A phone call from a cockie friend gave me the perfect opportunity to get the 20 gauge out of the gun-safe.
Apparently the rabbits were starting to build up again around his farm and he wanted them gone.
Armed with the 20 gauge and a pocket full of cartridges in No.4 shot I was soon wandering along his fence-line checking out the rabbits.
It was early morning and he was definitely right about the rabbits; there were burrows and scratchings all over the place, even spots where I hadn’t seen them before.
It was a good location as well for foxes and they were what I was really after, so the rabbit scouting gave me the opportunity to seek them out.
Sandy country is good because any critter moving about is bound to leave good tracks. On closer inspection I could see tracks from goannas, snakes, rabbits and, of course, foxes.
As I was walking along I was bowling over any rabbit that was foolish enough to cross my path. I was field dressing them as my wife likes to give her dog a change of diet every now and again and the rabbits filled the bill perfectly.
Reloading the 20 gauge after dropping a rabbit, I noticed a fox breaking cover from a long stand of thick cover and it bolted past me at around 20m.
Two quick shots from the 20 gauge sent it rolling, vindicating my belief in using the 20 for fox shooting. The cocky was rapt to hear of my success on the rabbits, even more so when I told him I had also collared a fox.
It was mid-summer and the perfect time to be out after foxes. I was feeling confident of success when I broke the gun and climbed up on the butt of a downed tree.
In the area where I hunt foxes the country-side is flat and packed with old empty river courses, all good spots for a fox to hide in. Also climbing up on any downed timber gives me the advantage of height, which in turn makes it easier to spot any incoming fox.
I slipped a couple of No.4s into my Beretta Silver Pigeon and closed her – she locks up tight with a solid clunk.
I was only working the predator call for a moment or so and there it was. It must have been hungry as it was coming in at quite a pace; then it stopped and looked warily in my direction. It might have seen my hand movement but I doubt it as I was wearing gloves as well as cammo gear and a face mask.
I worked the caller ever so softly and that did it; the fox trotted in and stopped at around 20 paces. Unfortunately for the fox it was well within range of the 20 gauge so I slowly lined it up and fired. The fox went down without so much as a twitch.
I tried a couple more spots without success so I crossed over the dry end of a billabong, noticing the fox tracks in the soft mud.
A large downed tree over by the water was where I was heading. It gave me the height I was looking for. Besides, I have used the exact same spot when on fox drives in the area.
While standing on the butt end I could see out over the kangaroo grass, thus giving me the advantage of seeing any incoming foxes, or so I thought.
I had been working the predator call for a few minutes without any luck, which I thought was a bit strange, then something caught my eye, virtually under my feet. You can imagine my surprise when I realised it was a fox.
It was just sitting there, probably wondering what the hell I was up to, standing up there on the log. How it got so close to me without me seeing it completely baffled me. After all I had seen all the kangaroos pop their heads up when I started working the call.
I had even seen the little black wallaby as it had hopped away from the water’s edge after having a drink, but I hadn’t seen the red fox that should have stood out more than anything else. But here it was, frozen to the spot, still wondering what the figure, all cammoed up, was up to.
Ever so slowly I brought the 20 gauge around, then slowly raised it to my shoulder; and still the fox just sat there staring up at me.
Needless to say, at 10m, even a load of No.4s out of a 20 gauge can be quite devastating and the fox didn’t know what had hit it. With the morning wearing on, I decided to call it a day and try again in a couple of days’ time.
I wanted to get some live shots of foxes early in the morning. A few days later, I headed out bush armed only with my camera. I know of a spot off the beaten track that held a lot of foxes but no shooting was allowed and that where I was now, just on first light.
The first wails of the Scotch Predator Call sound very eerie in the confines of the native pine forest but it had almost instantaneous success.
This fox must have known it was safe as it just came waltzing in as though it didn’t have a care in the world. At 20m or so I asked it to stop so that I could take its photo and it obliged, probably wondering what in the hell was going on.
I managed to take a couple of good photos before the fox realised all was not as it should be and as it started to move away it cut my scent trail. Then everything changed – its survival mode kicked in, it dropped the clutch and was gone.
The next spot looked very promising: on a slight rise with a handy log to sit on and I could see quite a distance over to the boundary fence of a nearby property.
Once again, I’d only worked the call for a few minutes when I noticed a movement to my left. Turning slowly I wasn’t surprised to see a large hare coming into my stand. At around 10m I got a couple of good shots of it.
Sitting there, watching the hare’s reaction to me, I noticed a fox coming post-haste from over near the fence-line. It trotted in, stopping beside a tree, probably to get its bearing on the distressed creature.
I obliged by calling softly and in it came. At 15m I called “stop”, again at 10m and at 4m it finally twigged and nonchalantly trotted off into a stand of young pine saplings.
I had managed to get a couple of pics as it was coming in so I wasn’t worried that it didn’t stop and pose for a photo.
I had the same results at the next spot I tried. This fox was just a young one with a lot to learn if it wanted to survive. Once again it just trotted in, almost into my lap, only showing a bit of concern when it caught my scent trail, then it trotted off back into the bush.
The owner of the property bordering this spot was an old friend and I would definitely be looking him up in the near future, but for now they were safe and seeing that the morning was heating up I headed for home.
Next day I was back in the same area and this time the camera was in my bag and my 20 gauge Beretta in my arms. I was becoming fond of my 20 gauge; it was proving to be extremely versatile. This time it was loaded with BBs instead of No.4 shot because I was purely after foxes.
The spot I was to hunt held all of the ingredients, plenty of cover and heaps of birds to eat. Way back my brother was surprised while attempting to whistle up a fox in this exact spot. He had been blowing the tin whistle for a while when a big black boar strolled up seeking what made the noise.
Jumping up onto a handy log, I loaded the gun, donned my face mask and gloves, then started calling, quietly at first then a bit louder after a couple of minutes.
A response came soon; I could see a fox bounding towards me, totally unfazed. Almost in range, it suddenly swung off, and starting circling, trying to pick up a scent.
When just about to cut my scent line it turned in to me and then charged straight on. It only stopped when it ran into a load of BBs coming the other way. It sure was a strange episode; these foxes never stop amazing me.
At the next stand I was on a log in by deadfall and grass. I was adamant there had to be a fox here somewhere – it was just perfect.
Overlooking a number of gullies all coming to a head directly in front of meand with cover right up to me, I knew that it was going to be a close quarter encounter. I started working the call quietly, just in case there was a fox nearby – their hearing is incredible.
Sudden movement to my left caught my attention and I turned slowly, just in time to see a fox jumping over the branches of a wind-fall, then it disappeared into the high kangaroo grass.
Expecting it to come bursting out I slipped the safety catch off and shouldered the 20 gauge but nothing happened. The fox had stopped its rush and was holed up unseen in the ’roo grass, 10m away.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity, but still nothing. I worked the call ever so softly and out it came, full bore and low to the ground. It was definitely coming in for the kill. I had time for one quick shot before it overran me and at four paces even the 20 gauge packs an awful lot of punch.
The past couple of months I have been using the 20 for all my small game hunting, finding it completely satisfactory. The gun weighs much less than a 12 gauge and it has a lot going for it, I plan on using it far more often.
FAST FACTS: Advantages Of The 20 Ga For Foxes
The 20 gauge chambering has its detractors because it cannot carry the payload of a 3-inch chambered 12 gauge gun but the “20” is still capable for all sorts of tasks to which a shotgun can be put.
- With a 3-inch chambering and heavy loads of larger shot, the 20ga can reach out as far as the 12ga with nearly as much effect, the string being a little longer for the same weight of shot.
- Recoil from a 20ga, all things being equal, is reduced. Therefore it is more suited to slightly built shooters, women and adolescents.
- A 20ga can be housed in a slightly scaled-down gun which is easier to carry and swing.
- Ammo is lighter to carry when out all day on drives.
- The well set up “20” with lighter shot can do alternative duty on quail and ducks.
This article was first published in the July 2014 issue of Sporting Shooter magazine.