Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Calling the Texas Grey Ghost

The shrill scream of a woodpecker in distress bounced off the side of a chalk hill as I watched the edge of a cedar break for movement. I was sitting with my back to a large live oak with scattered brush piles and cactus between me and the brush. As I studied the brush line I caught movement only steps away to my left as a grey fox circled the speaker of the tape player to find the screaming bird. Out of the brush line busted another grey fox intent on finding dinner. The first fox looked back at the second and gave me opportunity to raise the rifle barrel and send a 22 magnum bullet home. The second fox hit the brush before I could bolt the gun and line up the target. I reached for the tape player, ejected the woodpecker tape and inserted a grey fox pup in distress while turning up the volume. Within seconds the second fox returned and ran into range with every hair standing on end. I settled the crosshairs and squeezed the trigger. In less than 5 minutes of exciting calling, I had two beautiful prime grey fox on the ground.

In over 40 years of predator calling, I have had similar scenes unfold over and over. Calling coyotes, bobcats, fox and other predators has been a sport that I go back to again and again. All of the predators are fun, but I find grey fox to be the mainstay of my calling and produce the most consistently successful calling trips. Some say the grey fox is not as smart as other predators, but I tend to believe that they are just more aggressive. The following are some of the things about calling grey fox that I have learned through the years.

The grey fox prefers small prey. In other words, think cottontail size and down. The most successful sounds are grey fox pup, baby or high pitch cottontail in distress, squealing rodents and bird distress such as woodpecker, meadowlark, quail and cardinal. They will come in to the courser sounding jackrabbit and other calls just not as consistent as the smaller prey voices. I usually start out with a bird in distress or cottontail, simply in case there is a bobcat or predator besides fox in the area as I have very few other predators come in to the grey fox in distress sound, although coyotes will sometimes check it out. I then switch to the grey fox pup or grey fox in distress call. This is your bread and butter sound for calling the grey fox. If they hear this sound they Will come check it out. You may not always see them but if they can hear it they will come.

Calling grey fox is not rocket science, but there are constants. You must call in an area that has a population of grey fox. I like to call the edges of the thickest brush and cedar breaks I can find. I could tell you to always have the sun at your back and the wind in your face, but you and I know that the best places to call always seem to have the worst wind and light. With that in mind remember the fox will enter or try to get downwind of the sound and use his nose. This means you must see the fox before he gets downwind and smells you. A spray of grey fox urine on a bush close to where you are sitting will often give you ample time to pull the trigger before the fox is fooled by your smell. Camouflage is important, but not near as important as covering your face and hands so they do not shine. Movement will give you away, so look with your eyes and move your head slowly. I have often been busted when raising a gun barrel, so I now use a decoy. My best decoy is simply a turkey tail feather tied to a fishing swivel and hung from the nock of an old camo hunting arrow. I stick this arrow in the ground at a slight angle out in front of my speaker and the slightest wind will twirl the turkey feather. I have shot many a predator stalking the twirling turkey feather instead of looking for me. Silence is the rule of the day for calling. Get into the area and set up making as little noise as possible. The screaming cries coming from your call should be the first sounds that a predator hears. Slamming truck doors and loud talking is a sure ticket to an unsuccessful calling stand.

The last method is for those of you that wish to harvest the maximum number of grey fox in the shortest time. In this run and gun type of calling, I would recommend at least two people as you will need a spotter and a shooter. I drive ranch roads and senderos at night and use a red lens spotlight. The only sound I play is the grey fox pup in distress and turn the volume up loud as my goal is to call every grey fox within hearing to the truck in 15 minutes of calling. If you wish to call other predators at each stop, simply start with another sound and switch to the grey fox pup in distress if nothing else comes in. Kill or no kill, I drive away to the next spot to call after 15 minutes. I like to have at least a quarter mile distance between calling stops. My favorite firearm for this method is a twelve gauge shotgun with full or super full chokes. Some of the specialty turkey chokes work great for this shooting. I use heavy number five or six shot. Most of the high brass pheasant loads are great for grey fox. When I reach a calling location I stop the truck and quietly get into the back of the truck. I then set the caller on the top of the truck facing the speaker in the direction that I would prefer the fox come into view. Turn the red lens light on and leave it on the whole time you are calling. I turn the call on at its loudest volume setting and proceed to pan the light in 360 degree circle until a fox is spotted. Keep the main part of the light beam above the fox with just enough to illuminate the eyes as it comes in and drop the beam directly onto the fox when the shooter is ready. I have had as many as five fox come in at one calling stand. This is truly an efficient method to harvest grey fox and works great on many of the big ranches.
Have a great season calling the Texas Grey Ghost.
Wild Ed


Anonymous said...

Wild Ed,

Outstanding article on "The Texas Gray Ghost."

Which specific 22WMR ammo have you found to be most successful in not exiting the animal?


Wild Ed said...

Gabe I am really impressed with the new Hornady 30 grain .22 WMR round as it gets the speed and flat shooting of the .22 WMR cartridge almost up to the .17 HMR but with close to twice the bullet weight. I have found it expends it's energy inside fox, coon and other predators without an exit or much fur damage in most cases. I do find it to be best inside 100 yards or less. Thanks for the kind words about the article, glad you liked it. Ed