The Fox Needs To Get Lucky Every Time…

One of my favourite sayings goes ‘The fox needs to get lucky every time, you only need to get lucky once‘. Tonight proved that yet again. At the first farm I called at I saw nothing, in spite of calling for some time. At the second, about a mile or so up the road, I decided to creep about amongst the chicken sheds (free range, organic birds) before using the caller.

I had to be extremely careful moving around because the moon was very bright, and thus I risked being seen by any foxes in the area. Sticking tightly into the shadows though, I found I could get to the end of the first shed relatively easily. From there I just stood and scanned with both the thermal imager and the NV spotter.

After a while, I got a heat signature in amongst a load of reeds. It was hard to make out the shape of the animal as I could only see fleeting glimpses. Since it was moving more like a fox than a rabbit, I quickly got the rifle up on the sticks and pointing in the right direction. Sure enough, a few seconds later Charlie came trotting straight towards the chickens – as he did so, he met a .204 round going the other way, and it was game over.

A few nights ago, a fox dug under one of the sheds and killed masses of birds – we don’t know exactly how many, but it was at least 37 as that was how many carcasses were left behind. Hopefully, the large dog fox I shot tonight was the culprit. I’ve been after it for some time – tonight his luck finally ran out…

Two Nights In A Row With No Shooting…

I’m getting withdrawal symptoms. Last night we were invited over to a friend’s place for a meal – since My Good Lady likes to see me at least once a week, I agreed it was only fair that we went. The food was excellent, I have to say.

Not going out shooting doesn’t come easily to me, but I bore the pain without complaint. Imagine how I felt though when I discovered earlier this evening that we were fogged in again…

Like Nine-Pins

Paul and I went over to a farm about twenty miles from us last night. It was a hectic night, but luckily the fog that was threatening never came to anything. I started things off at about eight o’clock by calling a vixen in from some woods that must have been 500 yards away.

Even though I muted the caller as soon as she came over the hedge about 350 yards away, she just kept running in and it looked as though she’d continue and run right up to me. Fortunately, she was distracted by some kind of exotic fragrance in the hedge, and that give me the chance I was waiting for to drop her. By the time midnight had come and gone we’d racked up a total of nine foxes.

I’m still worn out now!

More Fog

Well, last night was so fogged-out that there was simply no point in my venturing forth, so instead I went to puppy-training classes to see my little boy being put through his paces. Paul was a bit luckier though – he has his own land, so he had a quick wander around before the visibility went completely. We’ve been putting bait out regularly, and probably as a result of this he found and put a bullet in a vixen that was unlucky enough to be foraging early on. At least his hedgehogs will now have a better chance of surviving their winter hibernation!

A Pair of Pairs

After Paul and I visited the chicken farm last night, I was dismayed to hear this morning that the farmer had lost another 37 or so birds at some stage in the night after we left. As a result, we went there first this evening – although until quite late on it looked as though the weather was going to be so bad that we wouldn’t be able to get out. By about 6:00pm though, the radar map was showing a few breaks in the rain clouds, so we arranged to head off.

At the chicken farm, Paul went in and checked the area of moorland where the birds had been killed, while I went a couple of fields further to the rest of the chicken sheds. I saw nothing, but he saw a fox – no shot was possible, however as it was too far out and wouldn’t come in the the caller. The weather was just about bearable – light mizzle was falling continuously, massively reducing the efficiency of the thermal imagers.

We then drove over to the local game shoot where I called in and shot a large dog fox by some woods where the pheasants have been taking a battering. I heard Paul take a shot in the field on the other side of the lane from where I was – it was a large vixen. Once again, he saw another fox but frustratingly, it was also too far out, and ran off when he tried calling it. We then went to the other side  of the estate where Paul shot a large dog which was lying out in amongst some stubble.

Meanwhile, I went into a field on the opposite side of the lane and called in a fox which came around on the wind and crept in before sneakily sticking its head over a rise to see what was going on. I spotted it with the thermal and put a bullet right between its eyes – it was a vixen which, judging by the length of its teeth, was probably one of this year’s young.

By the time we’d got everything back in the truck, the mizzle had turned to light rain and a fog had begun settling, so we called it a night and came home.

Frozen Stiff

We called in at a chicken farm this evening – Paul is off playing skittles in the Farmer’s League later on, so we had an early session. He called in two dog foxes to the vixen on heat call and shot them both. Meanwhile about five hundred yards off to his left I set the caller out under the watchful eye of a roe doe, who was about 30 yards further out in some undergrowth.

I was so cold – in spite of having lots of the right kit on, that when a fox eventually appeared my trigger finger was almost solid, causing me to snatch the shot. I went to look for the carcass – it was only then that the roe doe moved off, but the reeds the fox had been in were waist-height, so it was a futile exercise. The farmer said he’ll put his dog in there tomorrow to see if it was a hit or a miss.

Unusually, I wasn’t sorry to come home early – the combination of wet air and very low temperatures made it feel much, much colder than it actually was. Still, two more on the list makes it 28 foxes in 24 days!

Coldest Night Of The Year So Far

I dropped Paul off at the start of the drive into the farm we were to be shooting on so that he could work his way across to the top side where I was going to park up.

I normally drive into the big field which lies at the top of the valley, but the ground was so muddy that I decided it’d be better to just leave it in the gateway. On getting out of the truck, I immediately realised how cold it was – by far the chilliest of the year so far. My gloves were clearly far too thin for the job, so I switched them for some thick leather ones which fortunately I carry as back-ups.

The field I’d chosen to start in is very complicated, with all sorts of dips and rises. Experience has taught me that the foxes tend to travel along the bottom of the biggest gully, so I set the caller out there and when I was ready ran it on pheasant distress.

About two seconds after I started it a large dog fox came belting  out of the nearby hedge-line, which, for those who are interested, is actually an ancient Celtic boundary. It came in so fast – like a wolf on full charge, that I was worried that it’d reach the caller and scent human before I could get a shot off. Luckily,I managed to mute the call in time, and my quarry paused for the briefest of moments to see where its prey had gone. At that point my ballistic tip hit it hard, and it fell like a stone.

When it was clear that nothing else was going to come in, I picked the caller up and checked the carcass out – it was a massive dog fox, and in all likelihood one that has managed to evade me until now. I could hear Paul’s caller down in the fields below me, so in order to stay out of his way I carried on along the top of the hill. Picking my way carefully across a load of maize stubble, I eventually reached the other side where I could look down into a long hollow.

Apart from a few rabbits though, there was nothing to see. Moving along the fence line, and peering over a rise, I caught a flash of something that looked like it could be fox eyes through the NV spotter. Immediately shutting off the IR laser – to avoid spooking the onlooker, I moved a bit closer for a better look. Unfortunately, having got the rise out of the way, I discovered that the source was a rogue traffic cone in the bottom of the hedge!

Before I could berate myself too much, a fox called about a field away. Since there was no time to waste, I scaled the barbed wire fence and put the caller out. There was no response to either the pheasant distress or the vixen mating call, but when I switched to fox pup distress, a white heat source came barrelling out of a hedge about 200 yards away, and rocketed straight for the caller. Due to the lay of the ground, the mute command wasn’t reaching the caller very well, so I had to press the button about four times before it went quiet.

By then, the fox was halfway up the hill and only about thirty yards from the caller – it wasn’t happy about something though, and turned to leave. It wasn’t quick enough, however, and my bullet hit it fair and square. Another very big dog fox. Realising that Paul would be back at the truck before me, I started trekking back as fast as I could. I spotted him with the thermal imager across on the far hill, and a few seconds later he gave me a quick flash of his torch to say that he’d seen me too.

Whilst looking for him, however, I spotted a fox running away from him – he’d obviously spooked it as he was walking along. It then cut through the line of boundary scrub and came into the field below me. I only had a brief chance to get ready, and when it paused I fired a shot. By the time the smoke had cleared, it was nowhere to be seen.

This is not normally a problem, but in this case there were lots of warm cow pats all over the place – not only did this make it next to impossible to find the carcass with the thermal, but the cattle were getting really edgy about my presence. Since nervous bovines can be a significant threat to life and limb on steep ground in the dark, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and moved on.

By the time I got back to where Paul was waiting, the mist was closing in, so we called it a night and drove home. I’ll have to speak to the farmer in the morning to see if he found a dead fox in with his cattle!

Dog Fox Triple

Paul and I visited two sheep farms on Exmoor this evening. The trip over didn’t look too promising – there was a lot of fog about, and as it’d caused us to pack up early the last time we’d gone there, we were sceptical about our chances. We decided to head straight to the high ground in the hope that it’d still be clear. It was a bit misty when we got there, but just about good enough to hold a calling session.

Before we’d even set up, we spotted two foxes – one off to our left about four hundred yards out, the other above us, two fields away. With the Foxpro caller sited, we tucked ourselves in behind a hedge to shield our silhouettes as the farmyard lights were very bright.

We started with the relatively quiet flying squirrel squeaks in case the foxes had heard the more usual calls before, but they probably couldn’t hear it as they didn’t respond. Within a short time of the chicken distress call running though, both came steaming in. Paul shot the first one, which must have spooked the second as we last saw it about six hundred yards away going over the hill.

On the next farm we split up – he went down the hill and upset a herd of red deer which barked at him for some considerable time. He did manage to attract a fox though, but it was wary and wouldn’t come close enough for a shot. In the meantime, I called in a large dog fox and shot it at about 140 yards. Paul’s fox eventually came to about 160 yards, and when it turned sideways, he shot it (a male).

I then spotted a second fox, but as it was directly downwind of me, I knew there was little chance of getting near it. I tried calling it in, but lost track of it and didn’t see it again. Paul also saw a second fox, but it too disappeared. By then the fog had thickened and it started to rain, so we called it a night. Still – three foxes down in such bad weather was good going by anyone’s standards, so we returned home pleased with our efforts!

A Blank Night

Paul and I visited a farm where we’ve had many foxes in the past. The conditions were ideal – very dark, a light breeze, and cold enough to make our vulpine quarry hungry. He went off to one side of the track which divides the property, while I went off to the other. We both used the callers – he brought in a fox, but it scented human and ran. I saw nothing except a roe deer – as I had to get past it to get to the field I was heading for, I gave it lots of warning clucks so that it wouldn’t be spooked. It took no notice until I was quite close, then ran off barking. Apart from a few rabbits and a flock of sheep, that was all I saw.