This week saw us start our 'foxing season'. As I've hinted elsewhere in my tomes, grouse are not just the bread and butter of this estate but the bacon, lettuce and tomato forbye. And, as such, we try and take care of them as best we can.
And in the red corner we have a positive plethora of mammals and birds which delight in feasting on said grouse, their eggs or chicks.
After many failed experiments in the past, it is now accepted that you can't intensively rear grouse as you can with, say, pheasants. Which is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It's a blessing because, if you could, I would have to find another vocation (poultry farming is not for me) but it's also a curse when weather or disease wipes out your stocks despite your best efforts.
So we do what we can. In practice this means burning heather, providing medicated grit (to combat disease) and keeping certain predators at an artificially low level.
The law states which we are allowed to control and, of those, you'll be hearing plenty mention of rats, weasels, stoats, feral cats, foxes and crows over the next wee while.
We've all noticed over the last week how our hen grouse have gone secretive and sit very tight before they flush. This means they are 'heavy with eggs'and ready to nest. This period- along with when they are sitting (or 'clocking' as we call it)-is their most vulnerable time. (The eggs/chicks simply remain vulnerable until they're grouse also!)
Which is a very long winded way of saying that we need to get on top of our 'vermin' ASAP.
To this end, we have spent the last week starting to check out all the sandholes which have been known to have been used as fox dens in the past. We found one in use and the terriers bolted the vixen to the gun. Two lads then 'staked out' the den and at 2am on the second night the dog fox appeared. Our trainee was trusted to take the shot and, fortunately, didn't disappoint. (Make no mistake, you might only ever get one chance at a fox- especially in the spotlight- and this adds a load of extra pressure to the shot. They ain't a big target at the best of times, but when your pulse is up around 120bpm the crosshairs can be louping all over the surrounding countryside!) Well done, that lad.