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Articles

Ratting with numbers

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The day started with an early start to do the job in hand, to check my traps on a rabbit ridden manicured garden. As I drove along the country lanes on this fine morning I found myself joining a line of traffic 6 vehicles deep. Stretching my neck to the right, I peered to see what the delay was, reducing us to a speed that a well oiled push bike would give us a good run for the money.

To my delight, it was the first combine harvester of the year, on route to the first barley crop. Why should it put a smirk on my face, well these well engineered piece of farming equipment will disturb the rats whilst out in the fields and force them to seek other accommodation, also consolidate them into groups YES THE RATTING SEASON WILL SOON BE UPON US.

Little did I know the first invitation will fall on my doorstep within a week, and it was one not to be missed, as we have had big numbers there before. The place was a refuge recycling plant that had a problem, a RAT problem. The date was set, the numbers sorted as who was going and how many dogs, my contact was Colin the main organiser, the meeting place was his house for beef and lamb sandwiches, which I must say lasted me all day. The lads at the plant worked until dinnertime on this particular Saturday morning, then it was our turn.

The last lorry was backed up in its allocated space for the weekend and all was on lock down, the boots opened, doors slid across as dogs jumped out onto the concrete forecourt. They all seemed to know what was going to unfold over the next three hours, stood proud with attitude and presence the dogs looked over the battle ground, scanning one end of the yard to the other.

With the leads taught and the dogs taking charge of the battle ground, we moved forward taking our organised positions directed by Colin. The diggers fired up with a turn of a key, the roar of the engine as the bucket plunged into the rubbish time and time again. Every time the bucket struck it forced a surge of rats into the dogs, most of them were dispatched quickly, but I must admit some did escape, into the next pile, only to be disturbed again 10 mins later. They bolted, ran up wall corners, made for the digger wheels, ran into heaps of paper it was total madness for 3 hrs solid, I noticed the dogs were been cared for every now and again when needed for a drink and a check over in this manic session.

Time and time again they were released into the arena of rats to do their job and oh boy did they, with rats flying all over while been snatched and grabbed. Every dog owner took charge of their dogs and when it had finished with a kill, the rats body was thrown over to the wheel barrow or the wheely bin which was getting fuller by the minute. Not all rats were picked up, due to the terrain and speed / action of the day but everyones dogs were outstanding along with owners.
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Once again friendships were formed if only to meet up again next year with some luck. The final count was 445 and who knows how many was unaccounted for, but my most descriptive word for the day is wow, what a session.

Friends From Afar

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At this time of year we are all on with our favourite past times and one of mine is ratting. Its now the phone calls are made to the farmers and land owners, asking if we can pick up where we left off last year, and of course if they know anyone else with a vermin problem.

Social media apps are switching into invites and general chit chat about who has seen what and where “have the rats moved out of the fields, into the pheasant pens, feeders and stack yards.” All this adds to the excitement of autumn, talking of invites. I met some great people from Denmark last year who had been to one of the Uk’s largest Game fairs to show their Terriers. We got on that well, I suggested if they are ever to come back to the UK and wanted a day out Ratting they are more than welcome to come, so contact details were exchanged,

They took me up on the offer, with email and texts backwards and forwards, to the point were now I am having a pup brought across from their kennels, he is a white Jack Russell type called Thor. He has a presence about him and definitely looks the part. I have one week to go before their arrival, my final preparations, our visitors are stopping over Friday, Saturday then on their way Sunday morning.

I had organised a dog friendly Bed and Breakfast, close to all amenities including a nice walk along the seafront if needed to blow the cobwebs off. I booked a meal on the night at a local restaurant after the ratting.

The day came for the rats ,I met the guests at the B&B at 6.15 they were all packed and waiting sat in the car with the engine singing away on tick over. Good mornings were made and we were soon on our way, with the rain hammering the windscreen and the wipers struggling to clear the screen. The journey was far from pleasurable but we knew what awaited us at the end of the road. The destination was Colin Hughes house for a warm drink and a lovely beef sandwich, fed and watered we were on our way again, this time the journey was short.

As we pulled into the car park we were greeted by the crane driver and the rest of the team. The area that had been set aside for us was made up of logs, soil and all types of green waste. We surrounded the pile with old doors stood on edge to help slow down the rats upon their escape.

ALTHOUGH SOME SAY ITS ONLY A FEW DOGS ON A FEW RATS, that’s true, but what I say is the day brings laughter, excitement, companionship and new friends, so I will let you be the judge on that one.
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Back to the day, the doors were in place, crane and bucket were in motion excavating the waste away as we all stood with our dogs in our arms and on leads, as they were transfixed on the remaining waste. Colin had deployed us in places where he thought it would be most advantageous. Then as though king rat had said “run” they came in packs of thirty plus, every time the bucket plunged into the mound for another scoop. The dogs were in there element catching one after the other, and despatching quickly before moving onto the next.

From time to time I had a look at our Danish guests to ensure they were getting their fare share of the action, no problem there ha ha. The final count was 359, another great day was had, with smiles all round. With photographs taken and our farewell said we headed back home and on arrival the dogs were attended to and bedded down for the night, as for us, we had a few drinks and laughed and talked about the day.

The next bright morning I met them for breakfast and they had decided to set off home as the journey and connections had to be met. I wished them a save journey and asked them to drop me a text when they arrive there.

Kind Regards
Phil.

The man from the Isle of Mann

Codger

Please let me take this opportunity to introduce you to a man that I have known for about 10 years, who will travel anywhere to work his dogs and is dedicated to their well being and training. He has friends all over the country who hold him high regard as I, and invite him on numerous days out. He has been one of the lucky ones to be invited on one of Colin Hughes big days, where 300 or more rats are killed in one session, and also to Paul Browns around his numerous quality places, I could go on but you all know who you are.

He has been to my house on more than one occasion, sometimes with his wife Jane but this time without, his vehicle is always well equipped (doggy friendly), whatever they need he has and so it should be. On this occasion he brought two terriers Jenner and Joey both plummer terriers for a weekend on the rats.

The Crew

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Cliff, I have know him about 20 years and a legend in this area, he receives respect in all company. With his enthusiasm, commitment and dedication to our smokers ,longnets and another apparatus we use, it is always appreciated with his maintenance and development in new ideas. He is always by my side, it’s like we are joined at the hip and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mike, in relation to length of time I have known him, it is only short, but he is punctual, hard working and polite. He has a great understanding of quarry and dogs. I met Mike through his mother Christine who helped Rick and Dee Dunn run a ferret rescue near me. Christine bought one of our books for Mike for Christmas and the rest is history. In this short time he has become a valuable part of our team.

FARMERS, Andy, Paul and shiny shovel Pete, I like to think we have a good relationship with all our farmers, knowing most of them for years. Sometimes it takes this length of time for this to develop as they may have had bad experiences with people with dogs and guns. But good things are worth waiting for and these three farmers fit into that mould, over the years they have become true friends and enjoy the days just as much as us.

They understand that sometimes I may forget to put names in articles or some photos of them are not selected from the powers that be, but they are men of the world and doesn’t jeopardise any future invites or compromises future relationships as it isn’t intentional.

Back to the invite for Codger,I understand the more notice I gave him for booking the ferry the cheaper it is, so three weeks were given and he could put plans in place around work etc, for us our work started a week before his arrival.

  1. We had to evaluate the amount of rats were available.
  2. Where they were
  3. If the farmers were free to give us hand moving materials
  4. What methods to apply to maximise catch
  5. Put in a few spotting sessions so I can inform where they are and where they will run.

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Codger arrived on time and ready for every occasion. With all the man hugs and shaking of hands done the conversation soon came around to what we had planned for him. As always my dear lady had done us a meal fit for kings, gracing our table with steaks and assorted vegetables, enough for a 2 week Safari in the deepest Africa let alone a 3 hour ratting trip. Fed and watered we were soon on our way to pick cliff up and as always he was ready and waiting, whist on our journey to the first farm we discussed the plan of attack.

1st Farm, we wasn’t expecting many, it was more to give the dogs a run and stretch their legs. But we did have a few in the process, as we walked into one shed we could see a few rats dropping into the cavity of a breeze block wall that was containing a mound of grain. As we peered down the cavity we could see one rat, then another in another block and so on. They were obviously thinking out of sight out of mind, but they wasn’t on this occasion, we have come across this before and was shown this technique by Paul Brown . Where you lower a stick or pipe down the hole tap the rat it makes a bolt for freedom and as long as you have other holes blocked off they will jump onto the pile of grain where the catch dogs are in place ready to despatch. The dogs have to be on the ball at this point as rats skim across the grain been lighter than the dogs so some good coursing maybe had.

2nd Farm, this one has cattle inside and obviously feeding troughs where our quarry will be eating simulated steak and assorted vegetables, as we walked up I told Codger were the feeders where and where the rats will run. I must say he deployed his dogs with military precision catching one after another as it exploded, with the rats evacuated and the dogs finished their last conquest it all went quiet, I whispered “ let’s move on to the mill shed”. Once again I told Codger what he was about to step into, mine and cliffs job was to man the doors for escapees as Codger worked his dogs in and among the plastic containers flushing rats along the way, the excitement reached a whole new level.

3rd Farm, this was just around the corner, but I didn’t get to this one before hand for a reccy, so it was a shot in the dark. Cliff went first to switch the lights on, followed by myself to man the door, then Codger to drop the dogs in. In my last experience there the rats ran for the door but since then they had excavated two new holes that we lost some too. But our last short journey wasn’t wasted as we did still have several in that and another shed.

Dogs loaded up cleaned up and on our way home, where the wife had already started on the wine and chocolate that Codger had brought for her, whilst the beers chilled in the fridge. Perfect.

Saturday Morning

After rallying around picking up the troops we embarked on the local cafe for breakfast and coffee, me, Cliff Codger and Mike. Introductions done and we were on our way, weather was mild and overcast with a north westerly breeze. When we arrived, we unloaded and set to work, using Cliffs revamped smokers and two new ones he has adapted, we started on the hedge way and around the side of a garage. We soon moved to where Paul had offered to pull some old bales out where we knew some more had moved in, we caught steadily all morning with the dogs showing outstanding skills. When we had finished Andy asked Sarah his sister to make us some drinks but it was already in hand as always, big thank you for those and the ones in the past including cake.

Once again we were off to the next farm, where there was a mound of old metal consisting of old feeders, parts of machinery containers etc. This was situated near a grain store and the rats were running between the two. As we arrived shiny shovel Pete came out to meet us and we were soon into the action once the exits had been blocked off and my two plummers and jack Russell deployed , Mike had Thor my Russell and Cliff a plummer leaving me with the other. Shiny shovel Pete started the forklift and every time he shook the metal rats flew out in different directions giving all dogs a turn which was nice.

Sunday Morning

We had a couple of hours before Codger had to be on his way, so Cliff and I thought a spot of ferreting would go down well. We choose a paddock where there is a set in the middle of a field nice and easy just net and watch. Then back to mine where he graced our table once more for a beef stew to help him on his way home.

Perfect end to a perfect weekend, big thank you to all involved
 
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Country Music

When I’m not hunting one passion of mine is meeting up with some friends and listening to live country music, Here is a short video we made a couple of months back.

Many thanks to the following

Bernard Gill
‘Tommy’
‘Chris’

The Countryman’s Weekly

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The mobile rang once again for about the 10th time that day and as always I pressed the answer button. This time it was a farmer who we had been working with from time to time to ease his rat problem. “Hey up Phil, we’re moving those bales that are around that wheat in shed, can you spare a few hours with your Terriers?” “Yes Malcolm when do you want us there?” “Well we will have the rest of the wheat moved by one tomorrow.” “Well we’l l be there at 12.45. See you tomorrow Malcolm, thank you.”

Now this is the tricky bit, I have to decide on the amount of dogs, so that the sport is good for dogs and owners but not too many so they are squabbling over the same rats, while ensuring that the ones that bolt are dispatched as our job intends. While spending five minutes gazing out of the condensation covered window, I mentally cast my mind back to the occasions when I had been there on a night with my air gun. I recollected the amount I had seen and shot, the amount I thought I had heard, the size of the area and the possible escape routes.

Rubbing the stubble on my chin and deep in thought I decided on four dogs, my two Plummers Lu and Ella, Joy from the Donny rat pack and a jack Russell named Beau. These were accompanied by their chauffeurs, Trev and Steve. It is advisable to invite helping hands as well, to pick up vermin, these people have to be tried and tested friends, I don’t suffer fools.

I also invited my friend Jim with his new 10 week old Plummer pup, Pip, for its first day out, just to watch, learn, and to get familiar to the noises and commotion of the day. It is very important to build their confidence and social skills as soon as possible. Then with the addition of two more people, Pete and Cliff, the team is set.

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Back to the mobile invites flying all over, it was sorted, everyone but Steve and his Jack Russell Beau was making an appearance. On the other hand Pete asked if he could bring his 7 year old son Oliver, I’ve met him before and he is good lad so I was obliged to reply “yes.”

We arranged to meet up in a lay-by and proceeded to the farm arriving on time. It was raining miserable and cold, but I knew when we got there we would be undercover. We got out the cars to make our presence known, stepping into a yard where the mud had merged with the excess rain, making a low viscosity sludge.

Malcolm came out, directed us into the dry shed, and asked me what approach to take. “Where it is possible take all the top bales off first, then work inwards from each end, creating an island in the centre”. The bales were on the move as requested, for the first one or two rows we had nothing. My intuition told me they were making their way down to the bottom bales. As we got further down a few bolted, to make a sprint for the big wild world. They were soon caught and dispatched quickly by the dogs.

The young Oliver soon proved his worth, retrieving the rats with a dog pooper-scooper, this was the case for quite a while, as the number of bales slowly decreased. However as the bales decreased the rats increased, and within a short period of time they were flying out allover the place, and the dogs were hard at work killing left right and centre.

Oliver was running around picking up and was worth his weight in gold, we must always remember –

The youth of today are the hunters of tomorrow.

The Last bale went and the explosions were over. The dogs have had a good day. And above all we have, the farmer has and most of all, so has Oliver. To be honest a small number escaped which was probably my doing by not replacing Beau with another dog. But we still had 62 in two hours and got some great footage for our next DVD Knowledge of Ratting.

Rabbit Pie

Some people struggle to dispense with the amount of quarry they catch. In this section from our new DVD, The Knowledge of Snaring and Ferreting, cooking enthusiast and close friend Richard Scott, uses freshly caught rabbits to make a delicious herb-crusted pie.

Many thanks to Richard Scott

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