Anarchy is a whis­per

Us­ing a team of ter­ri­ers and lurchers to hunt rab­bits is highly en­ter­tain­ing but it is not an ex­act sci­ence, says Jackie Drake­ford

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

Alurcher and ter­rier bushing team is one of the most nat­u­ral mi­nor field­sports that op­er­ates by us­ing dog power to ex­tract quarry from dense cover. At base level, you need one lurcher that is def­i­nitely a lurcher un­less it is a pure-bred sighthound, and one ter­rier that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily com­pletely ter­rier and there­fore won’t dis­ap­pear down a hole for the en­tire af­ter­noon.

Up to a point, you can add ter­ri­ers and lurchers as long as they are prop­erly trained and will co-op­er­ate with each other. This means hav­ing to in­stall se­cure foun­da­tions so that they all work one area of cover at a time and as a co­he­sive unit, rather than each tak­ing a sep­a­rate line, quite pos­si­bly into a dif­fer­ent county. It’s every bit as de­mand­ing as it sounds.

El­derly lurcher

We met our host, Paul Nightin­gale, at the club­house for a mug of tea, su­per­vised by an el­derly lurcher com­fort­ably ar­ranged on an even more el­derly sofa. She would not be join­ing us, be­ing long re­tired. The team con­sisted of Ol­lie, a nine-yearold cross-bred ter­rier type, sus­pected to be part Lake­land and Bor­der plus some­thing larger; Parker, a whip­pet/ Jack Rus­sell lurcher ris­ing 11; Star, a Pat­terdale-springer spaniel cross aged two; and Wil­low, a seven-yearold deer-stalk­ing and track­ing lurcher that has pre­vi­ously fea­tured in Shoot­ing Times.

Rab­bit pop­u­la­tions have dived in many parts of the coun­try but here is ideal habi­tat. We walk out on to rough­grazed land, each patch of thicket a short sprint from the next, tip­ping the bal­ance in the rab­bits’ favour. Be­tween hulks of an­tique hedges, the land is poached and rut­ted from cat­tle foot­fall and pig root­ing. To those of us for whom the rab­bit is a most sport­ing quarry, it is a joy­ous place.

Those more used to gun­dogs might have thought that we were about to be help­less spec­ta­tors in a scene of anarchy, but this isn’t how it works. The light hand re­quired in types of hunt­ing where dogs lead and hu­mans fol­low means that thor­ough foun­da­tion train­ing has to be in­stalled long be­fore any dog ever en­ters the field in a pro­fes­sional ca­pac­ity. The two dif­fer­ent types of dog need mu­tual re­spect and they must fol­low the di­rec­tion of the per­son in charge. In the case of ter­ri­ers es­pe­cially, this is not with­out its chal­lenges.

Dogs off-lead at heel, we made our way to the first patches of cover and the team was sig­nalled for­ward while the hu­mans kept back.

Rab­bits knew we were there: they could hear our foot­fall, feel its vi­bra­tion, smell us if the wind al­lowed. This sport

Wil­low is a seven-year-old deer­stalk­ing and track­ing lurcher

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