Calling for predators is simply cool! I’ve hunted for the last 30 years and will say that using thermal optics while calling predators has to be one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. It is definitely a different way to hunt and requires a little bit of work to get it right, but once you’re on it, it is a lot of fun!
I have a good family friend named Clayton who introduced my father, Danny, and I to hunting predators several years ago. Clayton took us calling and within a few minutes of turning the Foxpro on we had foxes and bobcats coming in quick. My father and I were addicted then and it was not long before we spent the money on our own Foxpro to use for ourselves. There is something about turning that call on and knowing that something with teeth is coming that is just a lot of fun.
I am not a very experienced predator hunter. This is something that takes a lot of practice to get right, practice that I’m still working on. Also, Grey Foxes are not a big animal, and shot placement has to be right on or you’ll miss. With a slender body and head, the Grey Fox has a small profile and shot placement is everything.
Clayton called me a few months ago and asked if my father and I wanted to go calling, the resounding YES was probably heard from around the state. Being the good brother in law that I am, I also asked Wacey to go. I have been hunting with my father for the last 30 years including some great trips to the Texas Panhandle. I have called with Clayton before but had never hunted with Wacey. I knew that I wanted to make this trip special and to do something a little different. Also, what better way to get some gear reviews in than a hunt like this. I do silencer reviews on www.tacticalgunreview.com with Silencer Shop and decided to bring a few along.
It was at this point that I called my buddy Daniel at Down Range Thermal and asked about setting me up with some units to use during this hunt. We settled on a 3 tier approach, a thermal handheld for spotting and 2 weapon sights for making the shots. Daniel set us up with an IR Defense IR Patrol and IR Hunter MKII along with an EOTech handheld unit for spotting. Daniel is a great guy and his customer service is second to none. The draw to renting a Thermal unit verses buying one is the investment is huge, $5000+ for a unit you can use as a scope. For just a couple hundred dollars, you can rent one for the weekend from Down Range Thermal and its super easy. In addition to the units, Daniel got me a couple of the Thermbright Targets. These targets do not need power and are great for target practice using thermal and night vision devices. This aided me greatly in getting the optics zero and ready to go.
The main rifles we used for our hunts were a 14.5″ .223 Texas AR rifle equipped with a Griffin Armament Optimus Silencer and the IR Defense IR Patrol thermal unit. The other rifle was the South Texas Arms STA-LR .243 Win equipped with a Griffin Armament Sportsman and the IR Hunter MKII. I used factory Hornady ammunition in both rifles, 55 grain VMax in the .223 and 58 grain Superformance in the .243.
In addition to these 2 rifles, we also have a lightweight .223 equipped with an Adams Industries Legionnaire and Steiner SPIR night vision and Gemtech Trek 5.56 direct thread silencer.
One thing about Predators, you never know where they’ll pop up. Even with thermal and night vision, they have a tendency to be on you before you realize they were even there, and that’s with everyone looking. As such, we have an emergency close gun with an FN SLP MKI 12ga shotgun. Clayton took a real liking to this gun and made threats to make it disappear before I left the ranch. I was extra watchful of him after that, but have to admit I love this gun too.
We learned a lot on the first night. I learned that spotting using only thermal handhelds will work, but the EOTech 320 handhelds are a little light on the resolution needed and they also further make range estimation impossible. On the first night, we only connected 2 times, but what a stand that one was!
We called in a total of 12 foxes the first night, 2 on the very first stand and 4 on the second! We were having a difficult time estimating ranges, and after visiting the sites the next morning we discovered we were well inside the point blank range of our rifles and even in shotgun range! This was frustrating once we discovered this.
The last stand of the first night turned out to be total chaos and a LOT of fun. The stand is actually behind the house we were staying in, and is where 2 roads intersect and also where 2 water troughs are. The available water along with a mix of cover and open areas apparently are very good for calling despite it being so close to where we were staying. There were probably 8-10 large Jack Rabbits in the area and they did not even bother to go far away when we turned on the screaming jack call. I was in the high rack seat facing the rear of the 4 seat Polaris Ranger with Wacey and Clayton up top. Wacey had the Texas AR 14.5″ .223 equipped with the Griffin Optimus and IR Patrol while my father, Danny, had the lightweight 16″ .223 equipped with a Leupold VX-6 3-18×44 and the Adams Industries Legionnaire, Steiner SPIR and Gemtech Trek. I was not able to see to the front of the Polaris, but I was told later that as soon as the call came on, that we had not 1 but 2 grey foxes come in at less than 10 yards and then leave quickly before a shot could be put on. Then Wacey opened up on something, shooting several times before we hear that distinctive “WHOOP” when he had connected followed by the squeal of a Grey. Not long after I saw another Grey coming in on my fathers side up the road even after Wacey had shot 3 or more times. This Grey came up to my fathers side to around 40 yards and then stood nice and still long enough for Danny to put a shot on him. I watched the shot in Thermal and saw that my dad nailed him in the chest, and even saw what exited in the thermal as the temps at this point were in the 30’s. So, day one and we had a nice end to the night by a double with a lot of action.
What I learned the most was that we still needed a spotlight with red lens being used by the person running the call. This allowed for quick and easy range estimation. Additionally, we also wanted this person to be equipped with a Shotgun for an emergency close shot. We had a few stands that required this, and we modified this for the next day.
The next day we did some day calling and discovered that we can call them in, but we have to be much faster on our shots. Thermal optics are great, but a day scope would have likely been easier. We did not spend a lot of time calling, but we did give it a try.
I’m always taken back by Texas sunsets and sunrises. Ozona is no slouch on this as is the rest of the state. As I get older, I really appreciate these.
The following night, we got it right. We figured out how to call with a light and thermal combo and we connected several times.
On one particular stand that was in fairly tight quarters, we had a fox come in at point blank range from the back on the side Wacey was on. This fox stood still for only a second before Wacey smacked him with a 55 grain VMax. Much to our surprise, the fox stood up and I told Wacey “SHOOT IT AGAIN” which he did immediately! This took the flight away from the fox who did not move again. These little suckers are tougher than I had thought.
The next stand we went to, we called a fox in from several hundred yards off. He came in and circled around us until at the last second it stepped out. I was in the gunners seat, and I was just about to pull the trigger and wanted to verify my range. I asked Clayton, how far is it? Well, he heard “where is it” and all I heard was BOOM! Clayton had taken a shot with the shotgun, a good shot as we found it only around 30 yards from where it was shot. This fox was in good shape and I saved the pelt for my office later.
I found that the STA-LR .243 using Hornady 58 grain VMax is brutal on small game like a fox, and it completely ruined all that it hit. I took a fox at 40 yards with the .243 and there was no having to find it, it never moved. On this particular stand, I found a heat signature that I could not identify at first, but knew it was small game at around 40 yards. Clayton said he would bet me $500 that it was a jack rabbit, and I agreed that it was a rabbit. As such, I decided to see if it was in fact a jack rabbit. It was NOT, but it was a cotton tail. The video below will give you an idea as to how brutal the .243 is on small game, needless to say the rabbit stood still too long.
On our final stand of the night, we found ourselves calling at the same place that we had a double the night before, and it was hot again. I again found myself in the back of the Polaris only this time in the seat that my father was in. We had foxes all around us and none would sit still. Finally, we had one commit from a long ways away all the way in to about 35 yards where he promptly stopped behind a tree. The collective sigh from both me and my father was comical as he and I had the same thoughts at the same time. (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree it seems) The fox then started moving again and was getting further away now. I let out a quick smooch and he stopped for a moment and looked back before moving again. This time I let out a long smooch at the same time Clayton killed the call. That was what was needed to have him turn and stop. I pulled the CMC 2/2 first stage out, exhaled and slowly squeezed that second 2lb stage out till the rifle jumped and we heard that collective “WHOOP”! I knew he was down, but he just disappeared. Upon inspection I found that the bullet did so much damage I could not show pictures of his head, it was quite brutal.
Something to note. Clayton had requested that we use some sort of GPS to plot our stands due to the size of the property. This property spans over $14,000 acres, and finding our sites in the dark would have been impossible without GPS. I sent Clayton a Montana 680t handheld GPS to use to plot our hunt. He plotted over 130 stands and was able to make a course to follow when we called. I’ll have an in depth review of this GPS unit coming soon on TGR. The little GPS really made this hunt possible.
Overall, we were very successful and had a lot of fun. Friends and family doing what we do best in Texas, hunt. Many thanks to Down Range Thermal for the rental units. Look for reviews on www.tacticalgunreview.com on the Griffin Armament Optimus and Gemtech Trek. The video will be uploaded shortly. Stay tuned.
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