Hide on a high

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After careful consideration, Robert Bucknell has found the ideal location for a foxing hide. Now, he just needs to build it.

In July I constructed a new permanent high seat on the farm. I should say ‘we’ have been building, as I did have a lot of help from my son and the two chaps who work on the farm. A few extra hands, and a bit of mechanical assistance from the farm loader, made what would have been a backbreaking job a good deal easier. It does point up that this type of seat is a major undertaking, and needs careful planning, as it is costly in both time and money. With four people for the best part of a day, plus machinery, and well over £300.00 in materials, you do not want it to go wrong.

With all the help it was still a hot, sweaty six hours’ work on that warm summer’s day. But when the nights draw in and temperatures fall, I will be snug as a bug in a fully-enclosed shed on legs, especially when it would be too wet or cold in many of my other spots.

02_IMG_7835I picked the location carefully. I have quite a few of these permanent high, and some low, seats dotted around the farm, all in strategic spots that overlook areas where a fox or sometimes a deer is likely to pass through. They vary in materials and construction as I try out different ways to beat the clan fox. Quite a few do not have the luxury of a roof.
This new location is ideal. It’s on a hedge between two fields, facing across the smaller of the two fields to a seven-acre wood. Down the hedge to the right hand side is a small spinney of one acre, and passing nearby on the other side is a well-established natural run from a 50-acre wood three-quarters of a mile away – fallow deer have used it regularly for as long as anyone around here can remember.

I have had a moveable high seat in the hedge for several months, which helped me to decide on the best spot. This moveable seat leaves you very exposed in the best position though, so I had to set it where it was hidden among the branches of a small oak tree, which unfortunately restricted the field of view. Even set here it has been quite successful however, and I have ambushed several foxes. Having a permanent, solid construction means I can build the new hut in the open, between two trees, with an unrestricted outlook. You can’t shoot a fox you can’t see.

I already had the ideal hut; my friend Nigel had it build by a local carpenter ages ago and it’s been stored in a corner of the farmyard for a couple of years waiting for the right spot. All I had to do was mount it on legs. That’s easy to say, but quite an undertaking, as it would be easier to build the hut up on the legs and not have to lift it on.

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We started about nine in the morning, digging out the holes to take the four second-hand (£10.00 each) telegraph poles I’d earmarked as the legs. They are not rotten in any way, and with a regular coating of preservative will last for years. The ground was very hard after a dry spell, but the tractor-mounted hole borer made light work of it once we’d poured in some water to soften the top crust. With the aid of the loader we planted the poles more or less upright, and they were partially backfilled so they would stay in place but could still be moved.

The next job was to fix level crosspieces between the poles for the hut to sit on. In the best farming tradition, this was not a precision job;  we aligned everything by eye and took rough measurements to ensure that the hut would more or less fit between the poles. But we relied entirely on the spirit level to get the platform right. There would be opportunity enough to take up any slack with the poles later.

We use a proper cage on the loader as a work platform, the driver raising and extending it so I could get to the right spot to bang in the nails. It’s a good, safe way of working, but we joked that it probably didn’t look entirely safe to anyone watching, as I stretched out over the side. Just then my phone rang. It was a local BBC radio reporter wanting to arrange an interview about Health and Safety on farms (the news item of the day) – I laughed so much I nearly fell out of the cage! It is a serious subject though, as farming has less than two per cent of the nation’s workforce but has 26 per cent of the industrial accidents.

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With the legs ready, we got the forks under the hut and lifted it into  position – only to discover that our measurements were out by an inch or  so. The hut was just too big to slide down between the poles. That was easily cured by taking a couple of vertical slices off the back of the poles with a chainsaw. It also left us with two wide flat faces to attach the hut more securely. Before long, the hut was standing proudly on its legs, with the floor 12 feet or so off the ground.

The next job was to fix diagonal struts between the legs to make everything rigid, and then nail the hut itself firmly to the legs. Using a spirit level to adjust the poles to vertical as each cross member was nailed on, the whole construction became more rigid. Now things were really taking shape, and it was possible to set the ladder against the hut, climb up and in through the door, and peep out through the viewing slots for the first time. Sure enough, it gave a splendid view across the fields to the wood and spinneys beyond, an ideal 360-degree solid shooting platform covering what should be an excellent spot for deer and foxes.

The hut is well made, with flaps on all four sides that can be opened or closed to suit. When there’s a chilly wind blowing in the winter, you can keep everything battened down on the windward side. That makes the whole business a lot more bearable, which in turn means you’re more likely to stay out long enough to see your fox. Even the hardiest foxer can only sit out a short while in the open in those conditions.

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If there is a strong wind blowing, range time becomes more important as it takes some confidence to allow what may be in the order of a full ten inches at three hundred yards. A good tip is to ascertain wind direction and strength before you climb into the hut. Aiming into the empty ground off target can be difficult at first, but there is nothing more satisfying as your bullet curves in and drops your quarry on the spot. Also, with such an elevated view and a good rest, a shot at far longer distances than this can be safely attempted. Some good additional kit, such as a laser range finder, will help with range estimation making life easier (or death, in the case of your target!). A range drum on the scope then takes the stressing out of guessing.

All that remained was to slap some paint over the cut ends of the pre-treated timber to prevent the rot. Having gone to all that trouble, I hope I will be using this high seat for a good many years to come, so it will be worth taking a bit of extra time to protect it with some planned yearly maintenance.

We finished at about four in the afternoon, and I was pleased with our day’s work. I’ll return to trim some of the lower branches off the trees to give me a clear field of fire, and then my palatial new high seat is good to go. Fingers crossed I will have some success from it, but time will tell, and I’ll report back in a future issue.

Buy the book 

Going Foxing is Robert Bucknell’s latest book on fox shooting. It follows on from his first book Foxing with Lamp and Rifle, and is packed full of useful knowledge about the red fox along with a wealth of information about shooting. Both books should be in the library of everyone interested in the subject.

The book is available from Sporting Rifle for £30. To order your copy of Going Foxing, fill in the form on page 98, call 01926 339808 or visit www.virtualnewsagent.com. Or find out more, and order online, at www.goingfoxing.co.uk.

 

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