The long and short of it

Known more for his exceptionally long-range shots, Mark Ripley is tasked with a short-range encounter, controlling foxes in a pea-souper on a poultry farm

Each year I keep a note of how the foxes I shoot, detailing where each one was shot, day or night, male or female and I also make a note of the range just out of interest.

As you might expect, the vast majority of the foxes I shoot at night are under 150 yards with well over half of them at 100 yards or less. The average daytime fox tends to naturally be around 150-200 yards with a few extreme ones somewhat further.

When I’m shooting foxes during the day I’ll always favour using the .260 Rem as being rather familiar with its ballistics I can feel confident to take a long shot if one presents itself. As you can imagine, it’s very frustrating when you’re sat waiting for a fox with a smaller calibre rifle only to spot the thing sat sunning itself on the other side of the valley where the .260 would have confidently reached!

At the moment there’s been a few calls for fox jobs, as the cubs are now well and truly out and about and getting into all sorts of mischief and wrong doings.

The other evening I was out doing a little varminting with the .260, targeting a few crows and one or two rabbits and spotted a young fox out hunting on hill. This little chap was dashing around everywhere and hardly stood still for a second.

The fog meant a short-range shot would be called for

As it happened I’d shot a rabbit earlier and before long the fox found between dashes and kept him occupied in one spot for a few moments. Quickly dialling in for the shot, I sent a round arching up the hill to drop again squarely between its shoulder blades from behind and obliterating the chest of the fox on exit at 340 yards.

It’s always rewarding to drop a fox at longer range, especially as they are seldom still for very long making it difficult to range them and adjust for a shot before they move again.

But as is more often the case, particularly at night and when waiting for a particular fox, the ranges can be a lot closer.

This was the case recently when Gary and I were asked to deal with a fox or foxes that were taking poultry.

The birds were owned by a shepherd who lives and works on a farm that Gary looks after where fox numbers can be unusually high, especially this time of year.

The shepherd’s cottage lies one side of the farm drive and the chickens, geese and Guinea fowl are kept in the field opposite.

Foxes seem to move back and forth along the top of the field and as the birds are usually left to roam freely around the small field in the day.

The scene of the crime. Feathers mark the spot where a fox dined on a goose

Every once in a while a fox will get bold enough to venture down a bit closer to bolt out from the undergrowth on the field managing to snatch up a chicken and be off should one wander too close to its ambush.

As this is a sheep farm, we had already hit the foxes hard during the lambing season, but clearly there was one or more foxes who had since taken up residence.

We called into the farm before dark armed with the .260 Rem, Pulsar F155 night vision and our thermal spotters and set ourselves up in the shepherd’s garden, making full use of his patio furniture.

Gary wandered down to the cottage to cheekily knock on the kitchen window and return a few minutes later laden with a big grin carrying coffees, biscuits and cakes.

We pulled up a plastic barrel and small bit of plywood to make a rifle rest behind the garden wall facing out into the field and settled in to wait for an early visitor just before dusk rolled over.

There was a thick fog clinging to the hills which seemed to be getting thicker as dusk drew in and the guinea fowl one by one fluttered up to roost in the tree above us.

Fortunately we were only likely to be shooting about 50 or 60 yards here so hopefully the fog wouldn’t get too bad and stop us shooting to an acceptable standard.

Gary gets settled – now he just needs to look up for long enough to spot a fox…

The shepherd wandered out and put some bait out for us on the side of the sloping field about 50 yards out where we would be able to get a good safe shot then after a quick chat left us to wait it out.

Gary had not long returned with our second coffees when he spotted a fox waltzing through the nettles at the top of the bank and head rather sharpishly towards the bait.

I flicked on the F155 and picked up the fox staring back at me with a chunk of chicken gripped in its jaws. A quick easy shot dropped the vixen where she stood, still with the bait clamped in her mouth.

I chambered another round and put the rifle on safe and we sat back down to wait for another couple of hours to see if there would be any further visitors.
After a good hour or so of watching one or two hefty size rats scurrying around the chicken sheds through the thermal spotters a much larger visitor appeared from our left across the field.

A second fox came cautiously across the bank and constantly glared towards us hidden behind the wall and in the shadows of the trees, yet it’s uncanny knack of sensing danger had it on its guard.

Nonetheless, the lure of the chickens aroma took over her attention and she moved forward before suddenly becoming aware of the first fox dead in the grass ahead of her and she began to warily circle around the bait.

Thermal and NV tip the balance ever more in the foxer’s favour

By now I was watching through the scope, but the fog had descended further and even at 50 yards I was struggling to see clearly – not safe at all.
As she circled around a little closer I got the broadside opportunity I was looking for and squeezed the trigger dropping her on the spot within a few yards of the first.

The fog by now had come in so thick it made it impossible to see more than about 30 yards with a torch but fortunately the thermal spotters made light work of finding the foxes in the grass yet even their clarity was limited compared to their usual sharp picture quality.

We were planing to have a look around the rest of the farm but with conditions as they were and with it already gone midnight we decided to call it a night; for safety, and other, reasons.

Speaking to the shepherd a week or so later, he’d not lost any more birds, but he had shot another fox on the same field in the middle of the afternoon.

At this time of year I’m often busy with vixens taking poultry to feed young or sometimes it’s the cubs that cause the trouble. Being of a smaller build means they can sometimes squeeze through fences that a fully grown adult is unable too. Cubs also at this age can still be yet to learn the dangers of humans, cars and traps and as a result boldly venture in to trouble. Many will die as a result on the roads, under the lamp or wind up stuck in a Larsen trap or some other similar peril.

By the end of August as well as being well into the fallow buck season I will also be starting to clear up foxes a little harder with the arrival of pheasant poults on one or two farms after only addressing problem foxes through the spring and summer months so far.

I’ve also got some interesting gear coming up to test in the near future from Scott Country including some night vision and thermal scopes which I will be putting to the test on the foxes as well as a new custom built rifle from Paddy Dane at Dane & Co rifles. For awhile I’ve been toying with a heavier hitting rifle than my .223 for some longer range night shooting.

After chatting with Paddy I’ve decided to go with a 6.5 Creedmoor, which should certainly tick all the boxes for accuracy and long range performance, my only dilemma then will be which night-scope to add, be it my old Drone pro or possibly a new thermal scope… Exciting times ahead!

The two culprits, brought to book

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