Sunday, 24 March 2013

Getting the Drift

Well. My last post certainly put the kybosh on the weather! Instead of "feeling the warmth of the sun" we've got brrrrrrass monkeys and snow. More snow than we've had all winter. And these last days there have been strong winds that have rearranged it to make it even more troublesome.

After my last post we had a while of 'business as usual' for the time of year. We burned some heather, cut some firewood, got our stoat traps baited up, checked some fences.....

Then we made the mistake of taking the chains off the tractor and the tracks off the argocat and all hell (albeit without the inferno) broke loose. Since then we have been turning our attentions to indoor jobs. The outbuildings have surrendered 6 bogieloads of 'that-might-come-in-handy-one-day' material. Broken spades have been reshafted, cracked oars repaired and varnished, saddles oiled....

But we're all starting to get a bit stir crazy. There is a limit to indoor jobs and we are all champing at the bit to get 'oot the hill'. We managed a couple of days out on the snowbikes looking for foxes the week before last, but even then the visibility was poor. All last week it was dreadful conditions with low cloud, wind and snow every day.

But if we're getting stir crazy, spare a thought for our wives. They've been snowed-in all week. And if that isn't enough to drive you mad, the school has been closed so they've been stuck at home with the kids forbye.

Today I was all for wading 4 miles up the road to get the tractor and snowplough to clear our drive. Fortunately my colleague (who lives a lot closer to the tractor than that) had already thought of it and came and cleared our drive for us.

We were out of the starting blocks like Usain Bolt; off down the road to stock up on supplies. It was all I could do to stop the missus hugging everyone she met.

Friday, 1 March 2013

High Anxiety

We've had a great spell of weather this last few days. I must say, it feels good to feel some heat in the sun and to feel that winter is coming to a close. Regular readers amongst you will know that it's been a particularly tough one with regard to the hind cull.

I thought I'd take advantage of this good weather and the lengthening days to see if I could fall in with one of these foxes that I know is going about. (Since Christmas I've been seeing signs of them- pad marks, scats, kills. I even had one in my sights when I was out lamping one night. When I lay down to shoot it there wasn't quite enough clearance over the rise in the ground halfway between me and it. Sooooo frustrating!) So I decided to go out and spy a favourite rock face at first light.

The downside of these beautiful, clear, still days is that it gets bloomin' cold at night. And the coldest part of the night is often just before dawn. Which is about the time I was sitting down to spy.

Actually, I'd seen the forecast and knew that I was to expect about -8C so I took a sleeping bag and thick gloves with me. Just as well. I worked up a good sweat climbing and scrambling over snow wreaths to get to my place. Thereafter there was little to keep me distracted from the nipping of my ears.

By 8.30am I decided to try and stir things up and fired a shot into the rock face. Twenty minutes after that I picked up a fox on a ledge. It looked like a b******d of a place.

This fox faffed about, back and forwards, on that ledge for the next 2 hours before it eventually disappeared  out of sight under a bank. I could move at last, thank God!!

When I got to the floor of the corrie I dumped a heap of gear. Mostly clothes, actually. I had a feeling I was going to be sweating again before long. And I was right. The climb up through the rocks was bad enough but trying to move quietly over deep, crunchy snow was taking even more effort. And I had both the rifle and the shotgun to weigh me down.

At last I reached my chosen spot- only to find branches negating any chance of a clear shot to the ledge. After spying for 30 minutes and seeing nothing, I moved to the next likely spot.

Again, I had the same problem but this time I had a clear shot to one tiny bit of the ledge. I tried a squeak to see if the fox would show. Nothing. I still gave it a good half hour just in case. Then I moved in a bit more.

This time, I had a better view- at the cost of a  more precariuos shooting position. (Have a look at the pic!) So I squeaked and waited.....and squeaked and waited. After an hour I decided enough was enough. I fired a shot into a block of icicles hanging above the ledge, showering the place with a cascade of ice. I reloaded quickly, waiting for the fox to come bolting out. Nothing happened. I gave it another half an hour in case this was one of those foxes with nerves of steel that would come sneaking out after sizing things up. Still nothing....

 I concluded that either this fox had already left, or it was well underground. I decided to walk into the place with my terrier and shotgun. I slung the rifle on my back and started the painstaking approach. I got within 50 yards before I came to a narrow bit in the ledge. I looked down at the possible outcome and backed off. Too rich for my blood!

As a last resort I backtracked right down to the bottom of the corrie and climbed back up through the rocks. This time I approached the ledge from the other side. When I eventually gained a vantage point I fired a rifle shot straight into the bank where the fox had disappeared. Once again, nothing moved. Furthermore, it was obvious there was no way in from this side with terrier and gun. It was time to go home.

 A weary trudge later saw me back at the rover. Now there was a welcome sight! I arrived home some time later with a raging thirst and hunger gnawing at my belly. Little wonder really- it's not every day that I have my breakfast at 5pm.