Our fox shooting guru Roy Lupton encounters a vulpine with impeccable timekeeping

credit: Archant

With the majority of my permissions once again covered with thick swathes of crop, my foxing forays move forward at a much more sedate pace. At the moment I am only spending the odd evening or two each week patrolling fields which have been grazed down low enough to enable us to pick up a foxy outline. Which is just as well, as each outing usually starts at dusk, resulting in us stumbling back home exhausted at three or four in the morning.

credit: Archant

The exception to that rule proved to be a very punctual fox that decided to include my garden in his hunting ground. With my hawks and falcons sitting on eggs and chicks and with the peacocks starting to lay, this fox’s presence was most certainly not welcome. Even though he can’t get into the birds of prey’s pen, the disturbance he was causing by investigating the aviaries could have resulted in a bird coming off her brood in the night to defend her nest site, leaving the eggs or chicks to chill.

I first noticed we had a nightly visitor one day whilst doing my morning feeding round, when I was greeted with the unmistakable stench of a fox’s scent marking around the aviaries. Fortunately it did not take me long to work out Charlie’s schedule, as just that evening when I was sitting trawling the internet I happened to look up at the right time to be greeted with my fox striding up the drive on the CCTV screen 
next to the computer. With the time of his visit marked down, the next day I baited up the lawn beneath our barn with a scattering of cat food then made myself a cup of tea and sat watching the CCTV just before 10pm.

Sure enough, as if he possessed a Rolex, he appeared on the screen, almost to the minute of his previous evening’s appointment. I only wish my timekeeping was this good! It always amazes me how some animals follow such a strict schedule.

With the plan now set, I knew that the following evening I could have a relaxing meal, make a large mug of tea and then make my way over to the barn at about 9.30pm; I only had to open the window and we should be set.

So the next night, with the .22 rimfire set up on a sand bag, there I sat supping my brew. It was lucky that I also had a Larsen trap set up on the lawn, with a couple of magpies in situ, for as I was staring out the window peering in the direction Charlie had come from on the previous two evenings, the magpies started to cackle. Looking round I could not see a thing, but with the magpies’ calls intensifying I knew that something must be moving.

All of a sudden my visitor strolled into view from behind the building, approaching from the opposite direction to where I expected him, though once again he was bang on time for his appointment – the last he will make. At a huge range of 11 yards I put the crosshairs on the top of his head – at that range the round would be low by at least an inch – and squeezed the trigger.

I originally thought the red invader would be a vixen due to its diminutive size, but upon examination I was surprised to discover it was a tiny adult dog fox. Either way, it was probably the most obliging fox I have ever dealt with.

Feeling pleased with myself, I thought I would probably not be doing much foxing for a few days. However, the next night I was phoned by a keeper friend, excitedly telling me to get my bum up to his as the first silage fields had just been cut on his estate – hopefully meaning a lot of foxy activity, as they tend to gravitate to a nice freshly cut field in order to get an easy meal clearing up any carcasses on the field that have been diced by the mower.

I always look forward to this annual event, as you can usually account for a few easy foxes and get a good indication of the number of foxes that are around. This trip certainly was going to prove the norm.

Within minutes of pulling up in the field, Garry accounted for a litter of cubs that were mooching round in the piles of grass. With a vixen and three more cubs found in the next field, his foxing season was starting to shape up nicely. He obviously wants to make as much headway now with his fox population as he can, as the harvest this year will certainly be delayed, meaning the pheasant poults will be well and truly on by the time we get on to the stubbles.

With the long summer evenings now with us I am certainly looking forward to sitting out spying the grass valleys over the next few weeks, as our new crop of foxes start exploring.

By Roy Lupton