Rifle Nights .... Part 1
Vermin control is an important part of countryside land management. The humble Fox is a deadly and cunning predator, for many breeds of wild game. Indeed, to successfully rear game birds it is crucial to control fox numbers. On our own farm I like to think, we have helped increase the numbers of wild game birds by controlling the number of foxes and the most efficient way is night time rifle shooting.
With this in mind I decided to take the plunge and purchase my first centre-fire rifle in the form of a Blaser R8. In the range of centre-fire rifles the calibre choice is huge, and seeing as Blaser rifles have the ability to change barrels I wasn’t overly concerned about my calibre choice of .243. I knew that at a later date I could always buy a different barrel if need be. The .243 calibre is one of the most popular on the UK market with a vast range of factory loaded ammunition, it is also Deer legal if I ever ventured into the world of Deer stalking.
Paired with any rifle is the important choice of scope. I was lucky to have the opportunity to look through a great range of scopes and the quality of the Austrian made Kahles stood above the competition in my opinion. Unlike buying a shotgun, a rifle has many extras to add on to complete the package; sound moderator, bi-pod, sling as well as other kit you never knew you wanted or needed. All off these are easily collected and added over time, although I’m not the particularly patient type! The next step was to zero my new rifle and scope combination so that the bullet would go exactly where I wanted.
I should mention now that this hasn’t been a solo campaign, I have had help and advice from a friend Thomas Davidson, who has shot centrefire rifles for many years. I would recommend anyone who is thinking of getting into rifle shooting, to ask your friends and see if you can go with them to watch before you apply for your firearms certificate. I chose a selection of ammunition suitable for my chosen quarry. This is similar to shotgun ammunition as certain bullets are heavier and made from different materials. I was told that my rifle would be best suited on a particular type/brand of ammunition and the way to find this would be shooting a target board and seeing which rounds grouped closest. In the end with Thomas’s help, Norma 75 grain ballistic tips seem to be the best choice, although the quality of the Blaser’s barrels coped with the various ammunition so I couldn’t really find bullet combination that wouldn’t work for me. Once I had zeroed my rifle and scope we were ready for our first rifle nights
The First Fox with the Blaser:
Thomas and I decided to head out early before sunset in case any foxes were out on their early evening prowl. We parked the Defender in a high vantage point so that we could see for quite a way, this also gave us a great backdrop for any shots. I was late away from work and hadn’t manage to grab any dinner so we called past a local take away and both sat eating our fish and chips whilst scanning the fields with our Pulsar XQ50 F thermal spotting monocular. These are fantastic pieces of equipment for spotting any animals, at distance of up to 1800 meters and work day or night. They are much better than scanning a field with a lamp because they do not spook your intended prey and give you the ability to see at greater distances.
In the dusk light I spotted movement in the next field across from where we were sat, 700-800 meters away a fox trotting along the hedge row, occasionally stopping and investigating the hedge for prey. The distance was too great for a shot and there was not much cover for us to move closer across the open stubble fields without spooking the fox. We decided to try and call the fox into us close enough to be in range by using a FoxPro caller to imitate a squeaking rabbit in the hope it would come to investigate. Thomas set the caller going, watching the fox through the thermal, initially the fox sat listening to the caller and didn’t move. I lay down on the ground and got my Blaser ready if the fox decided to come in. The sun was almost gone down below the horizon and I couldn’t see the fox with my naked eye, although when looking through the Kahles scope on my rifle I could still see the fox just sitting listening to the calls. The fox suddenly stood up and began taking a gentle trot directly towards us across the open stubble field, all be it still two fields, away my heart was pounding. I lost sight of the well camouflaged fox over a slight crest and couldn’t see it against the stubble in the low light, luckily Thomas still looking through the thermal spotter could see it.
Thomas relayed a commentary of the fox’s location, and told me to get ready it was at the hedge boundary of the field we were in, less than 130 meters, he turned the volume low on the caller hoping to keep the fox coming in to us. Thomas prompted me, and the fox appeared through the gap in the hedge, although now I was struggling to see because of the high stubble I was too low down. Frustrated, I had to stand up and move so I could see, unfortunely this meant, the fox saw me, spooked ran back through the hedge away from us. Undeterred I lay down on a higher patch of ground and watch through my scope as the fox trotted away.
Thomas whispered to me “I’ll turn up the volume on the caller, if it stops take a shot”
I replied back “isn’t it a bit too far”
“No just get ready” Thomas muttered. The fox stopped as the volume resumed, turned side on with its head looking back at us, I squeezed the trigger and at 230 meters I shot my first fox, a clean kill. I stood up with a rush of adrenalin pumping through my veins and shook Thomas’s hand. Later that night proved to be a successful nights hunting with another 5 foxes taken, the best night we have had so far and certainly a great help to relieve the ground nesting birds of some predators.