Out Foxing Charlie 11
(Protecting the Flocks)
It’s lambing and as always I get the frantic calls from farmers, come as fast as you can those murdering foxes and corvids are killing our lambs, it happens every year and this year was no different.
Crows love new born lambs.
Actually that’s not quite correct it was a little different, you see its not out of the ordinary that the corvids to attack and kill the day old lambs, its normally one or two of the crow types that start it and the others move in, that’s what it’s like around here, but this year it was different a huge mob of corvids had moved into the area, the local corvids had been having a running battle with them for ages a sort of turf war I suppose.
Now this new mob of around about 60 strong birds behaved out of the normal compared to our resident murder of corvids, these were very aggressive and very sneaky too, as the day old lambs were being born they literally mobbed in killing the lambs and feasting on them, the poor Ewes were helpless to protect their young, so the farmers started keeping the lambs and ewes inside the sheds.
I studied this big mob from a distance for a day or two try and get to know their habits flight lines etc., I decided on the day I would start my raid on this wary quarry this was going to be a long range affair, I set up in the hay loft, I chose this place for several reasons, first it gave me warmth and shelter from the weather, second it was a great high vantage point to be able to see the nursery lambing paddock, thirdly it also gave me great cover and a perfect back stop for shooting down onto this cunning quarry, I set up with the 17hmr for long range, the 22 rimfire for medium range and the Air Arms Galahad for short to medium range, this way I had all options covered for the air rifle was the perfect weapon as there were sitty trees 30 yards from my position so I could take them from the trees with ease if necessary and the rifle for out on the field.
As you can see the planned right down to the last detail ha ha ha he says, the corvids had killed a lamb half hour before I had got there and the farmer was shaking his head and very upset of course, I said leave the carcass were it is let me get in position and I will deal with each corvid in turn with a lead aspirin that will cure them of their addiction to live stock.
Classic crow damage.
Not even a minuet after the farmer walked away from the carcass the corvids were in on it making one hell of a racket, so much so they never heard my shots from the moderated 17hmr tucked away in the straw bales in the hay loft, I fired 3 shots and killed 4 birds that’s when they realized something was up, they all hovered above the carcass in circles cawing at their very dead mates, that was until one decided to land and that was his mistake as he was added to the pile, Corvids 0 – Ole Hedge Creeper 5.
Now they stayed in the air or landing in the trees way out of range, about 40 minutes went by and a pair landed in the trees 30 yards out, now we never gave away our position or even collected the dead ones so they never knew were we were sniping them from, I raised the Air Arms Galahad gave a mill dot of windage and a mill dot hold over and aimed for a head shot, I telle that pellet from this awesome Air Rifle sailed true and sounded like leather on willow, or as some may call it, a cricket ball hitting a bat on this corvids head, that carrion never knew what hit it and his mate flew round in a circle cawing and landed back in the tree he was sat in, I carefully aimed squeezed the trigger and thwack nailed him too as he was shouting at his mate on the floor.
I did not get to use the 22 rimfire this day as all the shots were out at a long range or in the sitty tree, but the 17hmr gave them corvids hell as did the Air Arms Galahad air rifle, what can I say but today we evened the score on these murdering corvids, Ole Hedge Creeper had bagged up a pile of the buggers, so Corvids 1, as they killed the lamb before I got there, I left one very happy farmer and some ewes and lambs feeling safer as they knew The Protector was their guarding the flock, The Protector is what the farmer’s wife nicked named me as she watched me in the hay loft she said I looked like a sniper protecting the flock, I shot there for several weeks and only lost 1 more lamb on my watch, instead of 7 or 8 a day when I was not there on duty.
The first night out after the flock murdering Charlie foxes turned into a bit of a nightmare, now before I go any further I know it’s my fault I should have checked the gear before heading out.
I had 3 rounds left of a batch of my favorite ammo, then I had to break open a new batch of the same ammo, as always I only use one round for all my foxing, that is the 58 grain Vmax from Norma, that bullet in my rifle is like a laser and is as flat as you can get it, me and my Browning 243 and that bullet have accounted for literally thousands of foxes over the years, it’s my tried and tested combo that coupled with either a Deben Lamp or a Night Master Venom scope mounted lamp or a NiteSite Eagle Rtec we literally are a deadly combination on the foxes.
I put the first 3 foxes in the bag on a sheep station in quick order, using field craft and the NiteSite and squealed them in to shot range from 50 to a 100 yards, all pretty much text book shooting, I had to put my Jack Pyke moderator cover on too as I was getting glare back through the scope from the moderator too, oh before I go any further I forget to mention, I always say to be any good with night vision you must first master the traditional lamping skills and field craft, I will pick up on this a little later in this article, right this is when disaster struck? I had used those 3 rounds and so when we got to the next farm that was having problems I simply set the gun up as normal loaded up and carried on.
The first fox was a big dog fox stalking his way around one of the lambing fields, this farm was also losing geese/duck and hens, I knew there were more than one fox here as I had a report that the white van man had dropped some foxes off in the farm next door not a week ago, I got in position got my Primos trigger sticks set just right, the wind was perfect coming from the fox to us, all set for a text book shot as this fox was coming right for us 80 yards out and coming so I stayed quiet, he stopped and sat down and had a scratch, that was a mistake I was on him, I put the cross hairs on the engine room and squeezed off the shot, MISSED?
What, how the bloody hell did I miss that? I am only human it does happen but not normally inside a 100 yards.
My wing man Nik could not believe it either, what happened? I don’t know I said? We both looked at each other in complete disbelief, Nik said you know the report didn’t sound quite right it was a bit dull almost like a 223 report, must have been a dodgy round we agreed it happens from time to time, bugger we just educated him what a shot is he will be hard to get now, on we stalked a few fields over a vixen was sneaking around the hen houses about 50 yards out so I steadied myself cross hairs on the engine room she was mine, I squeezed off the shot she jumped about 12 feet in the air and ran off? What in god’s name was going on and the report was defiantly muffled, the shot went right under her I saw the dust cloud go up behind her on the big bank that was a perfect back stop.
That’s it stop shooting something is wrong, I went home and checked the footage of both shots as I recorded them on the NiteSite Rtec, both shots fell very short of target, the next day I took the entire batch to the range almost 80 rounds, the best grouping I could get was about the size of a small dinner plate at 100 yards and 4 inches low at best, we tried them in a fellow shooters rifle just in case it was my rifle, nope his was worse, we then put in my normal 80 grain soft point Federal rounds and they were bang on the money at 100 yards 10 shots all inside a 2p grouping, I even checked the gun measured the barrels checked the scope and the moderator too, no it was defiantly the 58 grain Vmax from Norma at fault.
I was at the British Shooting show a few days later representing Pass It On Young Sports for which I am the CEO, so would pop in and see Ruag in Cornwall and discuss it with them, I did and I agreed to send what ammo I had left back to them for testing, I also spoke to Anders a lovely fellow from Norma Ammunition who was more than shocked at my findings, alas as I am going to print I have not heard back from Ruag now for nearly 8 weeks so I can’t say what the problem was, my guess is the rounds are under loaded and I will report on this in the next article what their findings are when they finally get back to me.
Back to the foxes, I tried some PPU ammo through the 243 whilst at the range and it worked and grouped perfectly so I thought let’s give that a go on the foxes, they were a 100 grain soft point a bit of an over kill in my book for foxes but the price dictated these to be the better value.
Now I said earlier to be good with night vision you must learn your craft and be good with the lamp and learn real field craft, for night vision is good but it’s still a sort of lamp so it’s no good relying on technology to fill the gaps in your short fall of knowledge, its only from time spent in the field making mistakes learning your craft practice on the range both day and night, then you also must fully understand your quarry and how to track etc.
I have written about this many times, I started off with a heavy motor cycle battery in an old army gas mask pack with a motor bike head light as my lamp, the battery used to leak and then rot my cloths out and my bag too and it was a ghastly heavy affair, that coupled with a pile of rabbits or even a fox when hunting with my game keeper/farmer uncle, so as you can see I learnt my traditional craft from the old masters and by trial and error and making mistakes.
One must always be aware of the wind, for that can whip around and give your game away as fast as standing there with a flashing light on your head, back to the foxes we had to go back and deal with the missed foxes and this was not going to be easy I tell you that, those foxes were now educated to not only what a shot is but also what the dim glow of the IR on the NiteSite was, so I would have to use every ounce of my cunning and field craft to get on top of these educated foxes now.
Nik and I got to high ground I wanted to survey the valley and see what we were facing as farmer had reported seeing several foxes, I got my NiteSite spotter out and started the search, I picked up 6 foxes over the area pairs and odd ones, we certainly were going to have our work cut out that was for sure, ahhhhhhh well let’s get on with it as were not getting any younger stood there on that hill with the bitter cold wind blowing the cob webs away.
The first fox we saw out skirted us and stuck to the road hedge, not a safe shot anyway no back stop and a road behind it so we let that one go on undisturbed, we crossed into what we call the marsh paddock and immediately my 6th sense kicked in, lol a lot of the lads say I am like Crocodile Dundee in tune with nature as when I get that feeling something is going to happen, and it’s never let me down this time was no exception I telle, I put the spotter on and there was a big dog fox trotting back to his earth with what looked like a chicken in his chops.
I sprang into action mounted the 243 on to the trigger sticks steady the rifle in my shoulder and turned on the NiteSite Eagle Rtec and pressed record, I gave him a rat squeak and he stopped on the spot right at the bottom of the big bank, a perfect safe back stop were on, I squeezed off the shot and he dropped like a stone then got up and limped off into the ditch, Nik looked at me cockled as he was watching on the NiteSite Spotter, he said you hit him right in the engine room what happened? I said its ok he will be dead in the ditch lets go over, I was right 20 yards from where I shot him he was dead as a door nail in the ditch with the bantam still in his jaws, as I feared these PPU bullets are too much bullet for fox, but alas this was all we had so we had to use them and this made me have to do head shots, I don’t like head shots on deer or foxes, you see heads move engine rooms don’t and I have seen too many deer and indeed wounded foxes with folks taking head shots, I never have had it as I know my ability and I’m more than capable of taking head shots but I choose not too out of respect for the animal who deserves a clean humane kill, but alas these bullets are hard hitting so head shots it is then.
As we move around the large marsh grounds I pick up a vixen on her way back to the earth that I know was 200 yards behind not far from where I had shot that dog fox, knowing I was on her line back I set up on the trigger sticks and watched her come to me none the wiser I was there, Nik and I watched quietly on the NiteSite Eagle and Spotter 300 yards 200 yards at around 100 yards she froze and sat down looking straight at us she knew something was not right, it was too late the cross hairs were on her and I had her card stamped, I instinctively shot for the upper bib as I always do on that shot forgetting I was using the PPU not my Norma 58 grain Vmax, I squeezed off the shot and that distinct dull thump of a perfectly executed engine room shot was heard, she dropped on the spot, then as always I wait for a few seconds just in case in the very rare occasion I have to use a follow up shot, she got up head hanging down and wobbled 20 yards and dropped stone dead on the spot, she was a dead fox walking as we say, only the adrenaline made her go that far I have seen this with deer in the past.
We walked over to see were we had shot her and why she was able to get up all be it only for a few seconds, the spot I had shot her on the blood loss with some heart and lung fragments on the floor was what I would expect, and when we walked over to retrieve the fox I simply could not believe she was able to stand for those few seconds with the wound damage, but there you go foxes are tougher than most folk realize, we retrieved both foxes back to the farmer who added them to the dead stock to be incinerated.
We had to go as another farmer was on the phone saying come fast I have foxes attacking the day old lambs right now we have chased them off but they keep coming back, as it turned out I was only 2 miles as the crow flies from them so our response was rather quick, even the farmer said blimey you boys are fast on the call out, we both giggled and said ahhhhhhh we are the fastest Pest Controllers in the West you know did you not see our helicopter land, we all started laughing.
We set up facing the main lambing field spotter and Eagle, right away we picked up a fox and the bugger had a lamb in its jaws and was about to make off with it, I let out a loud whistle to make him stop, that was his last mistake as the cross hairs were already on him, I only need a second or 2 to get on target and he fell this time I loaded my 80 grain Federal soft points in the rifle, he dropped stone dead on the spot, farmer dashed out as fast as he could as we could see the lamb was still moving, farmer took this lamb back to the lambing shed as it was in shock, quite rightly so after a fox had grabbed it, I don’t think the fox had time to kill it as we were on it so fast unlucky for the fox but very lucky for the lamb, the farmer revived the lamb put it under a heat lamp and bottle fed it, you know it made a full recovery with just a couple of tooth marks on it that the farmer put some purple spray on, hardly little things them lambs I telle and I must admit I was nearly in tears when I gave it a cuddle in the lambing shed later on that evening, you can see it in my eyes in the video if you look closely enough and hear it in my voice.
Nik and I hung on keeping a watchful eye on the flock as farmer said there were 2 foxes attacking, I was just about to say let’s call it a night when my 6th sense went off again, I whispered to Nik there’s a fox about here I telle I can feel it in my water, he smiled and said you and that spooky feeling you get freaks me out, all of a sudden the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and that cold chill ran down my spine, I froze on the spot saying its close very close, but we could see nothing on both NiteSite units.
Then I got that deep feeling in the bottom of my guts something was behind me, I pulled out my Night Master Venom with the green pill and had a quick shine around the nursing paddock we were stood in the gateway of, bugger me there was Charlie fox out flanking us not 60 yards to my six(directly behind me) I swung the rifle round still attached to my Primos Trigger Sticks whispering Fox behind to Nik, Nik never had time to see the fox as I dropped the sticks to the floor cross hairs on and BANG a perfect engine room shot right behind its left front shoulder, this big dog fox gave a little flick of its tail and that was it stone dead.
Farmer came out from the lambing shed asking did you get. Of course I said he is over there by the piggery, bloody good job too as that’s the bugger that’s been taking my piglets, so all in all a good night protecting the flocks and learning some new things too, as my Pappy always said those that proclaim to be an expert have a closed mind, you will learn something new every day and still not know enough if you live to be a 100 years old, we bid this very happy farmer good by after a well-earned coffee in the farm house and headed home for some bacon sandwiches as it was 5am.
A few days later I got called in on a rabbit clearance job, alas only my old friend Kevin was able to join me, this was a ferreting job on a huge open warren on a big hill adjacent to a crop field, the rabbits were causing one hell of a lot of damage to the freshly drilled crops thus why we were called in, I signed up this farm and the farm next door to a pest control contract for all vermin including the pigeon control, so that was the best part of another 1000 acres signed up to my pest control company and a lot of work there is there too.
Kevin is my good mate and he keeps all mine and his ferrets at his place in the court, (correct name for a ferrets home), we decided as there was only the 2 of us today we would net some he would work the ferrets and deal with any netted rabbits and I would stand back on the hill side and shoot and bolting rabbits with my 410 shot gun, I had my beloved black Labrador Brook with me for marking the warrens and retrieving the rabbits and helping Kevin grab the netted rabbits.
We laid about a 100 or so nets and still did not have enough to cover this huge mega warren, time for a mid-morning coffee and a sandwich to let the warren quiet down, Kevin popped the ferrets in and for a while nothing just the odd ferret popping up here and there, I have written about this many times as traditional ferreting is my real passion, as soon as the ferrets go to ground no other sound exists your ears locking on waiting for the Pug’s (ferrets) to make contact with the Drummers (rabbits) deep underground, you strain your ears to listen for those Viking war drums to start, 40+ years later this sound still makes my heart race and to a true ferreter they will know what I mean.
Then that eerie silence comes over the warren like all hell is about to break loose, almost like the calm before the storm, the first rabbit to bolt came as always from an unnetted hole, it matters not how many nets you lay you miss one hole and you can bet your last quid a rabbit will find the one without a net on it, this first rabbit was no exception, he bolted right across my right shoulder so with some feet movement Fred Astaire would have been proud of and a snap shot I bowled this big buck rabbit over with a clean right barrel of my little side by side 410, this is a sweet gun I bought for my daughter Shannon many years ago and she still gives me good service to this day a good investment that little gun even though my daughter no longer uses her as Shannon prefers to hunt on horseback now days, Brook retrieved the rabbit to me in fine style then the rabbits really started to move as the ferrets had them on the run.
Zorro my Hobb ferret will come to the whistle, I have written about many times was going like the clappers, he went deep and moved the rabbits up a level and the gill ferrets Bolted them as they are fast, Kevin were dealing with rabbits in nets all over the mega warren as I was picking off the bolters with the 410, for almost an hour we had very near nonstop action, then as fast as it started it stopped the ferrets came up showed no more interest in working the warren so we called it a day with a pile of fresh ferreted rabbits in the bag, the farmer was quite simply ecstatic with this first days efforts, we are going back to drop net many areas over the 2 farms as well as lamp it with the rifles, I will report on this in further articles or maybe my next lot of humble scribbles.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have recounting it and writing it for you, please keep the emails and messages on social media coming in Greg and I do try to respond to you all but some do slip through the long net from time to time.
Cheers THE OLE HEDGE CREEPER