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!

Three More

Last night, we were asked to visit a farm where a fox had been seen trying to get at the geese. On the way over, we pulled in at two gateways, but saw nothing. At the third, we decided to stop for a few minutes and use the caller.

As we were getting out of the truck, however, we realised a fox was already calling just over the hedge, probably less than 200 yards away.  This gave the deployment of the caller a bit more haste – I was determined to ensure that we had the upper hand though, so insisted that we go up the hedge-line until we had a sufficiently good view of the moorland before us. Since there was a marked dip in the ground about forty yards out, it would have been only too easy to have positioned ourselves where we couldn’t see a fox until it was too late.

I placed the caller about 35 paces out – I’d have preferred it to have been a bit further, but a thick stand of reeds along the brow made this impractical. With that sorted, I started with a few fox squalls (communication howls) – I’d only given it two short sequences when our thermal imagers showed that a fox was on the bank by the road looking out towards us.

I then switched to vole squeaks, but it didn’t seem to want to move. Luckily for us (for once) a car came along at just the right moment, and the fox jumped down into the field to avoid being seen. As soon as the car was gone, I re-started the vole squeaks – our fox then reappeared about twenty seconds later right in the middle of the reeds, about ten yards from the caller. It was Paul’s turn to shoot, so he dropped it with a good solid chest shot. On inspection, it was a mature vixen.

At the next farm – where they were having trouble with the geese, we split up. Paul saw nothing where he went, but I heard a fox calling down in the valley below me, so tried the same call sequence – squalls, followed by vole squeaks. This brought in a large dog fox – it was clearly hiding just out of view, because the moment the vole squeaks started, it broke cover and came out into the open. It then trotted up the field towards the caller – unusually, it didn’t stop when I muted the sounds.

Luckily for me, I’d chosen to locate myself deep in the shadows of a tall piece of hedge, because the moon was so bright that it’d have otherwise easily seen me. Since there was no way of knowing whether it would stop before it scented human, I carefully tracked it in with the reticle hovering over its chest. When it got too close for comfort, I put a bullet in the engine room and it was another one down.

When I got back to the truck I could hear Paul’s caller a few hundred yards away, so I climbed up on the roof platform where I found I could see him through the thermal. When it was clear that nothing was going to respond, he packed up and started walking back up the hill. At that point, I climbed down, turned the truck round, and drove up to collect him.

As we headed home, he suggested we stop and check out a gateway on our left – this leads to the top end of the main part of the farm we started on. He very quickly spotted a fox, and returned to the truck for his rifle and sticks. I moved the truck back out of the way, a couple of hundred yards up the road, then climbed up on the roof once more. From there I could see him, but not the fox. He tried calling it for about twenty minutes, but as it simply wasn’t interested in responding, he tried to go after it.

Unfortunately, the moon gave him away, and the fox ran into the next field – the one I was parked next to, where it glowed strongly in my thermal imager’s viewfinder. It was just on the far side of a brow from me – meaning I could see most, but not all of it. There, it obviously thought that being some 200 yards out meant it was safe, because it then sat back to see what Paul was up to. This was a mistake, as he was able to see it from where he was standing – I heard the bullet hit, and saw it fall; on examination, it proved to be a small vixen.

So – having had three sessions, we ended the evening with three foxes down, which has made the farmers’ concerned very happy.

One Up

Well – Paul went out last night on his own, but although he saw two foxes, he wasn’t able to shoot either because the moon was so bright that he couldn’t move to do so.

Tonight conditions were a little better – we went to a friend’s farm where I brought in a large dog fox to a young rat distress call. I spotted it deep in the hedge with the thermal imager – it was trying to navigate through the thick brambles. Since it found its way blocked, it snaked back over the bank and disappeared. About two minutes later it suddenly ran out about fifty yards further up the hedge.  It was very nervous though, and appeared unsure whether to turn tail and run back into cover. Before it could decide, a ballistic tip walloped it in the chest, and it was end-ex* for him.

So – that puts us one up on 2013’s total (now 253).

*Military slang for ‘end of exercise’ – i.e., it’s all over.

Last Year’s Tally Equalled

Paul and I drove over to a local free-range chicken farm this evening. We parked up by the yard, and I put the caller out in the field immediately next to it. There were bunnies all over the place, and although it felt really foxy, I saw nothing for nearly an hour. Then, just as I was beginning to think I was mistaken, a fox wandered out of a gateway a few yards up the hill from the caller. I was on the rifle straight away, but it’d vanished. I kept calling though, and about ten minutes later, I saw the fox walk past the gateway and disappear again. About five minutes later, the bunnies near the gate suddenly scarpered, and the fox calmly walked through and surveyed the scene. Before it could do much more, a .204 round knocked it flat.

Paul – who had gone to the field with the chicken sheds – what should have been by far the best place on the farm, saw nothing in spite of repeated calling. We then drove to another farm about half a mile down the road where he stalked a fox that we saw when we went into the first field. Unfortunately, however, it moved away and he didn’t get a chance of a shot. A bit further on up the lane he then saw one quite close by – it was moving fast though and in the end he asked me to shoot it as it was too far out for him. I did – it was a very large dog at 220 paces.

Tonight’s tally has brought us up to the same number as we shot over the whole of last year – and we’ve still got the rest of the month to go!

One & Two

Last night we drove about 40 miles each way to help out a chicken farmer who’d lost a load of birds to a killer fox. He’s a friend of a friend, so we got the invite. Paul brought his mate, Kevin, along with him. When we got there, we had a quick word with the farm manager, and then split up, going in opposite directions. Paul saw a fox, but didn’t get chance for a shot. I called in a small scrawny vixen, but she saw me due to the bright moon. Unfortunately for her, having run about a hundred yards from the caller, she paused briefly by the gate into the next field. A gentle squeeze on the trigger and she fell on the spot. We saw another three foxes over the next few hours, but none were shootable. We’ve said that we’ll go back when the moon is no longer a problem.

Tonight it was Paul’s turn for some success – we stopped in two separate areas on a local game shoot, and split up both times. He called in a dog fox and shot it, and then saw another as he was picking up the carcass – it ran before he could do anything though. In the second place he brought in a small vixen. The only things I saw all night were some bunnies, a red deer, a woodcock and two hares that ran to the caller. Lovely as a nature watch, useless as a foxing session!

Night In

I was so worn out by doing a two man job on my own (fitting a massive steel gatepost to a two-foot thick wall) yesterday that come the evening I was well and truly done-in and only fit for an early night.

The Fox Needs To Get Lucky Every Time…

One of my favourite sayings goes ‘The fox needs to get lucky every time, you only need to get lucky once‘. Tonight proved that yet again. At the first farm I called at I saw nothing, in spite of calling for some time. At the second, about a mile or so up the road, I decided to creep about amongst the chicken sheds (free range, organic birds) before using the caller.

I had to be extremely careful moving around because the moon was very bright, and thus I risked being seen by any foxes in the area. Sticking tightly into the shadows though, I found I could get to the end of the first shed relatively easily. From there I just stood and scanned with both the thermal imager and the NV spotter.

After a while, I got a heat signature in amongst a load of reeds. It was hard to make out the shape of the animal as I could only see fleeting glimpses. Since it was moving more like a fox than a rabbit, I quickly got the rifle up on the sticks and pointing in the right direction. Sure enough, a few seconds later Charlie came trotting straight towards the chickens – as he did so, he met a .204 round going the other way, and it was game over.

A few nights ago, a fox dug under one of the sheds and killed masses of birds – we don’t know exactly how many, but it was at least 37 as that was how many carcasses were left behind. Hopefully, the large dog fox I shot tonight was the culprit. I’ve been after it for some time – tonight his luck finally ran out…

Two Nights In A Row With No Shooting…

I’m getting withdrawal symptoms. Last night we were invited over to a friend’s place for a meal – since My Good Lady likes to see me at least once a week, I agreed it was only fair that we went. The food was excellent, I have to say.

Not going out shooting doesn’t come easily to me, but I bore the pain without complaint. Imagine how I felt though when I discovered earlier this evening that we were fogged in again…

Like Nine-Pins

Paul and I went over to a farm about twenty miles from us last night. It was a hectic night, but luckily the fog that was threatening never came to anything. I started things off at about eight o’clock by calling a vixen in from some woods that must have been 500 yards away.

Even though I muted the caller as soon as she came over the hedge about 350 yards away, she just kept running in and it looked as though she’d continue and run right up to me. Fortunately, she was distracted by some kind of exotic fragrance in the hedge, and that give me the chance I was waiting for to drop her. By the time midnight had come and gone we’d racked up a total of nine foxes.

I’m still worn out now!

More Fog

Well, last night was so fogged-out that there was simply no point in my venturing forth, so instead I went to puppy-training classes to see my little boy being put through his paces. Paul was a bit luckier though – he has his own land, so he had a quick wander around before the visibility went completely. We’ve been putting bait out regularly, and probably as a result of this he found and put a bullet in a vixen that was unlucky enough to be foraging early on. At least his hedgehogs will now have a better chance of surviving their winter hibernation!