Despite unusual late-winter warmth in several locales, predator hunting is still going strong in several prime states. Check the HuntStand app to ensure you’re hunting the right places and times.
I settled my seat under a densely limbed tree and rested my rifle on a set of shooting sticks, so I’d be pointed directly where I expected the local predators to appear. Here, I could sit perfectly still; my confidence was high as my hunting partner tip-toed back towards me after setting out the e-caller. Then the screeching and squealing began.
The call had been running about five minutes when I heard the first faint whispers of animal movement at the caller. I strained my eyes, but before I could get the shifty fox in my riflescope crosshair, it was gone. I shrugged with disappointment, knowing I’d be far more prepared on the next encounter. The little lightning-quick predator had caught me flat-footed.
Now that I knew what look for, it would be easier to pick out the local foxes from their unique (and new to me) environment. I had never hunted gray foxes before, much less in this type of terrain, but that wasn’t going to slow me down. A minute later another speedy fox came charging in from the opposite direction. This time I locked my crosshair on the gray/blue hair on the fox’s chest and squeezed the trigger. The resounding “whack” of my American Hunter hollow-point bullet was the audible confirmation that the first critter of the trip was on the ground.
Driving to the next set location there was plenty of discussion about the most-effective local fox calls. The jackrabbit in distress we had just used was the obvious favorite, followed closely by the cottontail, and then several bird sounds. Hunting the game-rich brush country of Texas there were plenty of local rabbits and birds to imitate.
As we reached our next destination my buddy Mario Friendly quickly walked out the Flextone FLX 500 e-caller (see above) some 80 yards in front of us. The spot offered a great view of the surrounding area, which would allow us to detect movement well before anything got to the caller. It would also keep us well protected from the discerning noses of the many foxes, coyotes and bobcats in the region. Mario hit the “On” switch and the blood-curdling screams of a jackrabbit in distress echoed off the hills. It was a relatively calm day and we ran the volume between 10 and 12, knowing it would be heard for at least a mile. Just like on our first set, a curious gray came dancing into the site within minutes, and Mario anchored it with a well-placed shot.
We ran two more sets with similar success before the action suddenly died. It was as though someone had flipped the proverbial switch; the immediate and aggressive behavior of the local foxes had turned to “zero.” As in, zero response and zero interest. Luckily, I had a secret weapon. I use my HuntStand app so much that I instinctively took my phone out of my pocket to check the major and minor wildlife movement times for the day. I found we had struck it lucky with our first attempts, setting up during one of the best time-frames of the entire day. And it was almost eerie how accurate that prediction would be. A mere 15 minutes ticking off the clock proved the difference between seeing predators in a “major movement” pattern, and seeing none. A check of the app showed a minor movement period later in the day, and so I suggested we head back to camp and return when HuntStand showed the odds were more in our favor.
Again, my HuntStand app came through; a return to hunting during the predicted “minor movement” period resulted in two more sets, and adding two more foxes to our day’s bag. The successful hunting period was short lived, just like the app had predicted, and there were some other notable results as well. Suddenly, many of my hunting partners wanted to know more about the app, which of course takes things like weather, moon phase, and environmental factors into account to predict wildlife movement and activity. Before long, most everyone in camp was downloading the HuntStand app and sifting through its various hunter-friendly features.
We hunted later that same night for a few hours and shot a couple more foxes with help from Cyclops Varmint Lights mounted on our scopes. As there were two groups of us hunting, I talked Mario into bypassing the next hunt, a classic predawn period, in favor of focusing on later in the morning. The reason? The app was predicting a prime, or major, game movement would occur between 10 a.m. and noon. The second group in camp was made up of some serious, diehard predator hunters and they just couldn’t get over the fact we were skipping the opportunity to be out at first light. They opted to get up and head out of camp by 6 a.m. to take advantage of what they thought would (or should) be “prime time.”
As it turned out, Mario and I enjoyed a few (welcome) extra hours of sleep and a great breakfast before casually rolling out of camp at 9:45 a.m. Our hunting companions were texting regularly, and having already put in close to four hours afield they were headed back to camp in search of fresh coffee. Our first set was just 10 minutes from camp, on the edge of a large meadow, with the road at our backs. We set out the Flextone caller and Mario hit the “jackrabbit” to start our sequence. After sitting for about 10 minutes, movement behind Mario caught my eye, and I could only hope my unaware hunting partner would sit perfectly still. As if on script, the big gray soon emerged from the brush less than 10 feet from Mario. The fox stalked right past the Mossy Oak-clad hunter and headed straight upwind towards the caller. Mario played things perfectly, waiting for the fox to create a gap between the two before he slowly raised his rifle and anchored the big male.
With the fox on the ground, Mario immediately changed the calling sequence to a cottontail and let it screech away for another 10 minutes. We had just started to hand-signal that we would wrap it up when a second fox came sneaking through the brush beside me. I tracked it in my Bushnell scope until it stopped, and I gently squeezed the trigger. Two foxes on our first set was a great way to start the day.
Next we headed five minutes down the road and set up in a large L-shaped meadow; we placed the caller about 60 yards in front of us and let the screeching begin. In less than two minutes a fox appeared at the caller and Mario smoked it with one well-placed shot. Moments later a second fox showed up on Mario’s side and he quickly added more fur to the pile. With the caller continuing to run it wasn’t but minutes later when two more foxes emerged from the treeline. I tracked the closest in my scope and when it came to a stop we had a triple-header. To say the action was insane would be an understatement. Before we left the site we had two more foxes run through our sight window so fast neither of us could shoot. But our faces held wide grins. Just one hour into our hunt and our truck bed held five beautiful gray foxes.
Our string of amazing success would continue. In the two sets that followed, we shot a double and a single before finally heading back to camp. As you might imagine, our hunting buddies were more than a little shocked by our daytime success. With a full moon, they were sure our midday hunt would be a bust, but the pile of fur in the back of our truck said otherwise.
We planned to hunt a couple hours later in the afternoon and again at 10 p.m., when the app said hunting would be good for just shy of two hours. There was lots of discussion about the full moon, warm temperatures and the weird hours most of the predators were being shot. Mario and I continued with the “unconventional times,” as they was providing excellent opportunities.
Our afternoon timeframe was short but we fit in a couple sets along fencelines with good results. When the timing was right the foxes would normally show up within minutes, and we never had to work them hard to convince them to come in. We went in for dinner at dark and carefully watched the clock to ensure we were out at “prime time,” which the app showed was just before 10 p.m. This time the other hunting party followed our lead.
It’s funny how a phone app can make a person look so smart. Soon everyone in camp had downloaded the HuntStand app and was watching for game movement times, as though provided from the gospel. I’d have to say it was also a big learning experience even for me, a dedicated HuntStand user.
Our final night hunt was the “crowning glory” of the trip, as we set up on a large meadow and put the FLX 500 caller to work. It wasn’t long before my Cyclops REVO spotlight (offering 1,100 lumens) picked up movement across the meadow; as I tracked the glowing yellow eyes in my scope I waited for a pause. When it finally came, at some 150 yards, the first fox of the night was down. And that’s when things really got crazy.
I was shooting a Savage 110 Predator rifle in .222 and had it dialed-in perfectly. A minute later Mario shot a fox off the back of the truck with a shotgun, and that got one of the local male foxes really fired up. It started barking and howling at us, complete with some evil sounds I’d never heard before. Eventually that fox came out of the brush and headed out across the meadow in front of us, bemoaning our presence the entire way. My attempts to get on target in the truck bed were futile, what with my partner moving and shifting about, but what I didn’t know was that still another fox had snuck in from behind us and Mario was trying to get on it, but was waiting till I shot first. When my crosshair finally settled on “my” fox I squeezed the trigger and added the third fox of the set to the pile. One second later a shotgun roared and Mario began giggling. Turns out he had several foxes come and go as he politely waited for my shot. We had taken four foxes in one set and had seen several more.
We squeezed in one more sequence before calling it a night, but we could quickly tell when “prime time” was over. When things ended, it didn’t matter how much you called—nothing was coming in. Even the local deer were seen bedded in the brightness of the moon.
My advice from this eye-opening experience? To become a more-successful predator hunter, you need to try the HuntStand app. Pay particular attention to the moon phase, as well as major and minor time movements, and your diligence will surely pay off. And don’t forget to use the app’s “Log” feature to enter your sightings, successes and quiet times, as they will quickly show you the patterns that work consistently for your local predators. Good hunting!