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James Marchington reviews this remarkably comprehensive guide to rabbit snaring - Professional Rabbit Snaring by GS Waters
As a schoolboy, few things caught my imagination like rabbiting. By the age of 13, I had read all the poaching books in my father’s library several times, I owned ferrets and an air rifle, and in my mind was well on my way towards a career as a professional poacher. Snaring had a special appeal. There was an elegant simplicity in the idea of setting a wire noose and letting my quarry catch itself. Frustratingly, this black art proved hard to master. Time after time my wires would remain untouched, or I would arrive in the morning to find them knocked out of place and empty. I puzzled over the results, studied the signs and adjusted my methods accordingly until at last I began to catch the occasional bunny to supplement boarding school rations. My school friends were impressed and shocked in equal measure.
Goodness knows what might have happened if Glenn Waters’ book Professional Rabbit Snaring had been available back then. With the subtitle ‘How to catch rabbits by the thousand’ I’d have been hooked. I would have studied it more assiduously than any school textbook, and quite likely failed all my exams and followed my dream to become a professional rabbit catcher. I would certainly have become much more successful at snaring rabbits in a fraction of the time.
Fortunately for my teachers, if not for me, back then there was no such book. In those far-off days a young Glenn was also busy learning the art of snaring. The difference is that I buckled down and followed the career path expected of me, while Glenn went on to develop his skills of snaring and trapping to an extraordinary degree. Now, more than half a century later, John Bryan of Fourteenacre has brought together Glenn’s articles and drawings into what must be the most comprehensive and useful manual on rabbit snaring the world has ever seen.
Country folk are great ones for tradition, doing things such and such a way because that’s how it’s always been done. Glenn is that rare creature, a bright and enquiring mind who asks why, and is there a better way. Combine that with his remarkable skills of observation and understanding of animal behaviour, and Glenn has developed his own snaring methods and designs that are many times more effective than anything man had dreamed up before.
Breaking with tradition
Glenn soon realised that traditional ideas about rabbit snaring were all wrong – the loops were too small and set too low – and developed his own snare designs to catch more consistently. For Glenn it’s a continual process of learning and improving. ‘Remember, smart trappers remain students,’ he writes in his conclusion. ‘It’s really amazing how much we have to learn to realise how little we really know.’ That mindset has led him to develop new methods and snare designs throughout his life – and he would be the first to agree that he’s still learning.
We are fortunate that Glenn has managed to pass on all this knowledge, thanks in no small part to early internet hunting forums, and now John Bryan’s sterling work bringing it all together in one large volume – and it certainly is large, printed on A4 size paper and running to 316 pages plus the covers.
The sheer volume of information seems overwhelming at first. How can there possibly be so much to say about a simple method of rabbit catching? Except of course it is anything but simple. The rabbit itself deserves careful study – how does it live, feed, and move from place to place? You can’t hope to catch it consistently until you understand all that. Then there are the many variations of grass and crop cover, and the man-made obstacles such as ditches, fences and walls that present problems and opportunities for the rabbit catcher. There are livestock and other wildlife that might interfere with your snare, become trapped themselves, or make a meal of your catch before you can get there. There are unexpected risks to the rabbit catcher himself – one of my early mistakes was to dispatch a snared rabbit with a chop to the back of the neck. I still have the scar where the sharp edge of the eyelet cut deep into my hand!
All this and more is covered in intricate detail in Glenn’s book. The writing style is straightforward and to the point; he does a good job of explaining practical things in a way that doesn’t have you jumping back to the beginning of a sentence to work out what he means. It is well illustrated throughout with Glenn’s own pencil sketches. They won’t win any prizes at an art festival, but I find them both charming and immensely useful. His rabbits have a slightly Beatrix Potter look about them, but when drawing a particular type of snare he is meticulous about showing clearly what is looped around what so you can easily understand how to replicate the set-up.
Nowadays, of course, snaring, like so much in the countryside, is under the spotlight. Despite new legislation it is still hated by animal rights groups and is often the subject of campaigns to ban the practice altogether. Glenn acknowledges all this, and is in any case deeply respectful of his quarry and other wildlife, so there is plenty of advice on not just keeping the right side of the law but going beyond that to minimise any suffering to target and non-target species alike.
All in all this is a remarkable book, bringing together a lifetime’s study and practical experience. All too often such knowledge is lost, or becomes diluted by being passed on by word of mouth. We are lucky that Glenn has written it all down, and that John had the good sense to compile it into a book. It will never be a bestseller, but it deserves a place on every countryman’s bookshelf. If you want to catch more rabbits, you couldn’t have a better guide. But even if you don’t, it’s a wonderful insight into the rabbit catcher’s world, and one man’s quest to perfect the humble snare.
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