One last look
Nihil desperandum, says Roy Lupton, as his foxing foray threatens to go awry
Last week I got a call from our ‘man at the top’, Dom Holtam, asking when I was going to be available for him to pop down, as he had two new toys for us to try out in our constant battle to keep on top of the fox population.
I arranged with Dom that he was going to come round after he finished work and we were going to try a couple of local spots that I was confident would throw up a fox or two.
The evening soon arrived and I put the kettle on with keen anticipation of Dom’s arrival, as whenever Dom turns up it is normally like a Christmas morning, with lots of ‘boys’ toys’ to play with, and I certainly was not disappointed on this occasion. The first box we opened up was a Mini Colibri Fox Caller, which I recognised as it was an up-to-date version of an electronic call I had bought a number of years ago – one that had given me much successful in the field. The predecessor was a unit which had an interchangeable card, one for deer, one for fox and one for water fowl, all of which were UK-relevant calls. The new unit turned out to be just as good, and even offered a remote control. The foxing card comes with ten calls, and unlike some of the other electronic fox callers I have tried, I would use every one of them during certain times of the year.
One of my old favourites is a vixen call, which has proved itself time and again in the past, with many a dog fox chancing his luck looking for a mate. Apart from the other obvious calls, such as rabbit, hare and rodent distress calls, it has crow, jackdaw and magpie calls, too, which can also help con a cautious fox into joining the party.
Dom also had with him a new HID Lightforce lamp that he wanted to try. Luckily he also had one of Deben’s excellent Tracer lightweight lithium-polymer battery packs with him, as I thought it would be best to have a couple of attempts on foot, rather than from the comfort of the truck.
We headed with our new toys to the first field where we set up on a bank overlooking a spinney, we placed the caller over 80 yards away, downhill of our position. As the unit has a very small ergonomic remote control unit, I started the caller using the rabbit distress, at low volume, and over the next 15 minutes was able to increase and decrease the volume without moving from my position.
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Although unfortunately on our first attempt we drew a blank, we made our way back to the car and drove a mile down the road to the next “hot spot”. This time our vista was a lot greater and the new HID lamp was certainly going to play its part, as even with an amber filter the beam was still able to illuminate at a fantastic distance.
I fired the caller up, this time from about 40 yards off, again on top of a long sloping bank, with a 180 degree view around and down part of the valley. After the first five minutes I was shocked and somewhat dismayed that we had not yet come across the eye shine of Charlie. It always seems to be the way that when you have guests or friends with you nothing ever goes to plan and this was proving to be one of those nights. My confidence that I would be able to call a fox to order was rapidly disappearing and as time ticked away I was conscious that Dom was already late getting back to his family for dinner.
With my head held low it was time to admit defeat and to start heading back over the hill. We had only walked some 20 yards when, in desperation I took one last sweep with the lamp into a hollow in the valley that was unsighted from our previous position. Amazingly we picked up the unmistakeable flash of eyes about 300 yards away. We dropped down next to a patch of stinging nettles and hoped that the fox had not made our silhouettes on the horizon.
I quickly took the caller out of my pocket and pressed play as this fox had obviously been making his way in and was trying to cross our wind. I realised this was not going to be a forgone conclusion. We left the lamp off him for a minute or so in the hope that he was still working the same line towards us. When the light was flicked back on a quick scan showed that he was moving up the bank on a parallel line and he was only a few yards closer. With his erratic eye movement in the lamp, you could tell he was getting nervous. The next few minutes seemed like an eternity as he slowly started to hesitantly move a little closer, taking a few paces and then stopping to assess the situation. At one point he walked to the fence line at the top of the bank as if to cross over and disappear into another farm, but luckily for us the call was proving to be too irresistible. He trickled another 15 yards down the bank and peered at us from between some dead thistles.
As I thought this was going to be our last chance, I lined up the crosshairs on his chest and squeezed off a shot. With a reassuring thud, he collapsed and rolled down the bank. With a sign of relief we collected the fox and headed back to the car. Job done.