Vermin

Under the Moon

Under the moon
A bright night’s fine by me

At the risk of hyperbole, I can’t resist saying again just how pleased I am with my Nordik “Crying Bird” fox call. In two weeks, I have used it to shoot more foxes than I would normally have managed in several months, and each time they have come roaring in like trains. Not only is this perfect timing for getting rid of the foxes, but it is allowing me to re-build my lost confidence in lamping, getting me out on the hill until the small hours of the morning. For a long time, I branded lamping as hopeless on the Chayne, but walking quietly through the darkness and setting up to call from a high point is a world away from using a torch mounted on the roof of the Suzuki and driving around the farm tracks; a method which has really started to draw blanks recently.

On a bright night with a good breeze, there are a million sounds to hear, from drumming snipe to groaning frogs which hold their sinister orgies in the moss. Set up the shooting sticks, get comfortable and let the hill settle down for twenty minutes before starting to call, and all the while the ground seems to exhale magic. Snowy windows of moonlight race across the moss, picking up the rowans and the willows and then dashing off over the broad hill faces. Perhaps only ferreting has as much dodgy folklore around it as lamping does, and just as it is rumored that your ferret will lie up if you feed it on rabbit, so will people put their hands on their hearts and say that lamping beneath the moon is a hopeless exercise.

From my perspective, a bright night is ideal. Walking over the moss is a nightmare in total darkness, and while perhaps the full glare of an unobscured moon is a little much, a good glow of light is vital if the trip is to run smoothly. I have shot a tremendous amount of foxes under a bright moon, and always find the beasts more active on a clear night. Provided that you stick to the shadows, there is no reason to wait for “perfect” conditions when it is overcast and windy. At least that’s what I’ve found, and it never mattered a bit to any of my four ferrets if they were fed before working – I’ve never had a ferret that lay up underground, and yet I feed them little else but rabbit.

The Nordik call’s great strength is that it can be made to sound like a very, very unhappy curlew. Four very sharp peeps in quick succession make a very passable imitation of a curlew’s death throes, and I mix this in with a few other bird-like shrieks and screams. This seems to draw in a fox like nothing else, and with only one exception where I miscalculated the wind, they come pounding in like cheetahs. I even had to stop one before it came too close – not uncommon on the low ground, but almost unheard of in a wily old hill fox. The exception sat knowingly in the rushes for a few seconds at one hundred and twenty yards before melting back into the gloom. It is an odd coincidence that the only foxes I have had so far this year have been dogs. The terriers on a neighbouring farm pushed up with a heavily pregnant vixen a few days ago, but there is no real pattern emerging after such a mild winter.

The next test for the Nordik will be to see how it gets on in the daylight. I’m sure it will work, but the Chayne is sixteen hundred acres of fox coloured vegetation; I’m worried that it will be difficult to spot any incomers early enough. At least with the lamp you have a spark of eyelight to guide you, even at long range. Without it, I have been surprised by how close I have had to get to a fox before I have been able to see it, so while it is certainly worth a try, I will have to be on high alert. Galloway stalker Brent Norbury seems to have some success using the Nordik by day on his ground which is a few miles Northwest of mine, and I see no reason why it should be any different here.

In due course, the  foxes will inevitably get wise to this call, but not before I have taken a good few of them out of the equation. During the past fifteen years of fox shooting, I have called them in with everything from a blade of grass to a piece of pipe lagging, and the common theme is that they always cotton on in the end.

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