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Seasons may be tough but predator hunting is a different

The Cottontail Rabbit distress call makes the foxes come running. They get really excited by the squeal of a rabbit that sounds hurt.

Forty years ago there were a lot of guys either fox or coon hunting or they were trapping. These days that has changed dramatically. I only know of one other person that traps and that person has multiple properties they run lines on. I am sure there are others but not as many as there used to be. That means that predator numbers are up. In my youth seeing a fox in the woods was downright rare. Now they are everywhere. I killed four just this year within sight of my house and I was not even specifically targeting them. They were after my chickens. Raccoons and possums seem to be everywhere. Now we have coyotes in the area as well.

After a tough deer season and a lackluster duck season where most of the ducks taken were divers, many hunters are looking for something to hunt. I would whole-heartedly encourage those of you in that description to give predator hunting a try. With fewer people trapping there is an abundance, and probably an over-abundance of foxes, raccoons and even too many coyotes on a landscape that is now subdivisions and fewer farms.

A few cats have reportedly disappeared and probably ended up a “Scooby snack” for Mr. Coyote. A lot more residents of King George and Westmoreland have taken up raising backyard chickens. Foxes, raccoons and possums are horrible on chicken or duck stock. Sometimes they can wipe out a whole flock if the right circumstances are present. This is where the predator hunter comes in.

Predator hunting has taken off in popularity all over the country and it is catching on locally as well. Predators can be hunted at night with a light and electronic calls or mouth calls. A .22 rifle or shotgun is all that is needed, other than the call and a light. Most hunters use a red light that reportedly is less likely to be detected by predators. I have purchased such a light from Bass Pro Shops and actually shined it on a few foxes without them spooking. Two of them I got with my .22 while simply taking a walk one night.

Hunters that enjoy calling in foxes or even coyotes have spoken of the “rush” that comes when the animal charges the call. Reflexes must be quick and shots should be taken fast. The window of opportunity is often not very long. Practice should be done prior to the hunt. Knowledge of your surroundings prior to loading the rifle or shotgun is important. Communication with your hunting partner about who shoots where and when is critical as well.

There are several positive aspects to hunting predators these days. First, their numbers are very high. Predator hunting can fill in a niche where trapping once was and keep numbers of predators in check. Second, high predator numbers means an increase risk of rabies or other diseases. Third, killing predators helps chicken and small stock farmers and hobbyists.

There are plenty of tools and gear out there now for predator hunting. Hunters Specialties has an electronic call—The Attractor with a remote that will do five preprogrammed calls over a 180-degree pivoting speaker. The calls are in a 30 second looped clip and they can be played continuously. The thing I really liked about this call was that I could place it away from me, hit the remote and have the animal’s attention away from me allowing me to set up on it without spooking it.

Knight and Hale market a few mouth calls that I like using too. The Cottontail Rabbit distress call makes the foxes come running. They get really excited by the squeal of a rabbit that sounds hurt. The Mouse Squeaker is also a good set up call. The softer sound allows you to check the area out for predators already close by without spooking them with a loud call.

When using such calls beware of winged predators. They are OFF limits. It is really neat to hear an owl come up and start calling right next to you at night. During a day hunt I had several hawks come by to see what was going on as well.

Help a chicken or duck farmer — take out some predators. Fox season lasts until the end of February. Foxes and coyotes can be taken with electronic calls. Raccoons may be taken with mouth calls or by use of hounds. Coyotes may be killed year around. Be safe out there!

 

Mark Fike

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