With food scarcer and the weather closing in, foxes get braver and there is a vast array of kit to make control easier, says Mark Ripley

Though foxes are beautiful-looking animals, they are also ruthless killers, which is why we need the best fox control kit we can get.

This farm has a zero-tolerance policy where foxes are concerned and they are culled whenever possible. It is a fairly typical southern sheep farm and, with the lambing season once again just around the corner, fox numbers need to be kept as low as possible. (Read how to get a permission for foxing.)

The winter months make for one of the best times of the year to be out foxing, with the crops all cut and much of the surrounding cover in its barest state, making it easier to spot foxes out and about. (Read more on guns for foxing.)

Also, as we draw towards the end of the year, foxes will be moving around more and further from their familiar territories. This year’s cubs, now fully grown and indistinguishable from other adults, will have been pushed away from their birth area by the vixen as she begins to come into season.

Timing

These younger foxes will move out looking for new territories of their own and mating opportunities as the season moves on. Therefore this may be your chance to thin out the general fox population in and around your own ground, as neighbouring foxes cross boundaries. Of course, for many fox controllers, the winter months, with their short daylight hours, will mean mostly night shooting.

But don’t be afraid to get out just before dark if you can, because this can often be an excellent time to catch a fox out and about.

best fox control kit

Getting out just before dark can pay dividends, as foxes will be moving around their territories

Best fox control kit

For the majority of my nocturnal shooting, I would usually use a night-vision scope and a thermal spotter. However, I’ve recently been trying out a thermal riflescope too — the InfiRay Tube TL35 — and have to say it’s an impressive bit of kit.

Affordable

There’s no doubt that fox control has become a lot easier, with the vast array of thermal and night-vision products currently on the market and continually becoming more affordable.

It’s amazing how foxing control kit has taken such a massive leap forward in terms of technology over the past 10 years. I remember when we used to use huge acid batteries in bags or on belts to power a lamp the size of a satellite dish for foxing. We would forever be repairing snagged wires and dodgy connections that would cut out just as you were about to take a shot.

Things changed for the better, as smaller and more effective lamps and batteries came on to the market, but nothing compared with the introduction of half-decent night vision, then the first thermal spotters and scopes being used. It seems nowadays that everything has improved relating to foxing, from more accurate rifles and better ammunition through to lightweight tripods and electronic callers.

At this time of year, the art of calling really comes into its own. When winter really sets in and the ground freezes, or is covered by snow, foxes struggle to find food and tend to respond much better to prey distress calls.

Fox calling

By gently sucking in air against the palm of his hand, Mark calls the wary fox within range for a shot

Setting bait sites

This is also an excellent time of year to set up bait sites to draw foxes to the same area regularly to make it easier to bring them within range. You will need nothing more than some attractive bait and some patience. If you do decide to bait an area, be sure to put bait out after dark to avoid birds clearing it up before dusk.

You can help to reduce how long you wait by setting up a trail cam in order to get an idea as to when foxes tend to be feeding on the bait. This will help you decide what time is best to sit out and wait in ambush for them.

Spypoint LINK-MICRO-LTE cellular Trail wildlife camera £189

spypoint link micro

I’ve been using a Spypoint Link-Micro for a couple of years. Yet another brilliant piece of technology, this little trail cam not only takes a picture when activated, but it also sends the image straight to your mobile phone. The best baits to use generally seem to be anything strong-smelling, such as fish or fish-based cat food, a roast chicken carcass or even any old table scraps.

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If you’re using shot vermin as bait, I find foxes favour feather over fur. Pigeons or badly shot pheasants work well, yet crows and magpies will usually be left untouched. Rabbit guts can be a good draw due to their strong smell. They’re also quite good because the foxes can’t simply snatch them up and scarper — they have to hang around longer, offering a better chance of a shot.

Much of my fox shooting is done on foot because I prefer the stealthy approach. A lot of the ground I cover is undrivable when wet and is further hindered by many gates, most of which don’t open properly anyway. Though you can’t cover as much ground as you would by driving it, you do seem to get more opportunities of a shot.

To make the most of each shot, I’ve taken to using the Wicked Lights Rekon shooting tripod. Though it’s slightly heavier than a conventional set of shooting sticks, this is greatly outweighed by its added stability.

FoxPro Patriot Digital Caller £173.05

fox pro caller

 

On the subject of equipment, the other tool in my foxer’s armoury is a FoxPro electronic caller. These are great because they contain a library of useful calls, including prey distress calls as well as mating calls, which would be almost impossible to accurately reproduce.

The other advantage these callers have is that they are remote controlled, meaning a fox is drawn in with its focus fixed on the caller and not on you. Therefore it is less likely to spot you as you line up on it as it comes in to the call.

Do make sure you remember to collect the caller before you leave the field, though. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to go hunting around a field the next morning to find my caller.

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Foxing can be both exhilarating and frustrating but winter foxing is probably the time you will have the most success, so brave the cold and make the most of the season. (Read our tips on the best thermals for stalking.)