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

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

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.

Bet­ter bait

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

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