Although I do love all forms of field sports weather hunting fishing or shooting or flying birds of prey, my passion runs deep for traditional ferreting, those of you who have purchased any of my famous hunting books or game cookery books will know this, my passion began way back in the depths of time when I was a mere 2 years old and the day I caught my first rabbit in a purse net.
Alas to hear that story and many more hillarious tales you will have to buy my books over at The Out Post Shop (www.theoutpostshop.co.uk) for all the money goes to the kids organisation that is Pass it On Young Sports (www.pass-it-on-young-sports.org.uk) and helps secure and inspire the futer of all our respective field sports and conservation for they walk hand in hand, so go buy my books and do your bit for field sports and conservation of the futer.
I just laughed and said the lord has blessed me with a body clock that is in tune with the seasons so when its time to be up I am up, its quite funny really as I am always awake 15 minuets before any alarm, my feet always hit the floor bang on the button of the alarm, I have always been this way, it drove my Dad crazy as a boy, there I would be in the pitch dark at at 5am shaking him to get up saying ferreting daylight is burning, I am no different now for the night before a ferreting day or indeed a hunting fishing day etc I sleep lightly.
I will tell you of a couple of forays just recently with my ole Dad and JTs Dad Kevin and a couple of hmmmmmmm young apprentices, lol well not so young Nik and Bruce are the apprentices I speak of, picture this its an ice cold early December morning, a white glimmering frost, white crisp and hard as those days of my childhood when we had proper winters, we stepped out of the cars on this new rabbit control contract I have on.
This was to be a proper old school ferreting day using purse net long net and ferret, my ole black lab Brook was there too, she also loves ferreting and marks the warrens to say the Coney (rabbit) was home, just like the 6 generations of her blood line that has owned me before her she never tells a lie and is always bang on the money, that dog lives to work she loves her life you can see it in her face and eyes, although she is a very serious dog none of that messing about nonsense a job must be done correctly in here eye just like her grandmother Hollie that one, any dog that joins us must behave or will be put in its place sharpish if we have any messing about, like my friends young lurcher he got the sharp side of her when he tried to interfere with the rabbits she was guarding, a mistake that young dog never forgot I telle.
Now the farm along side of the camp site grew wheat and barley and rape, he was losing about 30% of his crop to rabbit damage and a further 30% to wood pigeon damage, I will tell you of the momentous pigeon shoots we have had there in another article but for now we will stay with the ferreting, as you can see he was a little aggrieved about the vermin on his farm that was literally eating him out of house and home.
Back at the car the boys had a jovial banter as boys do, I telle there is nothing like ferreting with your family and muckers, my heart beat from my chest wishing my own children still wanted to come ferreting but alas they no longer have an interest in field sports, my hope is one day they will return to it or my daughters marry some good ole country boys and the grand children get inspired into it, then my job will start again to inspire and educate the old school way with another generation of Collins Clan.
Then as if in the blink of an eye the drums stop, you try to strain to hear as no other sound exists, almost immediately like a bullet from a gun or a cork from a bottle a rabbit hits the net deep in the bottom of the bank as another bolts out right behind it, a rooky mistake by Bruce he did not put his foot in the hole to stop others bolting a hard earned lesson never to be made again, a lost rabbit is either a blessing or a curse, a blessing as that could be good of breeding stock for next season or a curse as in the old days that was a quid lost.
Then we had rabbits in the ditch with Nik and Bruce, Dad was dealing with one on the bank as Kevin helped me get my side under control, then disaster struck we had a lay up a kill deep under ground, it was the little silver gill I put down she had not showed since the first 2 rabbits bolted, I had heard some viking drums then a squeal.
All the other ferrets came up, noting else for it slip a collar onto son of Zorro my famous retrieving ferret, Zorro I trained to the whistle, from the time I had him that ferret had a good brain in his head, he would have been here this day but had not been looking too well so we left the old boy home and brought his son Blade instead, Blade just like his dad would bring a ball back to the whistle for a tit bit this also worked with rabbits well sometimes.
I will tell you more of Zorro the retrieving ferret again in another article, Blade true to form found the kill drove the gill off and stayed with it as per his job, the gill was picked up moments later then boxed covered in rabbit fur her little mits looked like she had winter mittens on so we knew a bunny was down there.
We did 3 warrens in total all within 30 yards of each other, we decided to net all 3 warrens up at the same time, although Brook only marked 2 of them to say bunny was home telling us one warren was empty, we netted it up anyway if a rabbit slipped the net we might get a back netter, the first warren we slipped another son of Zorro in one from this summers litter, a young ferret fresh out in the field for the very first time, a little 3 hole set perfect for starting a young ferret off on, he went down without a hesitation and was gone, mind you he comes from great working stock both his mother and father have litterally bolted thousands of rabbits each, he was down quite a while, but being a young ferret and inexperienced he was either wandering around or had a fight on his hands if he had found a Coney at home.
By golly this young ferret had a battle on his hand as the Viking war drums started that soundedso loud, Brook was stood almost on tip toes as her head went from side to side, I whispered to Kevin that’s a big buck rabbit I bet you, all of a sudden it hit the net on the highest hole on the hill, for a second it looked like it was flying but the peg held firm and strong pursing the net good and tight bringing the rabbit back to earth with a thud.
I was on that rabbit faster than Jason Robinson landing a winning try for England rugby, with safe hands Collins hands, for my Pappy always said us Collins boys have safe hands weather holding a rugby ball a gun or your woman or in this case a rabbit pursed nice and tight in my home made net, another thing us Collins boys pride ourselves on is our nets its a rare occasion a rabbit slips one of our home made nets I telle, the rabbits that got away are from shop bought nets not our famous Collins home made nets, in fact as I sit here typing I am also pegging up some of the nets Dads just made for our next outing over the Christmas period.
I dispatched him quickly and humanly, even Kevin said blimey that’s a big buck rabbit, Flint son of Zorro came to hand as if to say how did I do boss, proud as you can be young son of Zorro you fought a mighty battle against a worthy foe, hold your head up young ferret for your blood line salutes you.
We did the next warren Brook said was empty and she was right that dog never lied just like here grandmother ole Hollie, she was exactly the same, I miss those old dogs who owned me and have left paw prints burnt deep on my heart.
We moved on to the next warren, in actual fact this warren Brook herself found and marked one particular hole saying rabbit was at home, leaving all the nets down on the other warrens just in case any rabbits slipped the nets, we slipped 2 silver Gills and Flint in this one as it was quite a large warren.
That dog never lies she was right there was one more in there and the other warren was barren, my Pappy always said with shooting and ferreting you must always have a good dog by your side, we finished with 5 quick rabbits and a bag load of memories, we are going back with a full team just before Christmas so look out for my next article on traditional ferreting the Old School way.
May I also take this opertunity to wish you all a very merry and happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.
SO MOTE IT BE ;-)
Its not cricket and the hunting gods will repay you with a life of bad luck in the hunting field, if you get caught by said Countrymen whom you have betrayed, then a life of looking over your shoulder as karma can and will bite you when someone does the same to you, remember as Countrymen of the old school we have a code and must teach this to the younglins coming through or the novices or what ever, so remember that when you try to poach a fellows sport.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper