I am sure there are those who read articles in magazines devoted to shooting who get the impression that those who write the articles seldom (if ever) fail to bring down the quarry species.
Clearly we have the advantage of being able to use the latest top-quality equipment – rifles, scopes, binoculars, callers, night vision – and people don’t want to hear a litany of failure.
However, let me assure readers that we ‘experts’ do get things wrong – or more accurately, the quarry we are after doesn’t cooperate as it should at times.
A lady from the village next to mine called in a bit of a state to say they were off to Italy on holiday and had just looked out the window to see a fox killing one of the hens.
Her husband, who has a shotgun, had packed all his cartridges away and there was no time to get the gun and ammo out as they had to leave straight away. Was I able to help, please?
There is a bit of history here. About seven years ago the same person asked me to get rid of the foxes that were plaguing her poultry. I had some success but as it was a small area – two and a half acres in not the easiest situation.
It took quite a few visits before the problem was sorted. During my time there I learned that the main reason foxes were visiting so regularly was that a friend who ran a sandwich bar gave the good lady leftover sandwiches.
These goodies were used not only to feed her poultry but also to feed badgers that she loved to watch.
Of course, the local foxes soon homed in on the cheese and pickle snacks and, after polishing off these as a starter, turned their attention to the main course.
As she wasn’t going to stop feeding the badgers, I advised her husband to get a box of BBs, install a security light with the PIR sensor placed quite low facing in the direction of the paddock, and shoot the foxes from the bedroom window with his 12-bore.
They quickly get used to the security lights as so many buildings now have them. He did this with considerable success, and after that was able to keep the matter under control.
However, the imminent holiday meant that the poultry would be unprotected during the day and the elderly lady who was house sitting could do nothing to help. Neither could the local chap who let them out in the morning and shut them in last thing, so it was over to me.
The next day, the house sitter rang to say the fox had been there and that she had chased it off with a broom – clearly not a permanent solution. I promised to be there that afternoon and wait until dark.
A recce of the site showed where something had been travelling. By the look of it, both fox and badger were using the run that entered the middle paddock from the adjoining field.
This little paddock had a couple of miniature ponies and a large brown goat grazing it. I found a spot to tuck myself away in and prepared to wait.
I was using my expensive Anschütz 17/10 .22LR rifle (ideal in these close situations), my expensive rangefinder and was dressed in my expensive camo gear.
So with all my expertise and all my expensive gear, I knew it wouldn’t take long to sort out the predator, right? Wrong.
For a start, the goat didn’t help. I saw the fox crossing the adjoining field using the run I had spotted earlier. It would soon have the job done. Wrong again.
As those who pit their wits against this animal know, they don’t normally come charging into a field: they approach with stealth and this one was no exception.
So far so good, and I was about to chalk up yet another resounding success when the wretched goat took charge. Clearly he didn’t like foxes and, despite his own fairly pungent brand of deodorant, could smell the fox on the other side of the hedge.
I saw the fox worming its way through the brambles but before it could emerge into the field the goat was there, eyeballing it from close range.
The fox backed off, reversed into the next field and tried again further up the hedge with exactly the same result. After this, it gave up and disappeared.
I went over the next day in the late afternoon and was pleased to see that the goat had been moved into the next little paddock. Settling down again with the same expensive gear, I waited, ready for action.
The sun was dropping lower in the sky and for a quarter of an hour I had to endure its full glare in my eyes.
You’ve guessed it: the fox took it upon itself to arrive in that quarter of an hour window. I tried to see it through the scope but it was impossible because of glare.
The fox entered the field and headed towards the poultry. I tried to change my position but with the sun on me, and undoubtedly the reflection off the rifle, I was spotted and in a flash it was gone.
Another dismal failure. I returned that night with even more expensive gear, this time the night vision. Apart from a couple of badgers clearly on the hunt for their chicken and mayo sarnies, I saw nothing. Three visits, no fox.
On the day before the couple were due to return from holiday, I decided to give my foxing mission one more attempt. I arrived at noon, a time I find foxes are active during the summer, and set up once more.
After three hours of watching chickens and the goat, I was suddenly aware of blackbirds ‘pipping’ in the field behind me.
This is the typical alarm call used by these observant birds when a fox is on the move. Slowly it came closer, but behind me and in the next field.
For 10 minutes I strained to see where the predator was. Closer and closer it came until the attendant blackbird was literally a few feet from me.
Straining every one of my ancient muscles, I stretched up to where I could see through a gap into the field.
There it was: not the fox, but a cat. The blackbird uses exactly the same call for both.
All this had taken some time and by now I’d had enough. Disappointed, I turned round to pick up my gear. Unfortunately, this was just in time to see a brush disappear through the hedge opposite.
With no goat and no sun to impede my view, I had been waiting for a fox that turned out to be a cat while the very one I was after had come into the field right in front of me. It would’ve offered the perfect shot, if only I had been looking.
The people returned the next day and phoned to say that within an hour of their return the fox appeared and took a chicken and a duck.
Again, the following day I had a call to say eight out of nine ducks had been taken. Enough was enough and back I went to spending the evening upstairs looking out of the bedroom window.
Within half an hour, the fox showed.
After a recce round the adjoining field (during which I resisted the temptation of a couple of long shots), it made its way into the paddock and collided with a 17-grain V-Max from my very expensive Anschütz 17/17 HMR.
Hopefully that was that. No further raids have taken place.
As is usual with my sort of fox control method, persistence paid off, and after around 30 hours being spent on this one fox, the job was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
Despite the equipment and experience, those who regularly endeavour to control the fox don’t always succeed.
As is always the case when pitting our wits against wild creatures, we think we know best.
With all the tools at our disposal, failure should not be an option, but it is – and a very much used option too.