Most of the predator hunters I meet in the Midwest hunt mainly for coyotes.
That's a good thing. Coyote numbers need to be kept in check and since the
hides are not worth enough to interest most trappers, hunters get the job.
Like you, I really enjoy hunting coyotes. I've written about calling and
hunting coyotes many times. But as much as I enjoy hunting coyotes, there are
times each winter when I opt to hunt fox instead of coyotes. Red fox do not get
the press that the coyote gets. Hardly anyone writes about fox hunting. Nobody
has ever done a video on it that I am aware of. Gun companies don't design
rifles expressly for fox hunting and ammo makers don't develop cartridges with
the demise of Mr. Red Fox in mind. Not too many people hunt fox anymore. It was not always that way, however.
When I grew up in southern Minnesota during the 60s and 70s, fox were the name of the game during the winter months.
Coyotes were scarce then. Things have changed, of course. Now that coyotes are
found everywhere in the Midwest, most hunters have pretty much forgotten about
fox and gone coyote crazy. However, that's OK with me and the few other hunters
who still like to hunt fox.
Fox Will Come To Call
Fox, like coyotes, will readily come to the call. In fact, in most of the
places I hunt in the Midwest, you never really know which species is going to
show up. Fox are not as sharp as coyotes, but that does not mean that they are
easy to call. Sure, I have had days when it seemed like every time I hit the call
a fox came running, but most of the time, there are a lot of dry sets for every
When I was a boy, my father would take me out into the country the morning
after a fresh snow and we would drive the country roads until we cut a fresh
fox track. He would drop me off and I would spend the morning tracking the fox.
I did not shoot many fox with my little .22 rifle in those early years, but I
sure learned a lot. Later, when I had my own set of wheels and a real varmint
rifle, I tracked down a lot of fox. Of course, these days, with stiffer trespass
laws, tracking is really not a viable option for most of us, but back then
nobody cared if you tracked a fox across their property.
Most of the fox I take each winter are taken by the old spot and stalk
method. Fox, unlike coyotes, like to lay out on snowbanks and soak up the
warmth of the winter sun. Coyotes bed down in cover, which makes them almost
impossible to spot. But just because fox will lay in the open does not mean
that they are easy to spot. For one thing, they usually will not be laying near
the road. Those that do, don't last long. A fox curled up in a ball a quarter
or half-mile away is not easy to see. Those who drive down the roads depending
upon the naked eye, do not spot many fox.
Get A Good Vantage Point
A good spot and stalk hunter parks the vehicle at vantage points, which allow
him a good view, and then spends some serious time behind a set of good 10-power
binoculars. When an object is spotted, which is worth a second look, the spot
and stalk hunter zeroes in with a spotting scope to confirm that the blob on
the snowbank is really a fox and not a rock, stump, clump of weeds or the
bottom of a rusted out five-gallon bucket. I pulled off some neat stalks on all
of those objects, before I finally broke down and invested in a decent spotting
scope. I can tell you from experience, that a five-gallon bucket is a lot
easier to slip up on than a red fox, but the thrill is not quite the same.
If a fox is sleeping soundly, it is not difficult to walk within rifle range
of the fox. But if the fox is not sleeping soundly, you must take care or you
will spook it. Dress in white or snow camouflage and keep an eye on the
fox as you move in. If the fox stirs, freeze. Stand still as long as the fox is
up and awake. Usually they will just stand up, maybe turn around in their snow
bed a couple of times and lay back down again. Give the fox a minute or two to
go back to sleep and then continue the stalk.
It helps if you can sneak down a drainage ditch, treeline or fenceline, but
even if you have to walk directly across an open field, you can do it as long
as you remember to freeze each time the fox stirs. On soft snow it is easy to
walk within 100 yards of the fox. But if the snow is crusted, it's a whole
different matter. Fox are not deaf. Even when sound asleep, the sound of a
hunter busting his way through crusted snow will awaken a fox. When the snow is
noisy and crusted, I try to get within about 300 yards of the fox and then use
a call (usually a coaxer call) to get the fox to come to me. This will work
less than 50 percent of the time, but it is worth trying.
If the fox will not come to the call, you have two options. You can wait for
the fox to go back to sleep and belly crawl closer, or you can try your hand at
a target about the size of your fist at 300 yards. I belly crawl. If you take
your time you can usually cut the distance in half. I don't know about you, but
I'm a lot more accurate at 150 yards than I am at 300 yards.
Give fox hunting a try this winter!
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a fine assortment of
Upland/Predator/Small Game Gear.
Gary Clancy writes a column for sportsmansguide.com. Gary has hunted whitetail deer in 20 different states and provinces. He has harvested many record-book animals, and presented hunting seminars from Tennessee to Wisconsin. Gary also has authored or co-authored six hunting books, four on whitetail hunting.