside for a while this spring, interrupting roe deer hunts and halting all other forms of country sport. Today, the disease appears to be isolated in Yorkshire, and almost all of the countryside is open again.
The closure and the attendant bad publicity did a lot of harm. The few hunts that had to be cancelled during the early part of the roe deer season were nothing compared to those that hunters themselves began to cancel out of ignorance and fear. The government's mishandling of the problem simply made things worse. Take the situation in Scotland. Hoof-and-mouth disease was never detected within 100 miles of any red-stag hunting spots. Nonetheless, hunting estates have had to be certified as being free of hoof-and-mouth before hunting could resume. The main fear was said to be that hunters would spread the contagion on their boots after walking on the land. Perversely, however, hikers........(continued)