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When asked if I’d like to write something about my experience of the MFHA Professional Development Program, I replied without hesitation that I’d be delighted to as I thought it an extremely worthwhile and excellent course. The course has many applicants every year and few places, which is testament to its popularity, but the fact that few places are allocated allows a much more concentrated and individual approach to the teaching.


Balding hunting the Toronto and North York (ON) pack. Photo by Heather Swan.

I was delighted to be accepted onto the course last year and even more relieved to have been allowed to continue with it even though my immigration status in Canada didn’t allow me to go to Virginia to complete the initial section of the course. I was, however, able to complete this section at the end of the 12 months instead, which allowed me to meet the next year’s students as well as my own year group. This is a valuable aspect of the course: Bonds are formed with your fellow students that help you through the course and likeminded, lasting friendships are made.

The kennel visits and residential part allow you to connect with others in the hunting world which can become an essential part of what can sometimes be a relatively isolated career.
Particularly up here in Canada, we can feel a little removed from the rest of the hunting world, and to be able to build on the networking opportunities started at the PDP can be of huge benefit.

Right from the onset, we were made to feel welcome and given confidence, with no concerns about asking questions. It is well organized, with great lines of communication with our wonderful tutor, Andrew Barclay, and highly efficient Billie-Jo Pearl at the MFHA office keeping us all in line.

The course is comprehensive, well-thought-out and covers a diverse subject in detail as well as providing practical support. It demands your time and thought but does not detract from your daily work, in fact it enhances it. I found as I completed each assignment my thoughts went to past and present experiences and topics discussed would often pop up as I went through each day.
Opportunity is provided to give your viewpoint or discuss the questions rather than just to complete them.

There is a good mixture of both the theory and the practical side of the subject. Hunting does not fit easily into established categories when it comes to education, so this is not easy to do.

I have always been a big reader and already have a good library of hunting literature so I was particularly impressed with the quality of the reading and listening materials given to students on the course. Giving us a monthly assignment connected to the books is a great way of ensuring the books are read and not just sitting pretty on the shelf. I thought initially the assignments might be a chore but in fact they were enjoyable! They were thought-provoking and interesting. I found most of the questions were geared towards what I did in my position as huntsman and so I found this particularly useful.

I was apprehensive about the home visit, but I needn’t have been! Mr. Barclay was supportive and encouraging and as it was also my first Opening Meet as huntsman, he helped to put me at ease!

As part of the course, we were allocated a work placement. Much thought goes into where each student is sent and I had the wonderful opportunity of being sent to the Rose Tree Blue Mountain hunt in Pennsylvania, with Sean Cully, MFH and huntsman. The work placement is enjoyable and informative and a great way to get to know more people within hunting and to broaden horizons by seeing how things are done elsewhere. There is always something to learn from watching others in the job. It is also an opportunity to ask questions.


Balding, far left, evaluates a hound as an apprentice judge at the Virginia Foxhound Show. M. Drum photo.

As mentioned earlier, the visit to the Virginia Hound Show and kennel tours normally comes at the start of the course. It is a huge privilege to be given the opportunity to stand in the ring with the judges and be part of the judging experience. The sheer amount of knowledge and experience we are given access to over the course of the residential trip to Virginia is second to none and the ability to freely ask questions and soak up the knowledge is one to take every advantage of. Every person involved offered their advice and support freely and genuinely.

Traditionally, hunting has had no formal, written qualification and in a modern world this can have its issues. I certainly have found this out when trying to get permanent residency in Canada. These days, everyone needs to see your qualifications, and experience doesn’t count for so much in certain areas anymore. I think the PDP plays an important role here for hunting today, as it is the only qualification of its type within the career, particularly with new and ever-changing issues facing immigration on a daily basis.

I know that one of the issues within hunting is retention of staff in the job, especially if they have been invested in by going through the PDP. The PDP remains extremely impressive in its percentage of students retained in the hunting career throughout its duration. I would have no hesitation recommending this course to anyone serious about hunting as a career. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and made memories, connections and a support network that will stay with me.

I think it’s a great course!

To learn more about the program and download an application, please visit our website here.

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