Sunday, April 06, 2014

Learning The Ropes 2

Here's my young lurcher bitch learning to work with a long net whilst ferreting. She picked it up quite quickly without once getting tangled in it which is a first for one of my dogs!
It's a curious type of long net that was given to me by a Welsh golfer. I used to regularly ferret on this particular golf course until the night vision shooters wiped out everything. A golfer approached me one day and asked if I'd like some old nets he no longer used. I replied "Yes please".
The following week when I turned up he'd left a bag with the green keeper. I was expecting some old purse nets but in it was this beautifully hand knitted long net. What's unusual about it is that it has a second ply of netting which is almost web like attached to the main netting which really does tangle the rabbits up.
By the way, watch this space! My new book has just gone to the printers. Further details to follow once it's ready.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Learning The Ropes

Here's my current trainee lurcher bitch sitting down whilst I net up a nice open warren.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Netted!

Nearly forty years ago I witnessed for the first time a rabbit bolting into a purse net. I still feel the same excitement now after all these years. It got me hooked on ferreting and it has remained a life long pursuit for me. My nine year old daughter set this net and slipped her young hob ferret in after our young lurcher marked the hole.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Not Many Left....

If you'd like one of these books you can click on the 'Older Posts' button at the very bottom of this page and all the payment links are there on the previous page. You'll also find it on Amazon too. I'm happy to sign it for you or write a happy hunting type message if you let me know. Don't worry it's not a how to do it type manual, nor are there any rabbit recipes! It's all hunting tales but there are plenty of useful tips to be found within it too. This book very nearly didn't see the light of day. I'm sure it was cursed. I just managed to collect them from the printers before they went into liquidation. It was a very close shave as I'd had to pay them up front. Then a couple of years later we had a pointless tax investigation over it. It was clearly instigated by someone with scant knowledge of the self publishing of hunting books as there is little money in it! It's my old bitch Tawny on the front cover closing in on a mountain hare high up in the hills of the far north of Scotland. Yes she did catch it too. If you are outside of the UK and you'd like a copy drop me an e-mail first so we can work out postage costs.

The best read for terrier & lurcher enthusiasts

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I write regular articles and submit pictures for Dave Harcombe's great magazine which gave me my first opportunity at writing. If you are into workers then this is the magazine for you. All of the contributors are genuine work dog men and women. It's a monthly publication and is available by mail order only. The format has recently been updated to include more colour pictures too. Here is the link to the official website. Please copy and paste it into your browse if it doesn't work by clicking ~ http://www.earthdog-runningdog.com/

Thursday, March 07, 2013

White Collar Leads

Here's another old picture I shot when experimenting with black & white film. The hare has turned slightly and was running straight at me. In such situations it's best to stay dead still and hope the eighty pound greyhound doesn't run into you. The problem with hares is that they have been known to crash into things directly in front of them. Luckily this pair went straight past me.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Last Waterloo Cup

Here's an old picture from the last Waterloo Cup with the judge on horseback right up close to the action. It was taken on the 1st day at 'The Withens'. The other picture was also taken there. I went to my 1st ever cup when I was seventeen {1981} and was hooked. I had no transport or anyone to take me back then so I got the first 78 bus into Liverpool city centre, jumped a train to Formby and started to walk in the direction of Altcar with my thumb out. Luckily I got a lift off a gentleman from Chester who turned out to be the official vet, Mr McWilliam and I got in for free! I never missed a cup after that and also used to attend the smaller meetings held earlier in the season. Incidentally since the ban there are sadly nothing like the number of hares on Altcar anymore. Contrary to the opinion of opponents of coursing few hares were killed at coursing meetings. Hare populations thrived under the protection they received on coursing estates.

Fell hound x Greyhound

My friends bred this bitch and a few others like it for their own use {pre ban}. Some people questioned whether they were genuine 1st crosses as all were very racy animals. They were and what some people forget is that many fell hounds actually carry greyhound blood in them. In fact the hounds my friends kept that ran with their terrier pack actually had patches of brindle colouration on them. Yes the first crosses did take hares regularly though I believe lacked a gear when on the huge fields of the Lancashire mosses. As would be expected they were deadly on foxes. No they didn't use their tongue when in pursuit. I am surprised this cross isn't more popular. There are a few tales in my book about some of the great hunts we had with this little pack of hounds, terriers and lurchers.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Enjoying The Winter Sun

I took this first picture on a bitterly cold winters day. It was around midday and the weak winter sun was warming this little spot at the foot of a chestnut tree. There's a good population of foxes on this particular piece of land but it is rare to find one below ground even on the very coldest of days. I have painful memories of this place for it was where Tawny caught her first fox after my terrier bolted it from the bramble beds. She let go of it a little too soon due to her inexperience as I was trying to get a safe hold on it. This resulted in it biting through my welly into my foot and refusing to let go. This ended the day with a trip to A & E for a tetanus injection! The farmer still laughs about it now. The second picture was taken on the pony field behind my house. It was a vixen out hunting in theday to feed her cubs.

Internet Forums

In reply to some recent queries I'd like to clarify that I am not a member of, or contributor to any internet hunting forums.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Goshawk

This big girl is deadly on rabbits.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

One of natures finest sights

The first two pictures are old ones taken on film when I was experiment with black & white. I always enjoyed walking up the stubble fields in early autumn hoping for a hare to lift. The third picture is at the same venue but is more up to date and was one of a series I took this spring.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bedlington X Greyhound

This is an old picture from about 16 years ago I found, which was taken on film. I've scanned it onto here. It's up in the Highlands on some heather moorland. The young lad Rob was a trainee keeper / stalker and the lurcher belonged to another keeper friend who was and still is a first class terrier and lurcher man.The dog was called Taffy and was very good. I saw it take lots of lamped rabbits, ferreted rabbits, blue hares and foxes.

A Good Reason for Ferreting Dogs

I'd never go ferreting without a dog as I don't like to see rabbits running off like this! I much prefer to see a dog behind them. I also like to know that rabbits are at home in the first place before I net up and enter a ferret. A good marking dog that can catch anything that slips a net is essential. My preferred choice of dog for the job is of course a lurcher. Even the best setters of nets have rabbits that slip them. Sometimes a rabbit will hit a net whilst another following it out bolts for freedom. You need a steady lurcher for this game and I prefer to use just one when ferreting. There can be enough going on without having to constantly look out for dogs. The dog well schooled in the job will mark the occupied holes and then wait patiently while nets are set. Once the ferret is in the dog should be steady enough to quietly move about on the warren without any restraint and without upsetting any nets or peering down holes. This way they will usually be in the right place for when a rabbit bolts. I prefer my dogs to leave rabbits safely caught in the nets. This is easily taught and I've covered it in depth in my book 'Stormy Nights & Frosty Mornings'. It is normal and desirable for a dog to dart over the a netted rabbit to be on hand in case it does escape or another slips out behind it.
Here's a photo of one which did slip out behind another which was safely netted. It headed across the meadow towards the wood. Luckily Moss was on guard and quickly onto it as you will see in the bottom picture. A ferreting lurcher must be a good retriever too as you may well be busy with nets and ferrets so the last thing you want is to be running over to a dog stood over its catch in the distance. The very best ferreting dogs I've seen have been ones that have done lots of it. A good ferreting dog must work loose too. It's no use have one restrained by a slip lead as I've sometimes seen. A slip lead takes the edge of a dogs reflex and shows a lack of confidence from the owner. A good dog working free will often have caught a bolting rabbit before you've even seen it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two Old Friends

The shaggy grey dog on the left was one I rescued and named Reggie after the friend who found him. The dog on the right was Brucey an old favourite of mine. I took this picture after they just had a run on a hare and were getting their tongues back in! Reggie eventually went up to a gamekeeper friend in Scotland and proved to be a useful dog. Sadly he was killed in action hunting on the lamp.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Here's some pictures of a spot of ratting along my local brook. A dog must be good in water to have any chance of success. After a few dives the hunted rat tends to run the water line which is when most kills take place. We don't get any huge hauls as all the kills are hard won. It takes good team work from both dogs and hunters. In the first picture they are marking one which proves to be in a shallow spot under the overhanging bank. In the second picture the older more experienced dog gets in the water anticipating the bolt. After some prodding of the bank the rat dives straight in and emerges on the opposite bank {3rd photo}

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Long Netting

Here's an old picture from a night of long netting in Frodsham, Cheshire. Note: no buckles on the wellies! I've had some good fun working with long nets and been in some good tangles too. This was an old shop bought net held on some metal pins I made and supported on hazel sticks. The modern systems in the baskets on fibre glass poles are much better and easier to use. This particular night we walked the fields with a length of rope held between us {bant cord} to drive the rabbits home. My dogs are OK at working alongside long nets during the day when ferreting but not at night.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mountain Hares

Here's some old pictures taken on film that I came across recently and scanned. Note how well camouflaged the mountain hare is as it sits in its form in the deep heather. These pictures will have been taken in the early autumn before the hares start to get their white winter coat. Not all of them change white in the winter. This is natures way of seeing a nucleus survive the winter. In a harsh winter with a lot of snow the ones that have turned white will stand a better chance of remaining unseen by their predators like the eagle, whilst the ones that haven't changed colour will stand out more. Likewise n a mild winter without any snow the white ones will stand out more and fare less well.
The middle picture is Tawny at full stretch closing in after an exciting course over some hazardous ground. In the final picture she is retrieving it back to me. I had some great sport up in the Highlands hunting these fascinating animals over the years until the Scottish ban came into force. They are much easier to catch than their cousin the brown hare but the challenge of hunting them is in the rough terrain which they inhabit. They would use rocks, knolls, peat hags or any feature to try and throw off their pursuer. They will also go to ground quite readily even when not hard pressed.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Deerhounds

In the 1970's when, as a schoolboy, I discovered lurchers the deerhound and its various crosses were among the most popular. Lurchers were bought and sold through the Exchange & Mart paper back then, which came out each week. A school friend had what was supposed to be a genuine 1st cross and we spent a lot of time running it at the local hares. It was a big tall dog and had been passed on to him as an adult. We never had much success with it as we were blissfully unaware that it was simply too big for our small fields but how it tried. I'd have liked to of seen it in action on some more suitable terrain. After the deerhound popularity boom the collie crosses & bedlington crosses became the flavour of the 1980's, saluki crosses in the 1990's and currently it is the bull terrier crosses that dominate the pups for sale adverts.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Working in the Rushes

Moss pointing at a rabbit sat in a form. This is ideal cover to start off a lurcher working cover before gradually progressing onto harsher cover like bramble, gorse or blackthorne. A lurcher with no fear of cover will always catch more rabbits than one that is reluctant to face cover. Incidentally the length of a lurchers coat has no bearing on its willingness to face harsh cover. It is a myth that coat gives protection against thorns or bramble. It's like saying a man with long hair will come off better than a man with a crew cut if both plunged their heads into bramble! It is all about gameness and the dog that wants its quarry more rather than coat length.
Rabbit sat in a clearing
Successful interception
Near miss!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

On A Dark Stormy Night

Lurcher bitch walking steadily up to the spot of light created by the lamp where a rabbit squats motionless, hoping to be overlooked. Different dogs adopt different methods when going down the beam to a squatter. I had one bitch called Blaze who had a lot of greyhound blood in her. She used to race down the beam at top speed to squatters. If she missed her strike at the rabbit it would often jump up about two feet into the air. Tawny the bitch in the picture would trot out quite steadily to squatters sometimes stalking in the final few yards. Her daughter Moss adopts a more a faster approach. All methods can be effective and dogs will usually continue to do what has been successful for them.

Article in EDRD Magazine, September 2012.

Here's a link to the articles section of the Earth Dog Running Dog magazine website.There's an article of mine from the September 2102 edition entitle 'Summertime Foxing (with camera only) ~ http://www.earthdog-runningdog.com/articles/ {You have to highlight the link and then click on 'go to' or copy and paste it into your browser}

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Early Season Ferreting

Here's a couple of early season ferreting pictures from last year down in Shropshire. Hedgerow ferreting can be difficult early on when there is still a lot of cover. The ideal team is two people, one on either side of the hedge. A few ferrets are often needed here to get the rabbits moving underground. You need to be very alert as a ferret can easily slip out unnoticed in the undergrowth. Moss is a fairly good marking dog which is also essential
I was trying out some new purse nets which can be seen in the middle picture made by a friend from South Wales. I am very pleased with them. I like colorful nets as they are less likely to get lost. I've never known a rabbit complain about them either! The white nets {bottom picture} were made by a lad from Yorkshire and have a metal slider instead of a ring. Moss is guarding a netted rabbit but not touching it. If another slips out of the now unnetted hole she's ready for it. A dog that grabs the netted rabbits will missing anything following behind.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Moss

Here's Moss my current worker in a pose stance in the first picture on the Marsh by where I live.
In the second picture she's at full stretch after one of the many rabbits in this spot. She caught her first rabbit on this marsh, on the lamp, when she was about 11 months old. She is approaching nine years of age soon {January 4th 2013} so is I suppose a veteran but still working hard & enjoying it. These unglamorous worker type lurchers tend to have a longer working life than the faster, racier lurchers with more running dog blood in them. Moss is the last of this line as I decided not to breed from her though I have questioned this wisdom at times, usually after she has done something special. My decision was not based on lack of working qualities but personal reasons.

Bedlington Lurcher Swimming

I like working lurchers to be able to swim. The Bedlington crosses my friend and I worked about 30 years ago were all good swimmers. We did a lot of waterside rat hunting back then so it was essential they were confident and capable in the water. They would also hunt Moorhens and retrieve them live to hand as in this photo. The dog in this picture also once caught a Teal in a reed filled dyke and took quite a few rabbits that ended up in the water when we used to ferret a rabbit infested,steep Welsh riverbank. He would also retrieve shot game from water. I've found 1st cross lurchers to be keener and better swimmers than those with more sight hound blood in them.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Essential Fox Control

The start of a small dig. Moss the lurcher stands guard, listening intently to the terrier working directly beneath her. Note the prey item on the left of the picture which is a wood pigeon.
The break through reveals the game bird and poultry killer with Sage the terrier close up and personal in the bottom corner of the picture.

Squatters

Squatters is name given by night time hunters to the rabbits which choose to squat down when the beam of the hunters light illuminates them. They don't do this because the lamp is blinding them; it is a natural freeze response. The rabbits natural instincts tell it to stay still to avoid detection. In many cases it works and the rabbit is overlooked. During the night when illuminated with a lamp the rabbits eyes glow red in the beam which gives them away. Many novice lampers make the mistake of walking their dogs as close up to the squatting rabbit as they can. The rabbit inevitably jumps up and the dog pursues it with the lamper illuminating its escape path. I've seen some shocking antics over the years with lurcher men when lamping. The late Harold Wyman in his excellent book 'The Great Game' describes perfectly how a lurcher should work the lamp and squatters {page 95 - 96}. This Welsh poacher certainly knew his trade. The lamper should illuminate a squatting rabbit by holding his lamp as high as possible creating a downward spot of light on the rabbit. A correctly schooled lurcher should then trot out towards this beam of light. It's very unlikely that even the tallest of lurchers will always see every squatting rabbit, especially on rough ground. Remember how much lower your dogs eyes are to yours. Despite what certain authors say about lurchers not using their noses at night, a good one will. Yes a lurcher shouldn't hunt on with it's nose but it will certainly use it to pinpoint a tightly squatting rabbit it might not be able to see, thus helping it zero in. Remember you should be hunting with the wind in your face. Once the lurcher reaches the spot of light it will in most cases be rewarded by the rabbit jumping up and hopefully running back towards you the lamper providing you have correctly positioned yourself against the fence / hedge / wood. Once a dog knows that the spot of light is likely to hold a rabbit it will go out remarkable distances to it. In brief, you teach your dog to go to the spot of light so in never matters whether it has seen the squatting rabbit or not. I've covered all this in greater detail in my own book {see below}

Saturday, September 08, 2012

In Stalking Mode

Crafty old lurcher bitch using her head to save her legs! Note how she is using the cover, keeping tightly tucked in. This is a small copse near my house that houses a good number of rabbits at times. They sit out feeding on the adjacent meadow. Even with the wind in your favour it's very difficult to get between them and the cover during the daylight hours. My lurchers know this and often try to stalk themselves into a better position. It's probably due to inherent behaviour from their collie blood but also learned behaviour as they have been successful using this method. Either way it is fascinating to watch.