We had seen three days of storm weather but due to my dad's work commitments and my exams at school we had been unable to get out. However tonight we could so it was home from school and batteries on charge. We did all our usual checks prior to going out; connections, bulbs, first aid kit etc.
Once we had completed all the checks we rung the farmer and loaded up the truck, normally we drive the fields and let the dogs straight out the back but due to the recent conditions this wasn't an option.
As soon as we got into the dark abyss, me and bonks got onto the tail board of the pickup truck. We were lamping over the thick hawthorn hedges, looking for our intended quarry, hares. Now I know not everyone agrees with lamping hares but in our part of the country the fields are small with deep thick hedges consisting of many thorny plants. Daytime coursing just isn't an option because you simply can't see them.
While searching with the light we saw many a rabbit but we didn't wish to waste the dogs energy before we had actually ran any hares.
We soon located our intended quarry with our beacon of piercing white light while it was just casually eating on the grass. Unfortunately the wind wasn't in our favor so by the time we had the dogs out the box and on a slip it was already starting to lop away towards the far gate. The dogs were slipped under the gate and the chase was on.
The two dogs had a fair distance to make, they had to travel a hundred yards before to get to him before he had made the hundred yards to his gate. With every stride they gradually gained on him until they were on terms. Once on terms they started to pressure him, this meant he started to turn and jink to try and avoid the eager waiting jaws of the strong headed bull cross, Tom and the little whippety mongrel, Nia.
Tom and Nia were snapping at the heels of old puss, getting closer and closer with each and every attempted strike but with every missed opportunity the gap between the hare and the gate was greatly decreasing until in one precise movement it was through.
Once the dogs returned and we had them boxed back up we continued our hunt. The light passed over yet more rabbits but there was a distinct lack of hares on this ground so we moved our hunt to a more familiar area that seemed to contained hare in conditions that were far from ideal.
On arrival we spotted hares almost instantaneously but due to mine and bonks lack of experience we where not catching any. We were making what we didn't realize were errors, we weren't aware that trying to get closer to the game was a mistake. Luckily enough my dad spotted this and corrected our mistake, he told us that we should slip them as soon as the hare was in the beam properly; this way the dogs would be able to get into full stride before the hare had actually gained any form of pace. Now I know this isn't particularly sporting but we wanted to give the dogs the edge.
The next one we saw was in an area we were not expecting to see any, it was stood magnificently on its back legs when the lamp crossed it. I gave the tell tale flash to inform them we had sighted, so as not to startle the hare we drove down the road to somewhere we could discuss 'tactics' without being within ear shot.
We decided to use surprise to our advantage, we slowly drove back to the field. As we approached I quickly scoured the ground to find where the hare would be situated when we arrived at the gate. When we got there my brother climbed down from the truck, let the dogs out and escorted them to the gate, one in each hand. He put them under the gate where they just stood waiting in anticipation as I relocated the quarry.
As soon as the light fell on there prey they started there approach, they were gaining speed with every step until they were in full stride. When they are at full speed it looks like they are flying, the distance they travel as they reach there legs out is tremendous; with every step they took they decreased the distance greatly but old puss was yet to notice there presence.
By now there was only a few strides left and they would be on top of the target but it was still yet to move. As they hit the area there was just a mass, we were unable to determine what was going on and it wasn't until we heard an all familiar scream that we could confirm the catch.
The dogs retrieved there prize in good fashion, we loaded them into the box and carried on our search for our required game and as it happens it didn't take a great deal of time to find any. From the roadside we were able to see three in a smallish corner field, by now my dad and Newtz were bored of not seeing any runs so drove into this one. It wasn't far into the field before we hit the umbra. Being on the back of the truck I was able to still see all three hares, so using my light I directed them to the nearest one and once they were able to see we opened the box and released them.
They left the box like a flash of lighting and were soon on the field heading towards there game. Just before they reached it, she sidestepped and started to head for safety as fast as she could in a straight line. The dogs were gaining fast and managed to turn it just yards from the hedge, now the pressure was on as she had a way to the gate but wasn't that far from the hedge. The hare was doing its best to turn them inside out; turning, linking, wrenching and bending this way and that but nia was stuck to her tail like glue. Tom on the other hand is not as good on the turn due to his muscle bound physique and was struggling to keep up with the course as it was in such a tight circle but it was him who actually caught it come the end as nia turnt it directly into his jaws. It wasn't a particularly long course but it was an outstanding one, the way the hare worked to keep his freedom.
After such a racket I thought it was inevitable that the other hares would leave the field but decided to have a quick search first before we moved on, lucky I did really because the other two were just sat eating as if we hadn't even entered the field. There was no need to even put the dogs away and just sent them straight back down the beam.
Not long after the dogs left us the furthest hare started to move and caught there attention which meant they ran past the nearest hare rather close so he squat tight. Due to the fact this one was in full flight it took longer for the lurchers to get upto him. This one really wasn't messing around either; it headed straight for the gate at full speed. The dogs were struggling to keep up but due to there length and overall greater speed they were able to put on enough pressure to turn it back into the field just before the gate. Now after the long straight there was only a few turns before nia firmly snapped it up with a clean strike.
As this hare was being retrieved I quickly flicked the lamp onto the field and immediately spotted the third hare still sat there but unlike the others this one seemed full aware of the predicament he was in.
As soon as I got the hare of the dogs they were on their way back down the beam, now in hindsight this was a mistake, the dogs were really lagging by now. Before they were even halfway old puss was in full stride and heading for the gate. There wasn't a chance this one was being taken prisoner, out the gate and down the road before they had even put any pressure on. Let alone enough to turn him.
The dogs now needed a short break after due to all the short burst so we decided to head for ground nearer home, by the time we reached the ground the dogs had there tongues back in and we were able to start the search again.
After a while of not seeing anything we decided we would give the old tom dog a few bunnies, luckily enough this particular area was all but plagued with them. Me and bonks decided to walk the next worthwhile field. This field wasn't quiet a basin but it was of a similar shape. The field wasn't over run with bunnies but it was enough to make it worth our while.
On the first hedge there was several coneys, they were mostly close to the hedge baring one individual sat out. As we started to walk along the hedge the close ones jumped in, leaving just the straggler squat in the field.
He ran up the light, his feet thundering as he ate up the ground. This put the rabbit on his feet and heading for the hedge. It characteristically turnt up and down the hedge in an almost mechanical motion until tom managed to put in a successful strike. Now tom doesn't strike like your typical lurcher. Where your normal lurcher simply drops his head and picks the rabbit up, tom is unable to do that. Due to his short neck and muscle bound physique he has to fully commit, striking in an almost somersault motion. This is a terrible method and if he does catch on the first strike he hardly catches his quarry.
He went on to catch another three bunnies before we moved on again, there was only one spot left before we hit the estates that surrounded the city. The wind was starting to die now, which obviously means the game wasn't as open.
We got to our final spot but struggled to find a hare, we searched best part of 20 fields with no luck until we reached a large kale field. I quietly moved the makeshift gate that was several pallets badly tied together. We let the dogs go but they just stood there, they weree completely unaware of the hares presence so we started to walk towards it.
It jumped up from the noise of the kale being trodden down, once the dogs saw the movement they were away but due to the nature of the field they struggled to get any real speed but they did manage to get on terms eventually. We were now struggling to watch the course due to mud and kale being thrown in every direction, making a green and brown mist around the dogs.
This hare was running like a good'un, turning within its own body length and then running at magnificent speeds for short distances until tom and nia were back on terms. Once they were upto it again it would make brilliant turns. The hare was basically stopping and turning at a random angle to a towards a new destination, now this may sound slow but with the dogs so close it had to perform this maneuver in a split second.
After what seemed like several minutes the hare had eventually worked its way down to the bottom umbra and into the shadow. Luckily enough when I first started lamping I was taught to keep the light on even once the dogs had entered the umbra; after a few seconds the hare came back into view with dogs very close behind. Only a few seconds later the hare was firmly in there grasp.
So as to end the night on a high we decided to go home; we had in total 4 hares and 4 rabbits, the dogs had some good runs and it got us out of the house for a few hours but best of all we were back by three giving us a four hour sleep before school.