I had been asked to deal with a fox problem on a number of neighbouring smallholdings. The fox in question had lately favoured a small field containing an insecure run that held about 20 mixed breed chickens. Some of the bantams weren’t using the coop, preferring instead to run the gauntlet and roost in the thick hawthorn hedge. The pond next-door had also once held 14 geese, but the rogue fox had reduced this number to just one.
On my initial investigation, the latest goose corpse had been almost completely devoured by the time I arrived, but despite my misgivings I chose to wait through the night for the marauder. Finding a suitable position with a favourable wind, I made myself comfortable and watched the sun both set and rise without sight of a fox. Clearly it had abandoned its kill.
Work and stalking commitments kept me away for a few days, leaving the fox with free rein to run riot. During my absence three more chickens had been killed, and two of the deceased still lay close by were they had been slain. I decided on another stakeout from the same position.
As time was on my side this visit, I had a flask and sandwiches to make the night-long vigil a little less of a hardship. My rifle was the Austrian-made Pfeifer bull pup in .222 – a very short single-shot rifle. It is a high-quality hunting arm and, unlike most bolt-action rifles, it is perfectly balanced and ideal for use from the confines of a vehicle cab or cramped ambush position. Even with a moderator fitted, the rifle is still very much shorter than a bolt-action, and is not muzzle-heavy.
As darkness descended and I was just draining the dregs of my first cup of tea, movement caught my attention. Reaching for the Archer Gen 3 night vision monocular, I could soon see a fox quartering the ground nervously. I am a big fan of the Archer, having used it for about four years now. A handy tip for its use: by securing it with a cord around your neck, you free up both hands to set up and work your rifle – simple but effective. In a fluid movement I quickly attached the Archer to my scope via the unit’s bayonet fixings and found my target. It was still totally unaware of my presence, searching around for one of its earlier victims with nose to ground. Placing the crosshairs on its chest flash, I increased the pressure on the bull pup’s button trigger. Off went the moderated shot, and my 40-grain Berger home load put an end to this small vixen’s poultry killing habits.
It couldn’t have been more than half an hour later when another pair of vulpine eyes made their way down the side of the boundary fence. Unfortunately this time they were at the wrong side, and on land I did not have permission to shoot over. The eyes disappeared, and even using the Mini Colibri caller didn’t make Charlie reappear. The Mini Colibri is a small but effective caller with adjustable volume and call settings that are easily accessible. These variations allow the caller to be used in a variety of situations and over a range of distances.
Over the years I have called in a lot more than just foxes with various calls. Owls being a regular visitor, usually it’s a barn owl responding to the rodent in distress. However, this time it was a tawny owl who circled the caller, attracted by the rabbit squeak. My next visitor was definitely a first for me – a very noisy and agitated curlew on night-time manoeuvres dive-bombed my hare in distress call. Flushed with success and my position probably now untenable, I called it a night at 1am, having attracted just about everything in the area apart from a fox.
The following day I found the shepherd leaving the next field. He was not a happy man. Apparently the fox had turned its attentions to his lambing ewes, and when checking his stock he had found two badly mauled lambs. They were still alive, but both had been bitten badly at the backend, and had a fair amount of flesh missing. The only option was to put them out of their misery, as they could never have survived with such horrendous injuries.
Deploying the same gear, I stayed till 2am, when it started to rain heavily – but again I saw nothing. Over the next two weeks I visited the field a number of times, and although I saw it twice, both times the elusive fox evaded the rifle. On the first sighting, I was scanning with the Archer when suddenly I saw it walking among the resting sheep. This time I made the mistake of using the lamp – as soon as the field became illuminated, it instantly ran for the hedge. I tried to keep the fox on the edge of the beam, and hoped it would stop before going through the fence. But no such luck as it didn’t even break stride, nipping under the sheep netting. I kicked myself for not turning the lamp off immediately and reverting to the Archer.
This was obviously a seasoned veteran that knew all about lamps and the dangers that come with them. So from now on it looked like I would have to stick with night vision only. The second time I crossed the marauder’s path, it was 200 yards away with no backstop and going in the wrong direction. I was starting to believe this fox was destined to die of old age.
I went roe stalking that weekend and shot a buck. Unfortunately there was a lot of front-end damage owing to the bullet striking the scapula. Using this to my advantage, I salvaged all the meat I could and put the rest of the carcase out as bait. My plan at the moment, owing to my restricted schedule, was simply to wait until the bait got hit then put the precious time in. A good plan, I thought – but this fox obviously didn’t
Meanwhile, my wife asked me to get a couple of rabbits as she wanted to try a new recipe. Just on the off-chance of catching up with my elusive Charlie, I took the .222 bull pup and went to the field in question. My theory was to head-shoot my two rabbits, thus keeping them fit for the table, and if foxy turned up, be suitably armed to deal with the larger target.
Soon after dark I left the pickup behind and slowly walked the fence, keeping the wind in my favour. Usually there were a good few bunnies in the far corner and tonight was no exception. The night vision monocular revealed about 20 scattered around this end of the field. Placing the rifle on my shooting sticks, I attached the Archer to the scope and settled the crosshair on the nearest rabbit’s computer room and squeezed the button trigger. The outcome was very effective – basically, its head was vaporised. It was a quick, ethical kill. Rapidly reloading, I took the second rabbit in a similar fashion.
With the conies safely in the game bag, and my domestic chore taken care of, I had a quick scan around with the NV, revealing a fox staring in my direction. Amazingly, it was laid on its belly like a faithful old Labrador. Turning round, I lined up my rifle and attached the Archer, finding the fox still laid-up without a care in the world. Taking careful aim just below the eyes, I sent the 40-grain Berger on its way.
The green orbs instantly went out, hopefully indicating a good hit. I approached to find a dead dog fox, the bullet having entered through its mouth and destroyed the top three vertebrae. As soon as I saw it I noticed the sheer size of the fox, and lifting it confirmed that it had to be weighed. After the photos, I returned to the larder and weighed him in at a whopping 34½lb. Now that is a whole lot of fox. Andy Lovel