It might sound like a Basil Brush joke: when’s the best time to shoot a fox? When it’s 70 yards away and standing still is the obvious answer. But we can’t be out foxing all day long and all year round, so we have to pick the times when we can do the most good. It’s all about ‘return on investment’ — ROI — as modern marketing jargon would have it but in this case we’re talking about investing time and effort rather than hard cash.
So, what is the ‘return’ we’re looking for? A dead fox is the glib answer, but that’s rarely the ultimate goal. Why do we want it dead? Usually to stop it doing damage, or any more than it has already, to something we value — perhaps livestock, gamebirds, or vulnerable wildlife. That’s the key to understanding when the best time is to shoot your foxes — it depends what you’re trying to achieve.
Imagine, for example, that you’re a keeper on a grouse moor. Foxes won’t be welcome at any time of year, but nesting time is critical. You can’t simply bump up your order of poults to make up any shortfall. One lost hen bird or clutch of eggs is one too many.
So for that keeper the best time to shoot a fox is before the first egg is laid. If that means long, lonely, cold hours sitting up watching over a rocky natal den, high up in the hills, so be it. It’s an unavoidable part of the job. At least nowadays he’ll likely have the advantage of a thermal vision spotter and riflescope to make the job that bit more efficient.
Ironically, it’s a similar situation on a nature reserve, even if it’s run by the most rabidly anti-shooting bunch.
They, too, must protect their nesting birds at all costs — they just don’t feel able to upset the public hand that feeds them. They believe that being seen to kill one type of wildlife to protect another will lose them support and money. This conundrum leads to all sorts of shenanigans, from building hugely expensive fencing to quietly paying a local field sports enthusiast to shoot foxes under cover of darkness when the visitors have gone home.
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