The recent dry and dark evenings lend themselves perfectly to lamping. After a succession of round-robin emails during the day between my co-lampers, Nathan and Dave, we settled on that very evening to venture out.
Our friend Will has an arable farm in Westerham, Kent which is still over-run with rabbits so he welcomed our offer. After wolfing down supper at the farm cottage we piled on the woollen layers to protect ourselves from the biting cold outside. By 10pm the temperature had plummeted to below zero, but the night was still and visibility was excellent.
“Determined to make a good job of the task in hand, a rush of adrenaline surged through my body and I became very aware of my heartbeat.”
From the back of Wills Defender pick-up, Dave and Nathan expertly shot more than a dozen rabbits between them before allowing me to take charge of the lamp. By this point all three of us had fallen victim to what Dave calls lampers nose – where the cold night air results in incessant sniffing. Controlling the lamp is hugely rewarding, as the onus of spotting rabbits eyes in the beam falls predominantly to the lamper. Frustratingly, the long grass and young crops meant that many got away unscathed, but we managed to bag a fair few on the open grass of the cattle pasture.
Dave then passed me the .22 rifle for my turn. I cleanly shot four rabbits before Nathan spotted the eyes of a fox in the lamp. Shooting a fox is a huge responsibility, and the boys have never let me have a go before. This outing marked my sixth time lamping, hence my shooting companions felt that I had proved myself worthy of such a quarry. Determined to make a good job of the task in hand, a rush of adrenaline surged through my body and I became very aware of my heartbeat. Oblivious to the freezing night air, all my senses honed in to the line of the lamp. Dave squeaked-up the young fox by scraping a piece of polystyrene on the Land Rovers window, but our quarry was wary of us and kept his distance, often disappearing altogether. The undulating topography of the field made the shot incredibly difficult so I decided to take it from the ground, supported against a five bar gate. After what felt like hours, I eventually spied the fox looking directly at me, crouching in a field of young rape. Knowing that this opportunity would last just a moment I quickly lined up my target and squeezed the trigger.
Two days after my triumph over the fox, I proudly relayed my tale of the fox shooting at a party. Unfortunately I had overlooked the fact that the majority of the guests were part of the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent hunt. I learnt the hard way – my tale of vulpicide did not go down particularly well with the fox-hunters!
For details on the Lamping Code of Practice visit BASC