Summer Ferreting - Part Two
Andy Beattie teams up with fellow ferreters Dave and Sheila for his second day's hunting in Mobberley, Cheshire, on July 5 2004.
I set off with Dave and picked Sheila up from Bolton and we drove down to Cheshire. I took my new air rifle (Falcon Raptor FN19-RB 8 shot), two of my poley jills Bandito and Jilly, and my lurcher, Flash. Dave took his new air rifle (my old BSA Mercury S). Sheila took her two air rifles (Falcon Raptor FN19-RB single shot and Weihrauch HW77) but only used the Falcon.
We arrived just after 10am and started off by notifying the landowner that we had arrived. We were told that some of the fields had been mown so we were hopeful of a large bag.
We decided to start at the potato field with the air rifles. I drove us back down the long drive and parked near the spud field. The farmer was tending to his mowing machine. He said some of the fields were half mowed so we set off in search of the rabbits. We headed across the last few fields and the grass was still long.
As soon as we entered the spud field, Dave and I spotted two rabbits out in the open. As we crept closer to get within range, they bolted and disappeared into the stinging nettles. We ventured across the field and another bolted from behind a potato plant. Flash spotted it and set off in pursuit, but didn't stand a chance. It made it in to the long grass and into a bury.
We decided to head up the field and sit in ambush. Sheila headed up the right-hand side, watching the hedgerow. Dave and I headed for the left-hand side. We put up another rabbit and Flash chased it. Again, it made it to a bury.
We all got into position and waited. The farmer had sorted the mower and was working in the next field. There was a lot of noise and commotion. After well over half an hour of waiting in ambush no rabbits had showed so we gathered together and headed back to the car for a spot of lunch.
We discussed our tactics and came to the conclusion that the mowing must have put the rabbits to ground so we decided to switch to ferreting. We went back down the drive and netted a large bury on a banking. Bandito and Jilly were entered to see if anyone was at home. I heard a faint thump and said quietly: 'There's one here'. Then Bandito bolted a young rabbit from an unnetted hole. Flash set off in pursuit but returned because the rabbit went through the wire fencing. Bandito emerged and set off in pursuit. I caught her and re-entered her. Sheila ended up running after Jilly and had trouble catching her. She's used to her ferrets coming out casually and milling around waiting to be picked up but mine get very excited when on a scent and will try to run after the rabbits at full speed.
After a couple of minutes of Bandito and Jilly popping in and out rapidly, I heard some faint thuds. Flash heard them too and was ready. I said: 'She's on another!' Then a rabbit hit the net. Flash dashed in and pinned it. I scrambled under the hawthorns and used my priest. Both ferrets came out and started wandering about on the surface. Nothing else had bolted so we collected the nets and ferreted the other warren close by. After five minutes or so, we heard some crashing through the undergrowth and Bandito darted out after a rabbit that we didn't see. Dave retrieved her and we collected the nets. Sheila almost got stuck under a hawthorn bush trying to retrieve one from its base. Dave and I couldn't do much for laughing, so I grabbed a photo.
We tried a couple more buries but had no luck so we headed back to the potato field with the ferrets.
I netted the holes that the rabbits had run into and entered Bandito in the first single-holer. I tracked her underground to see where the tunnel led. There was a faint thud, then she started back up the tunnel. I followed with the locater and kept watching the depth. She had been more than 15ft deep because the locater couldn't detect the transmitter on her collar. Then she was rising rapidly - 15ft... 12ft... 8ft... 2ft... The rabbit hit the net and Flash pinned it. Bandito emerged and I relieved them both of the rabbit. If Flash hadn't pinned it, it would have slipped the net. Its head and front legs were through the mesh and in another second or two it would have been free again.
I collected Bandito and headed to a small group of three holes where Dave was and she was re-entered. Sheila was watching a netted single hole I had found on the boundary. Dave tracked Bandito underground while I went back for the net from the single-holer. He followed her as she headed down the field at top speed, then he lost her. She must have been more than 15ft deep again.
I took over the locating and quickly searched the area but couldn't get a fix, so I headed towards the boundary. KNOCK!...KNOCK!...KNOCK! The locator found her. She had followed the bury right to the boundary, about 25 yards from where Sheila was, and she was about to disappear in to a huge nettle patch. We quickly decided to stop ferreting this bury and headed for the last bury we had found in this corner of the field. As we approached, Dave saw patch of nettles acting strangly so we circled it and started trampling the stems. Dave headed towards the centre and the nettles moved again. Flash shot in, rushed through the nettles and stopped right at the edge of the patch. 'She's got it!' called Dave, and he went to retrieve it. As he got there, Flash stood up and darted out into the open again. She had lost the rabbit and none of us saw where it went.
We reached the last bury and netted up all the holes we could find. There were about seven and there was plenty of freshly excavated sand. In went Bandito again and I tracked her once more. She went about 3ft in then came back out. Into the next hole she went. Same again, so I put her to the next hole. She ran in and out, but didn't go any distance. We tried all the holes but none of them went anywhere so we figured it was a very new bury and gave up. We packed up and headed back to the car.
As we headed through an unmown field, I saw a rabbit set off for the hedgerow and disappear but no one else saw it, nor did Flash who was happily bounding about.
Because the land isn't a working farm, we figured the mowing must have caused the rabbits to retreat elsewhere while there was disturbance. This land will be excellent winter hunting ground but we'll have to keep showing our faces to keep the permission so we can ferret it up big style when the foliage has died down.
When we'd seen the rabbits in the open, I'd taken a shot but didn't hit them. After a couple more shots, the gun hissed when I shot it. The pellets were jammed and were backing up in the silencer. I prised them out with the tip of my knife then tried a couple more shots. All seemed OK. A couple of hours later I had another chance of a shot and the pellet jammed again. I went to get my knife, but had lost it. So I borrowed Sheila's. These were well jammed in so I left it until I got home. At home I took the silencer off and used my barrel rod to try to dislodge the blockage. After about half an hour, I managed to get about six pellets from the silencer, which were all compacted into a large lump of lead. When I'd bought the rifle, I was given half a tin of Crossman Acu-Pel but I'd used them up and had reverted back to my favourite pellet Eley Wasp.
I never checked the size difference, mine were 5.6mm but the Acu-Pel were 5.5mm I tried some 5.5mm Wasps in it, and haven't had a problem since. So now I'll have to change from my 5.6mm to 5.5mm.
(From Ferrets First Issue #20 October/November 2004)
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