Foxing and doe stalking with Mark Ripley

Plans for a lazy weekend are dashed as Mark Ripley is called into action on fallow does and foxes in heat.

It had been a long week and I’d been working away with early starts, travel and late nights and by the time that particular job was done I was feeling pretty burnt out.

The Friday looked to be a nice afternoon and I’d already promised myself an early finish and a sit out for a fallow doe as they had just come into season. The farmer had also said he’d seen several foxes around too and if I saw any could I knock them over too along with as many deer as I could.

By Friday morning a stressful job was complete and I was headed to the farm soon after lunch for a relaxing sit in a high seat in the surprisingly warm November sunshine.

It had been wet for the past couple of weeks and the ground was still a little soft underfoot, despite the last couple of dry days, and I did wonder how I’d fare driving the truck down if I did shoot anything.

As it was only mid-afternoon I chose to sit in the high seat furthest from any footpaths where a dog walker might ruin the chance of a shot. This also happened to be the one furthest from the farm, several fields away.

I leisurely made my way to the seat armed with the hefty .260, taking in the birdsong and beautiful variety of colours of autumn displayed by the trees as they gradually shed their leaves. I climbed up into the seat overlooking a large field surrounded on all sides by thick woodland.

I only had an hour or so before the light began to fade at this time of year, so my window of opportunity would be short.

Before long I spotted a fox on the far side of the field on the edge of the woodland. From where I was I didn’t have a safe shot so I simply sat and watched it going about its business. Besides, there was a good chance it would head this way along the edge of wood to my right as they often do.

Sure enough within 15 minutes it had made its way to just over 100 yards from me and, when it paused to peer into the wood at something, I sent a bullet on its way, knocking the fox off its feet.

If nothing else showed before dusk at least the day hadn’t been a blank, so I sat back, quite content to see if anything else might show up.

Three for the freezer

Just as the light was beginning to fade, I spotted three does in the wood next to me and watched as they slowly made their way to the field behind me. In a brief moment, while they were obscured by a tree, I quietly turned in the high seat to be ready for them as they came out into the field.

As predicted they walked out and began grazing about 70 yards behind the high seat and I placed the crosshairs on the shoulder of one of the bigger does and squeezed the trigger. The doe pitched forward in a mad dash into the field but only got 30 yards before she collapsed.

I carried on watching to make sure the shot had been good before looking back in front of me to see the two remaining does. They stood about 80 yards in front of me, looking cautiously around, unsure of what had just happened. I let them settle before, with a good solid rest from the front rail, I took a second one with a clean head shot.

Scanning with thermals – a great way to spot elusive quarry

I know a lot of people are not keen on head shooting deer, but many game dealers will specify head or neck shot deer. I see no problem with it as long as they’re close enough to you and you’re confident in the shot – especially if you can put a shot down into the top of the head or upper neck whilst they are grazing, as I could here.

As I was near to the boundary, a chest shot deer could well make a dash over the boundary into thick cover making it difficult to retrieve, whereas a head shot will drop any deer in its tracks.

I climbed down and cleaned out the deer before calling my butcher mate to let him know I had a couple of deer for him. As I did so, the other deer wandered out into the field behind the seat. Relaying this sight to my mate, he told me that he could do with another if I could manage the shot. Within seconds of hanging up another doe fell to a clean head shot.

As anyone who regularly shoots deer will know, it’s at this point that all the hard work begins. After gralloching them and dragging them to a corner of the field that I could get the truck to, I then had to walk back to the truck before driving back down and loading them up.

An early night cap

By the time I’d done all this it was a couple of hours after dark and I was tired, aching and somewhat covered in blood. I got them back and hung them up before pouring a stiff recovery drink, already looking forward to bed and a well deserved lie in next morning. Just then my phone rang…

It was a nearby farmer who went on to explain that he had seen a fox kill a pheasant close to his release pen earlier that afternoon. He asked if I could possibly get over to investigate. There went my plans of a lie in then! I agreed I’d take a look at first light (another vodka had already been poured by this point so an evening visit was off the cards!)

Early next morning, I managed to struggle out of bed and drove along the dark misty roads to the farm, arriving just as it started to get light. I walked down into the valley and up onto the hill in the bowl by the wood where the fox had been spotted. I’ve shot many a fox here in the past and they all appear in the same areas. Early morning visits are often the most productive.

You have to get up early sometimes

I’d only been sat there for about 15 minutes when I caught sight of something through the thermal at the top of the bank opposite me. I instantly recognised it as a fox. I quickly swung the rifle round on it as I lay prone on the grass. Ranging the fox at 268 metres – just short of 300 yards – I dialled 2.75 MOA into the Element Nexus scope to put it on target. I zeroed at 150 metres on the .260 before taking careful aim on the broadside fox.

The familiar crack of the rifle was met soon after with another familiar sound of a solid thump as the round found its target. I’d already seen the fox drop in its tracks before I heard the impact and I knew the shot was good. Sure enough I’d taken the dog fox with a good solid chest shot with no sign of an entrance wound yet a sizeable 2-3” exit wound out the other side.

Most wonderful time of the year

It’s odd how foxes turn up on a bit of ground and follow the same routes as foxes have done for years before them – just as this one had done. Perhaps it’s in their nature? There never seem to be many foxes on this farm and I’m usually pretty aware of what’s about most of the time.

The farmer keeps a keen eye on the ground with the help of a couple of trail cameras and farm workers, so as soon as something is around my phone rings. I’d shot a vixen a couple of weeks before at the bottom of the same bank which is along another popular route passing behind the pond and towards a few resident ducks.

This year seems to be another good year for fox numbers and I’m sure there will be the usual flurry of numbers shot as they pair up through November and December throwing caution to the wind and crossing territories as they go. Often you will find at the point where they start to pair up, certain areas suddenly become very popular with foxes.

I’ve found that some areas suddenly becomes infested with foxes, but get back to normal pretty quickly. One area where I have a high seat, from which I occasionally shoot the odd fox, can get very busy all of a sudden – a few years back I managed to shoot 12 foxes in just three short sessions.

My fellow foxer, Mike Powell, has noticed similar activity during the mating season, where a fox run near his house only becomes active at this time of year whilst the rest of the year it remains unused. Keep an eye out for the foxes near you!

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