Be Prepared

Howard’s TOP TIP: Once settled on a load or factory brand of ammo, stick with it

  When foxing, especially in bad weather with the associated deadly ground conditions, it is extremely important to ensure you are properly kitted up. I recall visiting a local farm notorious for its wet ground, so much so that it could almost be a marsh. I’d visited a few times before and had glimpses of fox, but hadn’t had the chance of a sure shot.

With my son, Michael, armed with a Thor lamp and filled with confidence, I set out for some long walks over the farm’s windy quagmire for another foxing foray. We were wrapped up in fingerless mittens, some Rocky Mountain jackets and trousers, and neoprene wellies as the breeze was biting. But the most important piece of kit was my shooting sticks; not just useful for steadying my aim, they are also perfect for testing the depth of mud and to help stay upright.

We left the motor behind and squelched off in pursuit of Charlie. After finally getting across the first field, through a short wood and up a hill to a good vantage point, we settled ourselves and made ready. I know some hunters would rather call first and then switch on the lamp, but in my experience wary old foxes are often alerted by artificial distress calls. These are the foxes that can often be caught out by careful use of the lamp from a good position.

I quickly spotted something out in the field in front. Louder and louder I whispered, “Lamp on, lamp on,” but my lad was still getting his leads untangled. Eventually he lit up the area and we were met with two blinking red eyes staring straight back. It quickly disappeared from view behind some hedging. My lad knew it was a case of lamp off, wait a while and then try the call. This grabbed the fox’s curiosity and when the lamp went back on the fox had trotted in to within 100 yards, stopping instantly in the lamps glare.

I took the shot and it was over and done with. It really can be that easy sometimes, but every situation is different. That fox was twitchy in the lamp but came readily to the call; sometimes it is the other way round – a missed fox becomes a wary fox. As does a fox that comes to the ca
ll from downwind, catches your scent and slinks off, often unseen but nevertheless more educated in survival.

I used a .223, an efficient, flat-shooting foxing round, though some people continue to question it. That fox had a clean, virtually cauterised entry hole, with a horrendous exit – death had been instant. Know your rifle, scope and ammunition combination, practise its capabilities at different ranges and success will soon follow. Once you’ve settled on a particular load or factory brand of ammo, stick with it.

My next foxing outing was also successful, though a little bit more difficult in a strange, light-hearted way. It was a farm, not on my usual patch, that had two marauding foxes that regularly took the farmer’s poultry. The ground was a friend’s permission and I asked him what the score was; he was honest enough to say he had lit one of the foxes up and had missed. The odds would be stacked against us, I knew, but I wanted to help out the farmer, who always puts a lot of effort into his Christmas birds.

As we left the vehicle the farmer commented on my gloves. He wasn’t wearing any and would be holding the lamp. It amazes me how many shooters don’t consider how cold it drops at night; he didn’t think he would need them and probably didn’t realise it was going to be a long session. Sure enough, as soon as we started to cross some boggy ground he was cursing and squelching, trying to retain his balance and rub warmth back into his fingers. Yet another time my shooting sticks have come in handy. The easiest way to cross boggy ground is to place your feet on the higher clumps of grass that offer a firmer footing; the sticks become invaluable to test how waterlogged and deep the bog really is. The sticks often become a third leg for helping you walk uphill, taking some strain off both torso and knees.

The .223 did the job perfectly on this fox

When we finally reached a high point where we could do a sweep with the lamp, my companion’s first words were, “my hands are cold.” A little forethought goes a long way when considering one’s own comforts. In the first sweep we picked up a pair of eyes. I didn’t really want to go any closer on this ground, but this fox wasn’t going to come in – after trying a new electronic caller he was obviously not impressed. Luckily we were at the side of a low fence line set on firmer ground and due to a favourable wind we could walk closer for a shot. The lamp man thought this to be a good idea as he was familiar with the ground. We soon came to a large area that had gravel dumped the softer ground, to make a path for the livestock, and I made ready for the next sweep. I’d already set the sticks at the height I’m used to and was ready with my rifle rested for action in not time. Then I instructed the lamp man to sweep the field.

Again a set of eyes, approximately 140 yards out, shone brightly. Before my lamp man could get any colder the rapid, flat 55-grain Molycoated V-Max had hit its target and put the fox down for good.

Sometimes you just feel that nothing you do will be dumb luck, so I directed my companion to wait a short while, call a few times and sweep the field once again. In these situations a digital caller can make life a lot easier. I called again and another fox trotted into sight. When the light hit it, it turned to trot away. Luckily another call caught its attention. It hesitated to look back for any potential freebie. Unfortunately the only freebie was my V-Max bullet.

I walked over and brought the brace back to the farmer for a few photographs. My new friend and lamp man was happy with the result. Both marauders had been taken care of and he’d learned a few lessons – even though it’d been the hard way. Howard Heywood

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