It has been a slow start to our fox hunt. We had already tried a couple of spots but to no avail, as yet we had had no takers. It was a bit surprising as I had taken foxes from these spots before under similar conditions and I was expecting to do so again.
The area we were hunting was perfect for foxes, plenty of ground cover in the form of high grasses, downed timber as well as depressions and gullies lined with sweet briar clumps all over the area. It was on the bank of one such gully that Haden and I selected a spot and after making ourselves comfortable I started working the call, softly first, then a shade louder when I hadn’t got a response with my first effort.
After allowing a break of a minute or so in the sequence of the call, I was just about to start again when, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Haden slowly raising his rifle to his shoulder. The wicked crack from his Anschultz .17 HMR spelt the demise of another fox that had been cautiously sneaking in. I hadn’t seen it coming in and Haden had only spotted it at the last moment as the sun caught the flicker of an ear as the fox neared our position. Due to the high grass that lined the gully directly in front of us the fox was almost in our laps before Haden spotted it. It is because of fox hunting at these close ranges, that is often experienced when calling them in, is why I prefer hunting foxes this way above other methods that can be employed.
Our fox hunting year usually starts off similar to last year with a few days away just after Christmas to the property belonging to my son’s sister-in-law in Western New South Wales. We have numerous properties there over which to hunt and, mainly because of the hot weather encountered at that time of the year, spotlighting is usually our chosen method..
All of the crops have been harvested which certainly makes it a lot easier to operate over the paddocks and, with the results of last year’s breeding, there are quite a few younger foxes getting about. Over a few nights we took close to 50 foxes and a number of feral cats and hares.
On our way home we went a bit further west to my aunt’s property as she was having trouble with a couple of foxes dining grandly on her ducks and chooks. A night’s spotlighting there resulted in Haden and Blake accounting for another five foxes and some feral cats, all close to my aunt’s house which no doubt took the pressure off her ducks and chooks.
While both trips were great, with plenty of hunting on offer, spotlighting just doesn’t add that little bit of extra excitement that calling foxes in during the day does. I couldn’t even hazard a guess at the number of foxes we have taken throughout the year after year of spotlighting but, while always enjoyable, I would be flat out trying to remember the taking of any one fox that stood out.
Not so with calling them in, whether it’s the thrill of the hunt at being able to outsmart an extremely cunning hunter in its own right, or something else, I can remember encounters going back many years.
One fox I called up was absolutely brazen in its approach. On hearing the wail of the call it came strolling in in a most callous way. It could easily hear the soft wailing of the predator call but it was in no hurry. It stopped at about 30 metres, cocked its leg and had a piddle, then casually snapped at a persistent willy wagtail that had been annoying it on the way in. Unfortunately for it, the intended meal it was casually approaching wasn’t quite what it was looking for.
Numerous times I have called in more than one fox at a time with the taking of two or more a regular occurrence. I have often shot one fox only to have another fox turn up, wander over to the dead fox, have a sniff and then keep coming in.
My brother Mick well remembers the fox that came tearing in after blowing a few soft notes on his tin whistle. The fox was coming that fast it was on Mick before he could react. The fox actually tripped over a fox already taken at Mick’s feet, before regaining its composure and heading back from where it had come from, too bad that it didn’t make it.
Another incident that comes to mind was one that, if I hadn’t witnessed it myself, I would have difficulty believing it happened. I was situated high on a hillside covering what I was hoping to be an escape route out of the bracken and blackberry choked gully system that ran all the way down to the flat country below. I was in a good position with excellent shooting coverage all around so I was feeling pretty confident. I could hear my mate working the gully system way down below and from the way the dogs were barking they must have gotten onto a fox. While I was standing on the rock and patiently waiting for an outcome I could continually hear a sheep bleating somewhat frantically over the rise, about 50 metres away. Thinking I had a bit of time to spare before any fox ventured out of the gully I decided to wander over and see what the sheep was stressing over.
Upon cresting the rise I was quite surprised to see what was unfolding in front of me. There before me was a ewe with a new born lamb at foot. The reason the ewe was bleating was because a fox was grabbing the lamb by the back leg and trying to drag it away. Each time the fox grabbed the lamb by the back leg it would let out a baa; with that the ewe would head butt the fox until it let go. When it let go the ewe would try to lead the lamb away and the fox would grab the lamb again.
How long this had gone on I don’t know, but I had been listening to the bleating for some time. I knelt down and started blowing softly on the tin whistle I wear around my neck. When the fox heard the soft wailing it immediately released the lamb, looked in my direction, then bolted straight at me. The load of heavy shot from my Browning A5 soon took care of that predator leaving me with a very smug feeling.
On reflection, to me it’s the closeness of the hunt that comes with decoying. I am able to get them to come in really close before dispatching them. For this kind of fox shooting I use either my shotgun or Brno .22 rimfire topped off with a Leopold 2x – 7x variable scope. Ranges are usually fairly close so I mostly hunt fully dressed in cams, including a face mask.
I once took a young bloke out on his first fox hunt in a stand of Murray Pines. Placing him on my off-side so I could keep a rough eye on him, I started working the predator call. After ten minutes or so with no fox showing I was all for giving up and turned to tell the apprentice we were moving on. He was frozen into immobility and there, no more than three metres from him, stood a fox, staring straight at him.
I suppose the one that takes the cake for a close encounter happened one hot summer morning. I had headed out bush in reply to a local cocky who asked if I could get rid of a few foxes that were starting to make a nuisance of themselves. The temperature was expected to hit the high 30’s before the day was out. I was in the field right on dawn, armed with my Brno .22 and Scotch predator call.
I had tried a few spots with limited success before heading over to where I knew a couple of clumps of cumbunghi stood. These spots are usually good for a fox so I was reasonably confident when I opened up my fishing chair, sat down and made myself comfortable. Just in case you are wondering about the fishing chair, I was using it as I didn’t want to plant my butt on a snake that the area is known for.
With the wind in my face and the sun just up and behind me I considered myself to be in as good a spot as possible. I started working the predator call softly first, then a bit louder, as is my usual routine. I was quite surprised that my excellent rendition of a struggling hare didn’t draw a response so I tried again, nothing. I had been calling for around 10 minutes or so, refusing to give up on a spot that I was sure would deliver a fox if not two.
It was about this time that I felt I wasn’t the only one there and a slight shuffling noise directly beside me had me slowly looking down beside the chair. There stood a fox, no more than a foot, in the old scale, away from my leg. Stupid things started entering my head, like giving it a pat on the head, or grabbing it by the scruff of the neck. However these thoughts were quickly dispelled as having been bitten by a fox before I could still remember the vice like grip of its jaws. Too close to shoot so I sat there like a fool while the fox cautiously sniffed my leg.
Then without further ado the fox let out a soft sort of a growl and latched onto my ankle, only a short sharp nip, but it certainly got me to my feet. Then the fox took off with me none the worse for the experience thanks to the snake guards I was wearing at the time.
I have hunted foxes every-way possible, I have hunted them on fox drives, used Jack Russell terriers to flush them from their dens, chased them in stubble paddocks using fast running Lurchers, called them up using a variety of calls and techniques, taken them when the opportunity arose while hunting other animals, spotlighted them, but I have to say without reservation that my favourite method without a shadow of a doubt is calling them up. There is just something special about beating these ruthless hunters at their own game.