by Randy Buker
Guns for fox hunting can range from the tiny .22LR all the way up to your favorite deer rife. Even shotguns have a place in fox hunting.
While the .22LR has killed it's fair share of foxes, it is not the first or the best choice. Experienced fox hunters know that foxes are tough critters. A hit on a fox with a .22LR in any but the most lethal areas is just asking for trouble. Because of this fact, many shooters choose one of the flat shooting, high powered centerfire rifles.
The red fox is not a large animal. Most weigh in at between ten and fifteen pounds. There are rumors of bigger ones out there up to twenty or more pounds but I've yet to see one. Because of their small size the choice of a rifle need not go into the magnums or even the larger bores. Any of the centerfire .22 calibers will do the job just fine. The .223 remains the most popular rifle for fox hunting mainly due to the availability and affordability of the ammo. There is also a wide selection of ammo made in this caliber. There is sure to be something to please anyone. The .22-250 is another popular choice among fox hunters. This is one of the speedier and flatter shooting calibers.
Perhaps the best caliber on the market right now for fox hunting is the tiny .17 rem. The .17 Rem comes from the factory in a twenty five grain hollow point bullet that leaves the average barrel at right around 4,000 feet per second. Many uninformed people have put down the little rifle with supposed faults that are pure B.S. Some of the rumors I heard before I bought mine was that the tiny bullet just wouldn't buck any wind. The truth of the matter is that the speed of the bullet makes wind drift almost identical to that of a .223 at normal hunting ranges. Also, because of it's speed and size, the .17 has similar trajectory to a .22-250 out to almost three hundred yards. People told me the little bullet wouldn't put down a fox or coyote. The foxes and coyotes that have died as a result of being on the wrong end of that tiny bullet would testify to the effectiveness if they were only able to.
The nice thing about the .17 is that when you hit a fox with it, you seldom get an exit wound. The bullet enters the body with a hole just bigger than .17" and then blows up. Nice and clean and easy to tend to the hides without dealing with a big mess.
Shotguns are an effective tool for the fox caller. Many times, when calling, a fox will race right up into point-blank range. At these times your high-powered rifle with that big scope on it will be nearly useless. At times like these it's good to be able to point and shoot. In fact, many hunters prefer to call them in close and take them with a shotgun on a regular basis. They find more sport and challenge in getting the critter up close.
As I said earlier, foxes are tough customers. In order to deal with these animals while using a shotgun you have to pick the right gun and the right load for it. In my estimation a 3 inch 12 gauge is perfect. The big 10 gauge is a bit large and you will be sewing holes in hides all day long if you get a close shot with one of these. A 20 gauge is a bit on the light side even with magnum loads.
The perfect load for your shotgun is very likely a 3", 1 7/8oz load of BB's or #2 shot. This load will have the energy to break bones and stop the fox in it's tracks and will have the pattern density to ensure hits to the vitals without slinging too many pellets out there. Some people advocate using larger shot like #4 Buck or even 00 Buck. My experience has shown me that these don't give the density you need to reach vitals and that you don't get the proper penetration due to all the hair the pellets collect on their way in.
If you actively hunt foxes with a handgun, and are successful, you're a better hunter than me. I like to keep the odds in my favor when I can and that means a long gun in either rifle or shotgun variety. Fox hunting is challenging enough without tipping the scales too far in the varmint's direction.