Suck it and see

ROBERT’S TOP TIP: Don’t always listen to the experts, you have to find what works for you

Some experts will tell you there’s no point calling foxes in the spring. The adults have heard it all before, and anyway they’re busy looking after the cubs, which are generally born around mid-March.

Wait until the youngsters are 10 weeks old and start hunting on their own, then it’s time to start calling again.

Well, that’s all true – but foxes don’t listen to the experts. We could have given up on the grounds that it’s the wrong time of year for calling.

But in my experience, foxes may come to a call at any time of year. It depends on the individual fox, what mood it’s in and a whole lot of factors you can’t guess. If you don’t give it a go, you’ll never know.

People often ask me what the best call for foxes is. The quick answer is Pat Carey, the Warrener. Pat’s calling technique is something to behold. He has an uncanny ability to bring in foxes even when they obviously don’t want to come – they find his insistent calling irresistible, coming in like a well-trained gundog to the whistle. In one of his videos he calls a fox so close that he can push it away with his foot, and still it comes back.

Unfortunately you can’t carry Pat in your pocket – but there are some very good alternatives that you can. People have been dreaming up ingenious ways of calling in foxes for a long time, and I’ve gathered quite a collection over the years. A metal detector enthusiast brought me an old call that he’d found in one of my fields once. It was the wigeon whistle type, made from the brass heads of two old 12-bore cartridges with
the primers punched out. It was very tarnished from being in the ground so long, but I reckoned it could be more than 100 years old.

There are many variations on the wigeon whistle call, including one of my favourites, the WAM call, which is good for a little mouse squeak to tease in a fox when it’s getting close. When you need to shout out across open Scottish hillsides, though, you need something more powerful. The Tenterfield whistle, which was originally sent over here by Andre Georgescu from Australia, claims to carry for over a kilometre, for example. Bestfoxcall.co.uk has come up with a well made stainless steel version on a paracord lanyard. It makes a good, loud, raspy call that carries a long way, and is one of the easiest to use of its type.

It’s hard to predict which call will work in any given situation… so it’s worth having a few to hand

For this particular fox, however, I used the electronic call that I had with me. It can reach out a long way, and offers a good range of calls. When a fox doesn’t respond, it’s so easy to swap to a different sound. I’ve often watched a fox carrying on oblivious of the call, then changed my tune and seen it instantly turn and head in. There must be something in the sound that we can’t hear. You can have two calls that sound equally good to our ears, but foxes ignore one and find the other irresistible.

It’s all about finding the sound that makes the fox think it’s found an easy meal. If that fox is in the habit of popping down to the village pond for a duck, then quacking like a duck may produce the desired response. Think about what yours are feeding on.

When you’re squeaking with your mouth, or even using a Tenterfield-type call, you can vary the tone just by changing the shape of your mouth, moving your tongue, or blowing or sucking harder or softer. When you find the right tone and the fox responds, the challenge is to produce the same note again. At least with an electronic call you just have to press the right button.

This fox obviously liked the sound of my caller’s young rabbit call, as the next thing we saw was its head poking out of the hedge barely 60 yards away. Unfortunately it wasn’t where we’d expected. Nigel, who was on top with his gun on the cab roof, was facing entirely the wrong direction.

That’s why I’m not a fan of bipods for lamping from a vehicle. If the legs are extended, it’s almost impossible to change position without making a noise. If they’re folded, you’ll most likely gouge the paintwork too. I prefer to rest the gun on a cushion or pillow, which I can slide quickly and silently into position.

This fox wasn’t totally convinced by my call, and it set off across the field. I called again and it stopped, but not long enough for a shot. Again I pressed the button, and it hesitated and went on. Then the third time, with a bit more distance between us, it felt confident enough to stand for a longer look. Nigel bowled it over. It was an old dog fox, which proved my point that when it comes to calling: every fox is different and you’ll never know unless you give it a go. Robert Bucknell

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