Having failed to get to grips with a fox that had killed a goose and a whole coop of Pekin bantams at a farm about five miles away, I went back for another try. I loaded my newly-built fox cage trap – ready baited with a pigeon carcass, into the truck and set off. On the way over, I stopped at another farm and checked two fields where the lambs had suffered recent fox attacks, but saw nothing. On arriving at the main destination, I found that the dead goose we’d left staked out hadn’t been touched, so I was less hopeful of a result than I’d been on the way over.
This was the crime scene; as you can see, it’s a pretty bleak situation.
Anyway – I put the trap out, and then sprayed it with diluted vixen urine, in the hope that this would help draw an inquisitive fox in. After that, I slung my rifle over my shoulder and set off on my travels. I sploshed my way around several fields, doing my best to avoid going anywhere near routes that the problem fox might use to get to the poultry paddock. Having only seen a few sheep, I tried the Foxpro – both on distressed prey sounds and vixen calls. When my feet started to get too cold (I use Sealskinz over military arctic socks, so it takes quite a while) and nothing had showed, I gave up and went back on the prowl, scanning every few yards with both the NV mono and the mini-thermal.
The area I had to cross to get back to the truck is composed of rough moorland – the mixture of snow, bog, and deep mud made the going both noisy and hard. I was therefore glad to make it over the gate and into the shelter of the yard. Just as I did so, however, I heard a fox calling back up on the moor. It sounded as though it was miles off, so I didn’t get too excited – but when I heard it again, I thought I’d investigate all the same. Much to my surprise, the fox was only about 150 yards away – I know it was the same one, because it called again while I was watching it. In a frantic blur, I got the sticks up and the rifle in place. I’m sure the fox didn’t know I was there – it was a long way upwind, and I had good background cover, but more or less as I got the rifle up, it started running towards the hedge.
Just as I thought I was going to lose it for a second night in a row, it suddenly reached my scent trail and stopped dead in its tracks – before it had a chance to do anything more than look back over its shoulder, a Sierra Blitzking smacked it hard, and its brief pause was made permanent. I didn’t mind having to repeat the slog up the hill in spite of having to fight my way through the bog again – I counted the distance as 167 paces. The carcass was that of a fairly large dog fox – whether it was the one responsible for the killing spree I couldn’t tell. The farmer was delighted – both at my persistence and at the result, which is always good to see!
I had a quiet sense of satisfaction as I drove home, although I had to really pay attention to the road as there was a significant risk of black ice. I’d left all my kit on as I was intending to check the same lambs as I’d done on my way out. The first field is a bit of a swine as the lane is very narrow, and there’s barely any room by the gateway to pull in. Still – there’s hardly ever any traffic, so I wasn’t too worried. I got the Disco as far over as I could and climbed out. Looking to my right back towards the farm buildings, I could see a couple of ewes in the nursery paddock, but nothing else. I then scanned across the yard, which was some 200 yards from me, and out to where the main flock was located. Still nothing. Dropping the mono slightly to look into the field next to me, however, I suddenly saw the back end of a fox heading away from me and directly towards the lambs.
I grabbed my rifle – no time for sticks, and rested it on the gate. But by then the fox was already in the hedge – and as it disappeared into cover, just my luck – a car came up the road. Fortunately, it managed to squeeze past, but in doing so it lit me and the truck up for all the world to see. Curses! I switched back and forth between the mono and the thermal, but no matter how hard I looked, there was no sign of the fox. I decided to try the mouth caller to see if I could encourage it to look in my direction so that I could get a flash of eyes as a clue to where it was hiding, but no, nothing doing.
In the end, I figured that my best option was to wait it out – it’d have to move sooner or later, and if it did, the thermal would show me where it was. About five minutes later, I spotted a white heat source back where the fox had first disappeared, so got the rifle up and the NV scope switched on – sure enough, the fox had come out of the hedge and was now looking back over its shoulder straight at me. Big mistake. I aimed between its eyes and sent another Sierra Blitzking on its way – a loud pop told me that I’d got a second good hit for the night.
Again, I counted out the distance as I walked. This time it was 165 paces, but since it was an open field as opposed to rough moorland, my steps were longer, so the range was probably much the same as the earlier one. I carried the carcass – another dog fox, back to the gate where I weighed it at 17 1/2 lbs. The bullet had hit it in the head, with the resulting hydraulic shock bulging it outwards, grotesquely distorting its skull and eyes. It wasn’t the biggest fox in the world, but it was still twice the size of the one I’d shot in the same field a few days before. I know that because I put the two carcasses together and photographed them. Since the farmer hates having his lambs attacked by foxes, I knew he’d be delighted, so all in all, it was a good night’s work!