Just worth recording that today was the official opening of the ferreting season for my four little terrorists. It hasn’t been a great year for rabbits in my usual haunts this year, so I’m going at it with a sedate pace and trying to make the little I have last as long as possible. Within a few minutes of the first ferret going to ground, he had found a bunny and spent a few seconds kicking hell’s bells out of it. I could hear squealing, and then the purse net filled up with a familiar ball of brown fluff. The ferret was obviously in hot pursuit, and as I ran to grab the net, the rabbit wriggled out and ducked back down the hole it had come from.
I was certain that it would never bolt again after that near-miss, and it turned out that I was right. There is a real stubborn streak to some rabbits – they would rather face a deadly and almost inevitably fatal danger below ground than risk the possibility of any danger above it. True to form, the rabbit died somewhere under my feet. Without a detector or even a spade, my ferret returned after a while to peer out of the hole with that humorously myopic expression on its face. An amusing expression was not all that it was wearing, since twin smears of rabbit blood marked out each cheek like a red indian.
It was frustrating that I couldn’t turn his hard work into a meal, but I had left the collar and detector at home because I knew it was only a small warren and I had the time to wait if there was a problem. Since I started ferreting two years ago, I’ve had an amazing array of comments and advice from well meaning ferreters from across the country. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of advice has been contradictory. A good example is the division between the “never feed your ferret rabbit” school of thought and the “feed your ferrets nothing else” believers. To begin with, I avidly followed all advice given, but it started to get so complicated that I now just do it my way. I don’t particularly like rabbit meat, so anything I net or shoot with the ferrets is fed straight back to them. The pleasure is in watching (and hearing) them work, and it really doesn’t matter to me whether I go home with anything in the bag.
As a point of interest, the reason people give for not allowing your ferret to eat rabbit is because it supposedly makes them more likely to kill, eat and lie up. I feed my ferrets rabbit all the time, and I’ve never had a ferret lie up. A few times (when I have gone out in a hurry) I have worked them on empty stomachs and they’ve never eaten anything until I cut out a bit of warm liver and pass it to them. I have dug ferrets out many times, but only when they’ve come across a particularly stubborn bunny that they can’t kill on their own – never to find a ferret sleeping off a good meal. The rabbits are always intact, and it’s just not something (touch wood) that has ever happened to me. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t, but if I had believed some of the people who taught me some of my first lessons about ferreting, I would probably never have had the confidence to do anything for fear of the sky coming crashing down.
Nobody is trying to deceive anybody when they are giving out helpful advice, but perhaps ferreting in particular is just something that you’ve got to work out for yourself. And if just watching your ferrets work is all you want from a morning’s sport, then you are just easier to please.