Out Foxing Charlie 17
Out Foxing Charlie 17, now how did that happen, one moment I am writing the first one that was a massive hit and crashed our servers, the next thing I know here we are on article 17, we now have this series as well as its in print in my best selling books, who knew I knew so much about dealing with foxes, well I suppose I learned most of what I know from the old masters, folks that will have forgotten more than YOU or I will ever know, in this one I hope to really impart on you some of their time learned wisdom and knowledge, especially if you are just starting out on your Countryman’s journey, so I have sub titled this article in the series as Educating Charlie, by this I mean how you educate the awesome intelligent fox and miss your chance, he wont be fooled twice, as the old saying goes, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, I will try and point out some of the rookie mistakes, some like, the there’s no fool, like an old fool ones etc.
I will try and impart over you a lifetime of my knowledge, some taught to me and some learnt on my own two feet, learning lessons after making mistakes myself, trying to impart on you things like correct lamping procedure, not looking like Darth Vader and Luke Sky Walker are having a light sabre fight, field craft, using the wind, not relying on the gadgets and more, I may have a rant or two in this one, I hear you say that’s nothing unusual, but I do I get frustrated with some of the people involved in this industry, so here goes lets see what’s left in my head and heart for such an emotive subject.
Now where do I start, I suppose I should start off with the correct lamping procedures and field craft, lamping should be a delicate affair, its no good waving the lamp around like a laser show, also less is more in this case, by this I mean a lower power lamp will work better or one with variable power settings, OK if I were lamping rabbits with a running dog the brighter lamp is the better tool, also if I were using a running dog, good field craft would be needed to get me into a close enough position so the dog stood a chance of catching the rabbit also cutting it off from its set from the slip position if possible.
For rifle shooting this is what I am talking about here, for controlling foxes, less power is more, you will be surprised how clearly you can see through the correct lamp, rifle scope set up, also you don’t look like an alien landing burning the foxes eyes out, also when lamping or scanning its best to use the residual or outer edge of the beam, it always surprises me how many people still go right on straight away with the centre of the beam, then come out with it started running away as soon as the light toughed it, no kidding Sherlock, this happens a lot when you have not only taught the fox what a lamp is but also fluffed the shot and taught the fox that a light means bullet is on its way, I have recounted stories of such from novices in the previous articles, I hear a lot of folk now say ahhh well I now have night vision and or thermal gear, I still say to be any good with any of it you must first master the correct lamping procedures, also what happens when this gear fails, the batteries die, or you forget the batteries, the good ole lamp is still my back up, I still have good results with a lamp as I do with night vision and thermal, a lot of my success comes down to time learnt field craft, something I will get on to shortly.
Filters are another good one, oh I know I will chuck a red filter on they wont see it, WRONG, yes filters can help but they are not the magic cure for bad lampmanship, a dear friend and fellow foxer Robert Bucknell and I had an in depth conversation on my stand at a game fair a few years ago about filters, I think he used some of that conversation in one of his fox lamping articles too if I remember correctly, yes some times filters can help, especially in over lamped areas but they can also be over done and cause more problems, for me my favourite filter is a green one, my theory is that the grass is green so does not overly alarm the fox, that said Greg my fellow Co Owner of the internationally read The Countryman’s Diary Magazine has a green lamp, the spectrum on that lamp scares everything away including the horses, I like the Night Master Venom green pill, I have had lamp shy foxes just sit there and look at it before now, it must be in a spectrum that does not scare them, I really must find out what spectrum codes it is in, all I can say foxes, rabbits and other wildlife just take no notice of this green pill.
Field Craft, this is where so many people fail on so many levels, first of all just being quiet, small movements are something most folk just cant do, I had one fellow he just could not talk, walk or even just look quiet, I nicked named him crisp packet trousers, even when he walked anywhere he sounded like a couple of empty crisp packets rubbing together, as for his foot steps, ghost walking was impossible, he sounded more like an elephant with clogs on with bells on his toes, smoking especially those vape things, the scent just carries on the wind, I could pin point him at a 100 yards in the pitch dark just by the smell of cherry or mixes fruit, I will say he did have his uses, carrying equipment, retrieving shot foxes etc., but as a lamp man or shooting partner he was damn near useless, actually I found a great use for him, I would send him off to stalk a perimeter or far off field, the noise and smell of him sent the fox right too me, as you see I am as crafty as the awesome fox too, there is always method in my madness.
The prevailing wind is another thing most people take no notice of too, first of all you want the wind blowing from your quarry to you, not the other way around, or they will wind scent you in an instant, obviously this cant always be achieved but you must try to use the wind to your best advantage just like the fox does, this also helps with marksmanship especially if you have to shoot over any kind of distance, the calculation of the wind plays a huge part, I always recommend you go to any venue in daylight, work out the safe shot and the not safe shot areas for they look a lot different at night, game trails, the attacking points of the fox, oh I forgot to say I only deal with foxes that attack live stock etc., the if its red its dead attitude is not mine at all, which way is the fox coming in, is he using a game trail, ditch bottom a hole in a fence etc., is he also using them as an escape route etc., even the most erratic of scenarios has a pattern you just have to look, I call it looking through your quarries eye.
I often get called in to a fox problem after every Tom, Dick and Harry has had a go and FAILED, so often its simple mistakes that Educate Charlie as he shows you his brush and a clean pair of heels as takes a lamb or fowl from right under your nose, I have one very large VIP agricultural client who calls me the resolver, he has me in his phone as such, I asked why he calls me that, his exact words are no matter what pest control I call you in on, you always resolve the problem, often in scenarios like this its showing good animal husbandry/security ideas etc., some folks may not have thought of, but yes I will agree I seem to have a talent when it comes to dealing with the crafty old fox.
One of the things I like to do is study my quarry, weather its squirrels in a woodland plantation etc., or in this case its the crafty Charlie Fox, I have said this many times, its wonderful to watch nature, the fox is a remarkable animal in its natural hunting environment, the fox really fascinates me, this is one reason I am that good at dealing with them, because I study them so much, just like planning a military operation, I want all the intelligence I can get, the patterns and times of his movements, prevailing winds, safe shot areas, right down to making sure my equipment is working 100%, I plan everything down to last detail, I don’t just step out onto the battle field to cross swords with a worthy adversary unprepared, a couple of sayings come to mind here, failing to prepare, is preparing to fail, or the 7Ps, Prior, Planning and Preparation, prevents a piss poor performance.
So as you can see its not an erratic man with a gun going out to kill an innocent fox as the anti will have the public believe, but many of us don’t help ourselves or the industry here by some of the social media posts I see, thwack, shmack, kaboom, Charlie down, if its red its dead, being some of the wording I see used, this does not help us at all with the general public and the authorities, no explanation why you just took the foxes life, the correct ethics of explaining it was attacking live stock etc., remember you are all ambassador’s for all Country Sports so behave like it, its how I teach my Young Sports the best practices, be prepared, understand your quarry, make sure your equipment and your in-tell is bang on, also check zero before heading out on live quarry, for if you miss you will educate Charlie once more, this is when the job gets a lot harder and usually when I get called in, my message to you here is preparation and attention to detail.
Clothing should be up to the job for being out in mother nature it should be able to handle all the weathers and as silent as possible, I have told you about crisp packet trousers man, he made a good scarecrow for me but never got any shots himself, I fully recommend the Jack Pyke Range, my favorite is the jack Pyke Hunter Jacket with the Countryman’s Trousers, the jacket is warm, water proof and has lots of pockets including one that turns into a seat or a game pocket, the trousers are lovely heavy duty cotton with reinforced knees and back side, although I do cut the lining out as they are double lined, the main reason is they are too hot for me, but perfect without the lining in, most of all they are silent, one thing that bugs me is the boots, if you have a squeaky pair of boots when you walk, that drives me nuts, leave things in the truck like the change in your pockets the keys et, you have to be able to move with stealth when on foot, be as silent as the grave and as light footed as a cat, use the natural surroundings, like if you have to be out on a full moon or where there is residual light etc., by this I mean work in the shadows of a hedge, tree, building or in some cases the truck, I wrote about this in a previous Out Foxing Charlie, this particular evening I was called out to one of my oldest VIP clients, the problem we had here he had turned much of the farm buildings and barns into an industrial estate and work units, security lights flood lit the area, especially what we call the orchards and lambing paddocks, of course this was where Charlie was attacking the new born lambs and attacking the rare breed fowl, how the heck was I going to remain unseen here, I parked my Land-rover broad side on with the security lights behind the truck, I did this for two reasons, one the truck afforded me with a dark place as I set up in her shadow, obviously it took a little blacking out with jackets and hide nets etc.
But I got a good elevated shooting position from up there on the embankment, it also meant I was shooting away from the buildings and live stock enclosures, also this position put the fox looking directly at the lights blinding it a little, just like a falcon swooping out of the sun on the pigeons below, all was set, I knew there were two foxes attacking as I had tracked their movements and knew exactly where to expect them from, I knew there were two foxes by the tracks, either it was a large dog fox with a vixen, or it was a big vixen with a smaller dog fox, my experience and intuition said it was a big dog with a vixen, by golly I was right, I put out a couple of rabbits tied to a road pin about 70 yards out, this got the foxes to where I wanted to take them, the rain started to come down, a light drizzle that gets you wet, I knew these foxes would be along presently though, they appeared right on button, right where I knew they would, I gave a very short rodent squeal just to focus them, they caught sent of the rabbits on the wind and came running in like a laser, I dropped the vixen just a couple of feet from the rabbits, the dog fox bolted as I recycled the bolt, I gave a loud hare squeak and stopped him at around hundred yard mark, the shot was still on as he was right at the foot of a big dung heap, I was about to take the shot when the loud mouth appeared from the position he should of stayed in at the orchard covering that area, shouting at the top of his voice DID YOU GET IT, well Mr crisp packet I got half thanks to your big mouth, I went back a couple of days later and dealt with the dog fox on my own, discipline or the lack of is one thing that irritates me, crisp packet was put in position on another job, I had a vast area to cover and needed someone to play the short game of close to the live stock, this was crisp packets job, I went out on the lambing hill grounds, my orders were foxes only, I was there on the primos trigger sticks with the NiteSite mounted on the fox stopper (rifle) watching over the flocks with the Night Pearl Thermal Spotter, I had already shot three foxes already as they were on the attack route on the new born lambs, this was when I heard 12 shots from the live stock paddocks near the farm, did crisp packet shoot twelve foxes for did he miss a lot.
I called him to make sure things were OK, yes I am OK just bored so I shot at some rabbits, I told him to pack his gear away and go sit in the truck, I was not a happy bunny, he also missed every rabbit too what a waste of ammunition and scared the away the foxes I was trying to deal with, I did manage one more fox as I stealthily stalked back, it came from the live stock enclosure areas, so one crisp packet should have had, after that night he was never invited to join me again, lack of discipline is a big bug bear of mine, I have been known to wait 10 hours before now just for that one shot, the patience of Jobe comes with a price, my back feels it now days, also crisp packet like many others just didn’t do stealth, it mattered not if talking or walking he was just loud, also like many others a door slammer, that’s just plain stupidity, you announce your position to the world, plus if he had a lamp or torch in his hand he lit up the sky and fields and blinded me.
Another thing was smelling like a tarts hand bag, that scent carries for miles, my own Dad is a bugger for this, he has a shower and puts on deodorant hair gel and god knows what before heading out, in a pigeon hide as a boy he would cover himself in Hi Karate after shave (Back in the 80s) it would keep the midges away and the cattle, for starters its not a fashion parade as my Pappy would say, dirty is better than clean on this job, you can have a shower when you get back, so many over the years I have had to pull up on this, washing their cloths in the sweetest smelling washing powder and softener, ohhhh I smell like a summer breeze, no you smell like a tarts hand bag, were not out pulling a bird down the pub here, no we are hunting a worthy quarry with highly attuned senses of sight, smell and hearing, talk about make the job hard work.
The mighty awesome fox comes in many shapes, sizes, different colours, some are just plain stupid, and some are so clever and crafty they could steal a rabbit from your feet and you not notice, like the urban it has gotten used to dirty man, scavenging the bins, take aways and shopping centres etc., the country fox is aware of man, dog, light and gun and other foxes, they patrol their territories not just for food but policing them, they are tricky customers to deal with if you don’t approach it correctly with field craft, by far the most tricky fox of all is the woodland fox I find, they are so in tune with their area just a leaf out of place and they know it, alright not a leaf but you know what I mean here, I am dealing with one at the moment he keeps out smarting me, I have been sat in high seats, ground hides, sat against trees you name it day and night, each time he out foxes me, just last night Young Sports Ambassador Harry bumped into him on a feed ride as he had forgotten his coat and went back for it, I know that huge dog fox was there watching us work on a release pen I could feel him, but could I see him NO, I just knew my sixth sense told me he was there, Harry saw him for the first time in his torch light, he came back and said that’s not a fox, that’s a Red Wolf disguised as a fox he is huge, I chuckled and said I know I thought he was a deer the first time I saw him in the long summer grass, OK I could put humane cage taps in and run a line of legal snares, but no this Charlie as I do with most foxes are given a sporting chance, me against them and I deal with them with respect and honour, this big fox is hunting for food, alas he gets in with my pheasants and partridges he will kill the lot for fun, I don’t actually mind losing the odd bird that’s a natural loss and he is more hungry than me, its the killing of everything that I cant allow, like I said at the start I only deal with foxes that attack live stock, pets etc.
Penultimately, over calling and not calling, this you learn over time and experience, so many people over call, miss the fox take a frustrated fox then educate the fox what a call is, you need to understand when to use a distressed rodent call, Hare Call or Rabbit Call, also the magic remote control battery operated calls, they all have their place but they can be over done, most often having the adverse effect and become a fox scarer, although I have mastered most calls by hand, now days I seldom call as everyone else does, I find I have more success actually not calling, working out the foxes attack or retreat routes, putting myself on them and let the foxes come to me, so many of you don’t treat these magnificent animals with respect they deserve, they truly are a magnificent feat of mother natures making, they are as agile as a cat, with lightning reflexes, can eat most anything, hearing that can pin point a sound hundreds of yards away, brilliant sight that can see well in almost pitch black, the foxes nose can pick up the most microscopic of scent and track it to its source, its sixth sense when prey or danger is about is amazing to watch, so treat the fox with respect and really study this worthy adversary.
So my final words here are, be quiet in your person, your cloths, your approach, your equipment, study your quarry, stay concealed, make sure your equipment is bang on the money and the rifle properly zeroed, learn and understand field craft, learn how, when and where to use a lamp correctly, don’t smell like a tarts hand bag, learn to track and think like your quarry, if your not on foot, don’t slam the door of the truck use your natural surrounding to your advantage, don’t be so bone headed to learn from your peers or the old guard, respect the land, live stock, the quarry and all mother nature, learn to be disciplined and single minded in dealing with all quarry, especially the magnificent humble Charlie Fox.
Follow these simple rules of engagement against this worthy adversary and you wont fail, if you do, be a wise man and learn from any frailer, for each time its a lesson learned, thus many you wont need to take cheap shots at me for getting the job done where you fail, for if you do what you are supposed to do correctly to best practices, your farmers, clients etc., wont need to call me The Resolver in to deal with a live stock killing Charlie Fox and cross my palm with silver.
I hope you have enjoyed my humble scribbles and a bit of a rant at times, I hope this article helps you to understand your quarry, point out some of the Rookie Mistakes at Educating Charlie, fingers crossed we all grow together for we are all ambassador’s for Country Sports, remember this when posting on social media etc., put respectful photos on and word them correctly with the right ethics, if you do not you will be the ones putting the death nail in to the coffin of Country Sports not the ghastly Anti, please keep the emails and letters coming in to the office of the internationally read The Countryman’s Diary Magazine I try to answer them all, but just like the Charlie Fox some escape under the hedge row.
I will finish off with an inscription from inside the shooting times from king George the VI that I memorised as a boy in the 1970s, The Wildlife Of Today, Is Not Ours To Dispose Of As We Please, We Have It In Trust And Must Account For It To Those The Come After Us.
Out Foxing Charlie 17 (Educating Charlie)
By The Ole Hedge Creeper