There is a new/ old enemy for the black grouse.
All the time I’ve spent worrying about whether or not to shoot rabbits has distracted me from a major new problem.
The fox cubs are up and about, and the next few weeks are a perfect time to get on top of them before they grow wise and wily.
Heading out and about with the lamp recently, I have been deliberately keeping an eye out for crushed bracken or grass where the cubs have been playing, as well as monitoring likely looking rabbit holes and cairns.
On Monday night, I hit jackpot on a stand of heather far over the back of the moor.
Twinkling eyes sparkled in the gloom, but they seemed far too close together to be an adult fox.
Driving closer and closer in my battle bus, I saw that, whatever it was I was looking at was not in the slightest bit worried about my approach.
Then it dawned on me. It was a cub.
Three others emerged from the heather to peer at me, and I had skittled two over with the .243 before any of them knew what was happening.
Usually, the vixen barks as soon as she senses danger to call the cubs back to her side.
The single yap transforms the idle young ones into red laser beams, racing for cover in the thickest undergrowth available to them.
For whatever reason, her warnings only came after the second shot and she left half her litter in the heather.
It is easy to be sentimental about fox cubs, particularly since they seem to be a cross between puppies and kittens, but if the black grouse are going to get up onto the road to recovery, they have to be given a chance.