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Roy Lupton gets the wrong end of the stick and winds up on a date with Mark Gilchrist!
Last week I got a phone call from fellow contributor and friend Mark Gilchrist, offering a couple of nights foxing with him and Gemma! How could any red-blooded chap turn down an offer like that?
Even though the forecast was ominous, offering only the chance of freezing temperatures accompanied by sleet and wind, the thought of enjoying one of my favourite activities with the company of a pretty young lady and Mark (not so attractive but always entertaining) was jumped upon.
We agreed to meet up at one of Mark’s permissions the following night. As we had a few thousand acres of very wet marshy ground to cover we thought it best to take the Argo, rather than sit in the warmth of my truck.
Pulling up in the yard after splashing on a little too much aftershave, I was greeted by a chirpy and ever fashion-conscious Mark, dressed as if auditioning for the part of Compo from Last of the Summer Wine. I was shocked that Mark was obviously not bothered about his appearance, as I assumed he would be trying to impress his young lady. I asked if Gemma was still planning on joining us, which is when Mark pulled out his phone, explaining that Gemma was in fact G4EMA, his new shooting App, affectionately known as Gemma.
Obviously sensing my disappointment he quickly went on to explain the possibilities of the technology, and was interested to see what I, a complete technophobe, thought of it. Considering that some friends are still amazed that I can use a PC to write my articles for this magazine and that I have only managed to start texting more than one word answers since I was forced to buy a smartphone last year, I explained to Mark that I was probably not the best chap to ask. He assured me that the App would prove useful to everyone that shoots, even someone as technologically-challenged as myself.
Upset that I now only had Compo’s double to snuggle next to on the Argo, we set off to accomplish our main task of getting on top of some rather unpleasant Charlies that had been killing a few lambs and biting the tails off many others.
With the wind chill taking its toll things got off to a slow start; almost an hour in and no sightings. Mark suggested we venture further out onto the marsh, following the ditch line up and around, playing a game of snakes and ladders in the dark to get to each crossing point.
We finally got a glimmer in the lamp. With the flat terrain offering no safe backstop from our position I decided to see if could call the fox closer. After a short barrage of calls this particular tail-chomper cautiously started to move around – luckily for us, into a shooting position no more than 100 yards off.
As the fox dropped Mark was out of the Argo with his phone in hand, not only to retrieve our first fox of the evening but also to log the exact location of the shot animal. When he got back over Mark then explained how he had not only logged the position but the programme also recorded the sex of the animal and the time.
After the first one things started running smoothly, with fox number two easily accounted for in quick order. Unfortunately we had not realised that as we called this one in a second fox, presumably the vixen of this pair, had been making a beeline for us from behind. We only noticed her departing silhouette as we swept the lamp around following the shot.
It was at this point my interest in the App started to grow, with Mark not only logging the second kill but also quickly being able to record the exact position of the fox that got away. After spotting a couple more lamp-shy foxes which Mark logged, I started to realise what a useful tool Mark had come up with for mapping the whereabouts and sightings of Charlies that could then be dealt with on another night with a more stealthy approach and night vision. But it is also useful in a host of other ways; for instance, the App could map out the movements of deer on my ground during the seasons and also make keeping a cull record a whole lot easier.
We soon found ourselves coming back out of the marsh and heading towards drier ground with a few banks and the odd spinney. Moving the Argo to a good vantage point overlooking the scrubby wood below us, I started a soft rendition of a rapidly expiring thumper. Within seconds we had an Exocet of a fox coming in; heading straight for us at a shocking rate, she covered the 300 yards from her resting spot in moments. The whistle that I sometimes use to stop an overly eager fox simply did not work. I even resorted to a loud shout which fell on deaf ears as the determined Charlie advanced at full gallop. It was only when this rather keen fox got to within spitting distance of the front of the Argo that it finally took evasive manoeuvres, darting right and disappearing over the crest of the hill.
Luckily this fox was so hungry we were able to creep the Argo over the crest and, with a little squeak, the fast incomer turned around, allowing for a shot. With a couple more hours invested and the following evening spent on the same ground we managed to account for a total of eight very nice winter foxes.
Interestingly, only two showed an exuberant response to the call, which were the only vixens accounted for. Initially I assumed they must have been overly hungry, as they were probably pregnant vixens, but on further examination they both appeared to be barren. I can only assume that these were subordinate vixens cast out on the edge of territories, or assisting another vixen with her litter.
After we finally warmed up from our freezing nights on the marsh I was keen to sit down with Mark and see what data had been collected. With the map brought up on the screen it was amazing to see how much ground we had covered, with the App showing that we had gone just over 17 miles on the first night. Mark then explained that not only can you record the boundaries of your permission, leaving no room for error, but that all the information was then logged with any notes, giving the land owner an exact log and account of your activities whilst on his land.
I was somewhat sceptical regarding the use of G4EMA, in much the same way I was when it came to purchasing a smartphone, thinking that I didn’t need another useless piece of technology clogging up my time. However, I have now downloaded it, as I believe that it will prove to be just as useful as my now beloved phone, saving me time and allowing me to keep an accurate account not only for myself but more importantly for my landowners. It’s a great piece of kit that can record exactly what’s happening on the ground. The App pushes all the data to a website which then updates a second App, G4EMA Farmer Feed, automatically, so the farmer has all the data and a map of where you have been before you even get home. If you’re trying to build a relationship with a landowner or famer then this is a must-have tool.
G4EMA can be purchased for £2.99 from the iPhone App Store and the Google Play Marketplace. For more information go to: www.g4ema.com
By Roy Lupton
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