In the latest of our Why We Shoot series, our experienced foxer shares his background and passion for the sport
I grew up on a farm and shooting wasn’t really an issue – you shot because that’s what you did. If anyone had asked, they’d have got a flippant answer, like ‘because it’s better than using a bow and arrow!’
I suppose I was about 15 when I first stopped and seriously asked myself the question. I was hugely enthusiastic about shooting and, living on the farm, had every opportunity to go out after rabbits, pigeons and the like, first with an air rifle, then from a shotgun to a .410 and on to bigger and better guns. It was fun, exciting and challenging.
I enjoyed every aspect of it – developing my skill with a gun, the technical aspects of how guns work, being outside and learning the fieldcraft skills that enabled me to get close enough for a shot.
Then one day I shot a rabbit, picked it up and looked at it, and thought to myself ‘why did I kill you?’ I didn’t have to look far for the answer in this case. The rabbit damage to the growing crops was right in front of my eyes. Rabbit numbers were huge in pre-myxomatosis days and if you didn’t kill the rabbits then yields would be well down.
Of course, you didn’t need to remind yourself of that each time you went out – it was just understood that rabbits needed to be controlled, and we got on with it as a job of work, but also enjoyed it as sport, and everyone enjoyed eating the meat too.
During the war they would shoot rabbits on Monday and Tuesday ready for the local market on Wednesday. They made enough money each week to make a considerable contribution to the weekly bill for farm wages. Times have changed, but the crop destroyers still have to be controlled.
Pigeons, rabbits, rats and deer can make large inroads into a farmer’s crops so there is always shooting of that type. It’s a very necessary part of looking after the land to protect my crops. But why do I shoot game birds such as pheasants and partridges on an organised day? I also enjoy shooting them, but for different reasons, now there’s a conundrum!
I think we have a natural wish to compete – but also to hunt. So, by combining the two we have the recipe for a day out with your mates and at the end of the day to sit down with some food and drink, to rehash the sport and life in general.
Finally, when it comes to foxing, it’s largely about protecting livestock, game birds and vulnerable wildlife. We need to protect those by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to them.
I also enjoy helping out elsewhere, killing foxes on nearby livestock farms and even the odd nature reserve, where foxes pose a problem to vulnerable nesting birds – although usually the reserves don’t advertise the fact they’re having the foxes shot, as they assume it would be unpalatable to their supporters.
Do I enjoy foxing? Yes of course I do, otherwise I’d be letting someone else do the hard slog of running around in the truck late at night or sitting up freezing their whatsits off in a high seat.
So why do I shoot? Well for a whole lot of reasons, and some days (or nights) it’s about the fun of going out, while other days it’s to catch a specific fox that’s doing damage. But usually it’s a mixture of everything – and it is better than using a bow and arrow!
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More from Robert Bucknell
- Advice for young shooters from Robert Bucknell
- Testing thermal optics during foxing with Robert Bucknell
- The importance of fieldcraft: Robert Bucknell explains
- Thermal imagers in foxing