It has been a few days since I caught my first pregnant rabbit of the season, and catching another this morning effectively puts an end to the ferreting season. Working warrens where young rabbits are nesting makes for difficult work, and if nothing else, it is a waste of perfectly good rabbits which could be caught as adults in the autumn. While ferreting does work as pest control, I have been coming at it from a sporting angle, and there is little pleasure to be had when the ferrets simply go in and lay waste to young rabbits.
The past few months have taught me a tremendous amount, not only about rabbits and ferrets, but also about the countryside as a whole. I have seen my boys working in a wide variety of different places, from heather hills to stacks of rotten tyres, and the pleasure of the sport is surely that you never know what is going to happen next. The amount of times that I have lost rabbits when they have bolted from concealed holes is beyond counting, and the number of bunnies who have earned their stripes by besting the ferrets would maybe be shameful to an experienced ferreter. I must say that if I can catch a single rabbit in an outing, I am delighted. I never get tired of hearing the deep rumble beneath my feet, or of watching my boys racing through the undergrowth like manic terrorists.
They have accounted for 71 rabbits this season; not bad considering most of the trips I have taken have been stopped as soon as I had enough rabbits to feed them and myself, and I can remember almost all of them. Watching a rabbit emerge from a hole, only to be pulled back inside again by a ferret on his tail was thrilling, and seeing both ferrets catch a running rabbit which doubled back on them in an old shed is a tremendous memory. Ferreting is perhaps the truest field sport, where man and animal hunt together without the aid of guns or advanced technology. I have never had a working dog (although this will change as soon as is possible), but I finally begin to understand the pride a human can have in working together with his own animal. Ferrets are notoriously indifferent to the concerns of man, but there have been moments when I have seen them express the same amount of excitement, disappointment and pleasure as I have been feeling.
Roll on the autumn!