FERRETING: A days ferreting.

Working ferrets is one of the most enjoyable things I do. I go ferreting as often as I can and usually make a full day of it.

Preparation for a days ferreting starts the day before. I get my nets ready, check locators are working and have spare batteries packed and I usually load everything but the ferrets into the Landrover ready for an early start in the morning. I like to arrive at the destination around daybreak so it's mostly a 6am start or earlier if travelling a long distance.

On arrival the first job is to put collars on the ferrets and check locators are working then its time find a rabbit warren. I do not use a dog for marking so it's down to my judgement whether or not there are rabbits at home. There are several things to check for; if there is a well trodden run, fresh droppings and/or newly dug out soil near the holes. All of these point to a well-used warren although this is not 100%. I may miss some with rabbits in and most certainly do some that are empty.

Note:Always check it is not a badger set being used by rabbits,or a rabbit warren being used by badgers, as it is an offence to disturb them. There are many things that may suggest badger inhabitancy, for instance; there is often fresh soil and bedding outside the entrance, the holes are generally larger, badger footprints are often present and there may be a strong fishy smell.

Above are some pictures of badger footprints. In these photos the ground was very wet and putty like and so footprints are not always this clear.

On the right is a photo of a rabbit hole which has now been taken over by badgers, although the rest of the warren still looks like a rabbit waren and is more than likelystill being used by rabbits and it would be illegal to disturb it.

Once I have decided to ferret a warren the next thing is to set the nets. Larger holes require larger nets so I carry half a dozen 4ft nets and around seventy 3ft nets. I also take with me half a dozen double pegged nets; these are useful on holes that are difficult to get to, as they tend to hold a rabbit for longer.

Always take care when nets are around brambles, as it does not take much to snag them and stop them pursing sufficiently. I also take three 30ft stop nets for awkward places such as warrens under bramble bushes or the dreaded black thorn hedge. They are also ideal for netting around large bales, which rabbits seem to use quite often.

When all the nets are on and I've checked all around for any hidden boltholes it is time to put the ferret in. I always make a final check of the collar before putting her in and then stand back and wait for action. You should always make as little noise as possible. Very often you can hear rabbits bumping under ground, sometimes this can go on for quite a while and another time it is 'bump, bump' and its in the net.

 

At times a rabbit will tuck-up. This means that it has either gone into a dead end, it may have been startled and won't bolt, or the ferret has taken it by surprise and got hold of it. When this happens you have to locate the ferret and dig them out as quickly as possible, dispatch the rabbit and let the ferret get on with her job. It is always possible for more rabbits to be in front of the one the ferret is on so check for these once the first one is despatched. When digging I take off a circle of turf about 12"to18"across that can be replaced after backfilling the hole; this leaves as little mess as possible.

Keeping it tidy - Dig out a circle of turf to lid the hole when it's been re-filled.

When the ferret shows no interest in going back underground it usually means the last rabbit has bolted and there are no more in the warren. It is now time to pick up the nets and thumb the rabbits. Thumbing or peeing rabbits is done by running your thumb down the lower end of its belly to remove any urine from the bladder. Once this is done you're ready to move on to the next warren.

At the end of the day I hope to have caught around 20 to 25 rabbits. This is the average in most places I go, a bad day is catching nothing, and anything above 25 is extremely good.

 

Copyright 2004 Bob Bradury