Vulpine Bid

Fifteen foxes fell to Howard’s rifles during the two-day foray

The Sporting Rifle Save the Rhino auction has raised a lot of money for a fantastic cause, and one year I put up a lot for a reader to come out foxing with me. I had arranged with the winner Howard Stott to come foxing the weekend after the Midland Game Fair, hopefully hitting that spell after harvest when foxes turn up everywhere. This is the time when what they have known as home has been cut or harvested, making them move about looking for sanctuary elsewhere.

Howard arrived mid-afternoon on the Friday and showed me his rifle set up. He had brought two rifles, both Tikka T3 Stainless Varmints – one in .223 and the other in .22-250, with identical ASE sound moderators. The .22-250 was topped with a Cobra night vision scope paired with Cobra night binoculars, whereas the .223 had a Nightforce 8-32×56 for Howard’s day shooting or with the lamp.

We met my cousin Paul at dusk; he had volunteered to drive while Howard and I were in the fox box fixed to the truck back. Within five minutes of setting out I had the lamp on a fully grown cub no more than 150 yards out on a stubble field. Paul came to a halt as Howard pressed his back into the corner of the box for a solid rest. I gave the fox a couple of squeaks and the cub responded well, too well in fact, not stopping until it got within 10 yards of the truck and disappearing into an adjacent hedge. Keeping quiet, I lamped back and forth for at least two minutes. Eventually I spotted the cub moving back out into the field. Stopping him with a quick squeak, Howard was soon on him, taking the cub at around 40 yards. Number one was in the bag.

Howard Stott, a Sporting Rifle Save the Rhino auction winner, enjoys his foxing trip with Mark

The next stubble field revealed nothing, but being optimistic, we parked up and started calling. After five minutes a cub came into the field from some woodland at the far end of the field. It wasn’t as keen as the previous victim but I managed to coax it in to around 100 yards. Howard followed it through the Nightforce scope as I kept the cub in the outside of the main beam of the lamp. Killing the call, I then dazzled the fox with the full beam. It paused long enough for Howard to rack up fox number two.

Howard’s confidence was now growing but the next fox we came across was less accommodating. He moved off away from the lamp as soon as the truck stopped. I kept the lamp on it while Howard positioned himself to take a shot while he still could. A couple of hare squeaks from me were just enough to stop and turn Charlie at 150 yards out. The .223 cracked and although the fox ran 20 yards before dropping, the bullet strike sounded good. On inspection the bullet had hit just behind the ribcage, missing all the vital organs, but did enough to kill the fox in seconds nevertheless.

Over the next three stubble fields two more cubs came to the squeak and fell to Howard’s rifle. It was still well before midnight and it seemed everything was sticking to the script. Moving on I picked up another fox, which would not respond to the call. It just kept on hunting about 400 yards away oblivious to our presence. I signalled to Paul to drive on towards the fox in ‘diesel stalking’ mode. Paul knew the ground well, and without instruction brought the truck to a halt. I flicked the lamp on and made a sweep of the area, the fox was now around 200 yards away still going about his business. Howard readied the rifle as I mimicked the call of a distressed hare, stopping the fox, but Howard unfortunately missed the target. The lucky fox headed for the next county, and my guest was understandably annoyed with himself for missing – but we’ve all done it.

During the next hour we changed to a different location. This proved to be a good move, adding another five foxes to the bag. By 2.30am we had changed again to an area with wiser foxes that tended to keep their distance. Fortunately I managed to call a couple of juveniles in, which Howard dispatched with no trouble. As the clock crept up to 4am we called it a night.

I was looking forward to the next evening’s outing as much as Howard, keen as I was to test the Cobra in the field. The plan was for me to drive and spot with the lamp while Howard would be in the passenger seat of the truck with his Tikka .22-250 fitted with his Cobra Centaur 165 night vision scope and Laserluchs illuminator. Once I had spotted the fox, Howard would dismount the truck to take the shot over the bonnet if possible while I switched from lamp to the Cobra Tornado 165 NV Binoculars – also fitted with a Laserluchs illuminator.

The first farm we went to saw us lamping two fields at once as we drove up the mile-long private road. It wasn’t until we had nearly reached the farmstead that I spotted a fox, 100 yards in front of the house and about the same from our position. Turning the lamp off, Howard got out of the truck as I cut the engine and set up on the bonnet. Unfortunately I was totally blind to what was going on as the NV binoculars were out of reach, and I did not want to move about too much in case Howard was trying to steady himself for a shot. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Fortunately the fox was as unaware as I was when I heard the crack of the .22-250 followed by a pleasing ‘thwack’.

Moving on the next farm, I made sure the Cobra NV binoculars were closer to hand. I soon caught a glimpse of a fox as it disappeared through the hedge. It was a way off so we stopped and set up outside the truck. Howard placed his bench bag on the bonnet as I set the Mini Colibri caller going. Using the Cobra NV binos, I searched the field and was amazed at the quality of vision even without the added Laserluchs illuminator.

Spotting a fox some 300 yards away, I indicated it to Howard. Working the NV units as a team, Howard soon picked up Charlie in the scope guided by the illuminator emanating from the NV binoculars. This fox unfortunately disappeared through the hedge and was gone.

A mist began to swirl in so we moved to a good vantage on higher ground. Howard set up over the bonnet while I set the caller going and switched the Cobra binos on. We had only been calling a couple of minutes when on the second sweep of the field I spotted a fox coming alongside a maize crop 300 yards below. I watched it with the beam of the Laserluchs illuminator on the fox, and I could see Howard’s illuminator beam sweep across the field as he quickly locked on to the closing fox.

I turned the volume down on the Mini Colibri, coaxing the cub in to 100 yards. The fox paused, oblivious to what was going on stopped giving Howard the chance of a shot. Howard placed the cross of the Cobra at the top of his shoulders and squeezed away the bullet. The fox crumpled as the Sako B-Tip found its mark.

We headed for a farm out towards the Yorkshire Wolds to try to get away from the mist, which was now forming a blanket across most fields on the lowland areas. As we turned off the public road I flashed the lamp across the field on our left spotting a fox straight away. Applying the brakes, I brought the truck to a halt. Howard disembarked and came round to my side of the truck and set up his rifle on his bench bag before I switched off the engine. Picking up the NV binos and looking out of the passenger window, I could see the fox bolt upright facing in our direction. Howard took his time and clinically dropped it at 219 yards.

We finished with a total bag of 15 foxes for the two nights. Despite the mist hindering Saturday’s outing, the foxes had called well and Howard had shot straight. I had been impressed by both the Cobra gear and Howard’s shooting. Furthermore it felt good to know that the money Howard had bid for this hunt had gone to the hard-pressed anti-poaching units in Africa, who risk their lives daily to save that most iconic of big game species, the rhino. Mark Nicholson

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