Foxes are a major problem for Aussie farmers and for our biodiversity in general. Not only do foxes threaten the livestock of our primary producers, they also hunt and kill native wildlife. They’ve even contributed to the extinction of a number of species.
For this reason, they’re classified as a pest and are legal to hunt throughout Australia. However, foxes are highly intelligent and curious creatures that learn quickly and develop associations with danger. They recall the smells, sights and sounds from times that they’ve felt threatened.
To hunt foxes efficiently and ethically, you need to outsmart them, and importantly, avoid educating them further. We’ve put together tips and tricks that our team has learnt over 35 years of developing spotlights for fox hunting in Australia.
When to hunt
If you’re a farmer, your sheep will start producing lambs in autumn (March-April). It’s a time when your livestock are particularly vulnerable. However, this is also the period that foxes have cubs. While foxes are young, it is much easier to hunt them and therefore control their numbers.
Using your spotlight
Most foxes are hunted at night with a spotlight, but are you using the right light and colour filter? Foxes have dichromatic vision. They see colours in the green and blue spectrum, but cannot see red at all. Using warmer, halogen spotlights means that the beam will be less visually intense for the fox. They will sit more complacently in the light and be more inclined to look directly at it, which allows you to see their eyeshine.
Tips and tricks
- Hold the spotlight on the edge of the fox until it’s eyes have had time to adjust to the full beam.
- Avoid holding your spotlight on the fox for too long. Turn it off or pan past immediately when you see eyeshine to avoid startling them.
- Re-check the fox’s location only briefly, until it’s close enough to engage.
- Position the light in front of the fox to stop it or to change its direction.
- Use a red coloured filter on your spotlight! It removes all the light that the fox will be able to see.
- Adjust your beam by winding the reflector housing in and out (to go from a spot to a wide beam) for either long distance or scanning a wide area.
- Use a Lightforce inline dimmer switch to reduce light levels as a fox approaches. This should cause it to come much closer.
Using a fox whistle
An effective luring tactic, fox whistles simulate the sound of an injured rabbit or bird – the perfect prey for a hungry fox. Don’t be discouraged if you find that one doesn’t work, however. Rather than recognising your ploy, it may just mean that the foxes are already full!
Tips and tricks
- Wait 5-10 minutes after turning off your vehicle before whistling.
- Start only when your lights are turned off.
- Whistle for 5-10 seconds, with a 20-30 second pause, to sound more natural.
- Stop whistling when a fox approaches. Only start again when it pauses to listen.
- Soften your whistle as a fox gets closer. This will delay it from circling down wind, because it will think that the injured animal is further away than it actually is.
- Try a different whistle. A fox may have heard one but not another, or prefer to catch birds than rabbits.
Using your vehicle
Alongside your firearm, spotlight and whistle, your vehicle is a crucial tool when hunting – more so than what many beginners realise. It helps you track and position yourself effectively. Just remember to keep your firearm unloaded when in transit or when not in use.
Tips and tricks
- Never step out of your vehicle when spotlighting. Staying inside masks your human scent, which is a danger signal to a fox.
- Hang previously hunted foxes and or rabbits from your bull bar or tray to further hide your scent.
- Attach your spotlights to your vehicle with a versatile mounting system. This allows you to achieve a 180° panning field of view, as well as make minor adjustments to your spotlight while operating your firearm from your vehicle.
- Park your vehicle so that a fox would most likely approach from upwind or side onto the wind, which means that it will circle into your shooting zone.
- Position yourself for a comfortable shooting zone that ranges from straight ahead to perpendicular off to your side. This way, you can use your rear vision mirror as a rest when you lean out the window.
- Move the vehicle slightly while the fox is still at a distance, if you can’t find a comfortable shooting angle.
- Avoid driving straight towards a fox. Approach slowly and from an angle or an inward curve. This will make your encroachment seem less threatening.
- Don’t be afraid to drive closer (with your lights off) to a fox that’s ignoring a fox whistle. It may only be full, not frightened.
One final tip from the Lightforce team: remember that every fox is different and every interaction is unique. By practising these tricks, and using the right equipment, you’ll improve your fox hunting skills with every encounter.