Unlucky for some

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Thirteen proves to be far from an unlucky number for Gary Green – he tells James Marchington how he accounted for that many foxes in three nights, all from the same spot…

Time flies and there’s always plenty to do, so Gary Green hasn’t been back to the boarding kennels for several months. Last summer, as regular readers will remember, he was called out to deal with a ‘huge’ fox that had killed the owners’ pet chihuahuas. He put up a temporary high seat overlooking the exercise yard, and over the course of three visits he shot five foxes.

Things went quiet after that. Gary left the occasional bait pegged down on the grass, but it went untouched. It looked like the kennels’ fox problem was solved, at least for the time being.

Previous solution: Gary’s temporary high seat at the kennels had helped him account for a Chihuahua-killing fox here before

Previous solution: Gary’s temporary high seat at the kennels had helped him account for a Chihuahua-killing fox here before

Then out of the blue he had a phone call: the kennels staff were seeing foxes regularly, even in broad daylight – including one particularly large fox that was taking a close interest in the customers’ pets housed there. Not surprisingly the staff were very concerned, and wanted Gary to return and deal with the problem before disaster struck and someone’s pet was killed.

With a cry for help like that, Gary needed to move fast. He cleared his diary and headed over. His first task was to replace the temporary high seat with something more permanent. The ivy-covered tree in the corner was still the best position, even though the lie of the land isn’t ideal – the exercise yard is smaller than he’d like.

If Gary is going to draw the foxes into the open for a shot, it means that most of the time he’s shooting them at less than 50 yards, and sometimes as little as 25-30. That’s too close in Gary’s book. The fox is too likely to hear a movement, even a tiny rustle of clothing or the scrape of the forend on the rail. Plus he needs to aim off to allow for the distance between scope and barrel, which makes precision shooting that much harder.

Quick succession: Almost as soon as the staff leave, two foxes come in and are accounted for

Quick succession: Almost as soon as the staff leave, two foxes come in and are accounted for

Still, needs must, and it’s the only way to deal with the foxes in this particular tight spot. So Gary carefully dismantled his temporary high seat and rebuilt it with new, stouter timber. The view is the same, and it gives no more protection from the elements, but at least it’s sturdier and will move less in a wind.

He placed some bait in the middle of the exercise area, using handfuls of dog biscuit to avoid any risk of bringing contamination into the kennels. Scattered around, it ensures that a fox will need to sniff around to find the pieces rather than grabbing a big chunk and running off.

He returned at 6.30pm just as the staff were packing up and leaving for the night. With clear ground in front of him and a good moon in the sky, he would be able to see to shoot with the Swarovski Z6i scope with no need for additional light.

Gary had barely started and already he had two foxes on the floor!

Dog decoy: Quickly curling up the fallen foxes, Gary lures in three more for night one

Dog decoy: Quickly curling up the fallen foxes, Gary lures in three more for night one

The last car had hardly turned the corner when a fox came straight in and went for the bait – it must have been quietly sitting in the bushes waiting for everyone to leave. Gary quickly dealt with that one and, to his surprise, a second fox appeared within minutes. That one too took a round from Gary’s .223 RPA and dropped on the spot. Gary had barely started and already he had two foxes on the floor!

He nipped down from the high seat to curl them up on the ground, so they’d act as a draw to any other foxes that came by. “I didn’t want to hang around so I didn’t look closely at them, just curled them up quickly and got back in the seat,” he says. “So at that stage I had no idea the first one was a vixen in heat – which could explain what happened next.”

Over the next couple of hours three more dog foxes came in, and Gary shot each one cleanly as it came to the bait. That night he had to leave at 9.30, but by now he could tell that this was going to be a bigger job than he had imagined. He took a close look at the remaining bait so he’d know if it had been touched, and resolved to return the following day to check.

Arriving slightly later at 7.30pm on day two, he found the bait had all gone. “I topped it up and settled down. In no time at all there was another fox trotting in to the bait,” he says. “Bang, that was another one down… then another one… and another.” Within a short time he’d shot three, eight in total for the two days.

Same spot: The oak tree was the perfect position, so Gary re-builds a better seat

Same spot: The oak tree was the perfect position, so Gary re-builds a better seat

“As I packed up to go home I was congratulating myself on a job well done, thinking that was probably it – and then I heard a vixen calling at the other end of the smallholding. Nothing else for it, I went home for a cup of tea to think it over.”

Gary soon worked out there was no alternative but to keep coming back until the problem was dealt with, whatever it took. Next day he returned for a third night in a row, prepared for a long session if need be.

“It was like the story was repeating itself,” he says. “Pretty soon a dog fox came in and I shot that. Then another dog, and another dog.” Just to ring the changes Gary decided to climb down to retrieve those three and top up the bait. Back in his lofty perch, he waited on. By 10.30 another two dog foxes had come in, bringing the total to 13 over three days – that’s quite some fox problem!

Gary has been unable to get back for a few days due to a host of other commitments – he can’t neglect his other customers who have fox trouble of their own. But he knows this isn’t the end of the kennel’s story. As he set off for home he wound down the window for a last listen, and that vixen was calling again. Shining the torch around the adjacent farmland, he saw three sets of eyes glinting back at him – so there are still a few about.

Thirteen for three: 13 foxes in three nights – and there’s evidence of yet more in the area

Thirteen for three: 13 foxes in three nights – and there’s evidence of yet more in the area

Where are they all coming from? Gary’s not sure. He suspects that someone must be feeding them locally, or has carelessly left a large food source that is drawing them in. “Or possibly if two vixens have taken up residence in the area, they could be pulling in all the dogs for miles around.” To the kennel owners, of course, it doesn’t make any difference; they want them gone. But to Gary it’s all part of the fascination and mystery of fox shooting. n

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