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A cold Spring day...

Well it was going to be our first Spring day outing in the bright sunshine and clear skies on the Lancashire plain just outside of Burscough.  A last minute trip to try a piece of new permission only gained last summer.  Degsy, and his son Thomas were going to be heading out with their ferrets Lola and newbie Poppy, armed with an air rifle some nets and the trusty 4.10.  Bilbo and my new pup Gilly were making up the last of the team.
Gilly is 6 months old now and paying more attention to what Bill is doing all the time.  She has found her nose, spending most of our trips out with her eyes constantly to the ground as she follows one scent or another.  She has seen her prey but not yet killed herself.  Today would hopefully give her some experience of working alongside ferrets, something Bill can do although not trusted to do it unhindered as he is not broken fully to ferrets.
We arrived at the farm not knowing what work was being carried out there.  We knew that the ditches had been cleared and opened up in the past week, giving sight to a goodly number of holes, old and new, rabbit and rat.
The farm was busy with farmhands in many of the fields tending to the seedlings and protective blanketing.  Considering how wet the ground has been recently it was amazing to find the top soil here absolutely dry and our footsteps as we alighted the car threw up large clouds of brown dust.
We headed off to the ditches to see what today would bring, glad that, although the sun was shining brightly we had opted for warm winter clothing as the wind was strong and bitter as it blew down from the north.
Bill led us down the path with Gilly flitting between him and me. At the moment she seems to be keen not to be too long away from my side and I am hoping this will continue as she develops.  Bill has always been one to work further away and it will be nice to have a dog that is happy to work closer, especially when out with the shotguns.
Bill paid a lot of attention to some of the holes on the way down but nothing decisive.  We skirted the pond where he scared off some Coot, all the while followed be Gilly.  We made over to a small copse of woods riddled with warrens just off our permission.  The neighbouring landowner was out and we were hoping to get to say hello and see if he would allow us access to this piece of land.  While we waited to see if he would return to his vehicle Bill took the opportunity to work the adjoining ditch, showing signs of rabbit interest along its banks.
After a few minutes with no sign of anyone we headed back to a ditch that we knew held both rats and rabbits.  Bilbo worked the opposite bank as as we headed up towards the land drain at the end.  He stopped and mark positively, watched eagerly by Gilly, on a couple of occasions but we called him on wanting to start from the drain and work backwards.  Within yards of this drain Bill again marked positively and we decided to peg him and Gilly up, set the nets and let the ferrets work.
Both were entered into one of two holes Bill had marked at some 5 yards apart.   After a 15 minute wait we heard the first sign of some disturbance underground.  This was followed soon after by the noise of a panicked rabbit.  Seconds later the earth bust open between the holes at a point that had gone unnoticed  till then.  A small rabbit shot out and ran to a nearby hole, a second rabbit appeared at the hole but didn't exit, we were fairly sure it had a ferret attached to its behind and after a second or so it disappeared.  After another 15 minutes of silence we were rewarded with the appearance of Lola at the rim of a hole.  She was placed back in the box while we waited patiently for a static mark on our finder.  Whilst we were waiting Poppy appeared at the entrance to one of the holes and she was grabbed.  The network of tunnels was extensive and led into the field for some distance, we presume the rabbit had made its lucky escape.
We moved up to the hole used as shelter by the earlier escapee, two holes on the bank were netted together with a third nearby on the fringe of the field.  These holes were closer together and we were hoping for a quicker result.  Poppy the novice was put in on the bank and we settled to wait.  She emerged at the field hole some moments later with no apparent interest.  She headed back in and within seconds we heard the familiar cry from within.  We waited for a steady mark and once we had it we began to dig. About halfway to the mark Poppy appeared at the edge of one of the bank holes, pulling something backwards.  We boxed her and Degsy reached in and retrieved a small half sized rabbit from within.
We back filled the dig and headed back towards the farm and to the marks Bill had earlier indicated.  Gilly was allowed a chance to investigate the caught rabbit and she showed a great deal of interest.  Bill ignored one of the marked holes on the way back but at the other he marked the ground at the edge of the field.  He showed little interest in the bank entrance only a few yards away.  Gilly was, however, showing signs of interest in the entrance to the hole.  
We dug down at the point of Bill's interest, having netted two bank holes, and sure enough found a small tunnel about 9 inches beneath.  Bill was tethered and Lola was entered there through the small hand sized hole we had made.  Within a matter of seconds a large rabbit flew out of one of the holes and straight into the net.  It folded around the rabbit neatly trapping it and giving Degsy the opportunity to dispatch it quickly and cleanly.
After a quick run through it was obvious that that was the only occupant and so we headed back to the car.
About half way there Bill again stopped to mark another small hole, next to a larger one.  Unsure whether this might be a rabbit or a rat we netted the two holes while Thomas took up position on the opposite bank as a look out.  We allowed the experienced Lola into the larger hole and waited.  Within a minute Thomas spotted movement at the smaller hole.  There attempting to flee was rat, being dragged back inside by Lola attached to its rear.  At this point I allowed Bill his freedom and he promptly bent and snatched the rat, net and all from the hole.  I kept hold of it long enough to make sure Lola was not attached before allowing Bill to do his stuff.
Once dead Gilly was allowed to rag the rat and showed a large amount of courage  defending her rat from Bill at one point.  She had been allowed almost total freedom to interact with the ferrets and she showed an interest but didn't show any signs of aggression towards them and was directed away if she became too much.  Hopefully this will do her good in the future.  
One large rabbit, a small one and a large rat was a good haul for a quick outing and we all headed back to the car glad to have been out.


Great write up    after over 40 years i'm hanging my ferreting  days up     .

The last 2 years rabbits have been so scare around here and i haven't used my ferrets at all.   Now i LOVE ferreting and using the dogs to put them rabbits to ground, sad really as also my 2 lurchers have forgotten what a rabbit looks like.

I have2 Hobs and a Jill here to which i will try find homes for in the next few weeks/ months.

I have gone more into beating / shooting ( but its not the same as rabbiting )

And with my back not being all that good , diving at netted rabbits in a hedgerow isn't the best for an oldie like me.

Guarantee i get rid of my ferrets and rabbiting gear and i will get the chance of ground with lots of rabbits on  

I love seeing the pics of ferrets and terrier/ lurcher combo out there  

gonna be coming home to Talybont next week and hope to get out there with the terriers and the rifle perhaps...

a lovely change of scenery and as you say we have had a massive reduction in rabbits and rats in our area for no known reason.  Hope it wont be a lasting reduction.


Great pics...looks like a good time was had by one and all, what a great descriptive write up ....    

Grand day out, great pics and a cracking write up

ive asked you not to take pics from above it shows my bald spot   it was a fun afternoon though


hahaha... not half as bad as my bald spot lol...

It certainly was a good un, up for a few more now too.  

Cheers Bodger!! been off the boil for past 18 months with family issues, hope to get back out there and on paper from now on... all we need is more prey about as there is a serious lack of rats and rabbits about here... :-)

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