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Posted March 30, 2012.


“Grab it! Quick, grab it!”

“Good, now don’t you drop it.”

Phrases such as this could be heard echoing from the foothills of Mount Buninyong last weekend.

Kite flying you might think? No way.

Perhaps cricket? Wrong again.

Try the time-honoured tradition of ferreting.

I’m told most people grow out of ferreting. Perhaps they get into it between the ages of 10 and 15, then the upper-teenage years hit and are accompanied by other interests – life gets busy and the time and inclination for such a pastime quickly passes. It was certainly the case for my brothers, who once enjoyed a day out ferreting as much as I did. I’m also told it is a hobby from a bygone era. You don’t see it as much these days. Perhaps backyards are smaller now and the caustic smell of the ferret cage is no longer acceptable in town. I know I’ve had my share of feedback from neighbours over the years…

Much to my wife’s chagrin, I never grew out of ferreting. I love nothing more than a day in the great outdoors in search of wild rabbit to put in the pot. For me, the day only gets better by taking along my three children as well as lads from the Boys Boarding House. This is what we did last weekend.

Eighteen boys from a range of different locations and cultures headed off on the termly Boy Boarders Ferreting Trip. We had farmer’s sons from the Western District, brothers from Hong Kong, a couple of Wimmera boys and one lad from Templestowe in Melbourne. A more diverse bunch of young men you’d struggle to find. All had an abundance of the main ingredient you require when ferreting – enthusiasm!

What ferreting really provides, other than rabbits, is difficult to measure, but something for which I’ll keep going back. For the Boarding House boys it proved to be a great bonding experience, as it is every time I take them out. The lads had to work together and they did it well – not so much at the start, but by the end of the trip they were cohesive and efficient and it was great to see them cooperating so brilliantly. It was also relaxing. Sitting on the slopes of Mount Buninyong, looking over the valleys and township below while waiting for a rabbit to ‘bolt’, was a wonderful experience, as simple as it may be. And therein lies one of the joys of ferreting: it forced us to slow down a little, take in nature … and think. When ferreting, you have to be quiet over the holes so there is time to ponder as you silently wait. Mobile phones stay at home – there is no place for them, so, without distraction, you tend to think about things you haven’t thought of for a while and smile quietly to yourself as you revisit an old memory. While there is no doubt the boarders love the thrill of a rabbit bursting from the hole at top speed and the associated dive that is essential before the rabbit escapes the clutches of the net, I also believe they appreciate the intangibles that are inherent in being together in the outdoors on a beautiful Autumn day.

We returned triumphant with seven fine-looking rabbits. We’d have had double that if the group had been a little sharper over the holes and a little more experienced when setting up nets, but the size of the catch was not important. The experience together is what counted most. A quick lesson in skinning and gutting a rabbit followed with everyone getting involved. Upon our return to Clarendon the boys took over the kitchen and prepared a wonderful rabbit stew for all to share. It proudly sat alongside the roast beef and chicken stir fry in the Boarding House bain marie and I am pleased to report it was all gone by the end of the evening meal, replaced by a feeling of satiety. Shaune Moloney Head of Boys Boarding