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Night Vision Diaries: The Day Job

Night Vision Diaries: The Day Job

My day job, when I’m not out foxing, is running my burger and snack van, which is sited within an industrial estate in Fife. This is where I meet a lot of my contacts in life, especially from the farming community. They drop by for something to eat, we get chatting, I ask if anyone is controlling the foxes on their land and so conversation starts. This happened recently and I picked-up yet another bit of ground from a local farmer who asked if I could control the deer and foxes on his estate. Obviously I was more than happy to oblige.

That following weekend Tony from Night Master was due to come-up to test some new night vision gear, which was a perfect opportunity for us to meet up with my friend Paul, who like me has a lot of ground to shoot. Tony and I are always welcome to meet up with him for what usually turns out to be a good night’s foxing.

Rigged and Ready

We arrived at Paul’s house as dark was coming in and swapped all the shooting gear into his pickup and set off to my new bit of permission. Once there, I got out my trusty Tikka .243 with the Pulsar Apex XD75 thermal weapon sight, and also the Pulsar XQ38S spotter – switched them on and checked the brightness and contrast on both the units, which is important because every night is different so adjustments may need to be made to get a clear image with the thermal equipment. I was ready to go in minutes.

Paul also has a thermal weapon scope and handheld spotter, so we were well kitted-up for the job ahead of trying to eliminate any foxes that may present themselves in a safe and shootable position. This time I was in the hot seat with the rifle, with Tony sitting behind me spotting with the thermal and Paul driving and spotting out of his window, so we had all angles well and truly covered.

No Signatures

An hour or so had passed and there was not a single heat source to be seen from any of the two thermal spotters. The same question was going through our minds; “what’s going on and where are all the foxes? When ‘thermaling’, you soon come to realise that the spotter misses nothing and unlike lamping you don’t need to keep constantly checking over the same ground, if it’s there you will see it on first glance. Whereas with a lamp you are looking for eye-shine, so you really need to keep checking the land over and over again. What would usually take you an hour to lamp can only take you 10 minutes with the thermal spotter.

More often than not with foxing it all depends on your timing; you can have a look over your ground and see nothing then check again on the way back and start to pick up heat sources. Timing is important but I suppose there’s some luck involved too. We started to head back on ourselves, checking field after field and then it happened; a heat source, picked-up on Paul’s spotter. It was not one but two foxes, working the field. It looked like it was going to be a safe shot as both animals were in a hill field with plenty of back-stop!

Switch Off, Switch On!

With the motor switched off, I quietly got out and dropped the rifle’s bipod legs to get a nice steady shot off the Hilux’s bonnet. I picked-up the closest fox straightaway through the Apex XD75, took aim and down she went. Then quickly reloaded and looked around for the second animal, but it was nowhere to be seen. As I was searching through the scope, Paul and Tony were spotting. It soon became clear that as we were shooting covert, the fox didn’t know where the bang had come from so didn’t know where to run to to escape the danger.

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After a few seconds the other fox made an appearance, but it was not settled and knew it was still in danger. Paul gave a shout to stop it. But unfortunately for me the second bullet did not connect because I had not accounted for the distance. When I stepped-out the range for the first fox it was 180 yards and the second was much further away at 90 yards past that, so making the range a considerable 270 yards. The upshot of which was I had fallen way short on distance. I carried the fox back to the motor to find out it was a very healthy vixen.

Know Your Ground

When using thermal, either to shoot or to spot with it is vital that you know your ground as it is very difficult to determine distance when looking through them and is easy to think things are closer than they really are. Just after midnight we decided to head back to Paul’s and collect my motor so Tony and I could carry on foxing on a bit of ground, owned by Brody the farmer, which is right next to my house - it’s always worth a look on the way home from a night’s foxing.

We arrived at Brody’s farm and got set up as usual, but this time I was driving and Tony was spotting. After only about 400 yards of driving, down on my right at the bottom of the field I could see a heat source through the scope, but by the way it was laying it could have been a deer or the farm dog. So we got out the pickup and set-up on the bonnet to identify the heat source in question. In this situation the best thing to do is wait and watch. Wait until the object moves or try to encourage it to move. Once you see the movement it becomes apparent what you are looking at.

Shout Out!

We waited for 10 or 15 minutes just watching but there was no movement a part from the animal had started cleaning itself. And the way it was doing this indicated to me that it was probably a fox! But I could still not be 100% certain, so tried a few squeaks off the back of my hand to try and get it to stand up, but that didn’t work. We just had to wait it out as there was no cover for us to sneak into for a closer look. Another 10 minutes had passed and still no movement, so I took the gamble and gave it a little shout – ‘hoi!’

Sure enough it got up and started walking across the field, and within those few steps it was clear to see its identity. It was indeed a fox, so I kept the crosshair firmly fixed on the engine room and the minute it stopped for a look I squeezed the trigger and that gave us two out of three animals for the night.

And Another

We walked down the field using the thermal spotter to find it and stepped it out to be about 230 yards. Back in the pickup, we headed further into the farm. I looked over to my right just in time to see a fox through the thermal spotter disappear over the top of a hill. I said to Tony, “this one has your name on it”, so we parked up again then took to our feet to try and head it off.

I have shot this land for a long time, so I knew the lay of it. I decided to go wide to sneak-up the banking and hopefully look down on the fox. After a 20 minute stalk, we crept over the banking and lay down on the soaking wet grass. I saw the fox with the thermal spotter so quickly handed Tony the rifle. He picked up on the quarry straight away but with not being familiar with the land he hesitated for a moment whilst checking with me on the distance and the backstop.

In that split second we lost the fox for a moment but spotted it again walking along a cattle track a little further up the hill. Tony waited till it presented itself broad-side on then placed the 70-grain home-load straight in the engine room. That gave us a hat-trick for the night. Another good size vixen and another perfect kill shot, just the way it should be when taking the life of any quarry!

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