Leading lights

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Now is the time to get a handle on the fox and rabbit populations, and some good lamping equipment could give you just the head start you need, says Mike Powell.

How time flies! As I sat down to write this article it dawned on me that it won’t be long before the lamping season starts again. Already the nights will be drawing in, and to someone who spends a great deal of his time out and about at night there is the bonus that I shall be able to start and finish earlier.

Pic01_Cluson Green Eye01I have said before that over the years I have learned there is no great need to be out in the wee small hours to shoot foxes. Their ‘day’, so to speak, starts when the light begins to fail and the various food species they need to survive begin to emerge. Rabbits in particular are on the move the moment the light starts to fade and many other species begin their ‘day’ when ours ends. With the onset of longer nights the main lamping season will soon be under way – although these days the term ‘lamping’ is more loosely applied! Back in the days of yore ‘lamping’ was just that. Lamping today, however – what with the advent of night vision, thermal imaging, and so on – has seen quite a few lamps put on the back burner.

Lamps, torches, call them what you will – either way, the technology behind them has come on in leaps and bounds these past few years. This is mainly due to the advancement of the LED (light emitting diode). These long lasting and extremely efficient units have really transformed lamping, with intense light beams able to cover distances that I could only have dreamed about as a lad. Today there are lamps that will throw a beam out to seven hundred yards or more, although to be honest I don’t quite see the purpose of this. While some website users claim to regularly shoot foxes out to these sort of distances, I’m afraid my efforts fall well short of this!

Pic04_Tracer14005During the ‘close season’ as it were, there have been a few new items appear for lampers to cast their eye over and some of these I will be having a look at later.

September is also the time for clearing fields of the crops that have masked the goings on of the wildlife for several months now. Many of these crops got off to a slow start thanks to poor weather at the beginning of the year, but a warm early June helped and many of the crops around me bucked up and ended up reasonably well. Once the mowers and combines get cracking the time has come to reduce fox numbers. It gives the shooter who has had qualms about orphaning cubs the chance to catch up. Many foxes take advantage of crop cutting operations, as inevitably there will be easy pickings to be had.

Personally I have found that possibly the most productive farming operation where fox control is concerned is ‘topping off’ rough fields and margins. These areas are a real haven for small mammals and insect life, and once the topper has been through there will be plenty of fox-type food to be had. Often older foxes who know the ropes will hang around while cutting is actually taking place, but as the late summer evenings draw in the younger foxes will visit these areas and good results can be had by just sitting out and waiting.

Pic05_Tracer17006I don’t do a lot of calling these days. I have found that getting to know the areas where foxes travel will often pay dividends and sitting and waiting will, more often than not, result in the opportunity to keep numbers under control. However, for those who like to try their hand at calling foxes in, this is a good time to hone skills. This year’s cubs will often respond really well to certain calls, ones that even at their young age they have learned to associate with food.

Some years ago I was able to watch a litter of three cubs being raised at quite close quarters. These were ‘protected’ as the owner of the large garden where they were raised did not want them harmed. One particular stage of their development that really stuck in my mind was when the parents started bringing live quarry back to the earth for the cubs to try and kill for themselves. In the early stages small rabbits, mice, and voles seemed to be the main victims. During their rather amateurish first attempts at killing there were obviously a certain amount of distress calls from the luckless recipients of the cubs’ attentions. Since then, whenever I have needed to call hunting cubs I have used the small mammal distress calls.

Cubs, like their human teenage counterparts, have huge appetites needed to fuel their still-developing bodies. As a result, calling cubs will work at pretty well all times of day. Again like teenagers, the only exception I have found is first thing in the morning when they are sleeping off the exertions of the night before. As the day warms up, however, they soon become active and will react strongly to appropriate calls, particularly around midday.

With the nights drawing in, lamping and night vision equipment really comes into its own. I’ll not go down the night vision route in this article, but rather take a look at some of the more traditional lamping gear to have arrived on the shooting scene in recent months.

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First off is Cluson Engineering, which has impressed me with the addition of several new units. It seems I have always had a Cluson lamp of one sort or other, and I have to say they have always proved first class – well-made and durable. The first of these offerings is a ‘torch gunlight’ appropriately called the Green Eye Gunlight that, as you would suspect, employs a green LED. There has been a definite swing towards this type of shooting aid and it’s easy to see why. They are light, easily fitted, and give a very bright light. As with other similar coloured LED torchlights, they produce a much better light than lamps using a filter. I have used green filters on a variety of lamps over the years, but this one beats them all. I could easily pick out rabbits out to 150 yards plus, despite the ambient light conditions not being ideal at the time of testing. It certainly didn’t spook the quarry species anywhere near as much as white light.

The Green Eye comes nicely presented in a fitted box with a lithium-Ion battery, mains charger, remote switch, and wrist strap. Finally there is the well-known and seldom bettered Cluson mounting bracket kit, which is suitable for both 25mm and 30mm tubes – and all this for £72+VAT! There is also a red version, but this has less range than the green.

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The other unit from Cluson is the Mini Lazer Light, This looked to me rather like a scaled down version of the Clulite Interceptor. That proved a very popular lamp, but to my way of thinking it was a bit on the heavy side for .22LR and .17 HMR use.

The new model is much lighter and, with a battery life of three to four hours, is good enough for a night’s lamping. The white LED throws a tight (but not excessively so) beam out to a couple of hundred yards where quarry identification is easy. Eye shine is, of course, detectable much further out.

The battery comes in a pouch with Velcro straps for fitting to the rifle, but I preferred to keep the battery in my jacket pocket, as the lead was long enough to allow this. You can either have a straightforward on/off switch or a remote micro switch operated from the rifle. Like the Green Eye it comes ready for use with charger, mounting bracket and so forth, together with a detachable handle should you wished to use it as a hand-held lamp.

Cluson Engineering has produced a couple of good lamps here, and for those wishing to follow a more traditional and affordable way of night shooting they are well worth a look.

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Last in the new lamp section are a couple of very nice lamps from Deben. This company has long been known for its quality products and impressive after-sales service, and the Tracer range has an excellent reputation. I tried both the hand held 170mm Tracer Sport light and the 140mm rifle-mounted version. The 170 comes with a 75-watt halogen bulb and gives a strong beam out to 600m. It is light and the handle is comfortable to hold. It has a dimmer facility (always a good point) and comes as standard with a coiled lead and 12-volt cigar plug.

The 140 Sport Gunlight is similar to the 170, but has a beam range of 400m produced by a 50w halogen bulb. Mounted on to your scope via a permanently fitted Weaver mount, the lamp has a quick detach bracket that incorporates a knurled adjustment knob for vertical alignment. I really like this set-up, and for lampers who prefer the more traditional methods, both these lamps will fill the bill perfectly. As you would expect, the gunlight comes with all the necessary mounting and charging equipment. Coloured filters are available for both the Deben lamps.

So there it is. Lamping time is almost here and, as always, there are new items to tempt us. Take a look – you won’t be disappointed.

 

Equipment reviewed by: Mike Powell

Product: Green Eye Gunlight

Distributor: Cluson ■ 01730 264672 ■ www.cluson.co.uk

Price: £72 + VAT

Comments: Light, easily fitted, and gives a very bright light

 

Product: Mini Lazer Light

Distributor: Cluson ■ 01730 264672 ■ www.cluson.co.uk

Price: £128 + VAT

Comments: Compact and good out to several hundred metres

 

Product: Tracer 140 Sport Gunlight

Distributor: Deben ■ 01394 387762 ■ www.deben.com

Price: From £69.95

Comments: A great option for traditional lampers

 

Product: Tracer 170 Sportlight

Distributor: Deben ■ 01394 387762 ■ www.deben.com

Price: From £84.95

Comments: The step up from the Tracer 140

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