The nights are at their longest, but I find that my most common foxing hours aren’t necessarily in the pitch black. Instead, I am often out at first and last light, when it isn’t truly dark but there is still fox movement. It may be more challenging shooting foxes with a rifle during the day, but on the other hand, it allows you to enjoy the countryside at its best. Anyone who regularly sees the sunrise and treads the first steps through the morning dew will know what I mean.
Sitting out waiting for foxes during the autumn months before it gets really cold can be rewarding in terms of bag size too, thanks to the year’s new generation of foxes. Autumns are warmer than ever these days, and if the temperature is reasonable you will be more inclined to stay put for longer and therefore increase your chances of bagging a fox.
As I’ve often said, foxes are creatures of habit (although you should take nothing for granted when it comes to foxes!) and will regularly follow the same routes or be hunting the same area at very similar times of the day. I often ask farmers to keep an eye out for foxes; it can be invaluable knowing where and when they see a fox, and if possible its direction of travel. Armed with this information I can be there at the same time in the next day or two and stand a very good chance of shooting said fox. This has worked for me time and time again. Once you know a fox’s route you can lie in wait, and a little bait out will keep your fox busy and fairly still for a shot.
If you’re baiting then some things work better than others. With shot game I find feathered works better than fur, with pigeon and pheasant being favourites. I also like to pluck a load of feathers from the bird and scatter them around it to catch the fox’s attention. Feathers always warrant a detour for a passing fox.
I do a similar thing with a rabbit by leaving it belly up with the guts opened up to allow the scent to carry and the white underbelly fur to be more noticeable. I will also pluck fur from the underbelly as if it’s been pulled open by corvids (this is good bait for them too). Cat food is also good – bait the smellier the better – and foxes seem unable to resist a roast chicken carcass, especially when it just starts to turn a bit whiffy.
When using bait, be sure to put a peg through the bird or wire it to a fence to stop the fox carrying it off. Be careful though: a wily fox might be put off if there’s an obvious tall stake through it or it is suspending from a fence. I recall once waiting for a fox that regularly wandered along a hedge line close to one of my highseats. I pegged a rabbit to the ground with a fence peg and waited 150 yards away, thinking this fox would follow his usual route and stop to inspect the rabbit. The fox as expected came wandering along the hedge until it saw the rabbit and quickly became suspicious of this new addition to the regular scenery. Instead of being drawn to it he decided to circle out wide of it by around 100 yards. As luck would have it he circled out on my side of the hedge and made for an easy 50 yard shot with its attention still firmly on the rabbit, perhaps wondering how it had met its fate impaled by a fence pin!
Calling is another way of getting foxes where you want them. Whether an electronic call, mouth call or calling off the hand, there’s no doubt that this is one of the most common and effective tactics used when foxing.
Unfortunately calling isn’t a sure thing; sometimes a fox will come tearing in immediately, and another time the same call will send a fox bolting in the opposite direction. I generally don’t call unless there’s nothing in sight or I have an unsuspecting fox I want to draw in. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to wander my way I would use a soft lip squeak to tempt it in if I couldn’t close the distance unseen.
The thing to remember when calling is to use a call that suits the surroundings. A distressed chicken call on the open hills is more likely to spook a fox (that said, sometimes they will come out of curiosity!). You’re best off using a sound that the fox will associate with food, which is probably why the rabbit sounds seem to work best.
There are several good mouth calls that work well, yet none seem as effective as someone that can call well off the back (or any part) of their hand and call in foxes.
I can draw my fair share of foxes in like this but my shooting mate Gary is a master at it. I once stood in the middle of a field with him at night while he called and through the thermal I spotted four foxes bounding in at once within seconds. Electronic callers such as the Foxpro or the Flextone from Scott Country are a great asset. As it’s remote controlled it gives you a great advantage: the fox is drawn to the caller and not to you, which allows you to line up for the shot from the sideline. Another good call I’ve been playing with the last few days is another from Scott Country and again made by Flextone, the FLX50. This is a unique call as it looks like a cross between a loud speaker and a speed gun in green but works rather well. Five buttons on the rear allow you to easily switch between call: the large centre button acts as a select button with the left and right as scroll buttons and the top and bottom buttons as volume controls. To activate the selected call you simply pull the trigger, and again to pause the call.
I used the call last night at dusk to call in a particularly wary vixen. Just as darkness began to fall she appeared out from the maize crop to the call (pygmy rabbit) and came within 100 yards. Unfortunately I was a little keen and after muting the call I reached over to flick on the nightscope a little too quickly. This sharp-eyed young vixen was on to me and spun round without hesitation, bounding away diagonally across the field. I tracked her in the scope knowing that few foxes can resist a second look before they reach cover.
Sure enough, 50 yards short of safety she slowed then stopped broadside for a look back at 140 yards. I got the crosshair on her chest, paused then fired. The split second I squeezed the trigger she started to run again but the bullet was quicker. Although striking her further back than intended, the bullet still caused a humane kill on the spot. Her front leg pawed the sky a couple of times and she lay still.
NV and TI
Night vision has made foxing a lot easier, especially when combined with a thermal spotter. Thermal is becoming cheaper and cheaper too now and many foxers are also going on to thermal scopes. These have become very clear and, from a serious pest control point of view are an amazing advantage with no infrared light giving away your presence or reflecting back off of foliage to whiteout your scope when you’re trying to take a shot.
The thermal spotter is probably the best addition to the modern foxer’s arsenal in recent years. Even if still shooting under a lamp, there’s a huge advantage in being able to quickly spot your quarry: however you intend to shoot it you can quickly find it and level your rifle in the right direction before flicking on the lamp or IR, giving Charlie little time to react.