There is a big old wood near where I live, not far at all. I used to walk to it before the houses were built en route, but now I put the dogs in the van and take the longer way round the road. It still only takes a few minutes but it is a nuisance. It seems to me that the recession did little to curb building as the countryside, especially around here, is getting eaten up at a rate of knots and every so often we lose another little spot. Over the last few years we have lost pieces of ground here and there due to construction and I always wonder where it will end. The housing planners make a green belt to stop building and then shift it due to a “Housing Crisis”. The only housing crisis I see is there are far too many!
It was late February or early March this year and I decided to take the dogs for a run in the wood to stretch their legs and see what was about. It’s a great old place, off the beaten track for nuisance dog walkers so we never see anyone else. The sun was creeping in through the trees and it was the first real warm and dry day in a while. I took my jacket off and tied it around my waist as it began to get quite warm after a bit. Now this wood isn’t particularly exciting for the dogs and holds nothing special. No squirrels, no rabbits, nothing really; I have seen foxes on the outside, but never inside.
I mooched along, with my two lurchers and teckel. After a few minutes I noticed that the small lurcher had been gone for a while and decided that when I reached the boundary fence I would wait on her to catch up. The teckel then suddenly became excited and began to run back and forth looking like he was trying to get a scent, and by now the bigger lurcher had also gone off. I decided to stop and the teckel took off yapping up ahead into the distance. He sometimes yaps when he tries to keep up with the lurchers so I paid no mind to him and leaned against a tree and squinted my way through the branches to catch a glimpse of the view below.
It had been a few minutes at a guess since the bigger lurcher and teckel raced on ahead so I got up and decided to make my way to the boundary fence. As I did so I heard a commotion coming through the wood; at first I thought it was a flock of sheep or a couple of cows the teckel had stirred up. The rumbling and twig snapping drew closer and I could make out an attempt of baying following behind. The two lurchers came through a clearing on the right and quite a large red hind was coming up the middle in front of them, with two more running behind, who stopped and ran back. The entire entourage drew level with me and the deer stopped in its tracks, dropped its head and ran straight at me. The teckel rushed under it, running round its feet and in below, yapping and whining at it. It was then that I noticed a calf out behind us. The small lurcher stayed well back and the largest decided to make an attempt and got knocked off her feet while the teckel persisted in being a nuisance. The first lesson wasn’t enough for the lurcher and she received a second kick and then a running head butt for her troubles, which knocked her over, she was simply not cut out for this job and she well and truly jacked!
The teckel at this stage was becoming a complete pain in the arse for the deer who got him with a nice kick which landed him between two trees and then decided to make a run for it and took off in the direction of the calf, with the teckel still yapping tight behind!
All the calling in the world wouldn’t stop him, so I leashed up the lurchers (should that say jackers!) to a tree to keep them out of harm’s way while I attempted to retrieve the teckel. My attempt was in vain as both he and the hind had gone over the boundary fence and were now long gone. I could hear the yapping in the distance but the wood is so large with so much cover it was pointless going after him. I just hoped that he would have the brains to keep out of the way because if he got a kick like the lurcher, he wouldn’t be around for a second one.
I waited and waited… and waited. Eventually, after 45 minutes had passed I decided to head back to the van, take the lurchers home and come back on my own. Within ten minutes I was back and parked up at the usual spot. I re entered the wood and walked the length and breadth of it but found no teckel. At this stage I assumed he had got the brunt of a protective hind and paid the ultimate price, so after nearly two hours I made my way back to the van. As I approached I noticed something sitting under the tow bar and looked under to discover the teckel looking a bit worse for wear with a large gash on his forehead and covered in goosegrass! Other than that he seemed in good spirits and I loaded him in and made for home. I cleaned him up and he was as right as rain; the gash was nothing to worry about; whether he had got a kick or hit, I wasn’t sure.
A day or so later we were back out again. Bypassing the wood this time to avoid any further trouble, we made for a small farm a few miles up the road where I have permission, just to give them some exercise. It has always been a great place for foxes and I have had some excellent sport on it over the years. A few years ago when a friend of mine visited with a litter mate of my pup and their sire, we put up three foxes from the small fields at the bottom end of the farm early one morning, and then another on our return home that evening, caught by his pup. My lurcher bitch also caught and killed her first there under the lamp one freezing, black November night a few years ago, and has gone on to catch a few more here too.
Today hunting was far from my mind though, all I wanted to do was give the dogs a good run out, stretch their legs and give the teckel enough to settle him for the evening. I stop lamping in January, and usually carry on with a bit of ferreting and raking with the dogs through February, but after that it’s pretty much over for me so today was just a walk.
There is a very small strip of cover along the bottom field, maybe 50 yards long, and I decided to go in that direction and have a walk through it. The teckel didn’t seem himself today and tagged along at my heel for most of the way. As we approached the wood the lurcher slipped off, raking through the reeds and then stopped at a puddle to drink. I walked on through the cover and it was easy walking as some cows or sheep had made a muddy path through it. About half way through I noticed something in the corner of my eye, a red / ginger flash. Could it be? The teckel paid no mind at first but then eventually began to scent. He rushed ahead of me and in the distance I heard a loud yip. fox! That loud yip ment two things; the lurcher had either seen it, coursed it and it had got away, or she had caught it and got a bite for her trouble. I got to the far side of the cover and expected her to come running towards me with her tongue out, or her with old ginger on the deck. I saw no sign of either. I walked on a few more yards and to my right, in a small clearing, I saw her standing over something… I knew exactly what it was. I walked up and the vixen was stretched out and appeared “dead”. I got the camera, took a few shots and congratulated the lurcher while doing so. As I stood up, the dog turned towards me and the fox got up and ran. The lurcher gave chase, and the pair ended up in a briar hedge. The lurcher caught the fox on its back end as it was the only place she could and the fox swung round and got her by the muzzle! Did she scream? You bet she screamed, but neither of the two would give up first. The teckel appeared from nowhere baying like a bloodhound and the fox let go, the lurcher got a better grip and it was all over, there would be no more “pretending to be dead”.
I had to give it to the vixen though, it was a great move and if she had gone another few feet she would have lived to see another day. It wasn’t until I got my photo’s up on the computer that I saw the fox watching the dog the entire time and if you look closely at the attached photo you will see what I mean. The second the dog turned its back, the fox ran. Meanwhile, the lurcher was looking and feeling very sorry for herself while the teckel was giving the fox a shake and pretending he would have done the same. I must be honest, my lurcher is not a fox dog. She will course, catch and kill a fox, but there have been times like the one I have just described where she didn’t do what a fox dog would do, and there have been times when she did. I was pleased all the same though. It made a change from a dull spring walk and stirring up red hinds in the woods. Have a good winter.