Monday, 28 May 2012

A Late Breakfast

4am this morning and you would have found me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It was a stunningly beautiful morning and I'd been allocated a great place to sit and spy for foxes. From my vantage point I looked down into a huge, steep sided glen. Fox country if ever there was.

I'd been there barely 15minutes before I got a call on the radio. Neighbouring estates were asking for an extra pair of eyes up by the march (boundary) to help them watch a pair of foxes. I was nearest.

20 minutes later I grabbed the rifle and left the rover, picking my way round the steep, rocky side of the highest hill in the area. I found a vantage point and got myself comfortable. Relatively speaking.

For the next hour I followed the progress on the radio. The foxes crossed a river and made their way up into a steep rocky face. Unfortunately for me the rising sun threw this face into steep shadow. It's also a place of deep heather and thick juniper bushes. And it was at least a mile from where I was sitting. I never saw them yet.

But as I watched I heard a grouse tukking away to my right. I gave the area a spy, saw nothing and got back to the job in hand. Five minutes later, more tukking. I took a closer look and this time saw a couple of hinds lying on a heathery bank. They appeared to be staring at something. I looked in that direction and glimpsed a fox.

For the next 10 minutes I scanned the area, unable to pick it uo again in the network of hags. Then I put my binoculars down and saw that Ed (my terrier) was staring intently down the hill. There was the fox! Coming round the foot of the steep, 300-400 yards below me.

The thought of a long shot flashed briefly through my head. Too rich for my blood! I watched it and relayed its progress to a free pair of eyes way down into the neighbours ground.

The fox went out of my sight and a wee while later my 'spotter' informed me he'd lost it in a shaded hollow in a big corrie not far from where I now was. Between us we'd been pretty much covering the exits, or so we thought.

After another half hour and no show, it was decided that I'd take a walk through the place, in case it had lain up. As I was guided in, I was aware of how 'blind' a piece of ground it was. Most of the time, I was only seeing 30m in any direction. I was dearly wishing that I had the shotgun and not the rifle with me.

I crept down the steep brae, trying to make as little noise as possible. My heart was in my mouth. I had the rifle at the ready. The radio hissed "try a wee bit over to your left" and I changed direction without daring to reply.

I'd gone another 20m when I heard a noise above me. I whirled round and there was the fox bounding up the hill away from me. He was chest-deep in the heather and had 50m to go before he was over the skyline and out of my sight. I worked the bolt and shouldered the rifle. He came into the sights and, as he was going slightly left-handed, I aimed down his left side and sqeezed off a shot. Missed!

I reloaded quicky, aware that I was only going to get one more shot. This time I put the crosshair on him. He collapsed to the shot. Huge relief washed through me. But not so much as to prevent me from quickly refilling the magazine. I needent have worried, this mature dog fox was very much dead.

When my pulse was eventually back into double-figures, I conferred with the lads who'd been watching the pair of foxes. They'd lost both foxes in amongst the junipers. It was decided to rally as much support as we could and try a wee 'drive'. I made my way over to where they could pick me up in a land rover. It took nearly an hour of walking.

To cut a long story short, 8 of us tried to cover this large face. Wouldn't you know it, the fox got up next to me. The only one without a shotgun with him. I couldn't get a safe shot at the fox until it was outwith our 'perimeter' by which time it was 200m away and going like a train. I gave it the offer but this time Foxy won through. I suspect the other fox slipped away during all the excitement. We certainly never saw it as we completed walking the face.

Out of pure optimism, we checked a couple of holes that were in the direction that the fox was last seen heading in. No joy. After that I got a lift up the hill as far as was possible and started the long walk back to my landrover.

I arrived at the vehicle 12 hours after I'd left it. The tea in my flask was long-since cold. No matter, it was drained.

As was I.

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