September again, it sure is good to feel a little cold wind and to see the nights getting darker earlier as each day goes by. I like to start lamping early and as soon as September rolls around I usually hit the ground with the Lurchers, or this season that will be Lurcher. My pups won’t see anything until after Christmas and even then it will only be a few runs to let them see what it’s all about, until then I will do some ferreting with them as I don’t think you can start a Lurcher ferreting too early, but then maybe that’s just me.
This year has been no different and I couldn’t wait to get out as soon as August drew to a close. One Friday afternoon, a few weeks back, the wind was getting up and it was reasonably cool so I decided it was time to go and I charged the battery and gave Fudge a light feed before ringing my mate Liam to see if he fancied going along for the spin. I have permission far away as well as permission close to home and early season I travel as far as needs be, and as the weather gets colder, frostier and icier I have covered all the far away ground and usually have no need to travel so far if I don’t need to by the time the weather is at its worst. Liam was up for a spot of lamping and we agreed a time and I got my stuff together. Eight o’clock arrived and Liam pulled into my street, jumped into my van and within an hour and a half we were on some ground I hadn’t been on since the end of last season. It’s close to the town and has a factory on the edge of it, so it’s a little too well lit up at night and we usually reserve this for the daytime action with the Teckel! We had a quick spin through and bagged a couple of rabbits before heading on to some other ground further out into the sticks where it was a little windier and a little darker.
This spot was at one time lifting with rabbits, I used to lamp and ferret it regular and then for whatever reason it sort of faded away. As new spots come up we forget about old ones and sometimes they slip off the radar. I drove down the old track and parked up the van before taking the bitch from the back, throwing the lamp cord around my neck and getting a move on to see what was about. After a few minutes it seemed that there was a reason I hadn’t been here in a while… the rabbits were few and far between, and any that were there were off like a rocket as soon as the lamp hit them! The little bitch had her work cut out as the endless warrens were still there but now home to a lot less rabbits and it seemed before she got into second gear they were down the nearest hole!
We walked up, down and around it and only managed a measly four rabbits before I decided to move to better ground and hopefully get some more action. The night was early and the wind was building so there was plenty to come yet. We got back to the van and decided on a little “road siding” in the hope of a fox or two but after checking field after field our luck was not in at all until I swung by a field that occasionally holds a fox or two and tonight was to be no different.
I scanned the field from the bottom and spotted a fox to the top which was a good distance up, so we took the road, knocked the ignition off near the top and free wheeled the van towards the gate. I got out, got the bitch on the slip and as Liam called I made my way down the field, the wind in my face. A quick flick of the lamp revealed two big cubs sitting well out but not keen on coming to the call. With that the bitch spotted the eyes and reversed out of her collar which was too loose and took off down the field. I cursed under my breath and flicked on the lamp as Liam continued to squeak and the foxes stood by. Now she was a 100 yards out and the first fox took off. My eyes could make out a ginger blob, the bitch closing in tight behind, up and down and back up they went until the ginger blob slipped through a fence into where I know is a large deep drain behind some quite high wire. I swung the lamp right and a pair of eyes remained where they had been. The bitch began to trot back in the exact direction of the second fox when it too took off, she dropped a gear and just as the first one had it went up and down and back up and I can’t be totally sure but I would say through the same break as the first.
I cursed under my breath again. If she hadn’t reversed out of her collar we could have been in for chance, but we can’t win them all, what a crap night it had been, and even worse in the excitement of it all I had lost the slip that Jimmy had made for me from a bit of leather that I’d had for years. We searched up and down the stubble field but it was as far gone as the two foxes!
We hopped back in the van and I apologised to Liam for a poor night’s hunting. It’s always the nights you take someone along that are crap!
We decided to try a spot at the bottom of the road and see if there was anything going. This area is hard for foxes, I don’t deny anyone their sport but there are a few rifle lads who hammer the area constantly, they have no season and shoot three nights a week, all year round with night vision scopes, and if they shoot a fox they just mark it down and drive on. Not something I do or will ever understand, to be honest. I wish they would find a different hobby as they aren’t and never will be hunting men. Why anyone would spend so much money on a gun and all the bells and whistles and night vision nonsense to go with it and then burn 60 quid of diesel to shoot something in the black dark, leave it there and drive off and do the same thing again all while counting numbers is beyond me!
Anyway, we arrived at the bottom of the road, I rolled into the lane on the field with the lights off, took out the lurcher and knocked on the beam to reveal a pair of amber eyes between two round bales about 100 yards out. With the wind in my face I set off and Liam called behind me ever so softly. I flicked the lamp on and off and the eyes were coming closer. I took a few more steps, got behind a bail and again the eyes were closer. It was looking good. I took the slip off the bitch in the dark and put my hand on her collar and flicked the lamp, the fox was now trotting in. I hissed in her ear and the collar tightened tenfold! I let her go, and waited what seemed like an eternity before flicking the lamp on. As I did so both predator and prey had almost connected and the fox took off at full speed. I lost both through the bales, then they came back round and before I knew what was happening the fox cleared the fence to the left and was gone. The bitch came behind, looked like she was going to jump with her paws on the wire and then stopped. I was disgusted. Why had she pulled up? Jacked? Spewed? Why not jump the wire like she had one hundred times before? I kept the light on and walked towards her. Liam came behind and I asked him if had he seen what happened, and I said it was strange that she had not jumped. He agreed and to be honest I was annoyed. I got to the wire and had a look, there was a stream about 6 foot wide behind it, there was no way the fox jumped that I said as there was a massive dry stone wall on the other side with next to nothing to land on, the fox wouldn’t have had a chance. Liam asked me to shine the lamp into the stream, the water was still but the mud was stirred up just where we were standing.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I don’t know, it would be hard to imagine he crossed that.” and with that the wire twanged below us.
I swung the lamp right to find the bitch tensed up, staring at the fence. I walked down and looked through the wire and saw nothing but goose grass, then she struck at the fence again and a loud hiss was the response! I poked in through fence and drew back the goose grass to see a large clump of ginger fur… and a bright set of eyes. I reached for a stick and poked it through the fence and a large, very unhealthy and mangy looking fox sprung through the wire and back into the field! Before I knew it the Lurcher had taken hold of the situation and it was very quickly settled. It was nice for her after the earlier disappointments of the night and great for Liam to see her working at her best. We made for the van and decided to do another few spots before making for home. We were again closer to the town and further from the coast so it was less windy and a lot brighter and aside from a few rabbits there was little to report. We headed home with half a dozen rabbits and a fox to the tally, and although by no means a brilliant night, it was enjoyable to be back out again.
The following evening, I was exercising the dogs locally and had done a few miles on the river and then across the estuary where they always get absolutely stinking with that estuary mud, so I decided to take them through a field which had longish grass and was usually wet to clean them off. The young bitch Bella had missed a day’s exercise and was very pumped up and as she entered the field took off as hard as she could go to the bottom, turned very hard to come back and as she did so let a yelp like a banshee, and returned carrying her rear leg. After a day or two the swelling had increased so I called a greyhound vet I use who is about two hours from me. I find it little use taking a running dog to my local pet vet with this sort of injury as my previous experience has shown that they really are not cut out for this type of thing and it is best to cut to the chase and seek the advice of an expert who, unfortunately, on this occasion was off on holiday which meant it was “Pet vet” time!
Not only has this previously resulted in a wrong diagnosis but can be a very costly affair all things considered, the expertise of my greyhound vet has never been expensive and always invaluable. As it turned out the hock was not broken but perhaps worse it was tendon damage and only time will tell how it fairs out. The bitch is barely 6 months so assuming “Pet Vet” is correct and she has youth on her side, all will be well.
I have all those pre-season odd jobs out the way now as I finish this article. The floodlight in the yard replaced, handy for arriving home late from lamping. The dogs’ kennel door panels that they chewed through the summer have been replaced. I have done one last scrub down in the yard and moved the ferret hutch to the other side of the yard out of the wind and into the light where I can see it at night. I have loaded the van with my long nets, purse nets, spades and first aid kit for the dogs, spare water, lamp bulbs and such.
I have now also picked up the Teckel pup I booked some months ago. I almost forgot to collect! He came from a very genuine man who works his Teckels hard in the very far south of Ireland. I drove there and back in one swoop last week, taking a little over 17 hours. I am heading back down to him for a day’s hunting in a couple of months time. Maybe by that time I will have something a little more exciting to write about. I think like the rest of us I am just glad to be getting back to it.
Have a good and injury free season.