By Randy Buker
Red foxes are creatures of open field and swamp. Calling to a red fox in the deep woods will seldom be productive. They enjoy being out in the open where they can see danger approaching. They prefer the edges of woods and swamps and open fields. Foxes bed down in heavy cover during rough weather, but other times can often be seen laying out in the open. Sometimes they are miles from the nearest cover.
When hunting the red fox, you will have to hunt where they hunt. While the fox doesn't need much cover to live in, they spend lots of time hunting their prey that lives in cover. They eat many small mammals and birds. Mice are their favorite meal but they will eat rabbits, pheasants, grouse and any other small prey they can catch. Knowing this, you will have to search out your hunting spots accordingly.
When I decide to call an area I look for a few things. First, it must have some sort of cover that will hold their prey, because my hunting is one in the winter time in Minnesota. I can pretty much rule out the idea that the foxes will be hunting mice in alfalfa fields as they are often snow covered and the mice are safe there until spring. Rather, the foxes will be chasing mice and rabbits in small woodlots, cattail swamps and any other edge cover. My ideal calling spot will include open fields, a cattail swamp and a woodlot all near each other so the fox can use them all to his advantage. Although at times I will hunt any of the previously mentioned areas alone if there are fox tracks present.
Once I have found an area I want to call, I sneak to the down wind side of it so I will have the wind in my favor. Even though I wear full camo, I like to sit in front of or in some sort of cover to help break up my outline. Often I just snuggle up next to a fence post or a bush. It doesn't have to be much and you don't want to crawl so deep into it that you can't see well or move if you have to. I try to have an open field or very light cover in front of me. This forces the responding fox to come out into the open where I will be able to see him coming and then get off a decent shot.
Once I settle in, I begin my calls. Because I am likely to be a few hundred yards away from the area I expect the fox to be in, I blow the call hard and loud from the very start. Many callers advocate using low volume to begin with. I can't say I have ever knowingly frightened a fox by blowing too loud too soon. I get on the call and blow a series that is wild and hard. I call for about 45 seconds and then I stop and sit quietly for about thirty seconds. Then I start all over again. I continue on this way for about seven or eight minutes and if I haven't had a response I start mellowing out on the call and start mixing up some sounds. I'll go with some long wails followed by some short squeaks. The idea is to give the critter something different than he has been hearing. Often you get a fox that will come part way in and then decide something is not quite right. When that happens giving a different cadence to your call will sometimes convince him to come all the way.
When I see a fox coming in, I read his attitude the best I can to help me decide what I am going to do next. If the fox is a long ways out and coming hard, sometimes I'll get back on the call and blow it hard to keep him coming hard. If he seems a bit hesitant, I'll give some soft kissing sounds with my lips to coax him in the rest of the way. If he is coming steadily, but is fairly close, I often don't do a thing. If he's coming, just let him come.
I get the gun up and ready whenever I think he isn't able to see me. But, if you are hunting in an open field and he is coming to the call, there is no time when he can't see you. In that case I wait until I know that the fox is in good range without being too close. At about seventy yards (if I'm hunting with a rifle) I'll slowly but steadily raise my rifle. Generally the fox will see this movement and will slam on the brakes to make out what that movement was that he just saw. Many novice hunters get shook up at this point and hurry a shot because they have been spotted. Actually, this is the perfect setup. Chances are good the fox saw the movement but isn't able to know what you are. They will often spend several seconds there looking at you. This gives you time to get a good, standing shot.
Sometimes the fox will be so intent on coming in to the call that he won't see you or if he does, he won't stop. I will seldom take a shot at a moving fox unless I have to. Instead, if he is coming and is close enough for a sure shot, I'll just whistle or even quickly say, "Hey!" Of course by this time I have my rifle up, and the cross hairs on the critter. They will often come to an abrupt stop and give you a perfect standing shot. Of course you have to be ready. They won't stick around long.
After you've shot the fox get on the call and hit it hard. For some reason, gunshots don't tend to frighten foxes very much, unless they are close to them. There have been many times when I have called in more than one fox at the same stand. If you are in a good area you stand a very good chance of calling in more than one critter.
Foxes move around a bit and it will pay to call your good stands again. But, because you will likely educate any foxes that you don't kill off a stand, I often wait a minimum of two weeks before I go out and call the same spot again. And, when I do call it again, I use a different call to offer a different sound to the foxes living there. This has been effective on many stands. There have been places I've called six or seven times over the course of a winter and called foxes in every time.
Hunting with a partner has it's advantages. Here, my hunting partner, Dave Otto and I show off some foxes taken with teamwork.