I climbed through knee-deep snow up the steep bank and eased across to the fenceline on top, pulling the binoculars from inside my coat. A few minutes of scanning the snow-covered farmland before me suddenly revealed exactly what I was searching for. Protected from the wind by a snowdrift and dozing in the sunshine lay a mature red fox, at a half-mile away, just a dot even in the 10 x 40 Zeiss's.
I urgently, but cautiously analyzed the situation. The wind was coming from there; I had cover there; and a good setup right there. I moved quickly into position, got concealed and comfortable, set the rifle on my knees, pulled out my predator call, and blew with all my might.
The squalling reverberated across the fields and the fox was on his feet. He was coming. I could tell by his body language he was suspicious; he no doubt had heard this tune before, but the possibility of an easy meal was too enticing to resist.
The fox did just as expected, trying to circle into the wind, keeping his eyes glued on me the whole time. But my setup was perfect: before he could get downwind and smell me, the open-water lake squeezed him into easy rifle range. Now I was following him with the crosshairs, and when he hesitated, I was ready. The gun bucked and before the report had faded, the fox was down.
An Exciting Off-Season Hunt!
I'm surprised more hunters don't partake in the exciting sport of fox calling. It's an invigorating and exciting off-season hunt, and the pheasants and rabbits certainly appreciate it.
Many fox hunters I know find outwitting this smartest game animal more fun and satisfying than any other kind of hunting. And a fine tanned fox pelt is a trophy everyone admires.
If you're interested in giving it a try, here is all the info you need to get started.
Essential items include camo suited to the purpose, usually snow camo, but woodsy camo will work too against pine trees or brush. You'll need a call, either mouth-blown or an electronic version; a rabbit distress call is standard, but there are others that work, especially in hard-hunted areas.
The firearm of choice is a .22-caliber centerfire varmint rifle, such as a .222, .223, .22-250 or .22 Hornet. The .22 Magnum is fine for shorter ranges, and shotguns loaded with magnum No. 4s or No. 2s are ideal for close-range situations. When hunting with a buddy, standard procedure is one guy on the rifle; the other on shotgun.
A few other items you'll want include a pad to sit on, a quality set of binoculars, and maybe a decoy.
It's fun to hunt foxes while exploring new ground, but scouting for game concentrations and familiarizing yourself with setups beforehand is far more productive. Plan your logistics to make best use of brief prime times.
Hunt the best times: Foxes are nocturnal so the best hunting by far is at night. Moonlit nights with snow cover are best, because you can actually see and shoot without a light in most situations. Otherwise, use a powerful spotlight with a red lens, scanning your perimeter occasionally for reflected eyes.
For daytime hunting, the best times for calling are the first and last hour of daylight. For midday hunting, spot & stalk works best.
Approach an area you expect is holding foxes carefully, and start your hunt on the edge as not to alert them. Keep in mind that approaching animals will often try to circle downwind for a scent-analysis of the situation, so keep an open field downwind and use obstructions when you can.
When set up, start calling in lower tones in case a fox is nearby. Calling requires no special talent; just put your heart into it, visualizing a rabbit that's been caught by a hawk, squealing, getting tired, resting, squealing some more, and getting weak. Call louder for about three to five minutes, wait 10 minutes, call some more. If nothing appears in 30 minutes of calling, move on to the next spot, a half-mile or more away.
A good trick to entice a fox that hangs up, refusing to come closer, and to distract it from you is the old critter-on-a-string (decoy) trick. A couple of grouse or pheasant wings, or even a stuffed animal, attached to a 50-foot string and hung over a bush in open view, fluttered and jerked occasionally, will add sight attraction to your calls.
When an animal is in range, be prepared to shoot at your first good opportunity. Usually when an animal stops, it gives only a few seconds of stationary target before moving again. It might change its mind and leave, the wind could change -- plenty can go wrong, so take your shot when you get it.
Give fox calling a try this winter. You may just discover your new favorite game animal!
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