Hardcore ferreting / rabbit hunting with Simon Whitehead


[Music] Simon Whitehead is a professional ferreter
– that’s part pest controller, part clown, part poet and part transportation engineer.
When he’s not sorting out the local rabbit population he’s writing for Shooting Times
or keeping us entertained around game fair arenas across the country. Today we find him in Norfolk on a new piece
of ground that needs the Whitehead touch. It’s not crop damage they’re worried about,
it’s people breaking their ankles in rabbit holes on these overspill car parks. And he
takes the job very seriously. You have got to be clinical, you have got
to be single minded and a bit selfish, because all I want to do is catch these rabbits. So
if it means putting 100 nets down, 200 nets down, if it means getting the dogs out, if
it means me shooting at night and staying here all night or trapping it. That is what
I will do to get the job done. Because at the end of the day we are working for a reputation
and that reputation will take decades and decades to build, but if you don’t do your
job you will destroy it in about 30 seconds. Joining Simon today are Digger, Torchy, Sean,
Milly and, of course, Simon’s patriotic ferrets. Like all working animals they have their strengths
and weaknesses. Simon chooses which ones to work depending on the ground. But with ferrets it is your glass half full,
your glass half empty, because if we are working under roads you don’t want a ferret that is
going to stay there all day with a rabbit where as I do here. So you tend to know how
the ferrets work. Some work and some don’t work no matter how well the brain. So you
are continually having a turn over of stock to pick the best one to breed from. After a couple of cappuccinos (all media ferreters
drink cappuccino these days – didn’t you know?), we’re caffeined up for the first assault of
the day – a bank riddled with holes. Simon directs the troops. All escape routes are
covered in purse nets – and woe betide anyone who lets a rabbit escape. Simon does not like
runners. The rabbits start popping out and some get
a helping hand – with ferret still in tow. It seems to be a point about there where you
press which seems to make their jaws open. You have got to be humane with the rabbits
and deal with them and then sort the ferret out. Milly is supposed to be on Simon’s side of
the fence for any mopping up, but seeing all the fun’s on the other side, she gets involved
… Milly has got it. She has got it. Another healthy rabbit is added to the tally
which will be about what today Mr Whitehead?? Well, I want every rabbit here really, but
I know it is not going to happen. But we are going to try. Don’t know … what do you reckon
Shaun, 40? Between 30 and 40. Then you might see Whitehead smile. Any less and you will
see a grimace. Is that about right? I don’t mind. How ever many we catch the important
thing is they don’t escape. We don’t mention that word, not escapees. Oh dear, spoke too soon and we have an escapee.
Digger gets a yellow card. Simon knows, however, that nets work both ways. Back netted. It has come out of there, slipped
digger and come down there, so … get him out dispatch him. We will have to tell Digger
now that we have recinded his yellow card so he is safe for another day. Having worked the bank we cross to the hedge
line. With so many holes we play the numbers game hoping to film that bunny rocketing out
of the the bury. This one has a quick peek – and decides the other way is better. Oops.
Bad decision. Having had some bolting bunnies to start with,
they now seem to be holding tight. The ferret finders work brilliantly. Simon locates the
ferret then extricates the rabbit. He is well known for his Inspector Gadget-like arms,
reaching rabbits others fail to grasp, though even he needs some extra length now and again. Yeah … I am going to try in there … let
me get a stick. So that stick will go under and you will feel
the fur and when you draw it out you will have a bit of fur on the stick so you will
know there is a rabbit in there. Your arm will reach that far, with a stick you can
reach that far, just in case there is another. With a bit more digging Sean offers to have
a quick go at the bank but soon regrets it. We lose a rabbit and he gains a golf club. He is grumpy now because he missed a rabbit
so he has got his golf club, second rabbit, God forbid it, will give him a golf ball,
then a T and if he does it four times we will get his membership and he won’t be ferreting. Lunchtime and Torchy show us his swing. Look at this. Yes. That is what happens when cousins make love. Because of the government’s lack of care. That is the result, that is the result. What this is the government cut back of the
care in the community. They would be locked up with duvet wall paper, but now we have
got to take him out. Aunty Dr and Uncle Ken. OK Sean lets leave it there. Now we said we were going to bring you a few
tips and tricks of the trade. Here’s one to play with. The Donk Board. It’s a bit like
pinball for rabbits. If successful, it keeps the bunnies in play. Especially if we are shooting the … rabbits
it makes sense because we can’t get a stock net through there. So the rabbits are going
to feel safe. So with this board hopefully, they will run up, hit it, it goes dong. Two
seconds later we know it is going to come out. It is going to come out that side or
this side. We are going to put a lovely great stock net along there across the top and the
bottom to try and persuade them to come out and get Milly to stretch her legs. The Donk Board is ideal for this hedge as
netting would be a real pain. Anyway, let’s give it a go. And, for a but of fun, we’ve
put a camera on Milly. Our first rabbit does bolt but hits one of
the few nets and Milly soon hits it. Catching a rabbit in a net you have got to
be careful of the back claws. You can get a claw through and will cause serious damage
to your hand. So make it quick and make sure you keep an eye on those claws. Because those
claws are razor sharp. They are razor sharp those claws. Then we get a couple that give Milly something
to chase – the rabbit is out in the open field and beats Milly to the fence. This is similar
to baseball. It heads back down the fence, hits the Donk Board, knocks it over and makes
a home run. The second runner follows the hedge – is turned
back by the Donk Board – comes back again and finds a hole… So close … and exciting stuff. Milly loses the camera and finally makes contact
with a rabbit. It has the scars to show that it’s been trying to wait it out at a stop
end. It is in a dead end that is what is being
presented to the ferret and it is trying to get it to turn. The boys persist. Each dig delivers a rabbit.
It’s labour intensive but that’s the way Simon operates. For him, this is not sport. He needs
to disrupt the population dynamics of these bunnies and that means a multi-pronged approach. Country people have proved it time and time
again. By hiding, ferreting, shooting and other methods together, what you don’t get
with one you will get with another. It is about upsetting their natural cycle, their
balance, their breeding stock their numbers. It is about destroying their territory because
otherwise they are going to regroup and start over again. In all we bag 31 rabbits with the ferrets.
Simon’s now going out with the night vision and air rifle to upset things even more. Simon Whitehead: he takes no prisoners, never
plays golf, and always gets his rabbit.

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