It never ceases to amaze me how many fellow hunters need to kill big numbers in order to have had a good time whilst out with the dog or dogs as the case may be. I was in the company of a couple of lads recently and they were telling how their season had panned out starting off with big bags and petering off to just a couple of rabbits. One was even talking of wrapping in because he reckoned that the money spent on diesel etc., he could have a nice fillet of steak three times a week!
I couldn’t argue with that, but questioned why he was in the sport as nothing is guaranteed in this game and I, like many, could find better ways to spend my money not to mention time on the hunting job, but to me it was all about the hunting, getting out there with the dog, be it scratching around tips and river banks or standing among stunning scenery in remote locations. Yes, it’s nice to go home with a catch or two but I’ve never thought of jacking in because the bags are not guaranteed week in, week out. If that were the case I’d have stopped going hunting back in the 70s.
It would be fair to mention that some people thought i did! but that’s another story!
No, if it all depends on catches rather than enjoyment perhaps the sport would be better off without the likes of him, it’s not as though he’s a professional pest controller or keeper where it matters or that he’s a profit hunter needing the money to feed himself and family on his poaching income. None of this was relevant to the situation of his need to catch big bags every time he went out.
I know of many lads who in my book are top draw hunters and workers of dogs who don’t catch large numbers due to the land they hunt and the amount of game to catch on it but you take it as it comes. It’s easy to catch in places where the rabbit abounds in great numbers and you know before you set off that you will be coming home with a boot full of rabbit, but to set off knowing that the odds are against you week after week… these are real dog men who are committed to the game for the love of hunting, if the boot were on the other foot these lads would mop up every week and the first type would not get out of bed in the morning! I know which sort I’d rather have as company on a cold wet morning when the the rabbits don’t want to bolt!
I was looking back through my hunting diary the other day to see how many and when was the last time I had a 4 minute run. Reason being that within seconds of striking up a conversation with somebody they feel the need to impose this information on me, it didn’t take me long to find that I’d never broken the stop watch on anything near that. I have had some good long runs, with some good fit dogs, but 4 minutes! No, it would seem that I am the only man in England to never achieve this once, never mind every time I go out. I was even told of 6 and a half minute run this week off a man whose never put a fit dog out on the field all season. I’ll have a pint of what he’s been drinking!
Back to reality. Yes, there are lads with dogs that do this, with fit dogs, dogs that are bred for the job but now even common old garden lurchers are creeping into this statement, next it will be the humble ferret that gets in on the act! Please don’t write in to the mag’ if you have one already that’s bolted and coursed a 4 minute rabbit because somebody somewhere will have one that has hit the 5 minute mark, every week. What is for sure is it won’t be me!
I’m hoping that things will be a bit better through this summer regarding the ferrets and their breeding. I lost both my working jills last season due to them both dying – it’s still a mystery, but Frank and Eddie helped me out with a couple of workers who have both done me proud this season, so I hope to have some young guns around the place this summer.
Young Berry has also done me proud, taking on the workload from Sui who was re-homed in a pet home this season due to a reoccurring toe injury, it was hard to do but I think it was the right decision for her. I went to see her two weeks after re-homing her with a friend, and stayed for a brew with him. When I came to leave I expected her to try and leave with me… no! she snuggled into her nice warm basket next to the radiator while I ran to the car in the cold rain, it was then that I new that it was the right thing to do though. She will be missed on the field – and has been this season – you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is a saying that is often said, and how true. She will certainly get the luxury there that I couldn’t give her. He told me that when he’s on nights she finds her way under the duvet in the bed with the Mrs!
Just changing the subject a bit, I have always fed my dogs on a lot of raw meat and bone going back to the late seventies when I worked in an abattoir, and it was a free deal every week, be it chicken, beef or lamb and, to be honest, I have not changed my way much over the years and the dogs look well on it and always perform well in the field. I do give them a complete feed to go with it in small portions as I believe it acts as roughage and helps to clear the bowels out of any small bones or splinters that may cause problems further down the intestine. I very rarely cook the meat, I do mix boiling water over mince and give it a stir to make a gravy for the biscuit to soak up, but due to the nature and type of meat and bone I never cook. I do also add any veg’ waste from the kitchen but that goes in raw and mostly it gets polished off no problem. After talking to a greyhound trainer a few years ago I’ve also started to add a bit of fruit. I was surprised when they ate it and often apple, banana and grape go in to the dog pan. Now this works for me and I am not saying that it is the best dog diet or food available, I’ll leave that to the likes of other brand names, but it works for me. Don’t be afraid of trying out other people’s ideas; at worse you will have a wasted pan of food that your dog wont eat, but at best, you may end up with a healthier animal who shows that reward in the field. It was great when I could get hold of sheep heads by the van load, bull’s heads and tripe still green. The freezers were always full, mine and my friend’s, and the dogs used to grub up well.
A friend has just come back from Ireland where this is still available to them and while he was there he went to see a couple of litters of lurcher pups who were weaned on this diet. He commented that he had not seen healthier looking pups in a good while. Good fat pups with a spring in their step and a shine in their eye and coat. I know he was very tempted to pick one up and take it back home to Cornwall with him and I think he knows also that he should have.
A neighbour of mine has just bred a litter of pups, not working dogs but terriers no less, and he was telling me how much it was costing him to rear them. His vet had sold him one of the trendy rice and beef mixes at just short of £50 a sack. I offered to help him out with some meat and bone and he looked at me in horror as though I’d upset his family and I was going to wake with a horses head next to me!
A week later I saw him bundling all 7 pups into the back seat of his 4×4 and asked him what the problem was? Bloody spew all over the kitchen floor and they had eaten it. It turned out that the bitch had regurgitated her food for the pups, as they do, but he wasn’t aware of this and the pups had tucked in eagerly… just as his wife had sat down for her tea! She insisted that that they go to the vet to be checked and given an antibiotic to make sure they were alright. I explained that this was the way with dogs and it was a natural thing for the pups and mother to do, to get some partially digested food into their bellys. There really was no need to worry I told him. “They’re not bloody wolves” he said and took off. The following day I saw him and asked as to the pups welfare and what the vet had said. He had told him just what I had but for the pleasure of charging him £85 for checking the pups over, just in case, and also threw in the “if you’re worried, fetch them back next week” card and I’ll fill my pockets with your cash! (I added that bit!) It was then that he told me what his wife had said about my offer of meat; it turns out that raw meat makes dogs savage! I will have to remind Berry of that next time she squats submissively when another dog approaches her and rolls on her belly… you can’t educate mutton!
May all your hares have big ears!