Ready to put Pulsar’s new N750 to the test, Mike Powell sets out to take care of some especially troublesome foxes
At long last the nights are drawing in, the fields are clear of crops, and the work of the fox controller can start in earnest. As I have mentioned in earlier articles, there is no shortage of foxes in my area following one of the best breeding seasons for years owing to large numbers of rabbits. Now the cubs are beginning to cause problems.
August saw the first young hunters being mopped up as the harvest got under way, but there are always brighter and bolder members of the fox community waiting to wreak havoc. There are those who criticise the high numbers of foxes shot today. I can, to a degree, understand their point of view, but it remains a fact of life in the countryside that some foxes cause a great deal of damage to game and poultry, and it is these that have to be removed.
In a previous article I said I had been sent one of the new Pulsar N750 digital night vision units to test. The time for that arrived when I received two calls for help within a day of each other. In one case the fox had dug into a chicken run and killed six out of eight birds. The second caller had worse problems: foxes were hanging around their smallholding day and night, including a mangy specimen and one with a bad limp.
A fox with any form of impediment can be a particular menace, especially when mange really takes hold as their natural abilities become impaired. The other predicted situation has also exacerbated this problem as we have had a real dose of VHD come through the area. This has depleted the rabbit population to such a degree that the cubs reared this season are finding their staple diet reducing drastically. Putting aside my other control work, I decided to concentrate on these two situations.
As I would be working close to some houses, I decided to use the Weihrauch .22 Hornet as this is an excellent tool out to 150 yards and is quiet, hopefully causing little disturbance to the locals.
Mounting the Pulsar presented no problems. I have been using the forerunner of the N750, the N550, for some time now, and many of the basics are still the same. I use the traditional method of zeroing rather than the one-shot system, and I do this either last thing in the evening when the light is fading or early in the morning. This is because it is more difficult to see the target if the light is too bright.
Being used to conventional night vision, I always find the Pulsar a little on the bulky side, but this in no way detracts from its ability to see things after dark. Quarry species stand out clearly against the white, snow-like background, and although there is currently only the one illuminated reticle (more can be downloaded) this is perfectly acceptable in general use.
The first outing saw me setting up in the stubbles next to where the burrowing fox had wreaked havoc the night before. I asked the owner to leave the dead hens where they were – if a fox has not been disturbed while killing it is likely to return to collect another easy meal.
This was a place where I could shoot from the comfort of the 4×4 as there are often vehicles parked in the smallholding and the fox would take no notice of one more. I always set up with the window down and, being right-handed, shoot from the passenger seat. A piece of plastic foam pipe lagging is clipped over the partly raised window. When setting up for the evening, I adjust the window so that it is the right height to cover the area to be shot over. Patience is the name of the game, and I am prepared to wait several hours for the fox to put in an appearance. I normally anchor the birds to prevent a snatch-and-grab raid from taking place.
Despite what is often written, I don’t find foxes take much notice of human scent any more, particularly around habitation. Things that years ago would see a fox high-tailing it out of gunshot within seconds no longer bother them. In fact, sometimes they appear to treat the presence of humans with contempt.
The night was cloudy with a slight wind – ideal for the job I had come to do. I normally wear a face veil as, although foxes don’t worry about vehicles, anything that moves (especially just slightly) is treated with suspicion. This applies both day and night; stillness is probably the most important part of waiting out as foxes pick up movement amazingly quickly.
As the light faded and the full moon rose, I could see the rabbits coming out across the cleared fields at anything up to 300 yards away. This new Pulsar has the benefit of a zoom system, making it even more effective in use. I brought the built in three-stage infrared into use and the rabbits’ eyes suddenly appeared. Two hours passed before I saw a long shape crossing the top of the field 200 yards away. I never try to call in this sort of situation, preferring to leave the fox to its own devices. By doing this I can be sure that the fox I am watching is the one I am after.
Sure enough, I watched the fox come down the hedge line at a smart trot and head for the only access into the poultry field, a run in the top corner. This brought it to about 70 yards from where I was waiting. A whistle halted it just as it was about to slip through the run, and the Hornet’s 35-grain V-Max did the job. The Pulsar, too, had come up trumps. Flushed with success – it’s always nice to get the job done on the first night out – I decided to try for a similar result at the other place on the following night.
My second mission was different. Firstly, although it was almost inevitable that there would be a kill, there hadn’t been one for a week or so. To add to this, knowing the spot as I do, there was absolutely no guarantee as to which direction the foxes would come from. There was cover all round the area, and a stream that they follow complicates matters – although I usually get them in the end, it can be a long job.
I went for a recce in the afternoon and took the .17 HMR with me for a rabbit or two on the way round. I hadn’t been there more than five minutes when I saw a fox across the road from the farm, and a quick look through the binos showed it was suffering badly from mange. A burst on the Mini Colibri brought it trotting down the field. These mangy foxes are usually hungry and respond well to a call – strangely, more so during the day than at night. This one was no exception and I shot it off the sticks at 50 yards.
This was a fortunate start to what turned out to be a bit of a marathon. I won’t bore readers with the hours that were spent waiting for these raiders – suffice it to say that it dragged on. Eventually my patience was rewarded: a leggy dog fox, possibly a sibling of one I shot earlier in the year, appeared in the Pulsar’s viewer, working its way down a steep field towards the yard. Clearly visible, it was a simple shot. Another was hit, and was found dead by my ‘fox dog’ Talon the following morning. This one turned out to have a bad cut on its back foot. This job is not over, though, as three more foxes have been spotted in the vicinity.
The Hornet did the job, and I particularly liked the Wildcat Cub moderator from UK Custom Shop. The new Pulsar, meanwhile, is certainly an improvement on the N550 – an improvement you pay for, but that’s fair enough. I must admit that as a sad traditionalist, I find using it feels a bit odd. Indeed it is not a thing of beauty, but does that matter when it does the job? It allows those on a limited budget to get into night vision and enter a whole new world of shooting. I suspect digital NV will improve immeasurably over the coming years, but the N750 is good enough to fit the bill.