Owing to the wet weather one August, the harvest had been delayed. This had put my fox control operations seriously behind. I control foxes over a mixture of arable, pasture and woodland. Around 80 per cent is arable, and any cubs that get away from the earth are tricky to mop up until the harvest is completed.
When the fox mating season is active it can be eventful to say the least. I’ve seen everything from paired-up dogs and vixens running into the calls like six-month-old cubs, to the other extreme where foxes show no interest at all in the regular calls.
A few years ago, in my part of East Yorkshire, foxes started to pair early, from mid-October through to mid-January. On one occasion the following spring, I was out on a foxing foray covering a small farm pheasant shoot, and successfully shot three small foxes out of a narrow belt of trees.
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.
Once the glut of shooting foxes during the harvest has passed, it’s back to tactics and outwitting them.
Although the rifle is one of the most effective tools with regards to controlling foxes, sometimes you’ll have to deploy other methods to catch up with them. I recently had a flustered visit from the manager of a local chicken farm who was experiencing some vulpine trouble.
During the harvest, I usually get one chance of bagging more than 10 cubs and adult foxes in a night’s lamping. But I recall one year that produced three such double-figure bags, two of which were on consecutive six-hour sessions with the lamp and rifle.
Most of us who have anything to do with foxes will have heard stories or even witnessed fox behaviour that doesn’t always ring true. For instance, some 20 years ago a local farm manager used to drive around the fields in his Subaru Estate, with his son stood up out of the sunroof shooting rabbits and the odd fox with the shotgun. That is, if they happened to be out in the middle of a field where they could give chase before they reached the safety of the hedge.
Over the last 10 years, my main tool to keep fox population down in my area has been a Heym SR30 straight bolt in .25-06, loaded with Hornady 75-grain V-Max pushed out at around 3,600fps by VarGet powder. I knew if the fox presented itself at 300 yards it would go down. However, hot loads have taken their toll on the barrel, and its accuracy isn’t what it was, so I invested in an Antonio Zoli rifle in .243 Win.