The Great Manky Fox Hunt
With a chicken keeper’s haste I grabbed my little .22 rifle, the firearm I am the most comfortable with and most accurate. (Had I stopped to think I would have grabbed the .20 gauge and finished this story in one pellet load) I stepped out on the porch and aimed at the fox's lungs right behind his front legs, and shot. As I pulled the trigger he turned and instead I hit the dead chicken. Feathers exposed and I screamed an expletive that sounded a lot like "What the Fox!" Then I loaded another round in the chamber and must have hit the theif. He dropped the bird and took off into the low brush and bracken around the stream. I pursued with a whoop of triumph.
You need to imagine this scene. A scrappy red fox slinking through the snow-heavy bushes. Me, in breeches and kilt, sporran and felt hat. Not time for a coat, just a wool sweater and rifle in both hands I stalk after him. My eyes dart through the foot-deep snow and brains, and I see his ears pop up over an snowy rose bush and slide back down. This is something out of a cartoon, I thought. He is gone before I can try another shot.
And so I crossed the cold stream that divides us, my rubber boots making me feel immune to the challenge. I ran through briars on the other side, the canvas of my kilt fine armor for the task. Gibson barked from the house. Annie slept.
I followed him, taking a shot again and was nearly certain this time I hit him. I saw his head and body duck. He ran off across the street and into the think brush of the neighbors 200+ acre property. I set down my rifle and walked out into the road, and saw his clever footprints next to mine. There was no sign of bloodtrail. He was long gone, or under thick brush. I let out a frustrated sigh. The fox was dead, dying, or scared off and most likely the last of those options.
He would be back and if I didn’t get him once or twice a day a chicken would disappear from this farm and those splendid eggs would be just a photograph. I’d also need to start all over with new birds, an expense and time suck I wasn’t wiling to give up for a fox. For a coyote, sure—the song dogs are welcome on this property—but not a fox. I walked back to the scene of the crime and followed the feathers and prints to the dead rooster. One less crow welcomes the dawn.
The roo was in bad shape, so instead of dressage him for the crock pot I tied him with a piece of twine to the same tree I saw him being killed at. I buried the twine in the snow and left it there, tethered in place as bait for return of the fox. My hope is his strungle with the tied foot gives Gibson enough time to sound the alarm again and me to take aim with the right gun. My .20 gauge is right by the glass doors now. Lesson learned.
Hopefully I'll get him or already did, and if that sounds unkind then you either don't raise chickens or can afford to buy all the free-ranged eggs and chicken dinners you'd like. Things are tight here, and the chickens are my livestock and therefore in my care. It's my responsibility to them to thwart whatever predators I can, so they can raise more chicks and keep the breeds and chicken story alive here at Cold Antler Farm. Plus, I always wanted a fox head on my wall. I wonder if taxidermy is a skill worth learning for extra income? (This is how I think now...)
Hopefully the hunt ends soon!