Deano and his team go ‘old school’ with one last lamping foray before the birds get too widespread. The forecast doesn’t bode well, but it turns out to be a successful night
In the rain
After accounting for all the foxes we had seen on the last lamping trip, some by sitting up waiting with the night vision (which is just the job for targeting a fox that you know about) I decided to go out lamping one last time before the partridge started to spread all over the shoot. It doesn’t take long for the one you have shot to be replaced at this time of year, especially with all these gamebirds wandering around.
It was getting well into September, with most of the fields cultivated or drilled, so we would have to be careful, but we have some stubble and tracks dividing some of the fields so I knew we’d be able to get round the farm. I lined up the famer to do the driving and Edward was on the lamp.
The forecast was looking a bit dodgy for the weekend in question, but it was not likely to change in the days ahead so we decided to go for it. Like I say, the partridges are still hanging around the covers but I didn’t want to disturb them too much. In these situations, you need to lamp with a bit of care.
As we met up that evening and started to get the truck ready – safety cage on and secured, lamp checked to make sure it’s working – it was all looking good before the rain started. Damn. This was not a good start.
“Maybe we can just lamp out the window and see what’s about,” I said, but Edward, keen as always, said he didn’t mind standing on the back. He had come dressed in all his waterproof gear as if he was off to the coast to go duck flighting!
By the way, I went wildfowling once with a mate. Splodging around in what resembled nuclear waste was not for me, but I respect the knowledge that goes into that sport. Anyway, that’s another story! I told Edward he could crack on, but I would be staying inside the truck in the dry tonight.
We all got in and drove to the other end of the farm. Once there, Ed was up on top, keen as mustard. I smiled to myself, as I was no different at his age. We started to drive over the first field and in no time Edward tapped on the top to indicate he had spotted something. “What have you seen?” I whispered. “Fox,” came the reply. It was raining steadily now, but I got up on top of the truck and Edward explained that he had just seen a flash of eyes further up the field a bit. “It’s definitely a fox,” he said.
We set off and straightaway the eyes flashed up where he had indicated the fox was, but with two other sets of eyes next to it. “That’s deer,” I muttered. Edward insisted there had definitely been a fox there, but I know how sometimes they look brighter and you think it’s a fox, but really,
‘As the fox was nearing the edge of the field, we shouted to try and get him to stop. As they are about to enter cover, they just can’t resist one last look’
when you do pick up a fox in the lamp, there is no mistaking it.
After a bit of mickey taking – “Fox, my ass, you just wanted me to come up here and get wet” – we all had a chuckle and I got back inside and we carried on. Poor Edward was getting really soaked now, which added to the fun of the evening: “What’s it like up there? Has it stopped yet?” and so on, as he jumped off the truck, drenched through, to open and shut the gates (that’s a job we all get when we are young).
The rain didn’t last that long in all fairness, and after 45 minutes I got back on top of the truck and we started to pan around the ground, with our hopes now raised for seeing something. As with deer stalking, your chances are always quite good after a spell of rain, because when it clears up the deer like to come out from the cover and dry off. I have found this to be true with foxes, so I was keen to go and find some.
Entering one of the main shooting valleys, we picked up a fox a long way off. It turned and ran straight back towards the maize. When you’re lamping you should never just casually have a go – we all miss, but unfortunately this is what makes a fox lamp shy.
Of course, with the NV, if you do miss one lamping you can go back and wait and get your fox, as I have done this year. In the past, getting those foxes meant many evenings sitting up, baiting and snaring as there’s a good chance it won’t sit in the lamp for you again. However, this was to be our last lamping night, so I was willing to take my chances.
As it happened, the fox stopped on the edge, just as it was about to enter the maize. The bullet was already on its way. We heard the strike and the fox leapt up. We drove up but couldn’t see it. I was sure it would be very close inside, but the maize was 6’ tall and soaking wet. I knew Edward would happily go in there and find it but I said I’d come up and find it tomorrow – I know, I am too soft on him!
I do like my .308, which I used on this occasion, but it can ‘pencil’ a bit on foxes. I have a .308 with a Schmidt & Bender scope, and I use 123gr bullets – this is my daytime or lamping set up and is also what I use on deer.
My .243 with the 58gr round delivers more rapid expansion and energy delivery, but that is set up with an NV scope, which is why I wasn’t able to use it in this instance. This does mean that sometimes they take the bullet and do a ‘death run’, even when hit right through the ribs.
The next one we spotted was right on the skyline, taking no notice of us at all. We decided to drive straight at it and see what happened. We got to within 80 yards from him, making it safe to shoot. We pulled up, I took him in the scope, he stopped to the whistle and that’s the easiest fox I have shot this year. It was a dog fox and there were smiles all round as we analysed what had just happened. That fox just had more on his mind than us… killing our partridges I expect.
Returning to the ground where we had started, we covered the ground with the lamp and flashed up another one too far away to shoot. It was making its way across towards another piece of cover, so Joe put his foot down to cut the fox off.
We got as close as we could and as the fox was getting near the edge of the field, we pulled up and shouted to try and get him to stop. It so often happens that, just as they are about to enter cover or leave a field, they just can’t resist one last look and again I shot very quickly. ‘Thud’ came the sound, and down went the fox. This time it was a vixen.
That was three foxes shot and we had not even done half of the shoot yet! The rest of the night was not as successful; we saw three more, two were not safe and the other one disappeared over the boundary and out of sight.
Edward isn’t one to let a little drop of rain stop him from lamping
Deano never lets the weather deter him from going after Mr Fox!