Following my recent ‘Kill They Oounts’ post, and in answer to questions regarding Ted’s fox catching prowess:
Ted trapped foxes and many other animals, but I think he believed a live fox to be of greater value than a dead one. Ted made a living exploiting his countryside skills. However, to survive he found it necessary to seed and cultivate his local hunting grounds.
Ted asked me to give him a hand during the winter of 1970. I remember the weather being very cold, with deep snow on the ground. I arrived at the Crown Inn, Pantygelli, early on a Sunday morning, just as dawn was breaking. Ted waited in an old canvas roofed Land Rover 80 fitted with snow chains fitted.
Leaving the Crown, Ted drove seventy metres up the Old Hereford Road before turning left to slip-slide his way along a narrow country lane towards Forest Coal Pit. The weather conditions were atrocious. In my humble opinion, the 65-year-old Ted was neither a cautious nor competent driver in snow. In fact, I believed his grip on sanity to be tenuous at best, and I worried about his lack of motor insurance. Our outward journey was cold, windy and generally unpleasant; if the Landi had a heater, it was next to useless. On a number of occasions I jumped out to clear snow and ice from the wheel arches and from the road in front of us, with an inadequate army surplus folding shovel. After passing through Forest Coal Pit, I remember little; I think I had my head buried deep in my Dennison Smock. We eventually arrived at a house on the side of a hill. I was wet, cold, and generally uncomfortable. Snow was falling heavily.
Ted informed me, as we walked through a field gate, that we were going to trap a fox. ” “We’m agwain faxin!” he said “They faxes be comin’ down thar hill atekin thar chooks!” I pulled a woven hazel basket trap from the Landi and slung it over my shoulder. Ted had his lidded wicker basket slung across his shoulders, and carried the shovel and a witches broom.
We soon arrived at a large chicken coop. Dai Mole quickly set about his work with the enthusiasm and measured efficiency of someone who knows exactly what they are doing.
The woven hazel basket trap was around 5 foot long by 2 foot square. One end was woven closed and the other had a weighted swing-down door attached to its roof. After quickly clearing snow from under a bush at the rear of the chicken coupe, Ted removed a chicken carcass from his basket and hung it on baler twin from the roof at the far end of the trap. He ran the baler twine from the chicken carcass, up through the roof and a metal plate with 1/4″ holed drilled through it, and tied a small metal ring to the loose end. Next, Ted lifted the trap door to around 30 degrees above the horizontal and connected it with wire to the roof mounted trigger plate. With the bait and door hooked up to the trigger, Dai Mole poked a thin metal rod through the roof and pushed the chicken carcass downwards. The trigger operated and the weighted trapdoor swung silently around its hinges and snapped shut with a satisfyingly solid thump.
“Now to flummox wily fax,” said Dai Mole with a wry smile. “They faxes ain’t a foolin’ ol’ Ted,” he muttered. Ted reset the trap and pushed it under the bush with the raised trapdoor clear of any branches. He mooched off and collected a sack full of leaf mould from under a nearby bush and spread it over the floor of the trap, rubbing it as far as he could reach on its inner surfaces. He brushed the snow around the area with his witches broom. “Afore long here be covered with fresh snow,” he whispered. We collected the equipment and walked back to the Landi, with Ted brushing away our footprints as we went.
The long and short of this story is that the coop owner checked the trap daily through binoculars. He had been warned not to approach the trap unless it had been sprung. Three days later, Ted released a trapped fox four miles away on the slopes of the Big Skirrid – or Holy Mountain as it’s also known, because this was where the Devil landed after he was thrown from heaven. I have no doubt that Ted released the fox close to another chicken coup whose owner he knew would be needing his services before too long.
I have read and been told many times that cage traps are not an effective way of catching foxes. Well, they are it you know what you are doing. It’s not much good setting-up a wire mesh trap freshly purchased from Amazon: a fox won’t go anywhere near it. However, if you leave it set-up in the foxes territory for a few weeks, it will weather and the fox will eventually get used to it. This is the time to bait the trap. Ted didn’t have such problems, for he was a true expert in his own field.
Ted, aka Dai Mole, might no longer be with us, but he is certainly not forgotten.