This time you find me at a very exclusive 18-hole pro golf course near Peterborough. The course is 90 acres in total, set in the parkland of a large country estate that is currently at war with the local rabbit population which is causing damage to the course, and with yearly membership costing the equivalent of a Daystate Airwolf, let alone course fees, you can understand why the rabbit numbers need keeping down
After speaking to Course Manager it is soon made clear that he wants me to target a specific area of the course very close to the Lord of the Manors country house
The course is fringed almost all the way around by trees and bushes with a labyrinth of rabbit warrens located within this thick vegetation. Come nightfall they venture out of this onto the greens and love nothing more than to dig around in the bunkers and all over the course much to the annoyance of members and staff alike.
Plan of Action:
For obvious reasons, shooting is limited from dusk till dawn for everyone’s safety and let’s face it, not everyone likes the idea of bunnies being shot, but it’s the only effective way of addressing the population issue on such a large estate although once in a while they get a falconer in but that is a daytime operation and has its limitations. A nighttime lamping session is going to be my plan of attack.
The rabbit population has really begun to be a problem here, as for a few years, the estate in which the course is set hasn’t had a gamekeeper to manage the land and as a consequence, a variety of species are now flourishing in large numbers. The landowner not being of the old school or perhaps for financial reasons has decided not to have a gamekeeper in his employ, relying on natural predation to do the job for him, a tactic that clearly isn’t working!
Many years ago during the late fifties throughout the sixties into the mid 80’s my grandfather and his then young under keeper, the boy who was in time to become my father, used to manage this estate back in the days when all large estates had keepers, and with my mother’s parents both being in service to the Lord of the Manors family, living on the estate in a tied cottage as was the norm in those days the place holds a special place in my family history, but I feel a little sad that it isn’t the splendid fully working country estate it once was, but that’s progress for you and the old ways and traditions are fast disappearing, I for one find it very saddening being very much a country boy at heart.
I get to site just before dusk as I find the rabbits here are more active a couple of hours after dusk rather than late at night. From the amount of foxes barking, it is pretty evident that there is a large population of foxes here that agree with my observations too. Heading off down the fairway towards the big house I see the odd bunny, but well out of reach and very spooky. As I continue my walk I get the distinct impression I am being watched, making me feel a little uneasy, but I am too busy looking for rabbits to let it concern me too much.
Keeping to the edge of the tree line, I eventually get into position and flick the “on” switch of my Deben lamp. Sure enough, I see four rabbits munching away, just where I was told they would be. Surprisingly, one of the rabbits is jet black and fully gown. A rare site, but the course has a few strange coloured rabbits. Some of these I suspect were pets which were dumped and have subsequently bred with the wild population. Although wild black rabbits are of course a genetic throwback. The closest rabbit, at 30-metre,s hops off the course and into the trees and I lose him for a moment. Then see the red glint of an eye through the filter on my lamp and lock on. I apply steady trigger pressure, and thump one down! – Then my lamp suddenly dies on me, meaning a long walk back to the car (over a mile) to change over to my back up rifle / Logun lamp set up – talk about the air turning blue!
Getting back in to action sometime much later than planned sees me make a few more rabbits bite the bullet, or I should say the pellet? But the results are very disappointing and I end the session with six in the bag, the constant bark of foxes driving me mad and with a full moon not helping, a usual no no when lamping and equipment problems it just isn’t meant to be on this occasion leaving me feeling well and truly teed off as I was hoping for a double figure tally, I really shouldn’t be greedy as this shoot is very hard at the best of times, but when your being paid for results it really piles on the pressure and boy was I feeling it tonight…
Although I am a little, unhappy with the way session turned out, it just goes to show you can never have it all your own way. Happy to have helped clear up the area that the client wanted me to, I must admit feeling tired and disappointed as I trudge slowly back to the car, I even managed to tare the backside out of my jeans rounding the night off in fine style! – Now I just want to go home…
I must admit I have a quick laugh to myself as I imagine, granddads voice say “them bloody foxes – nothing but trouble boy!” What a night!