I have been asked to pen these words in order to assist readers in how to whistle foxes.
As I am in the industry, it is important for me to put my money where my mouth (whistle) is.
For this reason, I assure you that these tips, along with the Silva Fox whistle or newly released Silva Fox Mini, will help you maximise your fox calling success.
I was taught to whistle some 50 years ago by my now 96 year old great uncle, who was the first to introduce me to a version of the Silva Fox whistle. This particular call has been in my family for well over 100 years, proving its worth throughout the generations.
I whistled and shot my first fox at eight years old on the family farm near Glen Innes in northern NSW. Now 62, I still get a rush from fooling foxes and reckon that it is just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
In between manufacturing whistles and running a business, I am regularly out 3-4 times a week whistling, shooting and filming foxes in the field.
So you’ve just bought your first fox call and are dying to try it. You’ve spent the trip home from the shop mastering the sound and technique of the whistle. So what the hell do you do now?
The answer is, get your gear together and head into the field to start whistling foxes like the pros. After watching countless DVDs and talking to some old fox whistlers, you head into the paddock full of anticipation, but what first?
Calling foxes is not difficult however it is important to choose a stand that gives you, the shooter the greatest advantage. I prefer elevated positions overlooking bracken choked gullies or creek beds with an open area directly in front of my stand, which will make it easy to spot an approaching fox.
To shoot foxes, you need to think like a fox. The easiest way to do this is to choose a stand close to life’s essentials of food, water and shelter.
Foxes are inherently lazy, opportunistic feeders and don’t like to travel huge distances for a meal unless it is bitterly cold and food is required for warmth. Calling from a position close to where a fox is likely to lay up during daylight hours maximises the hunter’s chance of a quick and exciting response. What next?
Without doubt the biggest consideration for anyone pursuing foxes is wind. Foxes have a keen sense of smell several thousand times stronger than that of an average human.
It is therefore essential for a hunter to locate a stand from which to call using the wind as an advantage. By this I mean that you should have the wind in your face, blowing any scent away from where you intend to call a fox.
Foxes don’t have the best eyesight, but I guarantee you that a fox will smell you long before laying eyes on you. The simplest way to keep tabs on the wind is to look at the trees or grass to see which way they are moving.
Some hunters like to make a small powder puffer that when squirted will indicate very clearly the wind’s direction, particularly if it is very faint and eddying in different directions.
Secondly, when choosing a likely spot from where to whistle, it is important not to walk in front of your stand. Any incoming fox will cross where you have been and cut the scent inadvertently left behind.
Upon scenting you, the only thing you are likely to see is the arse end of a fox disappearing over the next ridge. Unless you are like my mate Pete Kennedy and shoot foxes consistently on the run, you have next to no chance of bagging your first whistled fox.
So you’ve found your stand and the wind is right. It is now important to blend in with your surroundings. Foxes are thought to see two dimensionally. Camouflage clothing is not essential however the pattern will assist in breaking up your human outline.
The best trick is to sit with your back against a rock or tree, preferably in a shaded area. Doing this helps disguise your figure, making it difficult for a fox to detect your presence.
Pulling the whistle from your pocket, you slowly start whistling with the sound drifting down the gully. To your amazement you see a fox bolting in towards your stand from the opposite bank. What now? Remain calm and don’t get overexcited. Load your firearm in anticipation of taking a shot when the fox is within range.
The fox pauses momentarily trying to detect your location. Gently blow your whistle to encourage the approach. Foxes relying more on their ability to detect movement, so keep movement and noise to a minimum as the fox approaches.
If you study fox behaviour, the smart hunter will know that a fox generally approaches with his nose and eyes focussed on the ground to his immediate front. Generally, is that if the fox is moving, it is time to load your rifle or make small adjustments.
Conversely, if the fox stops, don’t make any sudden or unnecessary movements as the fox’s senses are finely tuned to detect foreign movement, scent and noise. Remember the fox will be more familiar with his backyard than you are. Anything that appears unnatural to that environment will alert a fox to your presence.
Confident that you have everything right, you whistle the fox into open ground presenting an easy shot. If the fox is hungry he will run right up to you provided that the hunter stays still.
To stop a fox to present a shot, I like to use a crow call which is relatively natural in a fox’s environment. I have seen other shooters yell “Oi or stop” at a fox only to see it turn and bolt. A crow call in my opinion doesn’t spook the fox and he will stop calmly presenting an easy shot.
Congratulations, you have just called and shot a fox all by yourself. Easy isn’t it? And boy does it get the blood pumping.
I am often asked what firearms I use when calling foxes. Personally, I use a Ruger .17HMR which has plenty of knock down power on whistled foxes. Considering ranges don’t often exceed 50 metres, the little .17HMR does everything I want.
I have seen my mate Pete Kennedy, shoot foxes way out yonder with the .17HMR and we both agree that this little calibre rates highly for the task.
If I am calling in tight cover, I like to use my Dad’s 1946 12 gauge side by side hammer gun. With full chokes it certainly flattens foxes and has the added sentimentality that my Dad is along for the hunt.
There you go; fox calling at its simplest. Whatever whistle or call you choose, remember that the basics remain the same. Choose your stand wisely, be aware of the wind, back up to a tree and keep movement to a minimum. Then you can’t fail.
It is a privilege to be in the bush. Remember, stay safe, but most importantly enjoy it.
This article was first published in the Fox Hunter Special in the September 2014 issue of Sporting Shooter magazine.