Please see the following wee story as no more than an incantation for the return of the first and often all too brief flurry of Lowland snow:-
The distant throb of the snow plough woke me at 3AM. I glanced beyond a fold in the bedroom curtain and leapt from bed with the purpose of a child on Christmas morning. The smile on my time-battered face may not have been as angelic but was most certainly as wide when noting at least 3” of snow. I slipped back into bed my heart and brain pulsating with as much coherence as TD5 approaching a hill. I closed my eyes and conjured a certain moonlit wood with snowflakes falling through the now leafless timber and alighting on my excessively decorated Bison Bushcraft backpack. Should I just go for it or would I join battle yet again with Southeastern Railway’s preferred “revised timetable” that equates to we’ll run a train if we feel like it. At 5AM the green tea was brewing and my kit, including snow chains, waited at the door ready for whatever the weather in my part of Kent could muster. Mayfair had lost!
Once on the back roads the Defender’s tyres made a pleasing sound as they pushed through virgin powder. The headlights picked out a woodcock in the road. It showed no signs of movement as I stopped the vehicle and walked to within 2ft before it fluttered into a tangle of roadside alder. Was it nursing a puncture from a single No. 7 shot or just weak with cold and the lack of accessible food? Guess I’ll never know.
I slipped into the estate wood and donned my Woolpower 200g balaclava as it began to snow again. Large flakes fluttered like feathers in a fabric conditioner advert. I felt good. How could I afford to miss such a rare day of winter beauty and inner calm. With half an hour to go before full light I moved slowly towards my intended ambush point and soon spied my first challenge of the day. Quickly I scuttled to the nearest tree and prepared the Predator Sniper Styx. The fox ranged across the undulating meadow occasionally disappearing form view. All attempts to gain his attention by calling failed. The shot had to be now or the chance would be lost. I slipped my trigger finger from glove and held the crosshairs high on the varmint’s shoulder. My only chance would be that spilt second when he next changed direction. I let the pin fall on 38.5 grains of Varget c/o the aptly named Jewell trigger. Boom! A strange silence followed. I couldn't see the fox but knew I had connected. Rather than move to my intended highground calling point I spent a further half-hour calling with a variety of open and closed reed predator calls. This proved unsuccessful but to have simply collected the fox immediately would be breaking one of the golden rules of fox calling - often you will get lucky and encounter another hungry varmint close by.
I moved to higher ground just as the sun broke above the skyline spilling golden rays onto field after field of snow. Lone trees cast their lengthy skeletal shadows and horses looked strangely short until one realised their legs were lost in snow. I broke out the Leica 10 - 15 X 50's and glassed each woodland fenceline then commenced a series of calls that I hoped would provide the next adrenaline rush. I was using a combination of calls that included two open reed types from Crit'R Call and a twin closed reed call from Zepps. The latter is called the "Rattler" and in a small wood can be so loud and alien as to frighten even me but, and here's the point, it gets results. Honest!
Amazingly nothing appeared for over an hour and when I did pick up fur at Leica 15 power it was in a field some 400 yards away. I toyed with the idea of a shot but this was one fox that had no intention of stopping. In the time it took to drop the crosshairs over the top of fur he was another half field away. I lowered the rifle and took in the view as the blinding sun provided an element of much needed warmth but sadly not to my extremities.
Soon 1 hour became 3 and at which point I'm ashamed to say this 52-year old was simply too uncomfortable to stay put. I just had to get some feeling back into my feet. I dragged the now stiffening fox back to the relative shelter of the woods just as another less kind snow arrived. Finding a nice vantage point over a deep timber-filled ravine I prepared lunch. The soup tasted good and my whole body, including feet, now tingled with warmth. Slipping the custom PRS between V sticks I commenced a series of low calls on the smallest open reed. Keeping my lips and tongue well back on the Crit'R Call Pee Wee's reed ensured a high pitched squeal associated with small mammals in distress. Using a variety of further calling techniques that involves opening and closing the port with hand; varying the amount of air and frequency and just about anything else that will add to the affect of a seriously upset rabbit, I soon heard the call of an interested jay and mewing buzzard. Must be doing something right I thought but in truth calling hawks, owls and, of course, covides is relatively easy. At least that's what I've found.
Ten minutes later I caught sight of a heavy dog fox's russet coat as he slipped silently through a tangle of fallen timber. Slowly he moved towards me in the most accommodating fashion. I didn't need to re-adjust the rifle, just track him slowly with a slight movement of the wrist. As the broad mask came into view from behind a fallen branch the .25 calibre 85 grain Ballistic Tip made contact with fur at circa 3300fps. The fox did not even twitch. Further calling failed to bring in another.
Suddenly I felt a tad guilty and committed to at least checking a few e-mails if my claim of "working from home" was to have any validity. Breaking out the Blackberry I realised my stolen "snow day" was over.