Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Don’t forget about fox

Most of the predator hunters I meet in the Midwest hunt mainly
for coyotes. That’s a good thing. Coyote hides are not worth enough
to interest most trappers, so hunters get the job of managing
them.

Like you, I really enjoy hunting coyotes. I’ve written about
calling and hunting coyotes many times in the pages of this
publication. But as much as I enjoy hunting coyotes, there are many
times each winter when I hunt fox instead.

Hardly anyone writes about fox hunting. Nobody (to my knowledge)
has ever done a video on it. Gun companies don’t design rifles for
fox hunting and ammo makers don’t develop cartridges with the
demise of Mr. Red Fox in mind. Few people hunt fox anymore.

When I grew up in southern Minnesota during the 1960s and ’70s,
fox were the game during the winter. 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. That’s OK with me and the other
hunters who still like to hunt fox.

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 successful set.

When I was a boy, my father would run me into the country the
morning after a fresh snow and we would drive the backroads 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 learned a lot. Later when I had my own set of wheels
and a real varmint rifle, I tracked a lot of fox. Of course these
days, with stiffer trespass laws, tracking really is not a viable
option for most of us, but back then, nobody cared if you tracked a
fox across their land.

Most of the fox I take each winter are via the old
spot-and-stalk method. Fox, unlike coyotes, like to lie on
snowbanks and soak up the winter sun. Coyotes bed in cover, which
makes them almost impossible to spot. But just because fox will sit
in the open does not mean that they are easy to spot. For one
thing, they usually will not be lying 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 see few fox.

A good spot-and-stalk hunter parks the vehicle in places that
allow him a good view, then spends time behind a set of good 10X
binoculars. When he sees an object worth a second look, the
spot-and-stalk hunter zeroes in with a spotting scope to confirm
that the blob on the snowbank really is a fox, 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 invested in a decent spotting scope. 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. But if the fox is not sleeping soundly, take care or
you will spook the fox. Dress in white or snow camouflage and watch
him as you approach.

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 lie back down.

Give the fox a minute or two to fall asleep, then continue the
stalk. It helps if you can sneak down a drainage ditch, treeline or
fenceline, but even if you have to walk across an open field, you
can do it as long as you remember to freeze each time the fox
stirs. On soft snow, you can walk within 100 yards. But if the snow
is crusted, it’s a whole different matter.

When the snow is noisy and crusted, I move within 300 yards of
the fox, then use a coaxer call to get the fox approach me. This
will work less than 50 percent of the time, but it is worth a
try.

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 at 300 yards.

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