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A cold morning ferreting...

It had been a few weeks since Degsy had rekindled his love affair with ferrets, or at least this was how he had won over his wife.  Having owned and worked them earlier in his hunting days, he had recently been given a pair of albino ferrets, Jake and Elwood, from a friend in order to reacquaint himself with working them.  All that was now needed was suitable permission to use them, it was at this stage Degsy called wondering if I had any permission that we could use them on.  It is something that we find strange around where we live in that there are plenty of arable farms around but a distinct shortage of good numbers of rabbits.  The usual 'problem with hundreds of rabbits' tends to only be a hand full at most and often there appear to be no burrows nearby that are accessible and so the usual way forward is by use of air rifle or rimfire.
Thankfully I had managed to get a small garden in a nearby village that was plagued by rabbits.  On visiting it last summer, the signs were good that there were indeed a plentiful supply of rabbits in residence.  Two of the hedges that provided a boundary for this garden had three or four hole warrens every ten yards along their length.  On top of that there were two warrens in amongst the rockery within the garden and another warren under a large pampas grass.  An area in one corner had an old caravan and trailer which showed signs of rabbit usage underneath.
We were meeting up at nine for the fifteen minute trip, the weather was such that Degsy had wondered if we would still go out but having woken late my phone was still switched to silent and the message went unanswered.  As Degsy pulled up outside the sun came out through the light drizzle that had been darkening the skies.  Although the rain persisted as we headed on our way it felt like the sun would make an appearance.
This was to be my first real taster of ferreting and I was looking forward to the experience, I had recently purchased some nets to help resource these outings.  For today's trip the dogs had been left at home, I had broken Bill, my Plummer Terrier, to ferrets but he had also come into contact with Mink since then.  I did not want to risk any fatal encounters with the ferrets and so left him this time, there would be plenty of time to resume his getting used to the ferrets in a safe environment on another occasion.
Stealth was the way forward, as we arrived and after a quick walk around we decided to net up from one end of the hedge to where there seemed to be a natural break n the warrens.  We then headed back to the start point and put one of the two ferrets in at that point.  Degsy had managed to get a locator and collars for them to help us should they hold up below.  The soil was very sandy here and so any digging should be relatively easy other than for the hedge roots.
After a couple of minutes underground Elwood reappeared a few yards down the hedgerow out of one of the netted holes.  It didn't appear to want to leave the hole and after a quick look out to see where it was it headed back below.  We decided to put Jake in as well and soon both were out of sight below us.  Jake was a lot larger and a lot younger than Elwood and this was all new stuff to him too.   Elwood did not seem to be happy out in the drizzle, unlike Jake, and he was soon put back into his box for a warm.  Jake shot through the next warren without incident as well.  This surprised us at there was a great deal of fresh digging around there entrances.  
It was only after the ferrets had worked the two first warrens that I remembered to breathe, or at least that was how it felt.  My adrenaline was pumping, listening out for the thumping from below as a sign a rabbit may be making its way out.  By the time we had cleared the third warren we were all a bit frustrated, it appeared the rabbits were onto scent in the tunnels below but nothing bolted.  The next net we arrived at appeared to be a single hole, we had carefully explored the area surrounding it and could discern no further bolt holes.  We put Jake into the hole expecting him to resurface within seconds, not to disappoint his head popped out only seconds later but as I leant over to remove him he darted back inside.  After half a minute we were wondering what was happening below ground.  After five minutes or so we were beginning to wonder if he had curled up in the warmth below.  As I glanced down a grey form shot from the hole and into our net.  It closed in textbook fashion and for what seemed like an eternity we stood staring blankly at each other before I dropped onto the rabbit dispatching it quickly to avoid any suffering.
One in the bag and as I untangled the net out walked Jake, nose in the air, looking for the rabbit it had driven our way.  We put Elwood into the hole to see if any other conies might be driven out but by the time I had laid the rabbit out he was out again.  Back into the box both ferrets went, and on we moved to the next warren.
This one was more interesting, on the edge of the hedge was a large compost heap and rubbish collection.  Five holes that we could see, the hardest to net being inside and underneath a grown in roll of fencing wire atop the heap.  Elwood had decided he really didn’t like the weather and by the time we opened the box for the next run he was curled up fast asleep.  Jake by contrast was still rearing to go and within the space of a heartbeat he was off and into the first netted hole.  Again minutes past, and by now we were all feeling the chill.  At this point the landowner arrived to have a chat and see how things were doing.  He was as surprised, as we were, to hear that none had come of the main warren but more than happy a doe had been caught in the last hole.
As he stood to watch part of the compost heap exploded out as a rabbit exited from underneath, this rabbit disappeared through a gap in the hedge before re-entering behind us.  We had left the nets down over our previous holes just for this very reason.  This rabbit headed for the main warren and halfway there we saw Degsy set off in a determined sprint to catch up to it.  He was rewarded as he fell to his knees at the main netted hole, there struggling inside was a back netted rabbit.  Another large doe and one more for the ferrets.  After five more minutes with nothing more to show we decided to move on again.  
The next venue was a set of holes around an old trailer and caravan.  There were a couple of holes on the opposite side of the hedge, and as we netted up the caravan holes a large rabbit fled from underneath and into one of the holes under an old metal trough.  Jake was entered in the second hole underneath this trough and the waiting began again.  After a few minutes a rabbit shot out into one of the nets on the other side of the hedge, while Degsy dealt with that one Jake had exited one of the holes near the caravan and was heading overground to the edge of the caravan.  Within seconds of him being underneath a rabbit darted out from under it and sprinted across the garden and through the hedge at the other end.  That was one we wouldn't expect to see again.  
We decided to try one last area, underneath a large pampas grass.  As we netted up, Ian, the landowner took orders for a much appreciated mug of coffee.  I could only find one small hole in the middle of this stand, but there were so many runs through the edges it was hard to net up in the knowledge we would catch a fleeing rabbit.  Again Jake led the charge, after we were half way though our coffee's I thought I could hear a high pitched scream from under the pampas.  After another minute we could hear rustling from underneath the grass, Degsy thought he had seen a rabbit come to one of the nets before heading back into the mound.  At that point a young rabbit came through the net at my feet, it was only quarter grown but control was what we were after and within seconds it was out of its misery.  Knowing there may be more of these underground, and not wanting to have to dig through this plant we called it a day.
Three large rabbits and a young one for the ferrets and one happy landowner.  It had been an enjoyable couple of hours and we had avoided any digging as well.  Now, how to convince the wife we need to get another animal in the household?

hope these pics work as imagshack seems to be playing up recently....sorry about the quality but they were with my mobile....

yet again i feel as if i have missed out on something enjoyable as a youth ...need to do some serious catching up now.

Excellent write up and pictures Toka mate

Superb and very enjoyable.

why werent the dogs marking in or out for you?

patience as well 5 mins why would you think the ferret had laid up just because it hadnt shown for 5mins

Darren, we didn't have the dogs with us.  Bill was broken to ferrets but since then has come across mink, I would not trust him with ferrets now until I get a chance to see how he is...I am sure we will get him working with them but don't want to risk my mates ferrets...

Going off what the landowner was saying these were small warrens...that said and having talked to Degsy what felt like 5 mins at the time was probably more like 15 or 20 mins....all that adrenaline and stuff.

It was a great couple of hours even with the rain and something I want to do more another permission in mind too..


fun morning was had by all. Darren we thought that the ferret was down the hole longer than it should be because it looked like a 1 holer and not to deep but after talking to the owner of the garden we have found out different so now we know for future reference Degsy

Cracking write-up mate!  

I had every intention of having a go this weekend, but time caught up with me before I knew it  

Thanks for that, I enjoyed the Day as much as you did!



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