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
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.
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