Mark Ripley explains the art of long range foxing and recalls his ten longest foxing kills to date.
The subject of shooting any living creature is always one that will attract controversy but add to that the aspect of doing it at long range and it will be met with yet more mixed feelings even from within the hunting and shooting community itself.
It always amazes me how many traditional game shooters are often the first to cry out that it’s unsporting and carries a higher risk of wounding. I’m sure far more quarry is pricked by a few pellets and fly on than those hit by a centrefire bullet.
It’s also strange how a long range shot with a rifle (a tool designed to kill at range), is considered by some to be unsporting, yet a high bird shot with a shotgun (designed for close range) is considered sporting? Very odd.
The fact of the matter is that if a shot is carefully calculated and within the capabilities of the shooter then it makes little difference if the shot is taken at 100 yards or 400 yards as long as the shot is correctly placed.
In terms of fox shooting, there are probably far more shots that result in wounding which are a snap shot at a fox while hanging off a fence post on a windy hillside than there are ones taken at range off a bipod.
Using a heavy calibre rifle also means that a hit on a small animal will often result in an instant or quick dispatch by sheer destructive power even if the shot placement wasn’t perfect.
The art of long range shooting is far from just luck or guesswork or even being a particularly good shot, it’s more of a scientific calculation. By that I mean yes, of course you need to be able to shoot and have good technique, but if you haven’t correctly allowed for wind and range it won’t matter how well you can shoot!
Shooting at distance requires good equipment, good data, good wind reading ability and good shooting technique. All of which need to be consistent in order to achieve predictable results.
You also need to know your own limitations at the given range and in the given environmental conditions for each shot. Probably 80 per cent of the foxes I shoot each year will be within 200 yards with probably another 10 per cent within 300 yards.
The remaining 10 per cent are the rare exceptions where the situation comes about that the conditions are right to take a shot further out.
I regularly practice out to 1,000 yards and also invariably film most of my daytime shots, as a result of which, I’ve accumulated a good number of long range shots on film for my YouTube channel.
I was recently asked to put together my top 10 favourite long range shooting clips for a recent episode of The Shooting Show on YouTube and also for Sporting Rifle, so if you haven’t already watched the episode then here’s a quick run down of my top 10 favourites.
Long range foxing: 860 yards
The number one shot has also been written about previously and is my furthest fox to date which was taken at 860 yards across the valley.
It was actually one of two that I shot at the same range on the same morning. I’d spotted a pair hunting around on the bank in some long grass and with practically no wind it made for a perfect opportunity for a long shot. Having plenty of time to dial in and prepare for the shot is a rarity with foxes but luckily these two were in no rush to move on.
With the video camera running I lined up and shot the first fox watching it drop instantly in the grass yet when I looked at the cameras screen I could see the fox stood looking perfectly healthy and looking round puzzled! This is when I realised I’d just taken my longest fox shot whilst videoing the other fox!
By this point the second fox had gone back to hunting in the grass unaware its mate lie dead a few yards away. I repeated the process a second time and successfully dropped the second fox too at the same range making for a superb long-range double and a very memorable morning!
Long range foxing: 670 yards
The shot was taken at 670 yards as the fox was mooching around a rabbit bury. As I took the shot the fox stepped forward slightly and the round hit further back in the ribs although still resulting in a quick dispatch, dropping the fox into one of the rabbit holes in the bank.
Long range foxing: 536 yards
The third place shot went to a fox again from an early morning encounter at 536 yards and the second place shot was one that has previously been written about in Sporting Rifle by my fellow scribe Robert Bucknell after he’d seen my video on YouTube!
Long range foxing: 492 yards
For the next shot, I chose a clip that has to be one of the luckiest opportunities I’ve had when foxing. On this particular morning, having not seen anything much about, I decided to shoot a rabbit to demonstrate how I take a shot at distance on video.
After I’d shot the rabbit, at the sound of the shot (or the impact) a fox rushed out of the cover close to the recently deceased rabbit! As I was already dialled in for the range and wind I wasted no time in chambering another round and shooting the fox too, both at/or close to 492 yards.
Long range foxing: 421 yards
The following shot was taken from a previous episode on The Shooting Show in which I was out early morning again on the hills of my local sheep farms where I control foxes.
I spotted this particular fox on the opposite side of the valley, hunting around the gorse bushes. I was lucky enough to have time to dial in the shot and with only a light crosswind, take the shot at 421 yards resulting in a solid chest shot dropping it where it stood.
Long range foxing: 340 yards
With the ranges creeping up the next clip is of a fox that I shot only a couple of hundred yards away from the one in the previous clip.
The farmer had seen this fox on the bank while I was at the other end of the farm and had called me to say where it was. By the time I got to the area it had gone so I decided to wait a while to see if it was still in the vicinity, and sure enough a short while later it appeared from the cover at the top of the hill to sit in the sun. With a face on chest shot I dropped the fox as it sat cleaning itself at 340 yards.
Long range foxing: 293 yards
The fourth clip was yet another early morning where I was once again out waiting for a problem fox that had been taking some pheasant poults form a nearby wood. I spotted the fox on the hillside next to the wood and after climbing unseen to the top of the hill I was on to get a clear view, took the fox with a shot at 293 yards.
Long range foxing: 260 yards
The next clip was filmed one early summer morning on the hills. I spotted this fox heading across the bank 260 yards away and quickly got on the bipod and dropped it with a chest shot, again with the .260 after giving it a shout to startle it into stopping.
Long range foxing: 200 yards (1)
The next clip was an early morning venture where I was out waiting for a particular fox that had been taking chickens from a farm. The fox had been seen around the same time each morning making its way across the fields, so I’d got set up on the back of the truck to wait in ambush.
Sure enough, exactly as before, I spotted the fox making its way in along the fence line heading for the farm. With the camera on him and a little elevation dialled in, I waited until it reached my chosen ‘spot’ then shouted to stop it.
This all went in perfect textbook style except the fox stopped broadside with a fencepost covering its chest. Confident I had the correct adjustment dialled for the 200 yards, I took a devastating head shot with the 260 Remington.
Long range foxing: 200 yards (2)
The first clip was from an earlier episode of The Shooting Show where I was out at night testing the Pulsar Thermion thermal rifle scope on my .223. I had the fox pro caller going for a while and pulled in one fox which I’d dropped with a standard broadside chest shot around 100 yards. Another fox had then come in and laid down in the field now ignoring the caller.
Using the Rekon tripod I lined up on the fox but all I could see was his head at a range of 200 yards. Using the high magnification of the scope I was able to take the shot resulting in a perfect headshot and instant dispatch.
More on foxing from Mark Ripley
- The future of foxing as lockdown is eased
- Top 10 best scopes for foxing 2020
- Foxing during a driven game day
- Guide to foxing in midsummer
- 8 tips to make the most of winter foxing
- Testing thermal optics during foxing with Robert Bucknell