I dropped Paul off at the start of the drive into the farm we were to be shooting on so that he could work his way across to the top side where I was going to park up.
I normally drive into the big field which lies at the top of the valley, but the ground was so muddy that I decided it’d be better to just leave it in the gateway. On getting out of the truck, I immediately realised how cold it was – by far the chilliest of the year so far. My gloves were clearly far too thin for the job, so I switched them for some thick leather ones which fortunately I carry as back-ups.
The field I’d chosen to start in is very complicated, with all sorts of dips and rises. Experience has taught me that the foxes tend to travel along the bottom of the biggest gully, so I set the caller out there and when I was ready ran it on pheasant distress.
About two seconds after I started it a large dog fox came belting out of the nearby hedge-line, which, for those who are interested, is actually an ancient Celtic boundary. It came in so fast – like a wolf on full charge, that I was worried that it’d reach the caller and scent human before I could get a shot off. Luckily,I managed to mute the call in time, and my quarry paused for the briefest of moments to see where its prey had gone. At that point my ballistic tip hit it hard, and it fell like a stone.
When it was clear that nothing else was going to come in, I picked the caller up and checked the carcass out – it was a massive dog fox, and in all likelihood one that has managed to evade me until now. I could hear Paul’s caller down in the fields below me, so in order to stay out of his way I carried on along the top of the hill. Picking my way carefully across a load of maize stubble, I eventually reached the other side where I could look down into a long hollow.
Apart from a few rabbits though, there was nothing to see. Moving along the fence line, and peering over a rise, I caught a flash of something that looked like it could be fox eyes through the NV spotter. Immediately shutting off the IR laser – to avoid spooking the onlooker, I moved a bit closer for a better look. Unfortunately, having got the rise out of the way, I discovered that the source was a rogue traffic cone in the bottom of the hedge!
Before I could berate myself too much, a fox called about a field away. Since there was no time to waste, I scaled the barbed wire fence and put the caller out. There was no response to either the pheasant distress or the vixen mating call, but when I switched to fox pup distress, a white heat source came barrelling out of a hedge about 200 yards away, and rocketed straight for the caller. Due to the lay of the ground, the mute command wasn’t reaching the caller very well, so I had to press the button about four times before it went quiet.
By then, the fox was halfway up the hill and only about thirty yards from the caller – it wasn’t happy about something though, and turned to leave. It wasn’t quick enough, however, and my bullet hit it fair and square. Another very big dog fox. Realising that Paul would be back at the truck before me, I started trekking back as fast as I could. I spotted him with the thermal imager across on the far hill, and a few seconds later he gave me a quick flash of his torch to say that he’d seen me too.
Whilst looking for him, however, I spotted a fox running away from him – he’d obviously spooked it as he was walking along. It then cut through the line of boundary scrub and came into the field below me. I only had a brief chance to get ready, and when it paused I fired a shot. By the time the smoke had cleared, it was nowhere to be seen.
This is not normally a problem, but in this case there were lots of warm cow pats all over the place – not only did this make it next to impossible to find the carcass with the thermal, but the cattle were getting really edgy about my presence. Since nervous bovines can be a significant threat to life and limb on steep ground in the dark, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and moved on.
By the time I got back to where Paul was waiting, the mist was closing in, so we called it a night and drove home. I’ll have to speak to the farmer in the morning to see if he found a dead fox in with his cattle!