Mick “shooter” McCormack. Out Foxing.
Lamp n Seek.
I often lamp alone, the solitude in the darkness is as peaceful as the modern world can be, just the sounds of the night for company. On occasions I will go out with a small circle of friends, this is usually just I and one other. Tonight was an oddity as due to circumstance as we had met up with another two friends who were lamping a different farm. We were parked on a lay-by on an main road where a famous highwayman once plied his trade, drinking coffee when the others pulled up for a chat.
The hour was late and morning was but a few hours away, the traffic had all but stopped save for the odd lorry.
The lay-by is bounded on our right by a triangular field of some thirty acres, on the far edge is a bank that rises thirty feet at an acute angle. It is a field that is often used to zero rifles due to this feature. As we sit bemoaning our lack of success for the night I periodically scan the field with a small flashlight. On the third or fourth pass I see at the top of the bank a pair of dim eyes peering over the top.
The chatter continues and I make a mental note of the position. I scan again and the eyes are brighter and have now moved towards us halfway down the bank, a hundred and seventy yards by my reckoning. I utter the word “Charlie” and the silence falls quickly around us. I signal the direction with my hand and withdraw the rifle from the darkness of the rear seat of the Land Rover. I now have a dilemma as the lay-by is well illuminated by the streetlights that extend from the traffic island in front of us. I know that Reynard can see us, far better than we can see him.
The drivers door is facing his approach so I open it slowly, staying in the shadow of the vehicle I exit and on hands and knees I make my way. The hedge that runs the other side of the low wooden boundary fence has a break that covers almost all of the length of the lay-by. I choose to scale the fence at the point where the hedge ends rather than risk being spotted by the foe. The others are either behind or in the vehicles apart from one who enters the field in the same manner.
The lamp is a handheld Clulite with an orange filter fitted. There is a conservation strip that bounds the field that at this point has a raised edge where the plough has pushed it up over the years. Tufts of grass and weeds grow along its length. As I crawl along on my stomach I curse under my breath. The grass is sodden and my water resistant clothing is no longer fit for purpose. I squelch forward and into position. The bi-pod is deployed and the lamp man is now behind me.
I whisper to him and the field is bathed in an orange glow. I scan the field but it is devoid of eyes. He dims the lamp and I start to call softly on the back of my hand. The eyes look back they are now on the edge of the field, one hundred and forty yards at the base of the opposing hedgerow. They disappear and I call again slightly louder this time the reward is a pair of eyes sat halfway back up the bank
The wind, as slight as it is has changed and he knows something is amiss. The question foremost in my mind is how hungry is he? Hungry enough to ignore the strange smells perhaps. I start calling again, I put an urgency in the call that should sound delicious to an empty bellied fox. The eyes stare back, blinking occasionally and stubbornly refusing to come any closer.
I am closer than the original distance and estimate a hundred and thirty yards. At this range the vertical angle of the shot should make a negligible difference, the rifle a .243 Browning X Bolt is zeroed to maximum point blank range for the ninety five grain soft point Sierra bullets. The wind is so light that it is barely stirring the grass at my cheek, this is the moment if there ever was to pull the trigger. I have practiced the drill thousands of times, breathe in, loose the air out gently until it is all but gone.
My finger is already resting lightly on the trigger and a steady pull ignites the fury. My vision is obscured momentarily and I miss the strike of the bullet but hear a deep thud come back over the rape stubble. My lamp man calls a clean miss and I look at him askance as I know that sound well enough. The field is bordered on the far side by a savage hawthorn hedge and the path to it is wellington deep in water. I weigh up the risk of drowning or disembowelment to
prove my point and decide that it is not worth the nuisance. I know that it was a good solid strike and that is enough. The night is over for us and we decide that the beds are calling us home.
The following morning I have business to attend to in that direction and decide that a quick look around the area would not make me late. The drive was worth it, both to settle my mind on the shot and also to check whether or not the raider of pheasants needed another night out. Walking along the embankment I found a large dog fox in the precise position he had met his demise. Of course a photograph was sent via text message to the nay saying lamp man. Sometimes it is nice to be vindicated, is it not?