Think a hide is just a few poles and some netting? Think again – Robert Bucknell visits a hide that delivers the ultimate in luxury for night-time fox shooting
They say that any fool can be uncomfortable, and that’s certainly been true of fox shooters over the past few weeks. Even the smartest and best equipped have found it a bit nippy going round at night in temperatures as low as -10ºC. But the other night I was out foxing with my friend Gary Green and we were warm as toast all night.
I’ve written about Gary before – he’s the chap who set up a baiting point in range of the bedroom window of a shepherd’s cottage. Now he’s excelled himself, and built a high seat that must qualify for some sort of award as the most luxurious in the country.
Working with his friend Alan Konway, and sharing the cost, Gary has built a cosy shed on top of an old shipping container at a turkey and chicken farm. The farmer had a ‘break-in’ just as some of his fowl were ready for Christmas. He lost over £2,000 worth of stock, so he’s over the moon with Gary’s efforts. Access is via a ladder that he takes down each time to prevent intruders getting in.
It’s a real home from home, with mains electricity running a couple of fan heaters to keep the temperature up. There’s even a kettle and mini-fridge, so the home comforts extend to a hot brew.
Gary’s foxing experience comes into play with the siting and set-up. The location is on the edge of the farm buildings, looking out across a field that’s the natural approach for any fox interested in farm livestock. The elevated position gives a good view across the field and beyond, and ensures that any shot is aimed down into solid earth for safety.
Gary has set up a permanent bait point about 50 yards from the hide. It’s placed so the bait isn’t accessible to the hens, and he tops it up two or three times a week with fresh meat, usually road kill or trimmings from a deer carcase.
Fitted near the top of the shed is a 140-watt halogen lamp on a timer. This throws a light across the field in the direction of the bait. Because it’s permanently on during the hours of darkness, the foxes effectively train themselves to ignore it. It doesn’t matter if it takes them a few nights to become bold enough to come into the light, because eventually they will make that mistake when Gary is waiting.
The lighting isn’t bright, but it’s enough for Gary to shoot by. He uses a Schmidt & Bender 8×56 scope with an illuminated reticle, and with the light on he finds the image clear enough to identify the quarry and place the shot, even on a very dark night with no moon. His rifle is a .243 Tikka T3, and he’s using 70-grain ballistic tip ammo.
Inside the shed, Gary has taken care to set himself up with a good shooting platform. There are twin flaps that he drops down to open a window measuring about 18in high by six feet wide. Inside the aperture is a shelf about eight inches wide. There’s a similar shelf along the back wall, and Gary has a plank cut to size so it rests between the two shelves. This gives him somewhere to lay the rifle while he waits, and provides a steady rest for his right arm when shooting.
On the day I joined Gary in his hide, he had left the area undisturbed for nearly a week to give us a good chance for some action. Even with Sporting Rifle’s James Marchington squeezing in with his cameras, there was plenty of room and we were able to brew some tea to wash down Gary’s latest culinary masterpiece: duck and caramelised onion pasties with gamekeeper’s chutney. Outside it was nearly freezing with the odd shower, but we remained warm and dry. In fact, I’m pretty sure James got so comfortable that he fell asleep and nearly fell off his stool.
Just after we got into the hut, the heavens opened and it lashed with rain for five minutes. If we had been outside, we’d have been soaked.
A couple of hours after dark, the first fox put in an appearance. I had brought along a rifle fitted with the NiteSite night vision adapter, and I was scanning the far side of the field when a fox suddenly appeared, trotting towards the bait. I followed it easily in the NiteSite’s screen as it reached the bait and started to tuck in. Gary waited until it turned broadside and knocked it down with a well placed shot.
A couple of hours and a brew later, another fox came in across the track and peered cautiously around the side of a trailer parked nearby. Satisfied that the coast was clear, it too approached the bait. It was my turn to shoot, and I lined up the crosshairs carefully in the NiteSite screen. That one, too, dropped where it stood.
It was interesting to compare the NiteSite with Gary’s method of using a quality scope and artificial light. I found I could pick up foxes farther away, and in darker corners, but I had to keep my wits about me to avoid catching the trailing wires or knocking the screen box against the window frame as I swung the rifle. Once he clocked a fox on the bait, though, Gary was lightning-fast with his Schmidt & Bender. In this situation, he had the edge, but with just a fraction less light, or even no light at all, the tables would have been turned – and both methods proved they were capable of taking a fox.
As the night went on, we shot one more fox and hit another hard, which I’m sure Gary will find dead a short distance away when he searches. Finally, at 3am we called it a night as we hadn’t seen any movement for some time and we all needed some sleep. Without Gary’s palatial hide, we’d have had to give up much earlier, driven in by the cold and wet. It really is the ultimate in luxury foxing.