Mick “shooter” McCormack. out foxing.
Oh what a night.
The first fox of the night appeared as the combine was on the other side of the field, well out of the line of fire. Eyes popped up on a hedge line and were dismissed as a reflector on a trailer. Then the reflector blinked.
The moon is high in the clear sky so bright and clear that the craters are visible. The light from our closest neighbour casts deep shadows and gives the fresh stubble a pale complexion it is surreal and almost dreamlike. The swathe cut by the combine stretches away in front of me in a curve, first to the left and then away from me to the right, the cut is a good twenty feet wide. The eyes are intense in the beam thrown from the roof mounted Lightforce lamp though they are partially obscured by the uncut crop. I peer over the wing mirror through binoculars and my suspicions are confirmed.
Although Reynard is within range he is behind the curve of the standing crop, to take a shot would mean aiming between the eyes and risking the bullet striking an obstacle on its travels. The shot offered is not a good one so I dim the lamp and start to call. Normally I would call them in using my mouth at this distance but tonight I opt to use Ihunt, a caller for the Iphone that I occasionally use. The solid state dying mouse calls for a predator to come hither. The eyes blink and move from side to side as the foe ranges its prey. Sure of a meal it comes forward at a trot around the curve, towards its nemesis.
The Browning Xbolt is secure and held firm on the foam covering of the rest, the shape of the animal comes into full view though the scope, I close my eyes for a second and visualise the distance, a hundred yards I figure as I slip the safety catch off ready to send Charlie into the afterlife. Breathe in, breathe out, ready.
The field rises some forty feet from my position to the intersection of two hedges with a large gap between the two. The gap fills with light as the tractor and trailer come up the deeply rutted and winding track to meet the combine now coming back up the field behind me. I apply the safety catch and wait. The spotlights on the tractor roof breast the rise and shine directly towards me. Between my position and the tractor, which now looks like the spaceship in “Close Encounters” stands the enemy. I look through the scope to see which direction the fox will run as the beams of the spotlights transfix the animal in silhouette, the image is so clear that I see the ears of the fox go translucent around their edges as the light shines through them. If the night was cold I would be able to see its breath in the air. The fox stands there as the tractor approaches, it seems unafraid rather merely puzzled as to what the lights actually are. It decides that they are categorically unfriendly and bolts deftly to the right, into the crop. Round one belongs to Reynard.
The night progresses and rabbits run helter skelter in the dancing light thrown from the harvester. These particular fields are remote enough to employ the trusty Beretta semi automatic shotgun and the body count will be high enough to keep the farmer happy. My cigarettes ran out two hours ago and although the electronic device that I keep handy for such occasions still gives me the needed chemicals, it is not the same as a Marlboro. Mounted in the roof of the Land Rover is an old Midland citizens band radio set to channel 16, I press tx button and I tell the combine driver that I shall be back in ten minutes. Withdrawing from the field of battle it is a short drive into the nearest village only to find that the local Tesco convenience store is rather inconveniently closed.
It seems that the villagers need to stock up early on any provisions in this locale. I make my way to the nearest filling station instead to purchase my needed nicotine and race back into the forlorn wilderness. I enter the field in the exact same route that the tractor and trailer had used to such good effect previously. In front of me the combine and trailer twinkle against the blackened background. They seem to hover in the air as there is no frame of reference in the scene. As the distance closes the reassuring ground appears around them. I am to the right of their position.
The landscape drops away from me into another field that, as it is the other side of the brightly illuminated vehicles, is as black as pitch. To the right a tall hedge composed of high ferns and trees stretches off into the night. My Lightforce is on and dimmed to less than half power as I draw level with the other vehicles and as I swing to my left to park by the tractor a pair of eyes greet me in the darkness once more. I know that this field is two hundred and ninety yards across and the eyes are nearer than that but how near are they? I am illuminated by the harsh light from the combines floodlights therefore getting out to take the shot would be foolish so I drive around in the lee of the growling behemoth and off into the gloom on the other side. It is now me or him.
The field is triangular and I am now on the halfway point on the hypotenuse of the triangle facing the furthest point and the eyes have moved further away and down to the furthest point almost three hundred yards away. Battle is joined, mouth calling brings the enemy nearer but not close enough for a clean shot. The fox sits there, tantalisingly close but not close enough to ensure a clean dispatch. The electronic caller pulls it towards me but then it decides that it does not like the sound, the eyes extinguish and relight back on the far side. I call again using the back of my hand, softly but urgently, come devour me, I am mortally wounded.
The fox sits resolute and unmoved. I know exactly how many clicks on my scope will, at this distance, result in a hearty clang on a kill zone sized gong but that is during the day and on a target that does not feel pain. This is a live being that will most certainly have a protracted and awful end should I fail in my duty. I look at the blinking eyes and muse that no doubt Reynard has a belly full of minced rodent already, hence his reticence on coming to the call. I put my arm out into the fluttering hordes of insect life attracted by my lights and wave goodnight to the winner of the contest. I look forward to our next meeting and may the best man, or indeed fox, win.