This vixen paid with her life for hanging at 300 yards and thinking she was safe.

Fox shot at long range


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I was fortunate to spend a few days’ fox whistling recently with “Foxmeister” Tony Pizzata at a reasonably productive area on a sheep property a few hours from home. Over the day and a half, we whistled in nine redcoats for eight kills, which is pretty good odds in most peopleís language. In most cases I was shooting my CZ .223 Laminated Varminter topped with a Bushnell Elite 3200 4-12×40 with DOA reticle with one fox only taken with Tony’s Miroku O/U 12ga. The average encounter ended up badly for the foxes at a range of around thirty yards; a 55gn Nosler Shots soft-point handload consistently knocking them instantly flat without so much as a kick and mostly without too much pelt damage. The action got fast and furious on our last stand when we took three foxes in less than ten minutes – it was suicide by whistle with the last fox only stopping at ten yards after a 400 yard approach up a fence line.

On one stand though, our normally meticulous planning went a bit astray. We identified a likely location at the head of a broad gully some 350 yards above us but we had a bit of trouble deciding a good location for our stand. After walking around a bit we settled on a patch of grass lower down towards the dam’s edge and sat down to whistle.

At the shriek of the Tenterfield, a nice vixen presented right where we thought she would and proceeded down the gully in a bee-line for our position. Sitting stock-still, we visually tracked her into the dead ground to our immediate front, some 80 yards away. Being lower than Tony, I could not see her over the long grass but he whispered that she had crossed our tracks, caught our scent and was heading away from us, back up the gully.  Despite her obvious suspicion, she wasn’t running, rather sauntering and pausing at intervals to look back in our direction – a fatal error!

Tony now could not make out where the fox was through his video camera viewfinder but I had her pegged and confirmed with Tony that the camera was trained on her in a wide shot. Then I got up to kneel, giving me the height needed to get a bead on the vixen, deployed the Bogpod and proceeded to do some mental work at a million miles an hour. The vixen had now stopped in a comfortable backlit high spot, no doubt where she thought she was safe. I estimated the range to be 300 yards, give or take, by how she appeared in the scope wound up to 12x. Then I slowed and deepened my breathing, placing the second dot down the stadia on her chest – the 300 yard dot. I was not 100 percent steady, but had a circle of error (read controllable wobble) inside the area of her chest.

At the shot, I lost sight of her, but my confidence was buoyed by not seeing her retreating form an instant later when I was back on aim. I plodded up to where she was when I shot and found her dead with a drop of blood on her mid-neck and a small exit out where the shoulders meet the nape of the neck. Grabbing her, I strode out 315 paces downhill back to a congratulatory Tony.

Like all target shooters who hunt, I couldn’t let this long shot pass without a post-mortem, to see why it succeeded. There were several factors which aided in making a successful shot on such a small target at such comparatively long range including:

– The inherent consistency and accuracy of the rifle and cartridge ñ the CZ Varminter has proved infallibly easy to shoot accurately out to 500 metres on targets over many months.
– A rock-solid 100 yard zero, so that the Bushnell DOA reticle was allowed to work within its parameters. In such circumstances, I have become an instant fan of this reticle and scope.
– A good accurate bullet ñ the Nosler Shots 55gn prints 5 shots into under an inch all day, despite their cheap purchase price.
– The Bogpod allows much more accurate shot placement in all hasty field positions and does double duty as a sturdy walking stick.
– Extensive practice and familiarization by the shooter with the rifle in various positions in competition and practice.

Why did the shot go high? The range was a known factor, after pacing, within five-percent, so why did I hit her in the neck, some three inches above where I aimed, assuming my hold was good? Looking at the terrain, I believe that, although the bullet travelled close enough to 300 yards to the fox, the uphill angle meant that the horizontal distance to the fox, when measured on a map, would have been closer to 290 yards, where the bullet drops 10 inches from its 100 yard zero, as opposed to 11.5 inches at 300 yards (approximate rounded figures from Sierra Infinity 6 Ballistics program). The bullet drop compensating (DOA) reticle in the Bushnell scope pretty much mirrors the trajectory of the .55gn .223 load on the flat, giving about 11inches drop to the 300 yard dot. Overlay this on being on the top of the ìwobble cycleî upon discharge and a 3-inch error is acceptable; the fox didnít kick.

Lessons Learnt

There are a few lessons that became apparent after this shot:
– Practice makes perfect and lends confidence. Without a lot of practice with that rifle and scope, Iíd have been unlikely to be able to take the shot.
– If you have a ballistic reticle it will pay dividends -but only if you know it thoroughly, know your range to target and have an infallible, accurate zero. If the manual dictates 100yards, do not zero at 100 metres and call
it yards. It also pays to use the reticle in conjunction with a good ballistics program. Practice scenarios mentally on the game youíll likely hunt and use the reticleís features to accurately range using subtention exercises.
– Do not walk across the incoming likely route of your intended game ñ they will scent you and you will not get that easy, close shot.
– Bogpods are awesome in helping a good shot be more effective in the field.
– Learn to estimate range ñ often you donít have time to use a rangefinder or you may be fox whistling without one and they wonít come in close.
– A .22 centrefire gives you much more flexibility than a shotgun when whistling foxes.

So get out there and have a go, but know your gear, practice, practice, practice and youíll succeed.

P.S. Keep an eye out for this whistling trip on a future DVD put out by Tony Pizzata. Also, a future issue of Guns Australia will feature my article on using Trail Boss for reduced .22 Magnum style loads in the .223 for fox whistling in close-settled areas.

 

This article was first published in Sporting Shooter, August 2011.


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