I knew that there were foxes on the Chayne. I had fired at one on the 12th of August and the local hunt always turned up one or two, but nothing prepared me for my first night’s lamping there. I asked Richard, a friend with a reputation for rifle accuracy to come with me, and we rattled away into the darkness for a reconnaissance mission. Before we had even closed the gate to enter the farm, we saw sparkling eyes peering down at us from the hillside above. On closer inspection, the spotlight beam was picking up a Christmassy display of twinkling eyes, and it soon became clear that we were dealing with three cubs, all within one hundred yards of one another.
We pulled off the road and I had a shot at the furthest fox, cleanly missing at a range of around one hundred and fifty yards. The .222 Remington’s bolt came back, but none of the little dogs had moved at all. In disbelief, we squeaked again and were rewarded by the appearance of a young vixen just sixty yards away. She was coming in to the call nicely, and this time there was no mistake. My shot sent her down like a sack of potatoes, and only when we got out of the car to gather her up did the others decide to make themselves scarce.
Over the next mile of farm track, we came across eight other foxes. One huge dog fox came in so close that he was impossible to shoot and two others were so far away as to be beyond the control of mortal rifleman. No matter how we squeaked and maneuvered the vehicle, we could get no closer and so we left them to their own devices, confident of picking them up another time. As a final flourish, Richard shot a cub at a distance of around thirty feet and we left the Chayne that evening with three brushes in the back of the car.
But our elation was short lived. How on earth were any grouse surviving on a hill that was so polluted with foxes? Even the small impact that we had made was sure to have positive repercussions for the ground nesting birds, but with three sides of the farm covered with forestry, I began to feel like one of the defenders of Rorke’s Drift. We could shoot all the foxes we liked and still have legions of those red offenders to spare. It was almost too much to bear, knowing that they were mincing out of the trees with terrible impunity and wreaking their smelly ruin on the farm.
We drew up plans for a large scale system of regular patrols to create an impression of “shock and awe” which worked so well against the Iraqi army in 2003. This is now our policy on any and all foxes that we encounter, and although these are still very early days, I hope that we are making the right impression on those wicked squatters.