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Howard’s TOP TIP: Being cautious and patient with the lamp may provide shooting opportunities

I recall one year when I still had some holidays owed to me, so I thought I would make a dash to Scotland for a possible last buck of the season and to have a go at the fox population that had long been untouchable because of the standing cereal crops.

After checking all my equipment and hastily packing my bag for the seven-hour journey, the only thing I had to do was get an early night. Double-checking your equipment saves the frustration and embarrassment of getting to your destination and finding you have the wrong combination of rifle, ammo and moderator.

When I make such journeys I like to arrive not long after midday to give me time to unpack and check zero on my 6mm BR rifle. All went to plan – I arrived mid-afternoon and made a small adjustment to the scope. It needed one click left, putting the point of aim spot on at one inch high at 100 yards, dead on at 200 yards and three inches below at 300 yards – all well within the kill zone.

The shooting area consists of a very large moor with a good acreage of woodland, some of which has just been thinned out. This thinning has had an impact on the deer and other wildlife. Roebucks seemed to have gone to ground as they do after the rut, only feeding during the hours of darkness. I only saw six bucks all week, and although most didn’t
stay out too long, I did manage to get one in the bag.

The end of the roebuck season is also one of the best times of year to get to grips with the fox population. The farmers are busy cutting their crops, allowing us to get onto the fields lamping from the Land Rover. This is a real luxury for me, as back home 95 per cent of my foxing is on foot – another reason why I am so glad of the lithium ion battery pack from Deben. Weighing only 800 grams, it will never throw you off balance like the more conventional battery packs can do.

After a drive round in the afternoon to see which fields had been cut, we made plans for later that night. With the farmers working through the night to get their crops in, we would spend a little longer in each stubble field instead of rushing off to the next. When you have so much ground to cover, it is tempting to do a circuit of the field, lamp blazing away, and go straight on to the next if you don’t see anything. I like the slower approach, so this suited me better. Geared up and ready to go, we set off on the 15-minute drive to our destination.

In the first stubble field we drove into, I picked up a pair of eyes some 400 yards away – but as soon as we went through the gate they disappeared. Rather than driving straight towards the fox’s last location, we drove across at an angle. This would reduce the distance between us and our possible quarry and was less likely to spook the fox. When we got to a good range for identification and shooting, I readied the rifle. My friend flicked on the lamp and picked up the fox in the beam at about 150 yards. I drew a bead on his chest in the scope, and that was the first fox of the night in the bag.

What I didn’t see was a second pair of eyes on the edge of the beam. Luckily my number two spotted it and gave me a nudge. This one was startled, no doubt owing to the recent demise of his brethren. I switched off the lamp for a few minutes to give him time to calm down, and moved further downfield.

Another brush gathered in the stubble

We were in no rush as we rolled down towards Charlie’s location. Flicking the light on and keeping just on the edge of the beam with rifle at the ready, we got as close as we dared and turned the Land Rover sideways. With the beam lowered, the fox kept what little confidence it had – until half a second of hesitation allowed me to add him to the bag when the beam was placed in his face. I felt that if we had put the beam full-on to the uneasy fox any earlier, he would have been away down the field in an instant.

We accounted for another two foxes that night, making it four in total, and we didn’t have to call once. The moral of this story is to be a little more patient when you pick up a fox in the beam. Instead of going directly into calling mode, watch its reaction to the lamp. If your fox moves off, ask yourself: Did it go like lightning, not even stopping and looking back? Or did it move off and calm down again further down the field? No two foxes are the same, and all this should help you make an informed decision.

If, in your opinion, the fox has been badly lamped before, then an early morning ambush might be the most appropriate way of getting a result. Or maybe it was you making a noise of some kind that the fox didn’t like, putting it on extra alert. Understanding all this information and then analysing it on the spot comes with experience. Get it wrong and you could make it much harder the next time you tussle with Charlie. The more you go out, the more experienced you will become and the more brushes you will gather. Howard Heywood

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