Red Fox Odyssey: Successful Tactics of the Pros

Fox hunters always are looking for tactics to help put more fur on the ground. Learn what these two diehard fox hunters do each season to be more successful.

Red Fox Odyssey: Successful Tactics of the Pros

Use the tactics Burgess and Brown employ for their successful fox hunting and you may put more fur on the ground this season.

An odyssey can be described as a long journey or quest that leads to discovery. When applying the term to predator calling, we can say an odyssey is marathon hunt where the intention is to be as successful as possible.

Two East Coast hunters are on a continuous red fox odyssey that is nothing short of amazing. For example, in the 2018-19 season they killed 350 fox! These hunters, Jeremy Brown and Michael Burgess, regularly score nightly totals that are higher than most hunters’ entire season. Their success is the kind that most hunters dream of. By learning some of their tactics, those dreams can become a reality. 

The natural question that arises is, “How do they do it?”  Let’s face it, all hunters want to be more successful and they all want to know what Brown and Burgess do that leads to their success. I, acting on behalf of all the inquiring minds, interviewed the pair of hunters to see if they could share some insight and help all hunters in their quest for more fur. 

Who Are These Guys?

US Army veteran Jeremy Brown, 32, from Easton, Md., and 31-year-old Mike Burgess, from Centerville, Md., began their hunting careers before they were teenagers.

Chasing everything from small game to deer, they found their way into predator hunting and were instantly hooked. Although they have known each other from their high school days, they did not attend the same school. Instead, they met through mutual friends at a local barbecue. They have been hunting together ever since and represent FoxPro game calls as part of its field staff team. They also recently have been appointed as pro staff for Pulsar Optics. Clearly, success while hunting is paying off for this pair of lifelong friends. 

Before The Season

Whether they are hunting with family and friends or filming for television shows, a lot goes on before the pair hit the fields. A random approach to hunting will not lead to positive results. Thorough scouting and preparation are the first steps to success of any kind.

When asked about the importance of scouting before the season or an important hunt, Burgess was quick to stress that it is vital. “Scouting is very important and is a must,” he said. “Scouting helps us know how many fox are in the area, where they are mousing and where they are establishing den sites.” After initial scouting, the hunters begin their hunting in the fall and get together three to four nights a week to hunt.   

Before specific hunts, such as when they will be filming for TV, the pair scouts two nights prior by visiting each potential hunting location. They do not actually “call” the areas. Instead, as Burgess explains, they “scan fields with thermal monoculars to see how many fox are in the fields.” The hunters look to see if the fox are paired up, or scattered as singles. Burgess further explains, “We will go to all of the areas that we hunt and see which properties are best to hunt with certain wind directions and call those sets because of the wind direction.” From the information gained, hunting routes are planned.

What Do These Fox Gurus Use?

One of the best things about predator hunting is hunters have many choices regarding how to do it. Many often search for the best way to kill predators and the best gear. Ardent hunters such as Brown and Burgess rely on what they believe is the best gear that leads to their success for their style of hunting. 

Burgess totes a Bushmaster MSR in .223 while Brown shoots a Ruger Precision 6mm Creedmoor. Upon hearing that, my eyebrows lifted. I asked Brown why he prefers that caliber.

“It’s too much for fox,” he admits, “but it gets the job done. The 70-grain V-Max isn’t affected by wind and I am comfortable taking shots out to 400 yards. Mike takes the short shots and I take the long ones."

Both hunters use thermal systems for scanning and shooting: Pulsar Trail XP50 units on their rifles for shooting and handheld Pulsar Helion XP50 monoculars for scanning.They attribute much of their success to thermal optics. Burgess said the biggest advantage is you can see if there is a predator in the field as you approach, and then set up while using the wind to your advantage.

Brown gets excited when discussing the benefits of using thermal. He said thermal is great because you can see things when they are not looking directly at you. When using lights, you typically only see the reflective eyes of a fox when they are looking in your direction. Brown also credits thermal for allowing hunters to “read the body language of fox that are far off.” Those out of firearm range can be observed and dealt with accordingly when viewed through thermal optics. In the same situation, hunters using red lights will see the reflective eyes, but not be able to tell how the fox is reacting.

The thermal units have great merit after the shot, as well. Burgess says after the kill, it’s easier and quicker to find the fox. “A lot of our fields have corn stubble about 8-12 inches tall, and when searching with a light, it sometimes takes up valuable time. When hunting in high pressure situations, every minute is crucial and no time should be wasted," he said.

The hunters rely exclusively on FoxPro brand electronic calls. For nighttime sets, they use a CS-24C and a Shockwave with FoxJack decoy for daylight hunts. Burgess also uses his FoxPro Kamikaze mouth call. He likes to use the mouth call when fox hang up out of firearm range. He starts some sets with the mouth call “to keep things fresh throughout the night.” 

Two are huge advocates of rifle suppressors, too.

“Suppressors are a must,” he said. “First, other predators are not scared of the minimal sound of gunfire. Second, landowners are not bothered by loud noises. I don’t know if I would even want to hunt without one again. I have an Armament Arbitor and Mike has a Griffin Recce 5, and I think they may be some of the best purchases we have ever made.”

Let’s Go On A Fox Odyssey!

Let’s examine the tactics that allow the hunters to bring in staggering numbers of fox to the call. During winter 2019, the pair was able to call and kill a personal best 62 fox in a single weekend.

That fateful weekend, the hunters began calling  at 6 p.m. on Friday. The hunting route was pre-planned and wind direction guided all decisions. The hunters needed to be sure the wind was ideal for their setups. Burgess says the two “like the wind to be in our faces when at all possible.” If they find that the wind is not conducive for their planned setup, they employ a few options. Brown says they “assess the farm and see if we can approach from another direction. It may mean not setting up from a proper vantage point, but sometimes doing so is the best we can do. If we can’t properly vary our setup, we skip the farm altogether and return with a favorable wind.”

Each stand was carefully orchestrated and timed to the minute on their FoxPro TX1000 remote. Burgess mentioned they stay at each location for a maximum of 10 minutes “unless we have a predator in the field responding to the caller.” Brown said the philosophy behind their 10-minute rule is most of the time, fox come in within the first six minutes. After 10 minutes, they move on to find responsive fox.

The pair employs a unique tactic to break down their stands, too.

“As one of us walks out to fetch the truck, the other guy continues to call for fox," Brown said. "It is amazing to realize how many fox are spotted as they attempt to back-door us during the stand. When we see a fox, we switch sounds to alert each other that a fox is coming and we need to prepare for the shot. On all stands, the call stays on until we both get in the truck.”

I asked Burgess if they ever revisit locations during the course of the night and he said, “Yes, if we have a stand where the wind switches, or something did not respond.” Brown adds if a location is one of their favorites, and it doesn’t produce the first time they are there, they try to go back — it usually pays off.

According to Burgess, the weather was perfect that Friday night with temperatures in the low to mid 30s, winds at 3-7 mph and fox “really on the move.” The hunters used their standard hunting style at every location — standing up while calling, and relying on their Feisol brand tripods for shooting stability. 

The hunters called using a variety of rabbit distress sounds. The most productive sound of the weekend proved to be FoxPro’s Eastern Cottontail Distress. To target red fox, the hunters play their sounds at level 30 and, if there is no response, go up to level 40 (that’s maximum volume on a FoxPro). Once they see a fox respond, they lower the sound level as the fox gets closer. They also start with a lower volume, level 20, on occasions when they “spot a fox already in the field” while approaching their set-up.

When hunting wide open areas, the calls are played non-stop. Burgess says that they play the sounds intermittently at times, “mostly when targeting gray fox in tight locations, such as close to woodlines.” By muting the sound, the hunters can actually hear the fox as they race through the cover to approach the hunter’s set up.

The stands were action-packed and featured multiple kills on many stands. Their best set was six on one stand. They also killed multiple “quads” (four) and a “quint” (five) as well. Instead of jumping up and celebrating the first kill, they said, hunters should remain on stand and continue calling. To bag multiples, the pair likes to immediately change sounds after a fox is shot. After the first fox is taken, the hunters switch to Platinum Gray Fox Distress. After a second fox is killed, they change sounds again, usually to Juvenile Red Fox Distress. Sometimes, they even switch back to rabbit distress. The bottom line is to bag multiple fox on a single set, keep switching sounds to lure any curious fox in the area.

That was a banner night, with 41 fox being killed. Saturday morning, the pair was still at it and made a couple of daytime sets at daybreak. For those hunts, they relied on their FoxPro Shockwave call with accompanying FoxJack decoy. Burgess loves the combo because it keeps the fox’s attention on the decoy and away from the hunters. The pair was able to add one fox to their tally during the morning hunts.

Sleep would be paramount if the pair was to repeat their performance Saturday night. Burgess said they “slept for about 3 to 4 hours” while batteries for the FoxPro and Pulsar gear were charging. When the two woke up, they organized the truck, made sure they had plenty of ammo and double checked the zero of the rifles.  

Saturday night's weather was not as nice. What to do in less than perfect conditions? The pair advises to fight through the bad weather and wait for breaks when the conditions improve. Burgess recalls that the night “started off great” until heavy snow began to fall around 9 p.m. and continued through the night.

“When the snow lightened up, the fox were hard charging the call,” he says. “We keep on hunting hard, but the fox were not moving well during the periods of snowfall. When there was a lull in the snowfall, we would kill three or four fox at a single set.”

Their persistence paid off as 20 more fox were killed that Saturday night. 

Conclusion

What I found out about Burgess and Brown is they are in the sport for the right reasons. There was no ego or sense of superiority displayed by either hunter. They are simply two hunters who love the sport of predator calling. They agreed to share their steps to success — not to brag, but to help hunters as much as possible.

We can all learn something from them. The next time you set out on a fox odyssey of your own, use some of the tactics shared in the text and you may see your success soar.

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