A Foul Night

The weather has been so bad that I’ve not been out for two nights. Paul briefly visited one of the chicken farms on Monday night, but only spent about forty minutes there as he was playing skittles that evening. He did see a fox, but it was some way off and unshootable because of the bad conditions.

Tonight the forecast was for heavy rain, but the Met Office’s radar map showed that there would be a few breaks in the clouds, so we decided to head out and chance our luck. We revisited the chicken farm, but saw nothing except rats. After that we went to the local game estate where I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Whilst in a stubble field, I saw a large heat source with the thermal – it looked like a roe deer, and inspection with the NV spotter showed that my diagnosis was right.

Shortly after that – whilst experiencing a short deluge, in amongst the rabbits I saw another heat source – it was the head of something that was just the other side of a rise in the ground. Whatever it was, it was coming up the track towards me. Suspecting a fox, I had the rifle up on the sticks and ready in moments. Unfortunately, the rain somewhat hampered my view, and because it was moving fast I had some trouble in locating it. A few seconds later, however, I was on it, with predictable results.

Having checked that it was down, I slung the rifle over my shoulders and set out to pick up the carcass. While using the thermal to locate it, I was somewhat thrown when it seemed to jump up and run off across the field. As it did so, I thought – hang on, that fox is running more like a rabbit. And it was – a bunny had obviously been lying in the stubble near the fox, and I assumed the heat source was the carcass. Looking back, my fox was still lying exactly where it fell. Trudging through the rain, I walked over and put the torch on it – a vixen.

Picking it up, I took over to the gateway so that the keeper would be able to find it for disposal. I knew that the next few yards would be tricky to negotiate in the dark as the steep slope is riddled with loads of really deep tractor ruts. Since the mud there is more like grease, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and used the torch again – which is something I rarely do.

Having made it back onto safe ground, I checked around with the thermal. Something fox-like was making its way through the nearby cover crop. By then, however, the rain was so intense that I realised that any attempt to go after it would be futile – my kit had got so thoroughly soaked that I wouldn’t be able to see through the optics to shoot. So – I began the long trudge through the mud to get back to the warmth of the truck. The cold, wet wind was really biting at my face, so I was glad when I finally got there.

Paul was already waiting for me – he’d had no luck, so had sought shelter when the heavens opened. We saw nothing else when we stopped to check the last couple of spots before we made our way back home, but considering the appalling conditions, I think we did well!

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