FOXING: MAKING EVERY SHOT COUNT
A chance encounter with a fox while out rabbiting proves too good an opportunity for Deano to pass up
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.