Magnificent seven

Mark Ripley takes a charity auction winner for a foxing outing and the pair get more success than they could have imagined

Many readers will be aware of the charity auction that I recently organised for the benefit of a young lad called Alfie.

The auction was of goods kindly donated by manufacturers, retailers, magazines and people offering sporting opportunities to raise money for eight-year-old Alfie, who is tragically suffering from terminal Adrenoleukodystrophy (or ALD), a disease that has already taken his hearing, speech, mobility and his ability to feed himself.

The funds raised will go towards helping Alfie’s family spend what little time they have left with him on holiday, days out and generally making memories.

The response was amazing and many people generously donated items for sale and many bidders placed bids which exceeded the retail price of the goods. There were also some amazingly discreet acts of kindness. I put up a sporting opportunity for someone to join me for a night’s foxing and was amazed to see bids for hundreds of pounds, and even more amazed and touched to see the names of some of the bidders – they were friends of mine who would be welcome out with me any time for free.

The Pard 007 NV and Wicked Lights IR made for an excellent combination

There were also many kind cash donations, both online and also collected at the Midland Game Fair, helping raise the total generated to almost £7,000.

One person who made a considerable donation was Mark, who placed a generous and successful bid for an opportunity to spend an evening foxing with me.

When I first spoke to Mark on the phone I thanked him for the bid he had placed and he said: “Well it’s for a good cause, and the way I see it I have two arms, two legs, I can go out and earn that money again – he (Alfie) can’t.” With that one opening comment I knew that I was going to get on well with Mark.

It turned out Mark had recently got a new Tikka rifle in .223, and though he had shot several foxes with his rimfire, he was yet to christen his new rifle. He’s no slouch – he had shot over 30 in his own large garden since the end of February using his .22 rimfire, most recently shooting three in the same evening.

We arranged a visit one afternoon for Mark to come down and zero his rifle. Heading down to the fox box, we set out a target and we quickly had the rifle zeroed and Mark proved he was just as handy with a centrefire as he is with a rimfire. With the rifle zeroed at 200 yards, Mark also managed to put rounds onto a 300-yard six- inch gong to check his drops a little further out. We were good to head out after a fox.

The sight picture from the Pard night vision unit on a fox

Heading down to another farm that often holds a few foxes, we arrived just as dusk settled. Unfortunately I only had an hour or so to spare, and despite spotting one or two foxes we were unable to get on to one with a safe backstop so it was not to be.

We arranged for a proper night’s foxing the following week and Mark brought with him a neat little compact NV add-on, the Pard 007. Again we headed back to the same farm and soon found ourselves watching two foxes out on the field little more than 60 yards away, but again without a safe backstop. With more time to wait, this time eventually one moved off left to an area with a safe bit of ground behind. I gave Mark the all-clear as I watched through the thermal. A good shot off his set of Viperflex sticks dropped the fox around 100 yards, giving him his first centrefire fox.

We spent a little time playing cat-and- mouse with foxes here before meeting up with my regular shooting partner, Gary, and heading over to an area of hilly ground to see what was around.

We soon found ourselves watching three foxes up on the bank – they were a little far to shoot off sticks, but before long one wandered a little further down among some cover. We could see it with the thermal but couldn’t get a clear shot. I told Mark that if he got a clear shot and was happy, for him to take it.

Before long the fox wandered into a clear area. Mark’s .223 let out a muffled crack and I watched as the fox crumpled and rolled down the bank to an excellent 130- yard shot, coming to rest against the back of the fence.

We got Gary to do a little hand squeaking (something he does very well) and before long we had a third fox appear further down the edge of the field around 80 yards from us. Mark quickly lined up on it, but before he could take a shot I noticed a torch light further up the hill. A look through the thermal showed several walkers coming along the footpath. We would have to wait until they had gone before taking a shot so as not to scare them.

Mark with his first centrefire fox

With the walkers safely out of sight, we were surprised to see the fox still out on the bank. Mark again put a round on target – that was fox number three in the bag.

We headed out to the golf course for a look around and left Gary to harvest some rabbits with his .22 – he had an order for 30 of them to meet. Despite spending an hour there calling with the Fox Pro, nothing showed other than a few rabbits and a few fallow deer, so we headed back to the first farm we had visited.

We decided to have a look around the other side of the farm. After a short wander around, I noticed a heat source by a hedge about 60 yards away. Since it was a windy night, I had a suspicion that it could be
a fox curled up asleep. A look through the night vision showed that was exactly what it appeared to be.

“I’ll give it a little lip squeak and when it looks up, as long as you’re 100 per cent sure its a fox, shoot it,” I told Mark.

As per the textbook, I squeaked and the fox looked up. A quick shot and I watched as its head flopped back. Its body never moved. When we picked the fox up it was clear to see where the bullet had cut a line of hair across its body before thumping into the neck of the sleepy fox.

Mark was amazed at the number of foxes around and was thoroughly enjoying his evening. We headed for an area where it’s often possible to call a fox in from the cover on the boundary of the ground. I called for a few minutes before I spotted a fox coming in keenly from the cover. I gave Mark a nudge and he too spotted it in his thermal before flicking on his night vision. This fox came in to around 80 yards, and with Mark ready I gave it a shout to stop it. Another nice bit of shooting and the fox dropped on the spot.

We were amazed as we walked over to find a rounded fox of a good size. This old dog fox had obviously dined well on scraps, most likely from the nearby housing estate. When I weighed him the next day, he came in at 22.5lb – a fair bit above the average and certainly the fattest fox I’ve seen.

This fox never knew what hit it. You can see the line of cut fur from the bullet across its shoulder

We soon spotted yet another fox in the next field, so I gave it a squeak and got it a little closer before Mark again made another good 130-yard shot. Before we had time to collect it, another appeared. I watched as it cut across the field, but Mark struggled to see it. “It looks a fair distance,” said Mark, but the fox was probably about 80 yards. Then we realised Mark was watching yet another fox at the far end of the field! Mark wasted no time getting on to fox number seven, and once it had moved clear of some cattle, another fox was added to the bag. With both of us pleased with the results of the evening and the time nearing 3am, we decided to call it a night.

Mark phoned me the following day still buzzing from his evening out and to tell me he had got home and ordered a Fox Pro caller online before going to bed!

I was impressed with Mark’s shooting as well as his calm and safe attitude when out, so I have invited him down in the next few weeks to try for a fallow deer. I already have my eye on a nice buck for him on a new permission I have, so that may be one for another article…

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