Shooting a round
During autumn the Bairnsdale Golf Club called to say that the course was being inundated by foxes. The club is a few kilometres out of town and is bordered by a large rural property that runs sheep and cattle.
The terrain on this property is mostly flat except for a long and rugged gully that runs for about 500 m. Other than the gully, the farm is mostly flat. The sandy soil is typical of East Gippsland and its red gum plains. It grows pastures but it is also excellent for growing bracken ferns.
Now, I ask all hunters reading this, what happens when you have plenty of cover mixed with a population of sheep and lambs? Yes, you are right; you have a great environment for foxes to live in.
The golf club is a contrast to the farm as it has lush couch fairways and greens that are well watered and fertilised. During autumn this year, an unusual event occurred: the club fertilised the fairways with a new brand of fertiliser and the result was a massive population of black beetles appearing on top of the fairways.
Foxes love lamb. However, foxes also don’t mind a change of diet occasionally, especially when it is situated next door to home and easy to access. Just walk in after dark and help yourself. The problem for the golf club was that they were leaving scats on the fairways and the greens — not just a few, a truckload.
I figured this would be an easy problem to solve: get my mate Norm together with a spotlight and a .17 calibre rifle and get rid of these foxes. The problem is that we tried this plan on three separate nights and only saw three foxes. Of those three, we shot one and did not get a shot at the other two. The build-up of scats continued, maybe even increased, so a change of plan was needed.
In Bairnsdale, we are lucky to have a group of elderly Field & Game members who go fox shooting on a weekly basis for about six months of the year. Their average age is about 80 and they have been doing this for decades. Terry Whelan, ably assisted by John Nash and David Young, leads the group, known as The Iron Circle. The group consists of about 15 members but the numbers vary depending on commitments, health issues, weather and sometimes when they need to do a job for their longsuffering wives. I have been privileged to be invited along on a few occasions as a ‘junior’ member (I’m only in my 60s).
Terry soon had the troops organised and we drove to the property arriving at about 10 am. After surveying the landscape, John and David decided we should drive a large area of bracken fern. We dispatched shooters to various sites surrounding the ferns whilst the drivers, accompanied by their dogs, bashed through the ferns, yelling, blowing whistles and even howling in an effort to flush the foxes.
I had taken up a spot on the southern corner of the ferns when a large dog foxtrotted out of the cover towards me. He was only about 20 m away and provided me with a very easy shot. Soon after other shots rang out and two more foxes were down and another, one was lost in the heavy cover. Three foxes on the first drive, not bad!
We then moved to the long, deep gully. This gully is quite close to the par 5, 13th hole of Bairnsdale Golf Club. This fairway had been the recipient of much of the scats over the past weeks. As we had 10 people in the party, the shooters spread out along the gully. The drivers started at the top of the gully with three eager fox terriers, a labrador and a couple of Murray River curly retrievers. It was not long before foxes started to appear. They were sighted mostly in the bottom of the gully, running ahead of the dogs. We accounted for four foxes on this drive, which brought our total up to a respectable seven for the morning.
As it was now lunch, we picked a nice spot abutting the 13th fairway, behind some trees, out of the wind, to enjoy sandwiches and a cuppa. The golf club curator spotted us and came over to see how we were doing. He was impressed with the numbers of foxes and grateful to be getting rid of the pests.
Following lunch, we did a final drive through bracken fern, again close to the 13th. The first lot of ferns produced nothing so we walked over to a small patch nearby and surrounded it. Almost immediately, a fox broke from the south side of the ferns, heading for the opposite end. Terry let fly and nicked him but he kept going. Unfortunately, for him, he ran straight into Trevor who dispatched him with some BBS.
That was the end of the golf club drive. As we drove out of the property, we noticed a recently killed lamb, a fox being the prime suspect. Lamb prices are quite high now and I am sure that eight foxes living on a farm would cost the farmer thousands of dollars over a period of a year or so. Not only was the Bairnsdale Golf Club grateful to the Iron Circle but the farmer was also delighted with the outcome. As a footnote, the Iron Circle finished their season with 218 fox scalps and plans for a hearty Chrismas barbecue.