Friday, 21 August 2009

A Comedy of Errors

After our dreadful hit from a fox yesterday, the day just got worse. The farrier came to shoe our horses, both of which behaved appallingly. Kitty and Alan both pulled out of their bridles and legged it down the field in turn, each with one shoe on. The rattle of a bucket with a few apples in it brings them running back - they're nothing if not predictable, and constantly hungry. Alan topped off his 'one man show' by rearing up backwards, and throwing himself half over / half through the electric fence, which was turned off at the time thankfully. Cost of the visit: £85 for horseshoes, £13 for new reins, £4 for a new fence handle, embarrassment in front of the farrier - priceless.

The weather must be turning and, as the old farmers say 'They just got the wind up em'. And not just Kitty and Alan. I stopped in the village cafe for a chat and both Sarah and Nicki were sporting some fine cuts and bruises from that morning - dragged through a hedge, and fell off and trodden on respectively.

The day was just hellish busy trying to feed and check birds. I gave up collecting carcases at The Hill pen after I bagged 50 of the poor little things. We guess that we lost up to 250 birds in that first night. Even the spaniel was getting fed up - rather than deliver the birds to hand, she got to me and spat the bird at my feet as she turned to go get more. Bless her for picking up cold game that stank of fox (which often 'mark' their kills by peeing on them - another good way to tell if it was a fox kill). The smell really clings to you; nothing gets rid of it except time.

And Ted with the curled under toes died. That evening, Mike brought me another Ted (Ted the second), the survivor of a sparrowhawk attack. Ted the second didn't make it either. I think the name is cursed - it rhymes with 'dead'. I'm going to start calling them all Clive from now on.

We did what we could until it got too dark to see. At 10pm, we went back out to lamp the fox that was causing us problems. 'Lamping' is when one person carries a big flashlight and the other person has a rifle. You shine the flashlight around the fields and if there's a fox, its eyes light up a bright bluish colour (a reflection off the tapidum lucidum of the fox's eye). The person with the rifle takes aim following the beam of light. Mike 'calls' the fox by making an eerie high pitched whistling sound, intended to imitate a dying rabbit. Keen for a free meal or out of curiosity, a fox will follow the sound. That's the basics anyway - whole books are written on lamping.

Put it down to being tired or a breakdown of communication, but for some reason I only took 4 bullets, just enough to fill the magazine. I could have put another in the chamber. But I didn't. I could have brought the box of ammo and put some in my pocket. But I didn't. Mike could have done the same. But he didn't. And I really should have checked the rifle to see if it was firing straight. But I didn't.

And we saw 2 foxes. And I really shouldn't have taken the pot shots at the long distance fox. But I did. And when we saw the 2nd fox near the pen, I only had 2 bullets left. I shouldn't have fired until it was closer. But I did. Twice. When I was out of ammo, the fox presented itself side on - the proverbial 'broad side of a barn' shot - only 25 feet away. Did I mention I was out of ammo?

Sometimes cutting corners doesn't pay. For want of a bullet (and more importantly common sense), a dozen more poults were lost this morning.

So, I'm now off to the gun shop for more ammo and to spend an hour putting a few dozen bullets through the gun before we try again tonight.


Poppy Cottage said...

I think I have learnt more about the country side I live in and was brought up in in the last week or so reading your blog!!

Good luck with the fox tonight!!

See you in the morning. (This blog could turn out to be damn fine book x)

Jennifer Montero said...

Bless you, that's so kind. Our fox shooting is on hold - the landowners' daughter is getting married on Saturday and there's a big party tonight on the hill where she was proposed to - right outside the pheasant pen and the direction the fox was coming from last night. At least I'll get to bed early for a change! See you for the Fibrefest tomorrow x