After my last session ferreting I couldn’t wait for another chance to get out with them again, and this afternoon was going to provide the chance. Having been out with the air rifle the day before, I had taken the opportunity to see what the ditch that runs alongside the stables had to offer. It has a number of small warrens along its bank but for most of the year it is completely inaccessible to us as it is think with cover. On checking it though, the cover was as low as I had seen for a good while and after Bilbo pushed a few rabbits out of the cover I decided to ring Degsy to see if he fancied a trip with his ferrets. Needless to say by that evening we had organised permission and a start time for the outing.
The sun was out but the wind was bitter as we arrived at the stables. First job was to switch off the electric fence, I have learnt first hand the error of not thinking ahead and it has now become second nature. The fences are well maintained and strong but the wire carrying the current always seems to end up against the inner thigh when you try to climb the fence, even in the corners where there are usually more points to aid climbing. We had left Belle at home today but Bilbo was to come with us, to help mark any holes in use as well as to get him acquainted with the ferrets.
The main implements to take were our shears as there was still a lot of bramble covering some of the holes. As we entered the first wooded copse, the ivy clad trees spilt their hoard of pigeon into the air. This is a superb place once there are some leaves on the branches for some pigeon ambushing with the air rifle. We headed down to the ditch at the bottom to begin looking for any burrows. Bilbo found and investigated a few but showed no real interest in them, so we carried on moving. We cut back any scrub around the holes thinking there may be a possibility that we would return later and any fleeing rabbits may go to ground in any of these burrows, giving us the chance to eke them out with the ferret.
We crossed the brook a few times on the short walk up, and although we did a lot of cutting back Bill did not mark any of the holes we had uncovered. After forty five minutes we were beginning to think this may have been a poor choice, the wind was increasing and was a bitter contrast to the warm sun overhead. As we crossed the brook for the last time, opposite a field we were hoping to walk through, Bill found a small bank of holes near the base of a tree. He showed some interest in these burrows but did not mark strongly enough for us to try a ferret. We may well have better luck on our return.
Bilbo had spent the walk showing as much interest in the ferret box as in the land and its inhabitants. He would come back to us every minute or so to check the box , and when we were clearing scrub he would slide over to it an sit down next to it. At one point Degsy caught him with his jaws either side of one corner looking to root out its inhabitants. A sharp word was enough to dissuade him but I was going to have to keep an eye on him. The last mustelid he had come across was a large Mink and his time with ferrets had been limited so I could not blame him his interest.
After off loading our gear and climbing the fence into the field we headed to a point fairly central to this large field where there was a one hole warren that was causing the landowner concern due to its size and location in a field full of horses. It had been covered with old tyres as a visual indication for the horses in an attempt to stop them going too near and breaking a leg. The horses in this field are always playful and today with Bill focussed on work I allowed him to continue off the lead. He stayed close, although he was aware if the horses, scenting the ground as we headed towards the burrow. It took us a few seconds to remove the tyres and cones from the entrance to this sandy warren. Bilbo began to mark inside the hole, we tethered him a short distance away as Degsy got Jake out and put a collar on him as we put two nets over the entrance. It was a big wide entrance and there was a slight musty smell to it that suggested it may have also held a fox in the past. Jake entered and we sat back quietly to wait and see what emerged.
By now the horses had come over to inspect us and were standing back, watching patiently, almost as expectantly as we were. After a wait of five minutes the sky darkened and the heavens opened, sleet and hailstones coming almost horizontally across the field, this was not part of our plan! The rain lasted what felt like another five minutes and just as it was stopping, and we were back wondering what had happened to Jake, something hit the net. As I looked on a young rabbit disengaged itself from the net, got its nose under the edge and sprinted for freedom.
I got to Bill and slipped him, making sure that Jake had not appeared at the entrance – I didn’t want any unfortunate mistakes leaving us without any usable stinkers. Bill shot off after the rabbit but managed to run it down within fifteen yards. He released it to me quickly today and we headed back to the hole, Jake had still not appeared and I pegged Bill again and waited. After a further ten minute wait Jake appeared and we put him away and gave Elwood a go. Within five minutes he was back up with nothing else to show. I spent a minute with Ellwood just out of Bill's range showing him that Ell was part of the team, but I think it will take a lot more lessons to get him anywhere near steady.
We headed back down towards the ditch and as we did Degsy noticed movement at the base of the fence. Bilbo was off the lead and heading towards that area and it wasn't long before the rabbits were off through the fence with him in close pursuit. By the time we had arrived he was off through the scrub pushing the rabbits along in front of him, towards the area we had already cleared. We walked back to the crossing point a the corner of the field and got back over onto the ditch. By now Bill was out of sight, having passed the burrows that he had shown interest in on the way up. We found him marking and digging at the entrance to a hole at the bas of a tree in a dense patch of scrub. After pegging him up we set about uncovering two holes some 6 feet apart using our shears, before netting them up. We gave it a few minutes to settle and then I entered Ellwood into the burrow. I sat back with Bill and waited, after what must have been ten minutes there was a crash and a large rabbit was in the net. I managed to get to it before Jake who had reappeared in pursuit. The rabbit was dispatched humanely and Ellwood headed back into the hole. After another fifteen minutes he had still no reappeared so Jake was entered to see if he could find him. Another wait of ten long minutes and Jake reappeared followed by Ellwood, from the look of him he had settled down inside in the warm.
We continued to work the bank back and Bill flushed one rabbit back the way we had come. One for another day, with the clouds gathering we decided to head back. Only two rabbits but it was a start and a nice day bar the rain to be out. I will need to work on Bill if he is ever to be steady to ferrets, I think it will always be prudent to keep one eye on him anyway.
Hope you enjoy something different again...lol. The driving rain was very unpleasant....