To Catch A Killer
The night was still and the darkness had only just fallen, I sat and watched the grass blow like dark grey waves lashing against the bank of the small wood that lay before me. Your mind starts to wander when you are struggling to see and the laziness of your eyes is overcome by the thoughts that drift through your head, and usually the thoughts are of whatever you are after.
Lying in the grass I could hear everything, Lapwing using the nights’ breeze to catch their evening meal with the eerie pitching of their call, Owls pushing that odd screech from the tawny and dark hoot in the distance from the barn, the night is full of amazing things but the sound I am waiting for has not happened yet.
The moon eerily pops through the cloud and the orange of the late evening moon was now slowly turning into a bright white shining down upon me like a search lamp casting shadows all around me. The breath of wind that is a constant blow from the south west is pushing the night flies away from my face with the odd feel of a fly or midge trying to land to take a meal from me.
Scanning with the thermal the world around me is lit up for me to see clearly, the night had no clouds and the moon made my surroundings enchanting but the visibility was just amazing. I could see the Ewes with their week old lambs underneath them with their tails wagging crazily as they suckled on their exhausted mothers. This was the twins field where every Ewe had twins, with twin and triplets the lambs tend to be that little bit smaller and more vulnerable as often a fox will prey upon one lamb while the Ewe tries her best to protect the other. That is what my job was tonight, to catch a fox, but not just any fox, this fox had stopped killing for food and now was killing for fun.
Not all foxes kill lambs and definitely not all foxes kill for fun, they are usually opportunists that take what is easier and scavenge from the left overs that the birds leave, but you do get that odd occasional fox who likes to kill just for the taste of the blood. The red devil will wander, or better still, stalk through the field breaking the necks of lambs and just leave them lying without remorse and tonight I was ready to bring him to an end.
I started this night at around 1830 it was now turning midnight, and for the last 5 and half hours I had not moved from the spot I decided to nest in. The long grass in front of me gave me plenty of cover and the elevated mound at the side of the field gave me a great vantage spot to see the whole 15 acre field.
It is funny, although I have been there over 5 hours already it did not feel like that, except for the cold settling in to my hands and the iced frosty wind numbing my face it had been a pretty pleasant night, but things were about to change.
I lit up my phone to see that the time was ten past one in the morning, no new text messages or facebook messages to read so closed it over again and slipped it into my chest pocket of my Game Jacket. The wind had picked up now and was blowing pretty heavy from the east blowing straight into my face. The odd spec of rain touching my skin made me feel like the rest of the night was going to be a rough one.
I scanned round with the Pulsar Quantum Lite XQ30v thermal monocular and I could see that most of the sheep and their lambs had strangely moved into one corner of the field, with the wind now bitterly cold you could surmise that that was the reason for their move, if it was not for the fact that the area they chose to head to was probably the least sheltered area in the field I wouldn’t have thought it strange, but something was not right.
Searching and searching trying to cover every patch of the fields as possible and analysing every hot spot I could see something moving unusually quick through the long grass at the back of the field and in fact heading my direction. Foxes move fast and low and genuinely have a very obvious signature on how they move even in the lamp or during the day you can tell a fox movement from a distance. I lay the thermal unit down to one side and turned on the Yukon Photon 6.5×50 and the Laserware X70 IR unit that was mounted neatly on the top of my Browning Abolt 2 .243 rifle. With the nightvision unit I could now clearly see what I was looking at was doglike and 100% a fox.
The tail was low as it started to circle towards me not knowing I lay in wait; its head was as low as its tail as it worked the wind before moving into the open to cross the field towards the flock of sheep now held up tight against the gate to the field. I watched as the head raised of this killer then relaxing its body for a final look around before advancing and exposing itself.
As the fox reached the middle of the fields I was able to work out a safe shooting location with plenty of room and back stop behind, my heart was beating fast and I could feel the tiredness of earlier pass quickly and the blood flow caused by adrenaline flowing heavy through my body, my eye cupped close to the rubber eye relief tube of the Photon I started to focus and forgot about all the emotions running through me and the sounds around me of the now heavy winds beating at the long grass and trees behind me, the cold faded for a second and the numbness of my cheeks had disappeared as I pursed my lips to make a sharp squeak like I was kissing the wind to get the attention of the killer before me.
As I squeaked the fox stopped, turned and looked towards where I was lying as he did so his body lengthened and his head pointed ready to bolt and at the same time I gently Squeezed the silver trigger of the Abolt 2 sending 100gr round into the shadow that was the fox before me. Watching through the NV scope I saw the fox immediately drop to the floor motionless. As I watched for some time the predator just lying there I could feel all my senses coming back, the wind had now completely frozen my cheeks and the pain of the cold on my fingertips were almost unbearable but the reality of what just happened kicked in and it was the sigh of relief that came from me that told me that the heartache that this one fox caused was over.
I lay for another hour or so in the grass allowing everything to settle back down. Scanning with my thermal I wanted to make sure no other monsters were lurking in the darkness. Scanning back and forward but also making sure that what I shot was still there (not that it was going to go anywhere) for peace at mind. The hour past slowly and the cold had now become so unbearable I had to move. I had been in the same spot now nearly 9 hours only moving to try keep blood flow to my legs and the odd twist onto my side to take a leek. I decided it was time for one last scan before heading over to pick up what I Had shot.
The walk over felt long and tiresome, fighting the wind as I crossed the field I felt exhausted but also very thirsty, dehydration had started to settle in a couple of hours into the “sit up” but my determination to get this one fox was a priority and it was now finally done. The shot was not a particularly long one but it was challenging and the 200 yards or so felt like miles in the dark.
The moon was covered now in dark clouds and the wind had got to the point of blowing my tired body about as I reached the foxes lifeless carcass lying solemnly in the grass, on inspection I could see that it was a young dog fox but in very good condition. His coat was light and bushy with the flash of red through it and his white bib lit up even the now very dark night. The black tipped ears crowned that distinctive smile as it showed the bright white spears of teeth showing little to no wear part from the odd black like on the gums. This was a very clean and healthy fox but you could not miss that strong taste and smell of the musk from it. This fox was a prime killing machine when it comes to killing lambs.
I slung my rifle over my shoulder and slipped the thermal into my pocket and wearily walked off into the darkness dragging the fox behind me to go collect my truck which was parked two fields away. While walking across the fields I took the thermal out on occasion to have a scan round to make sure there were no other predators about.
The walk back to the truck was of little incidence except for the odd stumble as my legs were getting used to walking again, but, reaching the truck was a welcome relief. I put the fox on the rear “roller back” and stood my rifle alongside him and took a couple of pictures before laying the him along the fence for the farmer to dispose of him in his final resting space.
A well-deserved can of Diet Coke was consumed before I started the 30 miles trip back home.