A Poor First Week

Well – it’s been four days since I last posted, and it’s been tough going. On the Saturday night I checked out some fields near my village. I started out by parking up at the side of a lane and examining  a field that looks over a small valley. I’ve heard a fox calling in there recently, but there was no sign of it, in spite of my being really patient and waiting for it. The bright moon didn’t help, so I did my best to stick to the shadows.

After some time I decided to move on and visit a field where the same farmer had been experiencing problems with his lambs. A fox had been chewing their tails off, which is not only highly unpleasant, but the open wounds lead to severe infections that are known as ‘joint-ill’. This gives the poor things a painful disability for life.

Although I was determined to get to grips with the culprit, the reason I’d not gone there first was that I thought I’d wait for a while in the hope that the cloud would build up a bit. With the moon a touch less bright I drove over the hill and down to the scene of the crimes. With the truck safely off the road, I surveyed the field before me with the thermal imager.

As there was nothing about, I climbed the gate and looked for an area with some decent shadows. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to choose from, so I tucked myself into the hedge and tried the caller. When nothing showed, I tried scanning the opposite side of the valley by walking slowly along the edge of the field.

I’d only gone about a hundred yards when I spotted a fox skulking about some three hundred yards away. There were trees between us, so I tried to close the distance in the hope of finding a gap where a shot might be possible. I tried attracting it with the caller, but it wasn’t interested. It slowly made its way up the field and disappeared from sight through the far hedge. Once again, I tried the caller, but there were too many trees to see properly.

Heading back to the truck, I kept stopping and scanning – it’s a good job that I did, because a fox suddenly came through the hedge from where the sheep were. I was badly exposed by the moonlight, but I was ‘in the zone’ – I had the rifle up and on the sticks, the NV on, the illuminator on and the safety catch off in one smooth movement. By then the fox (a vixen) – some 80 yards out, had turned to look at me. It was the last thing it did, as my bullet knocked it off its feet before it could react. I was pleased that my bad night had ended so efficiently, especially as it was almost certainly the one responsible for attacking the lambs.

The next night – Sunday, it was misty, so nothing doing. Monday night saw me on the local game estate. The keeper asked me to check out a certain area, but after two fruitless hours, I began heading back across the fields. As I did so, I heard a fox screaming way off in the distance. Guessing where she might be, I drove over and parked up overlooking some moorland. Sure enough, there was a fox running from my left to my right.

Retrieving my sticks, I put a bullet in it without moving more than three feet from the Land Rover. As I was confirming it was dead, another fox ran behind it, another fifty or so yards out. I watched it circle around on the wind and approach, sniffing carefully. That one took a bullet too. The first was a huge dog fox, the second also a male, but a little smaller – still a big boy though. I can only assume the vixen I’d heard had been through the area shortly before, and that the males were trying to find her.

Last night I headed off up onto the edge of Exmoor, but the three hours I spent up there were completely wasted. On my walk up to my target area I heard foxes calling all over the place, so I was looking forward to a good session. Sadly, however, the moment my caller was out the clouds parted and the full moon just lit the entire area up. There was no way that I could conceal myself, so I spent an hour standing in one place, hoping for some aerial cover. By then I was frozen through, so I headed home. The foxes obviously didn’t like it either, as they stopped calling as soon as the moon appeared.

Tonight was even worse – it was raining, but I thought I’d give it a go to see if I could find the vixen I’d heard on Monday night. Big mistake – I should have stayed at home, as the kit all got soaked – the thermal imager was next to useless due to the amount of cold water in the air, and the NV could only be used pointing downwind or else the illuminator immediately got covered in raindrops, making it impossible to see anything. Fingers crossed the weather improves soon!

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