Foxing foreplay

Top foxer Mark Nicholson offers his advice on calling difficult foxes during the mating season while getting to grips with the latest Xenon HID lamp from Lightforce

Baiting can be a good way of getting foxes into a safely shootable position – in range with a known background

With the fox mating season still active, the last couple of months have been eventful to say the least. I’ve seen everything from paired-up dogs and vixens running into the calls like six-month-old cubs, to the other extreme where foxes show no interest at all in the regular calls. When this happens, in addition to the regular rabbit or hare distress call I also use the fox bark call every one or two minutes. This way of calling certainly attracts the foxes much more at this time of year. Don’t expect them to come steaming in, though – they often sit or stay hovering 150-200 yards away.

I recently sat up on an overcast night with a south-westerly breeze blowing directly to my position. I was equipped with the Mini Colibri electronic caller and the new Lightforce 170 Xenon HID lamp and 12V 9AH battery pack – a very impressive bit of kit, enabling far-out viewing with its high-density spot beam even with a colour filter in place.

As a result of this lamp’s performance, I may have to retract the statement I made in a previous article, which said that if you can see the fox clearly in the filter it is in range. The Xenon HID pushes even a filtered beam out to an unrivalled distance within a few seconds of the bulb warming up.

Variety show: You never know quite what behaviour foxes will exhibit

Earlier in the week I set up a bait using a hare and pegged it down securely. The workmen on the nearby chicken units finished around 5.30pm and would often see a fox about as they were locking up. With this knowledge, I left home in enough time to allow me to be in position just before 5pm, and ready for the fox’s arrival. I parked the truck behind one of the chicken units before loading the magazine of the Remi .308 and checking that the chamber was empty. With the battery pack over one shoulder, the holdall over the other and lamp and rifle in hand, I made my way to the ditch that overlooked the bait.

Scanning the area with the lamp as I walked in to my position revealed that the vicinity was clear of any foxes at present. After quickly checking the bait was still there – without going too close – I soon settled into the dry ditch. Remaining comfortable is paramount in any ambush job, and all the necessary equipment should be immediately at hand. I adjusted the bipod legs so as soon as I took hold of the rifle I would be steady on the baited area. Placing the battery and calibre caller along side of the rifle, I chambered a round and applied the safety.

After allowing the immediate area to settle down after my arrival, I took hold of the Lightforce lamp and scanned the field in front of me for a few seconds until the xenon bulb had warmed up to full brightness. This enabled me to look further afield into the next acreage. All was quiet apart from the odd rabbit and hare munching on the grass.

Success: The calling routine attracted two foxes to the baited point

My method of lamping over bait is to flick the lamp on towards the baited area every five minutes or so, keeping the main beam of the lamp low for five to ten seconds – just long enough to see if the fox is in the baited area. This is the main reason I secure the bait: it allows me to sit without lamping constantly. If not, a fox could sneak in and be away with it without being detected. Keeping the lamping to a minimum avoids deterring any foxes, whereas sweeping the lamp across the area will often put the fox on the alert and arouse suspicion. After three or four flicks to the baited area, I would have a complete scan around every 15-20 minutes to make sure an opportunity away from the bait is not missed.

Although the light does not get to full brightness for at least 20 seconds, it is still more than powerful enough to spot anything out to 200 yards. I was using the filter as this was a low-key, sensitive operation. After an hour or so, I was sweeping the beam beyond the bait and along the hedge when I noticed a couple of rabbits sat up on their hind legs, obviously not comfortable with something. The cause of their concern soon became apparent when I spotted the glint of eyes in the hedge beyond them.

After watching for a few seconds, I switched off the lamp, hoping it would come out into the open. Once the fox got to the end of the hedge it was working, it should be in range. A couple of minutes later, I turned the lamp back on and could clearly see the fox in the edge of the beam, trotting unconcerned alongside the bank of a small beck.

I quickly shouldered the Remi with my right hand and steadied the lamp along side the bipod with the other. Keeping the lamp fixed on the fox, with the rifle already in position pointing towards the hare bait, I easily picked up the fox in the Zeiss scope. The fox must have dined here previously as it approached the bait directly and began taking a few tugs at the flesh before turning broadside. As it enjoyed its last supper, I eased the cross onto its chest and took up the trigger. The report and recoil of the .308 moved me off the target, and I could not confirm the outcome until I refocused on the mauled bait and saw the fox lying motionless beside it.

Leaving the fox where it lay, I poured a coffee and sat back for quarter of an hour before starting the lamping sequence once again. An hour passed without a sighting, and I decided to set the Mini Colibri caller going on the distressed hare setting on a low volume, intermittently changing to the fox bark.

As the call echoed out into the cold, still night, I scanned past the bridge that spanned the beck, and instantly lit up a fox. It crossed the bridge and headed down the bank at a brisk pace, catching me by surprise. The caller was still going on its lowest volume as the fox trotted past the bait and its deceased relative with not as much as a glance towards them. By the time I had settled behind the rifle and focused on the fox, it was within 50 yards and filling the scope up with every step.

I shouted to make him stop. With his white bib filling the scope, I centred the cross and squeezed away the 150-grain ballistic tip. That brought an end to the night’s proceedings.

Unloading the rifle, I picked up the closely encountered dog fox that had come in like an August cub and collected the vixen by the bait. It had been another great result, and it was high time for me to go and get thawed out.

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