Dog Eat Dog

Gary’s TOP TIP: Always react quickly to pleas of help if you want to keep your permission

Gary Green’s reputation as ‘the fox man’ goes before him, so he often gets calls from farmers and smallholders about a troublesome fox. The latest request, however, took him by surprise. It came through his contacts at the turkey farm, but this time it wasn’t about protecting poultry. This was a boarding kennels – and the marauding Charlie had killed two Chihuahuas.

Fortunately – if that’s the right word – they belonged to the owner rather than one of the paying customers who leave their pet pooches at the kennels when they go on holiday. But that was little consolation to the distraught owner who had lost two much-loved pets.

The bold fox had managed to climb into an enclosed area of garden despite a high fence and a pair of Alsatians that shared the area with the little dogs. This was one determined customer. It would be a sensitive job, too, so Gary took the time to visit the owners and answer their questions as well as finding out more about the lie of the land.

He was able to reassure them about safety and noise before inspecting the area and working out a plan. It’s a tight spot, and the only place suitable for a shot was an exercise area of neatly trimmed lawn measuring no more than 20 yards wide by 40 yards long. The area is surrounded by thick conifers that would allow a fox to approach unseen, and beyond that is a mixture of farmland and rough ground that to Gary looks decidedly foxy. He picks his shooting position, which will be a portable high seat leant against an ivy-covered tree near the main reception area. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best of the limited options and will give him a clear view of his target area. The elevated position will ensure he is shooting steeply down into the ground and that, combined with the fragile 56-grain ballistic tipped .223 Geco ammo, removes any risk of a ricochet.

Gary picks up his portable high seat on the way back from another job. He’s brought his tools as well, because he will have a bit of clearing to do before he can place it in position. The base of the tree is surrounded by thick brush, and he needs to remove some thin branches and ivy higher up to ensure a clear path for the bullet.

Next he needs to lay a scent trail to draw his quarry in. He reaches into the back of the Land Rover and pulls out a green plastic bucket. It smells pretty bad even before he snaps off the airtight lid; the stench rising from the contents would knock you backwards. Even Gary seems unsure exactly what’s in this concoction, but it certainly includes muntjac gralloch that’s been festering for a fortnight.

Without knowing which direction the fox might approach from, Gary wants to cover all the angles. He lays trails in a cross pattern, drawing a loose interpretation of a Union flag across the grass and into the edge of the trees. That should catch the attention of any fox for miles around and lead it into the centre of Gary’s crosshairs.

As the sun drops towards the horizon, Gary climbs into his perch. He doesn’t have long to wait – it’s still light when a fox shows up 25 minutes later. Unfortunately so does the first customer, who has come to fetch her cats. “I’m sitting there waiting to shoot the fox, which is in a nice shootable position, and they’re standing a few metres away having a good old chat,” he says. The fox is used to people being around, but eventually it’s had enough and slips back into the conifers before the customer has left.

Half an hour later, all is quiet and the light is failing. Even with the exceptional light-gathering abilities of the Swarovski scope on his RPA rifle, Gary can no longer see into the shadows, so he switches on the light he rigged earlier. It’s a small LED headtorch with a focusing beam and dimmer control. He taped it to the front rail of the high seat to shine out across the grass. With the brightness set low, it gives just enough light in the scope to shoot by.

As the lamp comes on, there’s the fox again. Gary makes ready, getting the rifle into position and checking the safety catch – then there’s a noise from below. It’s one of the kennel’s staff, asking if he’d like a cup of tea. She felt sorry for him because it’s getting cold!

Gary cleared obstructions out of the way before settling into his portable high seat

The fox has gone but there’s no point being cross – she doesn’t understand and it was a nice thought. Gary resigns himself to more waiting and turns the light up a little. Half an hour later the fox is back, and once again Gary prepares for the shot. It’s just stepping out onto the grass when – yes, you guessed – it’s closing time and the staff pile out of the door chattering among themselves. The fox slips back into the conifers for a third time.

At least now it’s all quiet, but of course the fox is nowhere to be seen. The minutes tick by and the temperature is falling towards zero. Gary is glad he wore his thickly padded Deerhunter Rusky suit.

By 9pm he’s had enough. He was up at 5.30 this morning, had a busy day, and now he’s been in the high seat for more than four hours. Time to call it a day. He packs up the head torch, pulls the magazine from his rifle and removes the round from the chamber. One last check round the high seat and he’s ready to climb down. He can’t resist a final look round with his handheld lamp – and would you believe it, there’s the fox!

Knowing this fox is used to a bit of disturbance, Gary doesn’t muck about. He quickly slaps the magazine back into the gun and chambers a round. Into position, he double checks the backstop and bang, the job is done and the fox is lying dead on the grass. It wasn’t a difficult shot. At 30 yards the biggest problem was allowing for the parallax error between the scope and the barrel. That’s easily forgotten in the heat of the moment, but Gary got it right.

To Gary’s surprise, the fox turns out to be a vixen. She looks as if she may still be in heat – very late, but they do vary. If that’s the case there will almost certainly be a dog around, perhaps the “huge” one the kennel staff had described.

“It’s better this way round,” says Gary. “If I’d shot the dog first, I’d never have got the vixen. Now I can use her body to help lure him in – and I’ll be interested to see if he’s as big as they say.” Gary Green

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