Several years ago I was fortunate enough to receive an invite from a friend for a few days hunting in East Anglia, after making arrangements over the phone I made the trip south with a car full of dogs for a walk out. This was before the ban and a variety of quarry species were on the menu as the farmer wanted the rabbits and hares thinning out along with the roe which were destroying the young saplings he had planted.
After a three hour drive through some stunning countryside I finally arrived at my hosts abode. Now Catherine is a lurcher enthusiast who works her dogs on any edible quarry from partridge to deer. It always amazes me that many male hunters often decry hunting by woman doubting their dedication, ability and skill, well I have no such preconceived ideas and have learnt that many woman can not only hold there own with any man but often out class them.
A quick phone call to the farmer and 10 minutes later we were walking across a stubble field checking out the hunting terrain, this was more of a reccy than a serious hunt. I had brought my staffie/ greyhound Rocky and Catherine had her whippet/deerhound Jen, we also brought along three young dogs, two were owned by Catherine and were just starting their career and my pup which was too young to run anything but was along for some education of the countryside and its quarry.
We walked down a dividing path that cut between a stubble field and some rough plough, the ground was fairly dry so we would pick and choose the dogs runs once the cover of darkness came. The ground showed signs of rabbit activity and we pushed on toward a huge rolling stubble field, as we walked across the field Catherine’s dog Jen wind scented in the direction on the wood but we walked on regardless, the field was devoid of game but as we turned and approached the wood we started to put leads on the young dogs in case anything was in the wood, when we got within 100 yards a trio of roe does left cover, two does broke separately and Rocky and Jen each singled out their own deer, one broke across the field toward a field of sugerbeet and the other veered off around the wood with Jen hot on her heels. The remaining doe broke across us at pace heading toward a distant caravan park, Catherine slipped an eleven month old beddy/greyhound bitch on the rapidly moving cervine and the bitch was soon behind the doe, now we have all heard that there are deer and there are deer and this doe opened the turbo and kicked up the dry stubble behind her and really put her foot, or should that be hooves down, the pup was five yards behind the rapidly disappearing deer but this doe was motoring and that was as close as she got, never mind though as the pup was still learning. The dogs all returned within five minutes and a quick inspection showed that none looked like showing any signs of contact.
With tongues hanging(the dogs not ours) we decided to head back to the car and give the dogs a rest before lamping. Unfortunately things don’t always go to plan and as we walked a sugarbeet field near the car a hare exploded from my feet taking four lurchers with her, old puss only had 10 yards on the dogs but the ground underfoot made for hard going and the hare took the lurchers across the sugarbeet and onto the stubble’s, the dogs turned the hare several times but only succeeded in getting in each others way, (as I say this was an unplanned chase), into the distance she took the dogs and we saw the dogs loose a lot of ground as the hare straightlined the dogs across a field of rough plough with a texture like broken concrete, despite the best efforts of the dogs this hare made the sanctuary of the fenceline and eluded capture.
We drove to the next bit of permission and there 200 yards away in the middle of a 40 acre stubble field was a doe in perfect condition, despite the long slip both dogs were straining to go and were slipped, Jen and Rocky ate up the ground on this doe but just when it looked like they may be able to turn the doe back into the filed she entered the sanctuary of a large wood, oh well you live and learn, it wasn’t an ideal slip but it was worth a punt.
After a lovely home cooked meal, a few ciggys and a chinwag about dogs, hunting and more hunting it was decided to leave it until the early hours and head out for a mooch with Charlie and the humble bunny on the wish list, the night wasn’t ideal as the moon was giving the land a faint glow and the wind had died down but if we always waited for the correct conditions the dogs would spend more time in the kennels and never get out.
We ran a few rabbits which the dogs should of caught but this was the start of the season and both dogs were still suffering from being a little ringrusty and not yet in peak condition, as the early hours crept up on us all we had were some unsuccessful runs and a couple of tired dogs, driving the stubble’s we parked up and decided to see if any foxes were about, Catherine’s dog Jen had pulled a few in her time but this was where Rocky came into his own, without doubt they were his favourite quarry and he would move heaven and earth to come to grips with Charlie and wreak some sort of revenge he suffered in a previous life lol.
Now my squeaking often resembles an angry hamster but it works for me so we sat quietly in the truck squeaking intermittently and lighting up the darkness with the blitz, almost immediately a fox came across the field at a canter but stopped 100 yards out and refused to come any closer despite my hamster in distress call!!! Both dogs were sat on the back seat and Rocky and Jen sat quietly staring, we decided after a while to drive across the field as quickly as possible and slip the dogs from the rear window, this trick had worked time and time again but this vulpine was obviously used to the danger vehicles can contain and soon bogged off along the bottom of an empty dyke. Now I don’t know who was more cheesed off, Catherine, me or the dogs who had run and had no reward for their efforts, we travelled to a local grass paddock after some discussion, I mentioned to Catherine that soon my dog would refuse to follow the beam and sack me as his assistant, we wanted to finish the night with a reward for the dogs so we would do anything, even doubling them on a bunny to ensure a catch and reward.
Ten minutes later saw the car roll to a halt on a tarmac car park and the blitz illuminated the field to reveal a rabbit utopia, ruby eyes were everywhere and one bunny was still grazing contentedly 30 yards away as two canine scud missiles erupted from the rear window, unfortunately the dogs decided that the sitter I had chosen wasn’t suitable and locked onto the grazer further out, now unfortunately this rabbit wasn’t a rabbit but a hare!! Now Jen was a capable hare dog in the daytime and although no slouch Rocky was only capable of taking them on the lamp, not exactly the easy run I had planned. The hare took off and 20 yards later was turned by Jen almost into Rockys mouth but puss wasn’t ready to be a casserole yet and several wrenches and turns were executed in a space no more then 30 square yards, Jen tripped the hare but again she ran between the dogs and made for a grass bank, both dogs had made good strikes but again were they to end the night unrewarded? Well along the grass bank the hare went but just when we thought she would escape Rocky made a strike and ended the chase, to be honest I think we were as pleased as the dogs and we both had big grins and maybe a little more pride in what our little hunting machines can do.
A week later and I was travelling back down the A14 with the dogs looking forward to another excellent break, not only is the countryside lovely but my host was great fun and very easy to get on with, plus the cooking was considerably better than mine!!
The first walk was back on the field where we ran the doe the previous week, even as we parked the car we saw a doe break across the horizon, we walked the freshly drilled field to the stubble, a pair of munties were grazing several hundred yards away and we decided to stalk these for a run when Jen scented something in the next field, I saw a glimpse of fur and stated “muntjac”, I should of kept my gob shut as at that moment a the “muntjac” came through the hedge 50 yards away and stood looking at us, a roe in fine fettle and we immediately slipped both dogs, away across the huge a full speed she went but the pair of canine exocets were soon on her case and only a wrench to the left saved this doe, both dogs turned the doe several times before Rocky lost valuable ground on a sharp right bend, not to worry though as Jen was hot on the heels of this roe and turned her back towards Rocky, Jen struck and missed a rear hock and now the doe was in serious trouble, another turn and Jen struck effectively and brought this doe down, Rocky took his lethal throat hold and by the time we reached the dogs it was goodnight Vienna!!!! Two minutes out of the car and we had a tasty roast dinner and enjoyed watching the dogs have a fine run.
During the afternoon we had a quick trip out with a young ferret but despite the warrens looking inhabited we came home empty handed.
That night the wind began to gust and a slight drizzle fell, Ideal conditions to start Catherine’s young dog pup, we took the older dogs incase Charlie put in an appearance but in reality we only wanted the pup to see a taste of some action, the first field held a solitary bunny sat out on the plough so the two older dogs were slipped from the back seat, unsporting? No test?, perhaps not but we knew both dogs could work single handed and were only after some sport, the rabbit made the hundred yard dash for the freedom on a village garden but was turned away by Jen, both dogs were ready to make a pick up and Jen struck only to spin around 360 degrees empty mouthed, Rocky made a somersaulting lunge head over heels and picked up the rabbit in style. We ran another bunny with Rocky, which escaped by leaping over the dog and into a warren!!
The pup was picking up the game and soon realised that several million candlepower illuminating the darkness meant the possibility of a chase, the pup ran a rabbit with an older dog and although the adult made the pick up the pup gained some experience.
Now I must thank my host if she reads this as we have kept hunting together and I have also enjoyed the home cooked meals and friendship that has developed since that time many years ago.
Written by Simoman