Out Foxing “Charlie”.
Before I go any further with this article, I want to make it clear I only deal with problem foxes or “Charlies” as we call them. When I say problem foxes I mean those ones that turn from living naturally to terrorise and attacking land owners or farmers livestock, I actually love to see foxes about and love to shoot them with a camera instead of a gun as I do with most wildlife including deer but nature sometimes need a helping hand in finding the balance, Foxes have no natural predator in this country so it falls upon the countryman’s shoulder to find this balance and also protect the land owners or farmers valuable livestock from these problem foxes. I have been hunting the fox since I could walk and have had some of the very best mentors in life one being my Pappy (Grandfather) who just had a link with nature it’s almost as if he could disappear and just become one with nature he taught me so much about hunting/fishing and conservation and oh so much more, My Father another fine countryman of the old school an unswerving critic whose words would cut like a hot knife through butter and still does he only wants me to achieve my very best and do things right.
But My Uncle Dave my Dads youngest Brother and my Pappies youngest son is the one who taught me how to have the eyes of a hawk the ears of a bat and be as cunning as the fox itself, Now Uncle Dave is an ex farmer/keeper has forgotten more than I will ever know about foxes and how to hunt them and how to out with the very clever old Charlie Fox, If you have read any of my books you will know what I mean about Uncle Dave and the teachings he has passed on to me about this subject. As with most field sports like pigeon shooting etc. Its reconnaissance that is the key that and was what I was taught from a young age as my first lesson on hunting the sly ole cunning Charlie Fox, As well as field craft using the wind and tracking, Thus building up a picture of how the problem foxes are attacked as they are mostly creatures of habit and will often take the same routes etc. To ambush the farmers/land owner’s livestock. In the last year or so we have also been plagued with what we locals have called the white van man who drops off town/city foxes that have been trapped and re released in the countryside, This is shear madness as these foxes just do not know how to survive as well as screwing up already established fox territories that are not causing any problems and end up sealing the fate of all the foxes in that area quite simply how can you tell one from the other when these town caught poor excuses for a fox start attacking the land owners/farmers valuable livestock??? Or as I call it from the fox’s point of view free range Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) , So when you see a fox near the livestock you have no choice but to dispatch it humanly and as fast as possible before it attacks and costs the landowner/farmer hundreds of pounds in lost stock or vet bills that they can ill afford. I was called out to a free range chicken farm recently the white van man had dropped of several foxes that was witnessed by a local dog walker who called the farmer who then called me, Within 24hrs he was getting fox attacks were as before he was not although there was a pair of foxes on the farm that I had watched many many times they never touched the valuable hens and would often be seen mousing and hunting rabbits some times right next to the free range chicken fields, Now I am not saying they have not taken the odd chicken here and there but never attacked the main flock nor took more than was needed for a meal. Most land owners/farmers will except that as a sort of natural loss but its when a fox or foxes get in and kill the entire flock and just take one that’s when we have to deal with them and cant allow this to happen and indeed as soon as these town caught foxes start attacking that’s exactly what happens, Now there are all sorts of theories that go with this as to why a fox will do this, One thing both my Pappy and Uncle Dave taught me is a fox will kill for fun and indeed enjoy the thrill of the hunt, I know many of you may not agree with me here but I have seen this first hand many times and later in this article I will tell you of one such time recently when myself and Mick my Game Keeper friend saw this for his first time.
Like I say I was called out to deal with these chicken thieving Charlies at the free range chicken farm and as I sat there in my truck all quiet with my Daughter Emilie as my lamp woman who loves her fieldsports like so many generations of her family before her, I felt a like that old sheep dog in the cartoons watching over the flock as the wiley coyote tried to out smart the gaurdian of the flock, Indeed as Emilie and I sat there both with binoculars I turned it into a nature lesson as my Pappy taught me turn everything into a lesson and never close your mind you could live to be a hundred years old and still knot have learnt enough. Well as we sat there and the light dimmed Emilie spotted the deer feeding close to the boundary hedge the woodpecker up the beech tree a rat sat cleaning itself under the corrugated roofing sheets and then she heard old Monty the Magpie gave out its warning call? Daddy she whispered over there by the orchard I saw movement and Monty is calling and bobbing up and down I think is Charlie? My heart filled with pride that’s MY Girl a chip off the ole block she does not miss a trick and absorbed every lesson and has taught me a few too. She was right a chicken thieving charlie is stalking right towards the hens in the big pen the hens are free range but the field gets surrounded by electric sheep wire to try and keep the foxes out and the chickens in the big field, But these foxes know how to get in and out without getting zapped, So I raised my rifle and tracked the fox until it was within the area that I wanted to take the shot that had a safe backstop. Almost there I took a steady aim I could feel my Emilie behind me and her excitement as she took on the pose of a kestrel about to stop as the chicken thieving Charlie closed in on a chicken near the fence, Here goes its now or never a few more steps and you are mine as my favourite fox stopper was homing in on it my 243 Browning lead injector was primed and ready with a lead injection of a Norma 58 grain ballistic tip that will cure this Charlie of its addiction to my farmers valuable free range hens. Just as I am about to administer the lead injection the bloody phone goes off and my ring tone is the hunting horn with hounds in full cry, The hunt in full cry a beautiful sight and sound I might add if you have ever seen it for yourself but not right then it was not as the Fox froze took one look and was off in the blink of an eye with a flick of its brush was the last I saw of it, Grrrrrr how annoying how many times has that happened I have lost count but as I am on constant call for my farmers if they need me I cannot turn my phone off but I did forget to turn it down this time. I answered the phone it was it was another land owner saying come quick I have foxes in my lambing field and they have already killed one lamb we have chased them off but they keep coming back and it’s getting dark, Nothing for it down tools make the rifle safe saddle up and ride hell for leather to the other farm saying I will be back later or tomorrow night to the free range chicken farmer. Upon arriving at the sheep farm the farmer’s son was there by the farm entrance waiting for me saying thank god you are here father is out with the ewes and lambs with a torch trying to keep the buggers away from the livestock, I must admit these pair of lamb stealing charlies were pretty persistent but now The Ole Hedge Creeper was here with a lead aspirin to cure them from this very expensive addiction to my farmers livestock. I got kitted up with something I don’t normally use and that’s a Night Vision unit but not just any NV unit but the simply brilliant NS200 from Nite Site, I was impressed with this so much when my fellow shooting Clubman Billy got the NS50 for rat shooting with the Air Arms air rifles in our farmers grain barns, Now I have always been a traditionalist and love using the lamp and pure Fieldcraft and still do and will only use the NV on lamp shy foxes or where a fox eats needs dealing with without disturbing other livestock like horses with the lamp etc.. The difference between the two I am told is the NS50 is only good for up to 50 yards were as the NS200 is good for up to 200 hundred also this one has a coloured camera and screen and a record facility, I have tried all sorts of NV units before and never really thought much of them but this Nite Site gear is simplicity in its purest form and as my Pappy taught me if you keep it simple less can go wrong. I got to the field and sent the farmer in for a coffee and leave me to it as his flock was well protected now with The Ole Hedge Creeper and my Daughter Emilie on the watch, I left it for a few moments before having a look about with the NS200 mounted on top of my favourite fox stopper rifle bullet combo my 243 Browning lead injector that was primed and ready with a lead injection of a Norma 58 grain ballistic tip just for these lamb stealing Charlies. Straight away as I turn on the NS200 I could see a big dog fox about 140 yards away and he was about to pounce on a new born lamb I had to think fast as the shot was no good as a ewe was lead on the ground behind him was giving birth I might hit her if I took the shot, I told Emilie to do the distressed rabbit squeek I had taught her as loud as she could blimey she is good at that now as the big dog fox stopped in his tracks almost like he had been hypnotized about faced and ran full charge straight at us, At about 45 yards I shouted Oiiiiiiiii as he was not stopping and I thought he was going to run down the barrel, As he stopped I let Betty sing Thwack I introduced him to Betty (My 243 Browning) and her best mate Norma a 58 grain ballistic tip that dropped him stone dead on the spot with a perfect heart and lung shot in the engine room, I have said it before and I will say it again my fox stopper is a sweet lady that whispers a sweet goodnight to these problem Charlies. I scanned around and there she was the vixen with the remains of a lamb in her jaws trotting across the paddock she was having none of that squeaking business and was off? So I let out a loud whistle that stopped her for a split second and that was her mistake as Betty sang her sweet song of death, Thwack I introduced her to Betty (My 243 Browning) and her best mate Norma a 58 grain ballistic tip that dropped her stone dead on the spot with a perfect heart and lung shot in the engine room. I always if possible not only use this combo but if I can take a shot to the engine room as it stops them on the spot with this bigger target I know some of you like to take head shots but there is more chance of a miss that way on foxes in my opinion, I made the rifle safe and put it away, as well as put the NS200 back in its Box. The farmer upon hearing the two shots came out with his whole family including his son’s towney girlfriend who was very anti fox hunting until she saw first hand the damage a fox does to her boyfriends lambs and chickens and how quickly and humanly us countrymen deal with the job in hand, She now wants to come out lamping with me and her boyfriend as she said it nothing like what she thought and was taught to her at school I think that’s what we call a fieldsports convert eh muckers. The farmer was more than pleased you know I actually thought he was going to do a little jig and took a photo of me and my Emilie to go on his mantlepiece as a sort of trophy I suppose, It’s a nice touch when you do a job well and its appreciated but no time to hang about I had to get back to the free range chicken farm as Charlie was bound to be back this time I put my phone on vibrate after calling that farmer to say I am on my way back, Upon arriving back at the free range chicken farm farmer said he had seen a Charlie pacing up and down the electric fence I loaded up Betty and put the NS00 on her and cruised round all quiet to the chicken paddock with the lights off and just using the Nite Site to see what was in front of us, He was right there she was already inside the fence with a chicken in her jaws she froze by the corner about to jump onto the bank behind the fence, But she froze a split second too long as I was on her cross hairs right on the engin room THWACK as Betty let out her sweet call of death and Norma whisperd and made contact she was stone dead on the spot with the dead chicken still in her jaws, Lets just say this farmer was over joyed as not many get inside that fence but when they do they go to town on the flock after we looked round found thirty three dead hens, Farmer thanked me for sorting this chicken thieving Charlie out and requested I come back asap and deal with the big dog fox that has plagued that farm for a couple of years now but is as lamp shy as hell with all the inexperienced dog men lamping him and just educating him to what a lamp is so Night Vision is the way forward I think. Exactly a week later my keeper friend Mick and I and his son Hayden and my free range chicken farmers son Chris a fellow shooting clubman were called out to farm with a massive corvid (crow family) problem, We got there bright and early almost straight away upon getting into position in my permanent hides that I had built it sounded like world war three had kicked off, For about three hours the shot guns blazed as I sat back and watched the Young clubmen Hayden and Chris shoot both Mick and I said just look at those young countrymen its like watching a well oiled machine as they take bird after bird in fine style I chuckled and said we taught them well now stop missing they are eye wiping us.
We finished with just over a hundred or so mixed corvids and feral pigeon and one very happy farmer as he shook his fist at the crows etc as they flew over shouting that will teach you for stealing my grain, Just then we got a call from Chris Dad saying come quick that big dog fox is about alas Chris was off he had a date with a young lady so it was down to Mick his son Hayden and myself to go deal with Charlie, I know what I would do with a choice between a date or go hunting but hey ho that just me my hunting always comes first as we ribbed Chris some about that as he flew off in his landrover, We rushed back to mine to get the NS200 and ole Betty my beautiful Browning 243 rifle and not forgetting her best mate Norma a 58 grain ballistic tip bullet either. We got to the farm and farmer met us saying Charlie was trying to get in were I shot that vixen last week No problem we said that’s where we will set up, Hayden sat in the grain mill shooting rats with my Air Arms S410 as he was not needed on this one and the rats needed sorting too so killing two birds with one stone as it were, I also had my new Lamping Foxes hoodie on. Lamping foxes are a group of like minded folk on Facebook and is run by a brilliant fellow called Eddie, If you need any information or help or someone to deal with your vermin especially problem charlies look this brilliant group up, There will be a wealth of knowledge to tap into and help if you need it. Mick and I sat there all quiet I did not put the Nite Site on as it was still light as Mick poured a coffee from the flask and passes it to me and then poured himself one, I had Betty all loaded and at the ready to go and resting on the wing mirror of my Land Rover as I took a sip of my coffee that’s when the commotion started. A chicken at full throttle came charging around the side of the chicken house about 40 yards from us it must of been one that had got out of the electric fence, It also had the big dog fox right up its back side giving it Billy Big Steps after the chicken, It amazes me how when the chickens try to get out of the electric fence they struggle like hell but when a chicken thieving Charlie is right behind them the inspiration and how fast they get back in that fence amazes me, I sprang into action chucking my mug of hot steaming coffee all over Mick as I up and took the shot in the blink of and eye dropping this big dog fox on the spot as it stopped at the fence, Apart from Micks screams as I had landed the boiling coffee on his man hood I don’t think he had ever seen anyone shoot so fast. The whole thing only lasted from seeing the fox chucking the coffee getting thrown over Mick and Killing the fox stone dead was in no more than ten seconds this was also Micks first time seeing a fox attack in person as it happened, I could go on forever on this one as the banter about the coffee etc is a standing joke now. How to finish this article off is so hard as I could write a book on this subject and all stories of hunting the sly ole fox over the years, What I will say is The NS200 on my favourite rifle combo for fox or on my Air Arms Air Rifles for rats/rabbits or small vermin is quite simply the Dogs Danglies and worth every penny if you don’t believe me get one and see for yourself.
By The Ole Hedge Creeper (aka Rob Collins)