A Happy New Year...
As long as you're not a rabbit!
by Sadie James
January 1st 2000 - The day dawned grey, drizzly and generally miserable (a bit like the rest of 1999!).
But, I was not about to be put off my annual tradition of ferreting on New Years day.
After a quick breakfast for ferreters and ferrets, it was a quick net check, locator check and mustering of equipment.
I chose 2 of my faithful albino jills, Faye, who's 4 and Frizzy who's 2. Unfortunately one of my locator collars had a broken buckle, so I only had one functioning collar. This meant I could only work one jill at a time.
Problems aside, me and Bernie (my husband) left for our ferreting patch - an old cider orchard with a bank full of holes and a couple of open buries.
Both our dogs - Scamp a border collie, and Carrie a liver and white English Springer Spaniel, came too and showed great interest in the holes. This was promising!
We soon had one of the open buries netted up, about 14 holes. I decided to put Frizzy in first, as she has only just started her working career. I entered her in an outlying hole, just in case it was a dead end, and waited. About five minutes passed, and then the tell tale rumble… we waited… Nothing happened!
I gave her a bit longer, then out with the locator. I located her at 2 feet deep, about 3 feet away from the nearest hole. So now we knew where she was, but we didn't know what she was up to! We even thought she may be toasting the new year with the rabbits!
We decided to leave her another five minutes, which seemed like hours! Back out with the locator, and she was in the exact same place.
Time to dig!
I had just removed the turf, when there was a flurry of activity, culminating in the rabbit sitting just inside the hole! The little sod just sat there, so I made a grab for it! The rabbit double back, leaving me with a very flustered, frustrated ferret on the end (temporarily) of my left index finger!!!
Frizzy continued back into the bury, but couldn't find, let alone bolt, the rabbit.
Enter Faye, seasoned bunny hunter extraordinaire.
Within moments, the rabbit was out in textbook style, and pursed beautifully.
Well, that justified our coming out!
Any more rabbits were considered a bonus - we never aim to eradicate EVERY rabbit, otherwise there would be none left for next year! I have a policy of only catching what I can use, I hate waste, especially low cholesterol, totally organic, free range, rabbit meat. Never mind all this RSPCA 'freedom food' stuff, you can't beat wild rabbit for eatability.
The majority of rabbit sold in supermarkets comes from China - where they also eat dogs and cats! The mind boggles!!!
Anyway, Faye considered there were no more rabbits in that bury, so we worked the next one just below us.
Faye worked methodically through the bury, and evicted two occupants, straight into the waiting nets. By now, it had started to rain, so we cleared where we had been and moved on to the biggest bury, a bank of about 35 holes. After netting up, it was time to give Frizzy another airing. She sniffed the entrance, bristled, and short down the hole!
Not 3 minutes later, yes, you've guessed it - a rabbit flew into one of the nets. Bern turned to me and said, "that'll be it now, it's far too big a bury for one ferret!" so I swapped Frizzy for Faye, and 2 more rabbits later we were packing up to go home - with Bern eating his words!
The total bag was 6 rabbits - and I know a lot of ferreters who wouldn't get out of bed for so few rabbits, but it was a day well spent in fresh air. That night, our millennium meal was a lovely rabbit stew made from part of our day's catch - it was delicious! Compliments of Frizzy and Faye!!
(First published Winter 2000)