The Whites of its Eyes

Gary switches to his Beretta semi-auto for close-up work

Most of Gary Green’s foxes are shot between 80 and 150 yards. His favourite technique is to sit up in a high seat or fox box, waiting over a bait, or a caller, or both. When all goes to plan the fox comes in, stands at 100 yards or so and bang, job done. 

He’s set up his RPA rifle to shoot one inch high at 60 yards with the relatively flat-shooting Geco .223 Express 56-grain ammo, so he can aim dead-on at anything from 60 to 200 yards and still be sure of hitting the kill-zone.

Just now and again though, a cunning fox or a tricky spot calls for a change of plan – and that’s what happened with a poultry-killer on a smallholding near his home in Essex. The fox had already taken several geese and chickens when his friend the smallholder called for help.

It’s not a commercial farm, but if anything that makes it worse. These birds are almost family pets, and it’s upsetting for the owners to find them ripped apart with heads missing and pieces strewn around. Gary drops his plans and nips round the same evening to check out the site.

It’s immediately clear that this fox won’t be straightforward. The site is a tangle of buildings, patches of rough ground, hedges, bramble thickets and an orchard with long grass. This fox has no need to show itself in the open; it can sneak in through the deep cover almost to within pouncing distance of the poultry.

The farmer himself is narrowing the options too. “It’s not his fault, but he’s restricting the time window when I can shoot,” Gary explains. “He has a couple of small dogs that run about the place, and there are people stabling horses here too. I’ll be shooting close to the buildings, and they don’t want a gun going off when they’re riding in and out. I’ll need to get my thinking cap on and work out how to get around all the restrictions to nail this fox.”

It takes Gary a few visits to work out the fox’s routes and plan his approach. “I don’t think I stand a chance of catching it on the way in,” he says. “The cover is too thick. But it passes the end of a barn as it leaves the farmyard, following a grass track before disappearing into the hedge and dropping down into an old drain. If I wait on the end of the barn, I may just be able to do the job.”

It won’t be easy. Gary needs to get some height to look down on the fox’s route. He will need some light on the scene, and even then the fox will be very close indeed –
no more than 10 yards away. Even the slightest sound or movement will mean a wasted evening.

He has a plan, though. There’s an old shed at the end of the barn, which he can climb on top of. Then he’ll be in the shadow of the end of the barn, looking down on the small patch of grass where the fox passes through. Better still, there’s a security light on the barn, right beside where Gary will be standing. It has an infrared sensor that switches the light on when it detects movement. The fox must be used to it coming on as it passes by.

Gary needs something to hold the fox’s attention so it stops long enough for a shot, rather than scampering on past. A cooked chicken carcase pegged to the ground should do the job, with a liberal sprinkling of fish oil for good measure.

For once Gary leaves his trusty .223 in the cabinet and takes out a semi-auto shotgun instead. It’s a Beretta A391 Xtrema 2, and he’s loading it with three-inch magnum No.1 shot. That should be plenty to stop any fox in its tracks, certainly at this distance, and it’s much better suited to this sort of close-range work. With livestock and buildings all around, Gary doesn’t want any chance of a ricochet or bullet deflection.

A little while before sunset Gary climbs into position. He leans an old metal ladder against the shed and heaves himself onto the roof. It’s more rickety than he expected, and he can feel it swaying beneath him. Better walk carefully around the edge rather than stepping straight across the middle of the roof – he doesn’t want to crash through!

Gary’s TOP TIP: Tailor your equipment and approach to the environment you’re shooting in

He loads up the shotgun – one in the chamber and two in the magazine – and flicks the safety catch on. There’s no seat, but he can lean against the end wall of the barn. Even so, his legs will be stiff if he has to wait here all night.

As darkness falls the daytime sounds peter out, and there’s just the distant rush of traffic and the familiar night sounds. Bats flit past Gary’s head, and an owl calls in the wood across the field. A couple of times something sets off the security light but there’s nothing there – a bat passing the sensor perhaps. Gary works out that he can activate the light just by raising his elbow in front of the sensor; that could be useful.

Suddenly there’s a terrible racket from the yard: squawking, cackling and flapping. It must be the fox. The noise dies down but Gary’s senses are on full alert – has he predicted the raider’s escape route correctly?

In the dim light he can just make out a movement by the chicken bait, but he can’t afford to make assumptions. He must see the whites of the fox’s eyes and make quite sure of his quarry.

He brings the gun to his shoulder, and lifts his elbow so it cuts the sensor beam. The light blasts on. There, frozen for an instant in the beam, is the fox. It’s still holding a dead goose in its mouth but the chicken and fish oil has caught its attention and it’s stopped for a sniff.

A second later it’s all over. The sound of the shot echoes round the buildings and the fox lies dead on the grass, the goose still in its mouth. Talk about caught red-handed! Gary climbs gingerly down from his perch, tidies up and heads home for what’s an early night for him – it’s not yet 1am.

Next morning there’s a text on his phone from the farmer. He’d been woken by the shot, but he didn’t mind – in fact, he was delighted when he saw the fox lying there. A bit of good fieldwork and careful planning has produced another good job done and another happy customer. It all adds to the word of mouth that keeps Gary in foxing permission for miles around. Gary Green

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