A Time for Change - Deben Ferret Finder 3
Simon Whitehead of Pakefield Ferrets takes a look a the latest addition to the ferreters equipment.
There are many assets to the ferreters armoury, good nets, good ferrets and of course, a good ferreters dog but the one piece of kit that is to me as vital as the ferrets, is of course the ferret finder.
The ferret finder in one form or another has been around for a long time, over 25 years in fact and in that time the Mk1 has had eight different versions made. As the different components have no longer been available, the new ones have replaced them without the unsuspecting ferreters noticing the difference as Deben have ensured that the finished product wasn't affected by the enforced changes over the years. But as the technology in the Far East grows, the lesser or older electronic components are no longer of any use and with that comes the end in manufacturing such dated items. That is why the ferret finder has had to move with the times, along with the call from ferreters to have an updated piece of kit.
The Mk1 was good, but this had its limitations and that is what we must remember and not get carried away with sentiment. A drab grey box that could easily be lost and although we painted them bright orange, it was bought grey, the box wasn't waterproof and the dial stickers all to easily rubbed off and again, a bit of varnish and the dial numbers scratched onto the dial over came this and the interference picked up was annoying to say the least, but on the whole the box was reliable when looked after and serviced regularly and had a depth of 8ft or 15ft. The collars at the time of the original launch were the state of the art and worked so nothing drastically needed changing but, many used the wrong batteries in them so didn't get the full signal all of the time and with a little electricians tape protecting the cap to ensure that the rabbit bunny punches couldn't loosen the cap thus stopping the signal.
Now the Mk3 is out and I have had it for about three weeks now and tried my hardest to break it as until I am happy with the performance I was not prepared to write this review but to be truthful I have found very little wrong with the corrections made to the new set, but one swallow doesn't make a summer?
The strap length sometimes causes a bit of problem as some ferrets are so large that the collar doesn't fit. If this is the case, Deben stock the larger collars for the terrier collar and with a little trim I am sure this problem can be overcome, but when fitting on lean ferrets, the spare collar sticks up in the air giving an object that will disturb the net. I fit a small elastic band on the collar and tuck the spare webbing underneath just like you do on a watch strap. With the new webbing you do not have the possibility of the collar weakening and snapping like with the old leather collar or the end expanding and making it hard to buckle. If you do cut or put a new strap on, heat a spoon and smooth the edge so it doesn't fray in time and make tightening the buckle a nightmare.
On the Mk1, for years people have protected the collar from the hefty kicks dished out by the rabbit with insulation tape. This also protects dirt and grime from upsetting the mechanics of the cap, the same has to be said of the Mk3. I found that small pieces of dirt, sand and soil creep under the collar cover throughout the day and could move the contact away from the battery so I would strongly advise all to tape the collar up before commencing to ferret. I know many won't bother but at the end of the day for the sake of a little bit of tape you can ensure no blips are to happen when wanting to find your ferret and rabbit when ferreting.
The Mk2 collars are black, the Mk3 are grey so do not be fooled by people saying the black are Mk3, they are not, the same as the Mk2 or Mk3 receiver will NOT pick up the Mk1 collar and the Mk2 receiver will only pick up Mk2 collars.
The Mk3 collar has a depth of 16ft but this collar will work with the mk1 but not the Mk2 receiver boxes. The mk1 box with pick it up at a depth of 11ft, but you will have to practice to see the calibration as it will not be as your 8ft dial so all is not lost for the fans of the Mk1 sets. The mk3 has every thing the Mk1 didn't. A handset that is waterproof to everyday use but I guess wouldn't like to go swimming and that is why there was no ear piece fitted and to be truthful the noise emitted from the Mk3 is hard to drown out. The range was reduced from 20ft to 16ft because the anti interference in the Mk2 meant that the battery life was not what was to be expected for day to day use. The Mk3's collar has over 300 hours of use in the batteries due to the change in the way the transmitter works, but the biggest improvement in the Mk3 is the ability to pick up more than one collar at a time. Whereas, the Mk2's receiver could only pick up one collar at a time because the improved anti interference blocked out everything, hence the drain on the batteries.
The receiver technology has improved with an adjusted anti interference circuit but not too good as to block out the other collars as was the case with the Mk2. A search and locate mode means you can search for your ferrets within a range of 16f and when you are within 8 ft, you switch from search to locate and you can confidently locate your ferret to within 6 inches, the same as the Mk1. The Mk1 had a switch which we all used as a zero but even with this the limit was around 6 inches so this is defiantly a improvement and with many digs under its belt I can locate with a confidence I found lacking before in the Mk2 because it only went down to 1ft. To ensue a waterproof receiver all switches are magnetic reed which in layman's terms means they are no moving parts for reliability, these operate the search and locate modes and of course the on/off switch.
One of the problems with the Mk1 was the dial. It was the weak link in the receiver as many either broke or when wet the dial sticker washed off, but with the Mk3 a series of LED's indicate the distance from the collar with a varying pitch sounder that anyone who uses it will remember as unforgettable and these blips quicken the closer you get to the collar and if using more than one collar you will hear a multiple blip not dissimilar from the Mk1. With the mechanics so different between the old and the new, the best way I can describe the difference in approach and usage is like the two type of cars we have, the manual and the automatic. The Mk1 was the manual where everything was controlled by you and it reacts quicker because you are in charge whereas the Mk3 is the automatic. You are not in control and therefore it takes a little bit longer to find and understand where the collars are, this can be a little frustrating at first but once you get used to the slight time delay, you get the best out of the set, but when your ferret is moving about, the set appears to be going AWOL but it is picking up a moving signal. We had the same problem with the Mk1. The LED lights are also more distinct and keep within the designated depth reading and not go up and down in-between depth readings, this aids the dig and it give you the confidence that you have the sweet spot, which I found to be a 8 inch square but I am sure this differs in the varying soil conditions throughout the UK.
The actual working of the set isn't too far away from the Mk1. You put the set on search, lay the receiver flat, find the collar and move until it is on the 8 foot range and switch to the locate mode, home in on the ferrets collar and move the receiver from side to side, the closer you get in the locate mode the straighter the receiver is held, until you are happy with the sweet spot. I use the new set the same way as I did the old and I know this isn't the proper way as per the instructions but I find that this works for me. When within the smallest distance the spade comes out and as I dig, a check is made and the distance decreases until I am happy. The probe is then used to double check where the pipe is, the set reads 6 inches, the probe is through, a further dig and the ferret appears, one ferret and one rabbit. As we embark into another season we will continue to learn about the Mk3. With all things new, this set takes a little practice to get the best out of it but I have no doubt in time it will win over the doubters and die hard fans of the Mk1.