Making the best of a bad start

Roy’s deer culling plans are thwarted but a shift to vulpine quarry reaps dividendsAfter being away for the latter part  of the season, hunting hares in both Scotland and England with my eagles, I had somewhat neglected my fallow doe cull back home. On returning,  I decided to have a determined effort at putting a few in the larder!I always enjoy shooting with friends, not only for the craic but because it is useful to have more than one rifle on the ground, so that one can stalk through the wood while the other lies in wait for when the beasts break. I decided to give our editor, Dom, a call to see if he fancied a run out, as he is always moaning he does not get enough time for stalking — even though whenever you call the office he always seems to be away on some sort of jolly in a far-flung place!Inviting Dom out always comes with some trepidation, especially when David from the Fieldsports Channel is filming, because Dom has the reputation of being somewhat of a ‘Jonah’ when it comes to success in the field. This may be due to the fact that there is rarely any silence because of the constant  leg-pulling between us all! We started out on my new Argo 650 HD ATV and drove into a glorious frosty morning, with mist rising from the streams and ponds all around. Whenever I am greeted with a morning like this my mind instantly turns to foxes, who will be feeling the nip of hunger after a cold night, but I had to concentrate on putting some does on the ground. I prefer to take a few beasts at once so that I do not disturb the ground too often, as I find that fallow soon work out your stalking patterns.With the cold start in mind, I thought it would be best to check out a few outlying spinneys as they offer the deer some frost-free browsing. I decided to put Dom in the prime position, overlooking a deer lawn with a bank behind rising up to some open fields, with the spinney to his right. The plan was that I would stalk some 200 yards down to the far end and then stalk through to Dom. As I approached the end of the spinney I spotted about a dozen deer, but unfortunately due to the frost it looked as if they were aware of my crunchy approach. I tried to crawl into position, but as I got into a safe shooting lane the deer decided to exit — luckily towards Dom.A few minutes passed with no shot ringing out. I was about to move on to the next stand when two does came running back from Dom’s position and stopped directly on a bank in front of me, giving me the chance of a perfect broadside shot. With one doe down and Dom moaning that the deer that I pushed through did not stop for long enough, or were too high up the bank, or not the right colour (I can’t remember all the excuses!), we quickly gralloched the first beast so we could stalk the main woods before too many dog walkers appeared on the paths.We had gone no more than 20 yards into the wood before I spotted a deer making its way towards us on the same path. It was then joined by a pricket and a yearling doe; all prime candidates for the morning’s cull.As we waited for the deer to move into a shootable position, all hell broke loose and they bolted straight past us. It became apparent why only a few moments later; a lady with her two dogs off lead had wandered right through the woods, pushing all the deer on to neighbouring ground and ruining any chance of us accomplishing our cull target for the morning.After stopping the lady and explaining to her that there was no footpath and no right of access anywhere near this part of the estate, and with Dom suggesting that we head to the nearest caf�, I thought it may be worth having a squeak for a fox. Running along the edges of the wood are some great stands of bramble that normally hold the odd Charlie, and as the foxes on this estate are used to a fair amount of human traffic with people walking their dogs, I hoped that we may be able to redeem the rest of the morning.We quietly made our way to the far end of the wood where there is a large sloping bank looking down towards the brambles, with the mature trees cutting out the ground cover and allowing a good view of 100 yards or so.With Dom and me lying in wait, making sure that we were not highlighted by the sunlight streaming through the trees, I started calling softly on my Silva Fox whistle. Soon I heard magpies shouting in the depths of the wood and as you could make out that their calls were coming closer, I hoped it indicated an incoming fox.My concentration was directed towards the far brambles but I suddenly caught a glimmer of movement to my right-hand side. I slowly moved my head to the right and to my shock there stood a large  dog fox, no more than 10 yards from me, staring straight into  my eyes. I could see that he  was sharing my look of surprise!At this point I was truly scuppered as my rifle was on a bipod pointing the wrong way. I knew if I made any attempt to move he would disappear back to where he had just magically emerged. I think, because I was lying down, the fox did not instantly recognise a human form so he decided to circle around in front of us in an attempt to see if there was a free meal available.I continued to squeak in the hope that he would pause long enough for a shot, which he obligingly did, when directly in front of Dom. This time there was no excuse and Dom executed a perfect shot. The only problem with this last bit of luck is that Dom now disputes the fact that he is the ‘Jonah’ and insists that David from the Fieldsports Channel is the bad omen!