What a strange day to start the year.
Got up in my favourite seat before daybreak. It is sited on a "T" junction of clear cut rides in an old wood. To the front a gentle slope uphill for three hundred yards, while to the left and right a good clear view for a couple of hundred yards of flat open lawn.
As dawn arrived so did a hard frost, despite the cold it felt good to be out watching the first dawn of the new year.
About half an hour after daybreak an old hare loped down the ride to my left, comming in my direction. Now in itself not strange, but he had done exactly the same thing two days earlier. He looked straight up at me, turned around and loped back the way he came. I think he had been sent by the Fallow deer to see whether the coast was clear.
No sooner had the hare departed than a small brown bird dropped down in front of the seat, no more than ten feet away. A woodcock! I have never been so close to one that was alive! I always endeavour to miss these chaming, timid little birds on a shoot (not a hard thing for me to accomplish).
As age catches up with me I find the guilt of killing such beauty harder to quash.
I enjoyed a good five minutes watching this little chap prodding around for his breakfast before the harsh wakeup call of a cock pheasant spooked him. He was gone away in an instant silent wings vanishing like smoke into the woods behind me.
I sat drinking strong black coffee from my flask and enjoying a slice of Mrs. Buckups Christmas cake and decided nine o'clock was going to be when I gave the morning best.
I passed the next half hour watching a muntjak buck picking his way through the woods a hundred and fifty yards to my left. Such small dainty movements from his hunched compact body, appearing and vanishing in the now sparse winter undergrowth. A worthy beast in his own right, but not for me in such thick cover. On this estate we tend to leave them in peace unless some serious damage is being caused. This chap was doing no harm, and he would take me longer to skin than a Fallow rendering far less meat for my trouble, so I was happy to just watch him pass.
The alloted time duly arrived and I gave one final scan with my monocular. Nothing spied I dropped my game bag and rifle slip down from the seat. As I watched them fall there was movement and a brown shape on the ride to my left, a cock pheasant perhaps, no a fox!
Now Charlie must have popped his head out and seen the kit falling from the high seat. He stood trying to coax the shapes into a form to decide whether there was danger about. To move myself or the rifle would surely have sent him away at speed, so I gave him a squeek to provoke some movement, and so a chance for me to bring the rifle up.
Charlie sauntered off circling me, into the wood to my front left. I knew if he kept going he would reappear on the ride straight in front of me so I got my eye in the scope and scanned up and down the forest edge. Sure enough a couple of moments later I had him, moving from my left to right and having a good look around before crossing the ride. No shot for the moment as he was clever and remained partly obscured by the woodland. Finaly he walked briskly across, pausing momenterily before entering the next block of woodland, whoomp, the Sauer let fly it's charge and with the moderator doing it's work I heard the bullet strike home. Foxy leapt up in the air and scorched off away from me up the ride. My second shot missed clean but I need not have worried he keeled over ten paces further on. I expended another shot into the chest as insurance, as I have lost "dead" foxes before on this ride, never to be found. Upon firing the third shot all manner of Fallow who had been waiting in the wings charged down the hill, easilly visible now, fast moving against the still morning. Gone away, and silence returns to my bit of heaven.
I fetched Sam and gave him a chance to stretch his legs before bundling the fox into a feed sack.
On from here to the Keepers house for a cup of tea and show him my prize!
Not what I had planned or envisaged for my first morning of 2009 but very enjoyable, and one less fox on the shoot is always encouraged and appreciated.
Kind regards to all in 2009,