Thursday, 10 May 2012

Weather Beaten

After an appalling start to the week, we got walking ground again on Tuesday. It dried up enough for us to risk going to the steep, rocky walls of the main glen on my beat. We has an inauspicious start when one of the terriers stuck in the first cairn we came to. We should have taken the hint... But we deigned to go on, and make the most of the decent weather. (The dog seemed barely stuck and her owner was convinced she'd have made her way out by the time we went back past. Within half a mile we found a den. In a b*****d of a place. Rabbit holes had been scraped out, high up on an exposed, steep grassy face. Worse was the fact that this face had a convex curve to it. This meant short horizons all round about. Not good for a stake-out. And another terrier stuck down a hole. This time we elected to leave the owner (same guy) and continue our search. We hoped we might fall in with one of the adult foxes for this den in our travels. Instead we found ANOTHER den in a cairn a mile further on. This time the vixen was home and bolted within 5 minutes of the terrier going in. We finished our sweep and headed back to the rovers. Our colleague with the stuck terriers continued his vigil. By now time was short. I hurried home. Dogs were fed, equipment gathered, tea cooked, rifle zeroed. By 7pm two of us were heading back out the hill. It was an hours march and a steep climb of several hundred feet before we were back at the first den. We dropped off our gear and took up positions covering the most likely routes that the vixen would come in by. A cold wind sprang up and by the time it was dark I was chittering with the cold. When it got too dark to see. I had the first shine about with the spotlight. A fox ducked away over the skyline as soon as the light hit it. Gus, who'd drawn the short straw to join me, joined me minutes later and we set up camp. (Unpacked our bivvy bags!) Then followed a long cold night of lamping at 15 minute intervals. At 1pm a fox appeared and stood long enough for a shot. To our surprise it was the dog. We got a glimpse of the vixen at the same time- leaving fast. She didn't show for the rest of the night. We were back out the following night. We narrowly missed our colleague who, after a day of digging had managed to recover both of his terriers. There's one lad who would sleep soundly that night. Again that steep climb, again carrying a heap of gear. This time, rain forced us to wear our waterproofs. We were lathered with sweat by the time we reached the den. The forecast had promised wind, rain and mist. It didn't disappoint! Thank God I chose to take a tent with me this time. (To save weight and give us a bit more room, I just took the outer tent. It wasn't so comfortable, but it still saved our lives!) What followed was still one of the most unpleasnt nights I've ever spent 'oot the hill'. And we saw not hide nor hair of the vixen. I should be out there right now, for the third night in a row but the forecast was that bad (winds to 70mph, snow, mist) that we decided to pull the plug. Another two colleagues were staking out the second den. They saw nothing on either night and have called it a day also. If this weather ever clears, we'll hopefully pick up these cagey foxes on an early morning. But for now, I've got some sleep to catch up on....

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