Like many others, I look at myself through a completely different set of eyes to those that everybody else does. A product of the industrial North East of England, I am a man that has loved the rabbiting game since I was a boy, and although it has and continues to be hard work, I have managed to turn a hobby into my profession and still keep it my passion.

If I am completely honest, I cannot say why I am so obsessed with ferreting. None of my family hunted, shot, fished or ferreted and I wasn’t raised in a rural setting, but in the urban sprawl of Teesside. What this did give me was a love of the natural world. As a boy, I was fascinated by everything about the great outdoors and I can only imagine that this must have subliminally triggered something inside of me. 

As a youth, everybody with an inkling of interest in the countryside appeared to have or had a ferret at one time or another. I watched as ferreting became a nursery for country sports. The vast majority of participants left and went on to more glamourous pastimes like shooting or fishing, but I remained loyal to those animals and values that have served me well over the decades, and to be fair, I have never seen anything close to enticing me away. 

I wonder if it is because I find ferreting holds far more values and principles than just a way of simply catching rabbits. For so many years it has sculptured me as a person, through the experiences that I have endured along my journey, reinforcing that ‘dockyard spirit’ that has fuelled my intense drive, which gets me to do what I do, not just for a jolly, but to earn my living. This could be on a warren, in an arena, Infront or behind a camera or sat at a computer writing, like I say in the arena, a lot of people want to do what I do until they have to do what I do.

My world, like my head, is a very complex place. It is very demanding both physically and mentally, not only to survive but prosper. I have had to become almost chameleon-like in many ways, having to learn to think and act differently and to be able to teach myself to do this, I have been forced to delve into differing worlds that nobody would associate me with doing so. Sporting and industrial professions, pastimes, religions and cultures. Ways of life that have given me the opportunity to cherry-pick ideas, mindsets, lifestyle changes, equipment, philosophies and attitudes. If I am convinced that they will help me become better at whatever I have chosen to do, then I will try and if they work, they stay and if not, I put it down to experience and crack on. 

This allows me to evolve not just as a rabbiter but more importantly as a human being. The one thing that stitches my rabbiting philosophy together is the sobering thought that I am only as good as the animals that I breed and work. At the end of the day, I am in the result business, and the consequences of being no good and failure are too high to think about.

I am a proud man of whose modus operandi is the timeless art of ferreting. Harvesting rabbits using no toxins or poisons. Managing the land and providing good, clean nutritious food for the table and this marries in with my moral compass perfectly as wherever I find myself, I have the confidence, ability and animals to harvest food for the table. Using good fieldcraft, hard graft, fit, driven animals and a few nets, I can provide a valuable service to those that seek out my expertise, whilst all carried out in an organic and environmentally friendly manner. To the wider world this style may appear primitive, but as I see it, if you cannot better something, then it eventually will age. 

If you look back throughout our history, ferreting was the mainstay of those that spent a lot of hours in the factory, mill or mine. That feeling of freedom they must have experienced when they were out with their ferrets is just something, I don’t think we can really appreciate enough off today, although I am sure during the lockdown, it came close. Over the years that I have spent in the fields of the UK, I have forged many great friendships. Humans, dogs and ferrets have been deeply entwined within the fabric of my life. You can get no better feeling than being in the field with good friends and great animals harvesting rabbits. This could be either ferreting, using lurchers, long nets or indeed bolting rabbits for a uber fast Goshawk or Harris Hawk. 

The result is the greatest feeling in the world. That feeling of being able to harvest your own food with your own hands, nets and animals, the provenance of which cannot be bettered. So, you see, to many ferreting may be one thing, but to me, it is still everything.

One fear that I do hold is that I feel that within the constraints of the modern world and society, we are losing sight of the humble characters of the land like myself. If we continue to shun and lose characters, lose this interaction with the land, if we lose our heritage, what a sad life it would become. 

This sobering thought is exactly why we should all believe in environmental responsibility. Not only think very carefully about the origins of our food and the traditional skills required to harvest it, but to educate the world about our world in a way that they would understand. You never know with the way our world is evolving when you may need to call upon those skills and characters like myself once again to provide food for the table once more.

Written by Simon Whitehead