Having explained my new strategy for walked up fox shooting yesterday, I have some pleasure in reporting that it works like a treat. I can’t believe that I only got my first dog last autumn. Scoop is totally indispensible, and if she continues in this rich form of fox finding, I won’t mind if she never picks a bird for me in her life.
It is an overcast day on the Chayne, and with a strong wind from the south west, I had a long walk before I could try out my new plan. It’s a two mile walk over the back of the hill, but by the time I got to where I was heading, I was keener than ever. The conditions were perfect for a three mile walk back to the car through some extremely promising rushy heath, and the walk out had burnt off some of Scoop’s surplus energy, so she was working close in just when I needed her to. Stupidly, I had forgotten to bring any lunch, so when I found a congregation of mushrooms, I descended on them like a hurricane, gathering them up and eating them all like biscuits as I walked.
Within a mile, Scoop put her head down and began to batter the rushes with her tail. She woofed just as a fox broke cover thirty yards infront of me, and it ran diagonally away over a low rise, with a 3″ cartridge of No.1 shot following hotly behind. It was a lovely shot, even if I say so myself, and the grown vixen cartwheeled to a sudden standstill in the heather. It’s often the way with my shooting that I’m at my best when there are no witnesses, but I’ll allow myself to gloat for a moment by saying it was the best fox I’ve ever seen shot. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but, as an American might say, I “dropped him like a toilet seat”.
Finally, I have made a breakthrough. Normal rules of fox control do not apply on the Chayne – snaring away from fencelines is incredibly time consuming and produces very poor results, lamping is restricted to the 1/4 of the farm which I can access by 4×4, and walking the rest on foot is thoroughly dull and doesn’t produce great results. Middens do work, but only under certain circumstances, and ambushes are very tricky to stage on such open ground. I’ve spent the past three years flicking through shooting magazines and asking keepers for some idea which might help, but most of that information seems to apply to low ground foxes and is valueless on open ground.
This trick of using dogs to work rushy ground appears to have legs, and I will have to explore it further. Most keepers would find an easier way of killing a fox than by hunting through five miles of open country for it, but it works for me. Vermin control is not easy on the Chayne, but it could be that I’ve just turned a corner, thanks mainly to my canine accomplice. I know that Scoop enjoyed herself enormously. She’s now lying across my feet, groaning and adjusting her position to reach the perfect level of comfort required for a good snooze. She’s earned it.