Writer, zoologist and gundog enthusiast, Pippa blogs on life in the countryside

A morning’s ferreting

two young ferretsI have been largely confined to my desk for the last few weeks.

But with my book now safely at the publishers, it has been a great relief to get out with my dogs again.  

And what better way to spend a sunny morning than out with the ferrets and a dog at my side.

Even if you have never been ferreting, you are probably aware that ferrets are used to chase rabbits from their burrows. 

The rabbits can then be either shot or netted.  And there are pros and cons to each method.


Ferret at work

Nothing in this hole!

Netting is more time consuming as each entrance to the burrow has to have a net carefully set over it. 

Even when netting is done very quietly, it may make the rabbits more likely to try and ‘hole up’ underground as they become aware of the disturbance above.

We don’t want rabbits to lie up.

This can encourage the ferrets to kill the rabbit,  which quite apart from being horrible for the rabbit, often entails digging out the ferret.  

A time-consuming process. 

In addition, some warrens are difficult to net and some holes can be inaccessible.  


Off to a good start

With shooting, there is no time wasted in netting holes, and rabbits tend to bolt quickly and are less likely to lie up.  

Shooting over ferrets is very testing as rabbits bolt with unbelievable speed.  It requires a very good shot and safety is of course paramount.

Obviously in some situations, it is simply not safe to shoot over ferrets, but on much of our shoot grounds, the warrens are ideally placed for shooting.

Himself always prefers to shoot over ferrets where appropriate, and this is excellent for me, as watching rabbits bolt and be shot, is superb steadiness training for young dogs.

Steadiness training

Labrador ferreting

Watching from behind the guns

The young lab I took with me this morning had never been ferreting before and I decided to keep her on the lead to begin with.

This was a good decision as the first rabbit to bolt changed direction unexpectedly and virtually ran across her toes.

She was unable to resist this extraordinary temptation but I stopped her with the lead, rebuked her firmly and sat her up again. 

 She was as good as gold from there on, and after an hour or so, and many more flushes, I was confident enough to take off the lead.

We  visited half a dozen warrens during the course of the morning and finished up with twelve rabbits.   

In addition to the importance of fulfilling our obligation to control the rabbits on the farm,  and some great training for the dog,  we also came away with several day’s free dog food.  

It is nearly the end of the ferreting season now,  soon the warrens will be overgrown with vegetation,  and baby rabbits will be appearing.    Then it will be time to switch to culling rabbits with the .22 rifle.    There is always something  else to look forward to as we move through the seasons.

4 Comments on “A morning’s ferreting”

  1. niall says:

    im just wondering what kind of leads you use

  2. mike585 says:

    It is many years since I owned ferrets and polecats, but I remember the period well. Nice post! 🙂

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