This is the third instalment of the Fox Diary. Where we continue to look at their habits, diet, mating and so on. We will look at how they find food, on what they predate and how they survive.
March March is the peak cubbing season. The vixen will, very likely, be confined to her earth at one point during this month to deliver her offspring. With a gestation period of 52 days you may be in a position to work out the birth date should you have witnessed the mating. When born the cubs are blind and deaf; they are unable to regulate their own body heat either so the vixen will not usually leave their side for about 10 days or so. At birth the cubs weigh approximately 4 ounces. They rely solely on the vixen to stimulate them to urinate and defecate. It is the responsibility of the Dog Fox to provide the food as the Vixen is denned down. This reliance is pivotal to the success of the Cubs; the Vixen can be heard calling the Dog at the entrance of the Earth urging him to bring food! The burden to feed the Vixen and the Cubs can weigh heavily on the Dog Fox and he can take on a ‘worn’ look! It is also puts immense pressure on him to provide and this can lead to desperate measures! March and April are when the heaviest losses of domestic animals are reported, along with Chickens, Ducks etc. The tired Dog will take the easiest option to get food back to the den. This time of year you want to take all precautions to prevent losses; secure fencing and make digging difficult.
The Fox will still predate Partridge, Pheasant and dig worms etc. The birds left over from the Game-season continue to help to sustain any Foxes that are quick enough to catch them. Mice and worms are staple diets and make up a good percentage of the intake for the Dog but he must be able to take a meal home for the vixen which means he will be concentrating on larger prey for her; keeping her nourished will give the Cubs the best chance of prospering with a good supply of quality milk.
The end of March is when Outdoor Lambing starts; for us this happens just before and over Easter. As I mentioned last month It is a good idea to start looking across the Sheep fields and to pick off Foxes that are resident. Don’t forget that as soon as the Ewes start lambing the scent is like a magnet to Foxes; they will come in from far and wide to get an easy meal of after birth but may take the opportunity for a Lamb too!
Calibres for Foxing
This could be a very long subject but I will try to keep it relatively simple. Energy To humanely despatch a Fox you don’t need a huge amount of energy; 100ft/lbs at the target is plenty, that’s the first thing to consider. Accuracy A Fox is a small target with a kill zone of about 100mm high and 150mm wide if broadside or about 100mm wide and 150mm high if sat facing you. A well-placed shot is vital so accuracy is important. Recent changes The invention of Varmint bullets has opened-up a new era for Foxing. Fast, light-weight and frangible (highly expansive) bullet heads virtually disintegrate on impact and on a light-weight Fox deliver a lethal blow. This is a move away from heavy Soft-Point bullets which were designed for larger species and usually go through the whole chest of the animal. In the UK we tend not to have large tracts of land so a frangible bullet that can be readily kept within the boundary of your land is, in my opinion, the way to go. They tend to run faster and that gives a bit more tolerance in terms of drop. The modern round can stay flat, with a PBR to 250m in some cases. We all know that a .308 with a 150gr bullet will readily despatch a Fox but it is relatively loopy in trajectory and is better placed for Deer management. I am not condoning shooting Foxes at that sort of range unless you are very capable of course and practice at those ranges to ensure you maintain the skills.
There is a vast array of Fox capable rifles and calibres but let’s stick to the conventional…. for now. There are some very capable rimfire options but they have limited range (compared to centre-fire) and bullet placement has to be even more accurate which limits them to occasional use as far as I’m concerned.
Suitable Centrefire Calibres.
.17 Hornet New kid on the block but flat, fast and accurate. Enough bullet weight for Fox.
.22 Hornet The classic Fox rifle. Been around since the 1930’s for good reason. With Varmint bullets and 700ft/lbs of muzzle energy it is perfect for Fox at sensible ranges.
.204 Ruger Based on a .223 cartridge this is relatively new configuration. Accurate and devastating. Supersedes a few wildcat calibres.
.222 A bit over-shadowed by the .223 nowadays but not to be under-estimated. A fantastically accurate bullet and still popular for Foxing.
.223Rem Based on the military 556 this is probably the most popular Foxing calibre. Power aplenty and huge bullet choice.
.22-250 Perhaps a bit ‘Old-School’ now but a .22 bullet in a large case makes for a quick and devastating Foxing tool
.243Win With the recent improvements in lightweight bullets this is a very versatile calibre indeed and will virtually match the .22-250.
Next month we will try to include some write-ups of recent forays and look at Lamping, NV and Thermal use.
As always, I would appreciate your comments and thoughts. The Fox is not entirely predictable and we are all learning.