I saw her as I stood in the silence. I could not hear the sounds of the beat, but she had, and was on the move. A vixen. Deep red vulpes vulpes, and the cold fire in her eyes met mine, before she turned and made her way to another secret place in her country.
It was the first magic moment of a special day in the countryside. We were a gathering of family and friends, meeting on one of the last Saturdays before Christmas. Country people of a common mind. There was some good shooting, a long lunch and plenty of good cheer.
The real beauty was in the Devon landscape around us, and the magic it revealed. First the fox in the valley, a sighting that had the smaller children whispering with excitement and on special alert.
As we drove the larch trees, the sky skittered with woodcock, that curled away from the guns, and zigzagged back to a new home.
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On the bog at the top of the farm it was snipe, flitting away from the line and disappearing into the great grey sky that was heavy with drizzle. "Typical Devon weather," said the grandfather farmer, who was helping some of the younger and older beaters across the wetlands with his quad bike and trailer.
And then to the great wood. Ancient oak and beech on the side of the valley, all the way down to the river. First two lady roe, dancing through the trees and flashing their white bottoms.
And then the crowning glory. A red stag, magnificent, huge and imposing. He trotted past the awe-struck beating line, at one point tripped and stumbled, before carrying his magnificent head away. "At least as big as the Emperor," said the farmer.
It was a special day in the countryside.