I spent most of last season up Yorkshire making sure the new hunting grounds were well worked with both dog and ferret. We also had one night on the lamp which was a pleasant change since I’ve not lamped for a few seasons and Sui took to it like a duck to water with her early pace and agility; it was a little unsporting but it was about catching and showing the farmer what results we could achieve using traditional methods instead of guns and gas.
This season I need to keep my own local spots under the spotlight, so to say. I’ve worked most of my permission for over 30 years and, even though it gets the odd moucher passing through, it still keeps me in sport. There’s open land to hunt, moorland to mouch and ferret and water board land to stop from being turned into a large warren. It’s the sort of place you can hunt over 3 times a week, never going on the same place twice. You don’t always get results but it gives the dog plenty of chance to work and prove itself, which is what I enjoy most, watching the dog work. Some days the scent is just not there; on others the sport starts as soon as you get out of the van.
On the first trip of this season I stopped on the lane as I approached the land that I was intending to hunt and got out of the van to look over a gate at the view and just generally take it all in; it’s easy to forget what a great place it is and a pleasure to be out in it. As I glanced around I caught something in the corner of my eye, up against a stone wall – or should I say the remnants of one; there are Roman ruins on this land and it’s not unusual to see people digging about and scratching in the soil even on the worst of days but today nobody else was about. I was sure it was a rabbit and, as I watched, a couple more came into my line of vision. Knowing the place well I new that on the far side was a warren under a dead tree that stands like a guard on the sloping ground which runs down to the bottom of the moor. It seemed a shame not to let Sui have a cast around so I unloaded the gear, nets and ferret and walked towards the far corner of the field intending to let the dog find what I already new was there and see where we would end up. I was only 50 yards into the field when a rabbit shot up in front of Sui out of the reed grass and headed for the gate that we’d just come through. With about 6 feet to go Sui picked it up, and I thought to myself “you ain’t lost much after only recently having a litter of pups”.
We continued on our way, Sui casting about where the rabbit had come from, then she froze, just staring at the ground in front of her; from where I stood I couldn’t make out if it was a mark or a second rabbit sitting tight in the reeds. I made my way towards her but she never budged which told me it was a mark, even though I couldn’t remember a warren or a hole ever being there. As I looked, there was a run going under the reeds so I was able to walk on top of it. I knew that as soon as I stepped into the reeds a rabbit would bolt from somewhere close to me and so did Sui. I walked past, coming in from the far side slowly towards the mark, I was within 4 feet of Sui now, and still no movement from this rabbit, however, as I placed my next footstep down its nerve broke and it never stood a chance as Sui picked it up easily in her stride. I was well chuffed for the little dog on her comeback trip.
We got to the far corner and the dog soon picked up on the scent and worked her way towards the place where I had seen the first rabbit – it had by this time made its retreat to the dead tree. After a cast about, Sui eventually marked the 6 holer on the hillside. Nets down and after twenty minutes, or so, we had 2 more in the bag. The ferret showed so it was time to lift the nets, back to the van and head off to where I was intending to hunt that day – just a mile further up.
I passed the water board keeper on my way and, after a quick chat and him informing me that there wasn’t a lot about this season, I continued on my way to the farmyard where I usually park the van. The farmer was not about so I just unloaded and got on my way.
The scent was about but no marks and no rabbits were to be seen. It’s often like this when a fox has been over the land and I cast my eyes out over the moorland to see if I could spot one heading off but, no, not today, the place seemed barren of life. I walked for about an hour back and forth watching the dog work away fast then slow, hoping for a run or a mark but it just wasn’t happening today. I called her in and made my way back down and across the moor. Sui’s tongue was out and she was blowing,
I clipped her on the lead for a while so that she could recover. I stopped and sat on the stone wall that runs from top to bottom, you couldn’t wish to be in a better place doing something you enjoy. I could see the storm clouds moving across towards me so decided to make for the van along the fence line. I unclipped Sui and got on my way. She worked along in front of me when, all of a sudden, she froze, a nice little 3 holer; 2 holes one side of the fence, the third on the other side, but I was able to reach through and drop a good net over it.
Now, when I say a ‘good net’, I, like most ferreters, have nets that I prefer more than others, and this net is a bit of a oddity; it was made by a friend who passed away a few years back and it’s about 4ft and has washers instead of rings, but I can’t remember losing a rabbit in it. It looks like it’s been made from a old cardigan as its brown spun nylon blends in with the dirt.
Ferret down and the 2 holes on my side were left unnetted so that Sui could have a run. I like to leave holes unnetted if there’s half a chance of a run rather than a catch in the net. There was a bit of bumping… then bang… the rabbit was well caught in the net with the ferret close behind. A quick reach through and the rabbit was safe in my hand as the ferret popped back down again. I placed my foot through the fence in case a second one bolted and, sure enough, I felt it hit the bottom of my boot. With the first rabbit now necked, I tried to lift my foot so as not to lose the rabbit that was being held by the ferret and place my hand over it. However, not being as nimble as I used to be – if I ever was – it was a lost cause; after a few minutes, it had gone quiet so I removed my foot and dropped a net over sharpishly. The ferret had killed down but I was able to reach in and feel it just around the bend. Have you noticed how they’re always just out of reach around a bend! Luckily, the ferret moved and I was able to pull both clear and continue on my way back to the van.
Once back and loaded, Sui was offered a drink of electrolyte which she gladly accepted along with half my cheese butty and we were on our way home. I passed the keeper on the lane as I drove homewards, I always like to let him know if we’ve caught a couple and he was surprised to see the bag. He’d not seen half a dozen all week, but then again he didn’t have a dog and ferret.
May all your hares have big ears.