My shooting partner Paul and I had set ourselves the rather ambitious target of 250 foxes for 2013. Considering the fact that it's been a bad year for them, and we often really struggled to find any, I wasn't hopeful. I've had the lurgy for about three weeks, with it getting really bad over the last few days - probably, as my Good Lady keeps telling me, because I'm forever going out for hours into the cold, wet nights. By Sunday night, we were on 247. I thought that was it.
Then Paul went out on his own last night, and dropped a big dog fox. I'd promised my Good Lady that I'd spend New Year's Eve in with her, so that coupled with my lurgy and the awful weather forecast made it look as though we'd have to settle for missing our target.
But then I spotted on the Met Office's radar map that there would be about an hour between it getting dark and the rain coming in, so with various promises being made as to when we'd get back, we set off to the local game-shooting estate. They'd had a 300 bird day there, and had seen a couple of foxes, so I said we'd do our best...
I told Paul to bring his own caller as well as mine - then dropped him off near our best calling point. I then drove a couple of hundred yards down to where I've been chucking some bait about. I climbed up onto the roof-platform on my Disco, and immediately spotted Madame La Reynard on the far side of the massive field that I was looking over. I climbed down and grabbed the caller. It was the work of a minute to scale the wooden fence and tiptoe out into the field. Hurrying back as quietly as I could, I climbed back up onto the platform, whereupon I slid the carbon fibre shooting rest into one of the mounting sockets (see separate thread posted last week for further details). The fox was way too far out, but crossing from my right to my left, in much the same direction as the wind was blowing.
I set the caller on one of the bunny distress sounds on quite a low volume, and the fox came running in, only to be met with a .204 round doing some 4,000 ft/sec. It dropped on the spot - number 249. I decided to then broadcast a vixen mating call at a much higher volume in the hope that it might bring in another fox. Standing at full height, I spotted a white shape with the thermal - it was running in at speed. It could only be a fox. This time, my adversary went right around and came in from directly downwind. It paused for a millisecond, some twenty yards from the first one - presumably it could smell her. In that instant, it was hit by another .204 Sierra BlitzKing. BINGO - Number Two Hundred and Fifty!!!
I climbed down from the truck - as I did so, I could hear Paul's caller giving off a rodent distress call, some three hundred yards away behind me. Setting off to recover the carcasses, I climbed the fence again and made my way out into the field. I always photograph my foxes where they drop - writing books and magazine articles, I find it most helpful to do so. It not only provides authentic imagery, but it helps me to keep track of what I've shot and where. On my way out to the bodies, I heard yet another fox calling, way off to my right. Taking little notice beyond thinking that I'd have to deal with it another time, I got to the first animal - it was a good-sized vixen that had fallen but ten feet from the caller. While I was there, I heard a shot, followed almost instantly by a thud. Ah - Paul's had some luck then - hopefully, that's fox number 251!
On my way over to the other fox, I heard the mating call again - only this time it was nearer. Once more, I took little notice - it was still several hundred yards away, and would have to be the focus of another night's work. I dragged the first carcass over to the second, which proved to be a fully grown dog fox, probably in his second year. While I was photographing him, the call came again - only this time it was almost on top of me. I dropped the bodies where they were, and doing my best to be quiet and unseen, hurried back to the truck. Climbing back on top, I set my rest up again, placed the rifle on it, and then scanned with the thermal. I was hacked off to find that my quarry had gone past me and was probably going to come out in the field to my left - as this drops sharply away, I'd only have a couple of seconds to react. But it didn't show. Swinging the TI back to the right, I could see that the fox had looped around and was now heading right for where the vixen was lying. He was being careful though - probably because he could smell that there was a male there too. At that moment, Paul started his caller going - he'd moved back to near the road, and was now using the Snowshoe Hare call. The instant he heard it, my quarry stopped to listen. It was the last thing he did, as at that moment my Kimber Montana put another 32gr round through his vitals. Seconds later, the heavens opened...
So - with my three foxes, and Paul's one, we comfortably pushed our year's tally beyond the post to make it a total of 252. And to think that I thought we'd have to accept falling short!
Anyway - Happy New Year to you all, and thanks for reading - May 2014 be all you hope for!