A chance en­counter with a fox while out rab­bit­ing proves too good an op­por­tu­nity for Deano to pass up

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Along with con­trol­ling the foxes be­fore the crops get away, I have the rab­bits to deal with, which can some­times pro­duce a bonus fox. As I’m not a full-time game­keeper, I don’t have the time to set snares, so from time to time I go out with the .22 and spend a night shoot­ing them. How­ever, as I am the only one con­trol­ling foxes on the shoot (other than the odd one that the farmer picks off if they come his way, or those that die from road traf­fic ac­ci­dents), the fox is still very much in my thoughts.

De­spite this, I’m usu­ally only armed with the .22 on these out­ings, and for good rea­son. There have been so many times when I have taken both ri­fles and not seen a fox; and hav­ing it on board risks the scope be­ing knocked – the farmer drives like a mad­man try­ing to get to the rab­bits be­fore they go in, as the more you do it, the jumpier they get. So un­less I feel there is a re­ally good chance of see­ing a fox, I don’t take it.

Now, I am old school and use a .22 LR with sub­sonic rounds. It’s very quiet but ob­vi­ously it’s not the pre­ferred ri­fle to have in hand should a fox ap­pear. Bul­let place­ment has to be spot on.

At this time of year, if you do see one, the chances are that you aren’t go­ing to get any­where near close enough to get a shot with a .22 (although never say never), but if you do see one, it’s not worth push­ing it. If you flash it with the lamp and it looks jumpy, or as you are ap­proach­ing it starts run­ning, then my ad­vice is al­ways to turn away and leave it – there’s no point in mak­ing it more jumpy when you can re­turn an­other night with the big ri­fle or night vi­sion.

But some­times luck is with you, and more so on ar­eas that you don’t lamp as much and you can get close enough to the fox to make an ac­cu­rate shot. I won’t say what this range should be, as it’s down to the abil­ity of the per­son be­hind

‘The best times are when you drive into a field or over a hill and the fox is just stand­ing there about 60m away; you just pull up and ‘whack’, job done’

the ri­fle – we all try to kill what we are shoot­ing at cleanly. The best times are when you drive into a field or over a hill and the fox is just stand­ing there about 60m away; you just pull up and ‘whack’, job done. For me, that is the per­fect range with a smaller cal­i­bre, although I am sure plenty have been killed much fur­ther out by those with the right ex­pe­ri­ence, in­deed even by my­self in the past. Some shoot­ers only use the small cal­i­bres, there­fore they know the bal­lis­tics and are com­fort­able to make much longer shots than I like to.

Last year, young Edward and I shot a lot of rab­bits and thinned out the pop­u­la­tion quite suc­cess­fully. Those that were left be­came much harder to get close to and I started to use the farmer’s .17 HMR. Now, this is a dif­fer­ent story: it’s a much flat­ter round and a bit closer to what I am used to. None­the­less, it’s still very small and I would not treat it like the big cen­tre­fires on a fox, but it does knock the rab­bits down with a thump.

One night, af­ter shoot­ing about 10 long-range rab­bits, we flashed up a fox. It was a long way off so we had some ground to make up, but as I men­tioned ear­lier, I couldn’t just ig­nore it. We made our ap­proach, just flash­ing over the top of him to make sure he was still there. He was in bit of a dip so we lost sight of him, but when he came back into sight he was only about 100m away. We stopped and he just sat there, look­ing straight at me. Even at 100m I was still very cau­tious about tak­ing the shot, but the .17 did its job. It was a nice dog fox and not that far from the pigs, or the shoot­ing ground, so we were pleased to get him.

Now, I know there will be a lot of foxes shot much fur­ther out than that, with both of the smaller cal­i­bres, but that will do for me; like I say, these are bonus ones. If I am hon­est, I don’t re­ally like us­ing the small cal­i­bres on the foxes, but we have to take our chances when we can.

For me, it’s the .243 or .308 I want in my hand when deal­ing with foxes – there’s no such thing as be­ing ‘over gunned’ in my world.

In the next is­sue, Deano will be field-test­ing the Seek Re­veal Pro Ther­mal Imager – a hand­held imager that com­bines ther­mal in­sight with a high-per­for­mance light in one hard-wear­ing de­vice.

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