Our ratting group moved off to the first draw, a hedge just across the road from the yard. We had a pack of six terriers and one golden retriever, which was on its knees in the hedge as Kevin fired up the old chainsaw engine and smoked the first rat holes.
“If you’d been here a fortnight ago, this would have been full of rats,” explained the farmer’s wife, who was our guide for the morning. “We’ve been baiting and trapping in the barns, and it’s surprising how many we’ve caught with the traps. But now the wheat isn’t in there they seem to have moved on.” The family runs a shoot on the farm, shooting eight or so days each season. Each year they call upon Kevin and his team’s services for an end-of-season ratting expedition around the farm and pheasant pens.
The first hedge was blank so we trekked across a huge field to another where the previous year there had been quite an infestation. With a pheasant pen at the bottom of the hill, there was plenty of evidence of rat activity. Their well-worn runs weaved and criss-crossed between the holes under the wide hedge and looked promising. The terriers marked and Kevin’s smoker roared into action under a holly bush, but nothing bolted. Fired up but with nothing to hunt, the terriers were becoming bored and disagreeable but all of a sudden, to plenty of “leu-in there” followed by a couple of “whoop-whoops”, several rats bolted up the hedge into the jaws of the terriers. Barley and Fern caught one apiece, as well as Stowford, Bruno and Susan. Milo the retriever also proved his worth, his golden coat flowing as he pranced along the hedge — a hilarious sight next to the terriers.