Patrick Hook takes you through what to do when taking a friend or guest out foxing for the night
To those of us who do it regularly, night-time foxing is no big deal. For many others who have never, or rarely, been before, it can be a really memorable occasion. As a result, one of the things that Paul, my regular shooting partner, and I like to do is to take guests out night-time foxing so they can experience it for themselves.
There are many reasons why people like to join us: sometimes it is because a farmer wants to show us the boundaries on some new land he has bought, or it might be because he wants to see what is wandering about on his fields after dark. Other times it is because a mate wants to shoot somewhere different. Mostly though, it is because someone who has never been out foxing before wants to see what it is all about.
In the clear about night-time foxing
The key thing is to make sure that whoever they are, they are able to see and understand what is going on. Simply leaving them to stare into the dark while you shoot is not on — it is as exciting as watching paint dry. For this reason, both Paul and I have spare night-vision spotters, so that anyone who comes along is able to really enjoy the occasion.
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I like to get my guests to feel properly involved, so if they are new to the game I often ask them to play an active role. Before I put the caller out, therefore, I explain things like what the wind is doing, where I expect the foxes to come from and why, and what I want them to do if they see something. Generally, I ask them to watch a specific sector and then warn me if they see anything approaching. Having an extra pair of eyes working for me like this has paid off many times; after all, I can’t look in every direction at once, and a gentle tap on the shoulder has resulted in several foxes being taken that might otherwise have escaped.
It’s as well to remember that even if you know the terrain very well, your associate may not, so ensure you either warn them when there are obstacles to cross or, better still, use your torch to illuminate any tricky routes. It is easy to minimise the amount of light produced by keeping your fingers over the lens and only letting a small amount through. That way you are helping them to feel part of the team while avoiding inconvenience or even the risk of injury.
Don’t forget that a newcomer to thermal spotters will probably need a fair bit of instruction on how to use them and how to recognise various animals. You’ll also need a lot of patience for all the times that they call ‘fox’, when in reality it’s just another bunny.
Night-vision spotters are generally easier for novices to use, but whichever kind it is, take the time to make sure the eyepiece is properly set up so they don’t spend the whole night fruitlessly trying to make sense of a horribly blurred mess.
Overall, the most important thing to remember is that bringing new people into shooting is vital for the future of our beloved pastime.
Giving someone a good night out on the foxes therefore not only generates interest, but it can give them the confidence and the knowledge to get out and start doing it themselves.
• Make sure you explain what you
are doing at all stages; if you use
a particular call, for instance, say
what it is and why you are using it.
• Do your best to point out any wildlife you see as for many people these animals are rarely, if ever, seen.
• Be specific as to what they should wear. Quiet, warm, non-rustling clothing, thermal under-layers and a warm hat as well as good footwear will make their evening much more pleasant if it’s cold. A face mask is a good idea in moonlight.
• Ensure that you have enough food and drink for everybody.
• Explain the safety procedures — a map and address and postcode will allow them to raise help in a hurry if there’s an emergency.
• If there’s a risk of squeamishness, leave them at the shooting point when you go to pick up any carcasses.