Saturday, 15 May 2010

From Hero to Zero

0.3 of a second. That's how long it takes to go from hero to zero. Last night was the fourth and last chance we were going to give ourselves to get the adult foxes for this den. It's a hell of a place- a vast area of peat hags and runners, over 3 miles from the nearest landrover track.
In the good ol' days we would walk out, carrying rifles, spotlights, batteries, waterproofs, sleeping bags,etc etc. Nowadays we have an argocat. It's still an hour and 20 minutes of noise, bumping and jolting but it's pure luxury in my book. Even so, we still have a 10 minute yomp with all the gear to get right to the place after that. Ah, the memories.....
So we get out there and it's a beautiful night. There's a slight breeze and hardly a cloud in the sky. Once there, the 3 of us spread out over an area of a mile or so and spend the 2 hours before dark silently lying in wait in the hope we'll intercept the vixen on her way into the area. Fat chance!
After that it's back to the den site and cover the approaches with a shine of the spotlight at 15 minute intervals.
We eventually get a flash of eyes at 3am and, to cut a long story short, I am eventually left with a dilemma familiar to all 'keepers :- go for the long shot or wait. You might get a better chance. Or you might NEVER get another chance.
I weighed it all up and, knowing there was less than an hour of darkness left, went for the shot.
0.3 of a second, that's how long it took for the bullet to get to the fox, standing with his head and chest sticking up out of a hag 220 yards distant. And harmlessly pass it by.
If you haven't been there, you'll never know how it feels but I can tell you it's a major bummer. Every hour since, I've given myself a good kick in the arse! I try to console myself that this area gets a lot of attention when we do early morning spying and there's a good chance we'll get one or both of them before the season is out. But it's cold comfort.
And, talking of cold (but not comfort!), yes that is frost in the pictures of base camp.

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