In the October issue was an article I had written about how an old dog caught a fox and that it was only because he was too old and too slow that I managed to witness most of the hunt. In the past this dog has been a demon fox slayer but sometimes the only thing I saw of the hunt was when he had disappeared and I later heard him barking. I would follow the sound and come upon him ragging a carcass so to see one of his hunts from start to finish was brilliant. He has always barked at things he has killed even bumblebees.
In the article I stated categorically that he was unlikely to catch any more because of his advanced age but now I will have to say sorry to him because he has had a new lease of life. He used to be so deadly on the deer that Ali refused to take him out unless he was on a lead but he cannot catch them any more; thankfully he really is too slow for them now.
Foxes are a different matter.
In the past five weeks this tenacious old bastard has caught five more foxes on his own and two more when running with his daughter. He found his five by himself, hunted them himself, first by scent then by sight and caught them himself. He did this in cover and in the open. His daughter is much faster than him but not as canny yet. Nevertheless she has hunted and caught two entirely on her own and is still young, relatively inexperienced and can only improve.
Even allowing for the large number of foxes here, all have been caught within a mile of the house, well within striking distance of our free range ducks and hens. Five were this years foxes and three were foxes in their prime and one was an old vixen. September and October foxes are almost indistinguishable from the foxes of previous years so a worthy quarry for a lurcher especially lurchers the size of mine.
Readers may wonder why I haven’t been taking my Teckels out with the lurchers. At the moment I have two young Teckels that will follow the lurchers and can cover the ground more swiftly than me. I do not want them to get to a fox while the lurchers have hold of it. If that does happen serious injuries can occur. The violent shaking of a fox by a lurcher with the fox hanging on to a small dog’s face can inflict nasty tearing bites and may put young some dogs off. With very young pups it is not so much of a problem because pups that young don’t tend to stray far from my side and I can reach the fox before they do. Toby, a 14 week old Teckel, at first had little interest in the body but what it doesn’t show is him a minute later sitting on top of the fox and growling at Archie!
In Scotland you are supposed to carry a gun if you are using a mammal to hunt another mammal. What about when you are simply taking your lurcher for some free-running exercise and have no intention of setting it on foxes, hares, rabbits, deer, mice, rats or any other mammal and aren’t permitted to carry a gun on that particular piece of land? What are you to do if the dog takes off? I now carry a camera most days and would be cluttered up if I carried a gun as well. What’s more the land where every one of those foxes was caught is land where I have permission to walk and take my dogs but cannot carry a gun. This ground is lousy with foxes and I am damned if I am going to curtail my dogs’ free-running exercise just because of that. When I’m crocked up my wife takes the dogs out and twice now the old dog has done what he thinks was his duty when he was with her.
Archie never was a fast dog and even in his youth he only ever caught half a dozen hares that I remember but he somehow managed to catch more than his fair share of deer. He was a good ferreting dog, maybe still would be if there were sufficient rabbits to warrant taking him. As a lamping dog he was good if not exceptional but could pick squatters up as well as any. His retrieving is crap. He’ll bring it a few yards then drop it.
He is a small 22” Whippet/ Bedlington that about five years ago came to me from a man who had become ill. He had asked wee Davy Clark from Glasgow to seek a good working home for him. Through the auspices of the magazine I had asked if anyone would sell me a top notch rabbiting dog and had just bought Nellie, a Whippet/ Greyhound/Bedlington from Neill Forest, Essex and she was as good a rabbiting dog as I had ever seen. A few days after I’d bought her Davy offered me Archie (previous name Charlie) for nothing. There was a genuine reason for this offer but I didn’t want a second lurcher. However I was persuaded by Davy to at least see the dog so with my bronchial tubes rattling and against my wife’s advice I set off. I had gone only thirty miles when the fog came down and I decided to turn back. I carried on for a bit because I couldn’t find anywhere to turn round when suddenly the fog lifted so I continued my journey. To cut a long story short Archie’s previous owner was in very poor health and the man who was keeping him temporarily wanted room so just because he was the spit of Nellie and I liked the dog instantly, I took him home without any trial.
I’m one of these silly people who do look a gift horse in the mouth so, in spite of my dear wife falling instantly in love with this rough coated, mad-eyed mutt, I told her he would get a fair trial and if he was no good I would pass him on or put him down.
I don’t go now but then I did go lamping and after we’d had him a fortnight a suitable night occurred so I took him out. He had half a dozen runs and missed only one rabbit. When I got home after only half an hour Ali was surprised at my early return and I told her I’d come home early because he was useless and had to go. To say she was disappointed is an understatement so I quickly told her the truth and that, as they say is that. It just shows that a series of circumstances, the fog , poor health, just bought a similar dog and so on should have put me off having the dog but didn’t – sometimes things do work out for the best.
How has he got so clever at catching foxes? My theory is that being a dog that thrives on work he has to be hunting something. There are so few rabbits here and hares are far too difficult for him and he’s now too slow for the roe so he plumps for the slower animal – the fox. They may bite back but he has honed his skills on our red friends and has become the most lethal dog to a fox I have ever seen. I have to reluctantly include my long departed Maggie The Cat, a fearsome fox slayer and Big Mickey, a huge dog that made fox catching look easy in my comparison. Archie will lift his head, quest the wind then travel maybe two or three hundred yards until he comes to his fox and by then it’s invariably too late for the fox. Alternatively he will hunt the reed beds diligently and if he disturbs a fox he will settle on the line until he has it in view and again it is curtains.
Does he get bitten? Oh yes. Does he squeal? Oh yes. Does he let go? Yes, but only in order to take a better hold.
I have never caught so many foxes in such a short period using just lurchers and this morning he caught yet another fox in full view of the house and that prompted me to write this second article.
I said in my first article he was now too slow to catch foxes regularly so in view of his resurgence I really ought to apologise to the old bastard. He is the softest dog with people and now even allows very young puppies to pull him about but dislikes strange adult dogs that threaten him and if they do he doesn’t hold back. Like me he is getting on and it’s only a matter of time before he really will become too old to catch anything. When that happens he will be the only exception I’ve ever made and he’ll have a place by the fire. For now we will stagger about and enjoy what other, more youthful exponents of our game can do and occasionally we will still do something memorable ourselves