Robert Bucknell gets his first taste of foxing with a thermal imaging unit – can he get the hang of it in time to account for his quarry?
New technology seems to arrive at an ever-increasing pace, and many foxshooters are intrigued by the possibilities opened up by the latest developments in Thermal Imaging – not least the fact that, like Night Vision before it, the price keeps falling while the kit gets better all the time.
I’ve been keen to get my hands on a TI unit for a while. Eventually I bit the bullet and bought a Pulsar Quantum HD38S. It’s a hand-held thermal imaging viewer, which is sold by Scott Country for £2,899.99.
We planned an outing when my chum Nigel was able to come along, using his .243 fitted with a Yukon Photon 5×42 NV riflescope. That sight works on IR light, and he has a NightMaster 800-IR fitted piggyback on the scope to provide extra illumination for a clearer picture way out there.
The plan was to drive around the ground in my pick-up, with me at the wheel and Nigel on top with the rifle. We also had James Marchington with us filming. I would use a hand-held Tracer 210 white light lamp as we drove, holding it out of the driver’s window. That has three advantages: first, it means you can see where you’re going and avoid driving into a hedge or the river; second, it allows you to scan the ground quickly for any telltale flash of a fox’s eyes, and lastly, the others can see what is going on!
“Almost immediately I caught a flash of eyes through the hedge bottom across the meadow”
Once we saw a fox, or had set up in a likely position, we would go into ‘stealth mode’, switching off the visible light and relying entirely on Nigel’s IR scope and my hand-held thermal viewer. We’d keep as quiet as possible – easier said than done with three of us manoeuvring in the fox box on the back of the truck. So long as the background behind us was nice and dark, with any luck the fox would never know we were there.
Arriving at the farm well after dark, I unlocked the gate and we began immediately. As planned, we crawled quietly along, with me swinging the dimmed light out of the driver’s window. Almost immediately I caught a flash of eyes through the hedge bottom across the meadow. I switched off the lamp and climbed on top with James and Nigel to call and watch through the thermal viewer.
The fox had gone, though, and after a few minutes we decided to leave it and move on –we’d be coming back this way later anyway.
We splashed along the edge of the field down by the river, and I was surprised how much water was lying on the ground. It had been wet, but I didn’t think it was that wet. Shining my lamp through a gap in the hedge, I spotted not one but two foxes at 300 yards on the slope ahead. They were a bit far to shoot, so again we pulled up and tried the call.