I have been ferreting since I was 13 years old, when I started I had 1 Jill ferret (female ferrets are Jill’s, male’s are Hob’s) which had been given to me by an elderly gent who was keen to show youngsters the rope’s and who visited the farm I lived on to go rabbit hunting.
I then borrowed 6 hemp purse nets, purse nets close like an old cloth purse on a draw cord, they are usually at least 3 feet long and are used when rabbiting to cover the hole’s and enclose around the rabbit as it “bolts” when pursued by the ferret.
I now own 100 purse nets made of nylon, I found the hemp ones hard work as they need to be dried thoroughly after each outing and if they are not, they rot and allow rabbits to escape, (as did happen to me with 1 of my borrowed hemp nets) some people prefer the traditional hemp nets and lots of ferreters disagree over the best material, hemp, nylon or spun nylon, I prefer 10z nylon nets they are reasonably cheap, heavy and easy to use, but ask 10 ferreters and they will have 10 different ferreting bags, full of 10 lots of different types of nets.
Armed with my 1 ferret and 6 nets, I set out and caught rabbits, obviously not all the rabbits that my little Jill bolted as I didn’t have enough nets to cover all the hole’s, I was ably assisted in my early ferreting trips by my dog “Beth” a cross bred greyhound and whippet, she would pursue and occasionally catch any rabbits that either shook off the net or which bolted from an un-netted hole.
I had loads of fun and sold the surplus rabbits to friends and acquaintances I saved the money from these rabbits and bought more purse nets, there was a farm shop near to where I lived that sold cheap nylon nets and I obtained 10, I gave back the 6 borrowed nets (including the one with the hole where the rabbit had bolted straight through the old dusty net), I then purchased more nets via mail order and increased my stock from 10 to 20 then to 30, as I sold more rabbits. Some of these original nets are still in service with my young brother on his infrequent ferreting trips.
Now to the reason for this little rambling what do you need to go ferreting, when I started I had 1 ferret, 6 nets and a whippet x greyhound running dog.
Now I have 6 ferrets (1 vasectomised hob and 5 Jill’s).
I have over 100 purse nets plus a 100yard long net and 2 stop nets (long nets are long nets that are suspended on stakes either in a circle or a straight line and when used with ferrets are used to cut across where the rabbits are anticipated to bolt when evicted from their home by the ferrets- stop nets are shorter versions of long nets for placing in gateways and through hedges, rabbits tangle in the loose “bagging” in long nets).
I also own 10 rat nets, these are scaled down purse nets used to capture rats when bolted by ferrets, i bought these when we had rats living under our shed and the neighbours shed that backs onto it, ferreting rats in peoples gardens really is good PR for ferreters, as members of the public stop thinking of you as a strange fella with ferrets and you are the helpful local FREE rat catcher.
I have a ferret locator and two collars, a ditching spade (I use this when the ferrets occasionally kill the rabbit below ground and after locating them with the ferret locator I dig them and the rabbit out of the ground).
I own 3 shotguns for shooting running rabbits bolted by the ferrets, when nets are impractical or impossible.
I also have a spaniel and a Teckel x terrier (the two dogs are used to chase rabbits that are above ground in thicket into warrens so they can be ferreted).
When did I have most fun ferreting? As a teenager when poorly equipped or now that Iown every possible item for pursing rabbits from their warrens?
My advice is keep things simple, I had as much fun with a pocket full of nets as I do now with a large bag full, a locator is a sensible item to own as it greatly reduces the risk of losing a ferret and it also prevents you getting bored and annoyed if your ferret catches the rabbit before it can bolt. A dog is a nice companion when ferreting and depending on the type can either be used for pursuing bolting rabbits (whippets and lurchers) or pushing them from bramble and undergrowth into warrens that you can then ferret (terriers,small hounds and spaniels), however I wouldn’t say a dog is essential, neither are shotguns or long nets.
You can ferret and catch rabbits quite successfully with 20 nets and a ferret, a locatorand spade completing you armoury and ensuring that you come home with your ferret
The final item you need is patience, be quiet when setting nets, don’t warn the rabbits you are above ground, don’t rush to locate your ferret when you haven’t seen them for 5 minutes, digging is hard work, it destroys the tunnels in rabbit warrens and will prevent any rabbits that might have bolted from doing so.
The locator and spade are like a car seat belt, you put the seat belt on every journey but you don’t use it in an accident every time you drive, same with the locator, attach the collar every trip but don’t expect to dig every trip, be patient and the ferret will bolt the rabbit. Obviously commonsense (which sadly isn’t that common) dictates that if the ferret has not been seen for a very long time (I would say over 30minutes in an average sized warren) then use the locator and if the ferret is not moving then you may have to dig.
You may now ask when I say keep things simple why have I accumulated so much stuff?
Well that’s because I do a lot of ferreting, and the land I ferret means that at some point I have had to add to my team or my equipment because of a particular problem. If I didn’t get the rabbits then the landowner would get someone else in and my permission would be gone.
The long net is ideal for 1 farm I ferret that has very big warrens and assists in circling the largish warrens in the open fields.
The shotguns (yes I know I only need 1 as you cant shoot 3 at once but I am a slight kleptomaniac, and the guns have different strengths and weakness’, I own a .410 which is light, easy to point and the cartridges are small, so take up little room in your pocket, a side by side 12gauge which has an extra shot compared to the .410 and obvious bigger cartridges with better spread, although the 12 damages the meat more than the .410, and finally I have a 3 shot semi-automatic 12gauge because I wanted one, yes it gives me another shot which when ferreting and a lot is bolting can be useful but I got it because I wanted a semi-auto) these are used on certain hedges that are very thick and difficult to net especially as I ferret mostly on my own, I can cover both sides of a hedge with a gun.
I have 6 ferrets because I like having spares and when I get the opportunity to ferret a few days in a row, fresh ferrets every day helps prevent them getting tired and when ferrets are tired they will “lay up” with any rabbits that refuse to bolt or which they kill below ground.
The dogs well yes I know I don’t need two (same as the gun’s), but again they have different strengths and weaknesses, the spaniel is more obedient, the Teckel is keener to get into very thick bramble and has a significantly better nose, and to be honest a lot of the time because of livestock (both my dogs are completely trustworthy with farm animals) and the un-predictability of sheep and cattle, plus the proximity of roads, I ferret dog less, you don’t want to upset the farmer when your dog chase’s a rabbit and he thinks it is chasing his sheep, so unless the farmer is OK with your mutt or there are no livestock around to fall out over leave the dog at home. Dogs do have their place and can be invaluable on some pieces of land and to avoid any conflicts speak with the farmer before turning up with dog in tow.
Written ferreting permission from the farmer/landowner is a must then if you are challenged by a gamekeeper or other interested party you can show who allowed you on, perhaps include in the permission allowances for dogs and what methods are allowed, thus preventing any ill feeling or confusion over what you are allowed to do.