From the outset I want to point out NV (night vision) scopes are not the be all and end all to modern day fox shooting. They certainly aren’t a magic source of instant success; NV is another important tool in the gun cabinet to help you control any lamp-shy foxes on your patch. NV also allows you to operate with the utmost stealth in areas you don’t want to be bathing with artificial light.
The best way I’ve ‘invented’ (after trying many other methods of setting zero on various glow in the dark targets) is as follows. Get a reasonable size heavy-duty cardboard box (decent width, height and depth) – something your local greengrocer or newsagents would throw out – and prepare it as follows. First, leave one end open then blank out all possible nooks and crannies of the front section and sides with heavy duty black duct tape. This is so no light can show through the front of the box except at the hole you are now going to make. To do this, pierce the front middle of the box with a relatively thick biro to produce a hole of approximately ¼ inch in diameter. Now cover this with a piece or two of normal masking tape.
The reason for this and leaving the back open will become apparent once in the field. This is going to be the target and you will need to take an old headtorch or small utility light as well as the black duct tape and masking tape with you. Once you’ve found a piece of land on your shoot with a decent and solid earth backdrop put the box on the ground facing the direction you are going to shoot from. Once in place, switch on the light and put it into the box and fully close the back up by folding the sides in. Looking from the front in the pitch black all you’ll see is the light glowing through the hole you’ve obscured by the masking tape. The reason for the masking tape is so the light isn’t overly harsh, otherwise this could damage the sensitive image intensifier on the NV equipment by being constantly directed at the artificial light. If setting up the scope for the first time, you can, before doing all of this, set a rough zero in daylight keeping the front scope lens cover in place. The scope cover always has a pin prick size hole to allow a tiny amount of light in to aid set up in daylight. At the ranges fox shooters should be setting zero this isn’t that reliable, as I don’t feel it gives you a good enough sight picture. A tip is to use a laser boresighter with the moderator removed and lining up the cross hairs or chevron aimpoint (depending on NV unit) to the laser dot at the required distance. Then use the light in the box target to fine tune your zero at night.
What is important is not to switch on the IR (infrared) capability of the scope as this will over power the light shining through the hole in the box. If you’ve set everything as precisely as possible during daylight, then you shouldn’t take long to fine tune your zero at night using the ‘light box’ trick. Usually I’ll fire a string of six to eight before I’m ready to try a three-string group. Don’t forget the duct tape as during zeroing it is also useful for blanking off bullet holes in the target box. You should be striving to at least make a one-inch grouping for foxing and any decent quality NV scope is certainly capable of this. However, that’s my self-imposed standard; others I know will be satisfied with a larger grouping, but if you’re not achieving sub two-inch groups at 100 yards using any popular calibre fox round then I hardly need say – practise more until you can.
Well that’s my tried and tested trick that I’ve discovered works best for zeroing night vision. I’ve been asked many times what the best method and target to use is, so there you go. Others do use reflective tape, and use IR either as an external or add on or use the unit’s own integral IR to get a reflection back off the tape. Yes it does work, but believe me not half as precise as my way – try it and you’ll soon be on target and grouping as you should, believe me.
Around this time I was using a Maxi-Kite NV Scope, which was fantastic for foxing. However, not everybody can afford the high £6K price tag, so I was testing the Pulsar Sentinel G2+ 3X50 with the optional extra ‘doubler lens’ and add-on high power Laserluchs IR torch. I paired it with a Tikka 525 in .222, a lovely rifle for both day and night use and one which has served me well on long range crows and of course foxes around the back of farms where I do not need much more range than 175-200-yds.
Though I look at any prospective scope specifications as an idea to its possible capabilities, it is only in the field you will get the true picture of what any day scope or NV is capable of. With the IR on full I found I was easily spotting fox size targets out to and over 200 yards. For clear identification in good ambient light conditions I’d recommend you keep your shots within the 120-yard-mark for a sure precisely placed clean killing shot.
Also remember with NV comes total stealth and if you mind your fieldcraft and use the call correctly, a fox will more likely come steaming in unperturbed as you’re not alerting Charlie with a lamp.
I also use and recommend NV be used as an ambushing tool. Waiting up near a run or other area foxes are regularly visiting for food you’ll soon spot them undetected, often without having to resort to the use of the call. A good example of this was prior to lambing one year at a local farm that had foxes coming closer to the farmstead than usual. The reason for this was the farmer had the ewes penned close to home to keep a better eye on his charges. I’m convinced a fox can sense when ewes are ready to lamb and if Charlie manages to miss the young they’ll take the afterbirths.
I had positioned myself behind a drystone wall and keeping low I watched the area leading to the temporary sheep pen using my Yukon Ranger Pro 5X42 digital monocular. Eventually Charlie turned up trotting straight for the sheep. This fox stopped a way out which gave me time to carefully put the monocular down and get myself settled behind the Tikka and NV scope combo. The reason the foxes are coming closer isn’t just because of the imminent lamb arrivals but owing to the few rabbits available they’re also targeting mice and rats around the outbuildings. This fox wasn’t presenting me with a good clear shot at his kill zone so I made a short squeak on the back of my hand. It immediately put its head up to look towards my position leaning on the wall in ambush. I took the shot at around 85yds and the .222 calibre 50-grain Remington Express bullet did its duty, hitting it smack in the upper chest and killing Charlie instantly.
Another one chalked up to my trusty NV and rifle combo. Howard Heywood