by Sheila Crompton
I have been doing a bit of summer ferreting this year after receiving a call to control rabbits on a small farm in Cheshire. I contacted Andy Beattie and asked him if he was interested in helping out. I then fixed up a day to visit the farm.
Andy called for me. He'd got his poley jills, Bandito and Jilly with him, Flash his lurcher bitch, purse nets, a brand new long net and his air rifle. I was using Arwen and Flower, my albino jills - plus Teal and Kira along with their cage mate Ewart but we didn't use them. I also included my purse nets, air rifle and my lurcher pup Bryn, his first hunting trip - I wasn't expecting him to do much, he was basically along just for the day out.
We had a very pleasant surprise when we arrived... the family that lived there had been living there for something like 18 years and when they first moved in the land was just a wide open space. Over the years they have planted hedges, trees and allowed the place to become virtually a wildlife haven. They keep horses. so the rabbits have become a problem and needed controlling.
After a pot of tea we were shown round the land and had the numerous buries pointed out to us.
We decided to start on the drive. Andy and I set the long net along the fence on one side of the drive. Andy took the field side of the hedge on the opposite side of the drive whilst I remained on the drive. We decided to use Arwen and Flower - too much undergrowth to use the poley jills. We got a bolt more or less straight away - the rabbit shot out of a hole on my side of the hedge and shot off down the drive. Alas both lurchers were on Andy's side of the hedge so they didn't even see the rabbit.
I managed to get Bryn round on my side of hedge just in time for another bolt. However, this time we were in luck and the young rabbit shot straight across the drive and into the long net. I quickly despatched the rabbit and left it in the net. Flower came out of the bury on Andy's side of the hedge and was popped back into the pet carrier. We located Arwen 3 feet down on the edge of the drive way... she was obviously on a rabbit and didn't want to leave it. She moved occasionally but only to go under the drive we did hope that the rabbit might bolt into the field but no such luck. After twenty minutes of waiting Andy decided to see if Bandito would shift Arwen. After three minutes both ferrets were out and they were both wearing rabbit fur mitts.
We got back in the car and moved off to another bury on a banking. We netted up the bury and Andy introduced Jilly and Bandito. Bryn was watching the whole process with interest but didn't even attempt to interfere with the nets. At one point he jumped and ran away from a hole when one of Andy's jills popped her head out. Jilly bolted a baby rabbit which slipped through the net. Flash set off in pursuit and took it back to Andy... Bryn had chased after Flash but I don't think he even saw the rabbit.
We moved on but the next bury we tried was empty so decided to change tactics and put the nets back in the car, the ferrets were left in pet carriers in the shade. Neither of us use working boxes during the summer as they just don't have enough ventilation for hot weather. We both had a cup of coffee before going for a walk with our air rifles and lurchers.
Every time we arrived in a field all the rabbits that had been feeding ran for cover... time for new tactics. I sat down 30 yards from the hedge relying on a few potato plants to give me some cover. Andy moved on up the field to see if he could ambush some rabbits. Bryn settled down beside me. I then changed from sitting to lying prone - not a good idea as Bryn reckoned that he would be more comfortable if he settled down in the middle of my back!!! I soon reverted back to sitting.
I heard a shot from Andy's air rifle. Next time I looked for Andy he'd moved and was walking back down the middle of the field. I heard several more shots, and by the time we met up again Andy had added another two rabbits to our bag.
Walking back to the car Andy allowed Bryn to mouth a rabbit - just to show him what we were after.
At the end of the day. Bryn, Andy, Flash and the catch.