Fun day ferreting rabbits in Somerset

The South Somerset Ferreters are a group of families who get together on a Saturday not to go shopping, not to go to a theme park but to go ferreting. We’ve filmed the South Somerset Ferreters before. They are back and this time they reckon have the ultimate warren. It is a hill not far from the South Devon coast and it is a honeycomb of buries.

Between them, they have everything that ferreters need, including two lurchers, a little Lakeland/whippet cross and their not-so-secret weapon, Louis, a remarkably sprightly 10-year-old Jack Russell. Also on hand to help is the Fieldsports Channel cocker spaniel Muffin and her year-old daughter Mina.

“Yes, I don’t think it really gets any better than where we are today, anywhere in the country really” says one of the ferreters.

The first job is to put the nets out, both long nets and purse nets.

We know what we are up against today, because the SSF did it last year. The whole perimeter is blocked off with long nets and there are plenty of purse nets to set, that’s roughly about 200 nets. It takes time, but if you don’t put the time in, you don’t get the rewards.

It’s not just a case of bunging a net over a hole and banging it in, there are different size nets to match the hole sizes. Four, five and six foot nets. The elastic bands are important, they save having to stretch the memory. Each purse net is tied up with elastic bands, they are saved and when the nets are picked up, any leftover bands mean leftover nets. It is just a question of finding them. In addition to the purse nets, 600 yards of long net has to go up. Therefore the netting takes a few hours. There are five dogs and about 15 ferrets. The ferrets will all go down at once. The rabbits won’t stand much of a chance. Fingers crossed, not a lot will get away.

Muffin, the Fieldsports Cocker spaniel

Ferreting with every dog we’ve got

After the nets are up it is time off for a bite to eat. Then nets, dogs, children, everyone gets in position. There’s even time to disentangle Mina from a long net. The first rabbits don’t take long to bolt. Men, women and children are stationed round the long nets, ready to dive on anything that wriggles. After a quarter of an hour of no activity, we reckon we have had the best of this bury. Now we have to retrieve the ferrets.

When ferrets lie up and have to be dug out, they uncannily choose the thickest part of the brambles. You need to sweep the brambles with Ferret Finders.

Just goes to show that without these finders you would lose ferrets. One went right the way across the other side of the hill. It is good to get them all back and there is even a bonus rabbit with the last ferret.

Years of experience tells them that this last ferret is deep underground. The fastest way to cut through the bramble roots is to send in Louis, still keen as a puppy. Once Louis has done his work, Jaf calls for another piece of kit. It’s a ferreting endoscope. At last we find the final ferret. It was nowhere near the brambles but in the next field, curled up with a rabbit.

The next step is the main event, ferreting the open hillside. Jaf is relieved to find the burries are not connected to the holes under the brambles next to the hill.

There is more rabbit action on the side of the hill as it careers into a long net followed by a flurry of dogs.

There is even an opportunity to train a young dog to stay away from ferrets, Mina is introduced to an albino ferret.

The last ferret of the day has chosen the only clump of gorse to lie up, beneath. It’s another digging exercise, with Louis on hand to offer help.

If you want to find out more, search for South Somerset Ferreters on Facebook. Or why not make your Louis very happy and start your own ferreting group.

▶ For more ferreting with the South Somerset Ferreters, click on this film:

For the South Somerset Ferreters on YouTube, go to www.youtube.com/channel/UCjy9-_l40FFr1HRYyW05uWA
For the South Somerset Ferreters on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/groups/829059187171844/
Click here for all our films on the South Somerset Ferreters