We are looking at record low temperatures here on the East coast; readings of 5 degrees F and wind chills in the minus numbers….BRRRRR, teeth chattering weather. Snow covered by ice, covered by snow has reduced fox hunting to walking out hounds for exercise, and many fox hunters are choosing to spend the balance of the winter in warmer climes. So all of this is bad for fox hunting, behind hounds, BUT it has made for wonderful fox viewing.
The snow cover has forced the foxes to hunt more in the open and are now more visible to passersby. I have seen plenty hunting in fields and hedgerows just off the roadside. I see their tracks criss-crossing snow covered paths in the woods, and smell their musky scent; I know they are out and about. I think that I have seen more foxes since Christmas, and our first real snow fall, than I have all fall….and I have been looking.
Every fox hunting photographer wants that picture, the fox just staring into the camera, ears pricked, eyes focused in their direction, standing still, but ready to run off at any moment – the quintessential fox photograph. It links us to the hunt, but in a very intimate way; no one else in the field gets this point of view…ever. It is as thought the fox has shared this special moment with us, and no one else; a small reward for following, watching, waiting and appreciating all that mother nature has put before us.
So yesterday I reaped that reward, along a roadside, driving to a photography workshop, secretly wishing I was going hunting instead. Turning a bend in the road, I saw what I first thought was a dog rooting around in the snow, but to my surprise it was a lovely red fox. I pulled over, dug out my camera and switched lenses, thinking all the time that he would just run off before I could snap a few. My car window was frozen closed, so I quietly got out of the car, and stepped knee deep into the snow bank and into position. He just stood there, far more interested in whatever was in the snow than me. Turns out he was enjoying a breakfast in the sunshine, a little bit of rabbit which he must have killed earlier and elsewhere, and then cached in the snow for another time, as the snow was clean and white around him. I spent about 8 minutes photographing him, talking to him, whistling at him to get his attention and watching him. At times we were as close as 3 meters! It was an amazing, probably once in a lifetime experience.
The photo above is almost the quintessential fox shot, but not quite; however I chose this one because even a fox carries a lucky rabbit’s foot with him!