When the lie of the land prevents safe shots, or a fox is playing hard to get, baiting can be a useful tool in the fox shooter’s armoury, says Deano
Ihave used baiting as a big part of fox control over the years. It’s a very successful way of tempting a fox from cover or sometimes just to get it into a safe shooting position. We all have areas on our ground where you just cannot get a safe shot; there have been plenty of times when I have known where a fox is or have been asked to go and shoot one, but am unable to get a safe shot. This is where fieldcraft comes into play.
First things first: you need to think where the fox is coming from or going to. Is there high ground overlooking the area or some way you can erect a platform or put up a high seat? If so, then great, but sometimes this is still not enough. Even though you are putting your bullet into the ground, it could still mean that you are shooting towards ground that is dropping away, so it’s still not safe.
You would have to be very unlucky if after looking all around you there was nowhere suitable at all, but if that’s the case then your next move would be to bait about 25 yards from somewhere you can tuck in and wait with the wind in your face.
In these instances, a shotgun with heavy ammo (AAA) is what I like to use. I have used this method a lot near houses, when a fox is raiding someone’s chickens. Dog or cat food is a good bait to use when you want to hold the fox in an area long enough to shoot it. They will get used to coming in and looking for it. Scatter it around so the fox has to hunt for it; get yourself hidden and make sure the scent is right and you will get your fox. This technique works for the same reasons out in the field; you might start off with a pigeon or a rabbit, but if you use dog or cat food it will give you more time.
When it comes to baiting I have used all sorts and even though dog food is good, it doesn’t provide the good sport that getting out after the live stuff does. I am lucky to have a lot of different shooting available to me, so I am very happy to go out and get some pigeons with my dog Saxon. Not only do I do this with my shotgun, but when the crops are cut and the pigeons are on the ground, I sometimes shoot them from the back of the truck with my .22. The added bonus of this is that with Saxon not being able to mark the birds it’s a great way of training him to respond to hand signals. Also, while I am doing that I am checking what I have put out the day before; already you want to be questioning and thinking about the safety of any potential shot and whether the fox will be able to scent you from where you are intending to sit. When the bait starts disappearing you can start to put your plan into action. Is the wind still good? Look up to where you are going to be sat to make sure you won’t be on the skyline. For me, it’s the same as any ‘sitting out’ night – I am always happy to get there at least two hours before dark when the weather is nice, but I’m not so keen in the winter!
Then it’s a sit and wait job, but if the bait’s been disappearing for a few nights then your chances are high, even more so if it is a young fox.
Close, but no cigar
It can be a bit frustrating if you sit for a few nights and there is no show – this is when a trail cam works well, set up to record the baited area. I have used moonlit nights in the past when the fox has been coming late and it won’t sit in the lamp, but in these cases you must sit a lot closer.
Night vision (NV) will be perfect for this. I had success last autumn using a combination of baiting and the NV in some water meadows where we cannot lamp. I put out a rabbit every night then sat there and waited. I shot three like this and they all came once it was dark, so without the NV I wouldn’t have got them.
The other option, and one which I have had a lot of success with, is using the remains of a butchered deer, although I know this won’t be available to everyone. On an outing last summer I smelt a fox as I was going up the side of a wood, then spotted some fox scat next to a big flint. Most of the crops were up so I had stopped lamping. I had just shot and butchered a roe buck so I returned and put the carcass on the end of a cover strip and later shot a dog and a vixen coming to it.
One final trick is if you are using birds as bait (as long as it is not windy), pluck part of the breast but leave it on the bird. Then, when the fox takes it, you will get a bit of a feather trail which will enable you to see where he is taking the food.
When sitting up for a fox you are baiting, you still need to consider scenting conditions and your silhouette on the skyline
The bait is set