I have been very fortunate this year (my first year) having been offered lots of help to control the fox population on my shoot. Using a mixture of lamping and dawn and dusk shooting myself and an 'old boy' off this forum , have accounted for 34 on the 800 acres that the shoot covers. It's been hard going of late with such awfull ground conditions and only one hard roadway through the estate, the only option has been on foot. Not wishing to disturb the Pheasant population our efforts have been confined to the open fields, but now the rules have changed .
With the forecast of heavy rain moving in by lunchtime today i decided to go for a short stalk early this morning and see what was on offer. I started by making the long steep accent across fields to an exposed ridgeline in order to peer over and down in the woods behind. The recently thawed snow has conveniently flattened all the brambles making visibility much improved. As I approached the ridge i was amazed to bump a Muntjac Doe who was grazing the edge of the field in a howling cold wind , she slowly pottered off into the treeline.
I followed her in out of the wind and under some large firs to an ancient Yew that offers a 180m view over young trees to a feed ride below, and relatively dry ground to lye on. At the corner of this ride i had left a loose pile of grain to attract Muntjac and also distributed some bits and pieces for the fox. My hope was that probably having already cleared it up in the night may return to look again at dawn . No such luck. I fired a frustrated shot at a Crow who was taking advantage of the grain only for it to be blocked by twigs on route, before deciding to move on.
I continued a diagonal path dropping further below the ridgeline and quartering the winds thwarted efforts. Carefully rolling my feet out of the mud to avoid making noise on the saturated path I repeatedly glassed the battered undergrowth, for signs of life. As I rounded a corner and edged over a brow, movement caught my eye as a dark red animal slunk around the next bend out of sight. Not knowing what it was I extended the palm of my hand out behind me to signal the dog to sit. Quickly but quietly i set the rifle on sticks and gave two short series of squeals. Almost instantly a big fox came back round the corner head down and trotting straight towards us. By the time i'd set the scope on him he was behind a tree only 20 yards away and had not reapeared. I started to fear that I may have been rumbled, still no sign. As I started to panick and scan the surroundings he reappeard but was now 40 yards up towards the ridge and quartering away from me. By the time i had the scope back on him he was only metres from a big holly, if he got behind it i was bolloxed. The crosshairs fell down through his shoulder and i gave him the bad news. The 32 gn went in at over 4000 fps and never reappeared . I said the dogs name and he shot off up the steep bank, then causiously approached to confirm the kill. Despite plenty of encouragement he didn't fancy the retreive. Instead he looked at me as if saying you shot it, you want it, you come and get it. So having done so i realised this was a much bigger fox than i thought and almost certainly had left the huge prints in the snow which i had seen a few days previously.
This one takes the tally within 5 of my target of 40 for 12 months, which would be nice with previous years averaging around 15 - 20 head. I rounded the morning off with seeing a pair of Roe does grazing out on the woodland edge (something for the future) and then a full english on the way home.