Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Shooters have foxes on the run

Charity reaps rewards from hunting group's efforts

GEOFF ADAMS June 17, 2014 3:30am

Moglonemby fox shooters, near Euroa. working their way down a creek bed.

On a quiet road just a few kilometres north of Euroa, eight utes and one-tonners are parked at an intersection on a cool winter afternoon. A loose assembly of about 15 men in boots are gathered in between the vehicles, without any apparent leader.

Who’s the boss? John Heal, a Euroa farmer, shies from the word but said, seeing as he cops most of the ‘‘abuse’’, he must be the organiser.

The banter confirms his role during the day, as they sling off at his choice of hunting grounds and when he nominates the wind direction. He usually has an equally short and cheeky response.

The guns don’t appear until the search begins in earnest.

Every weekend the Moglonemby Fox Shooters, as they could loosely be called, gather for their mission to clear foxes from farmland.

‘‘They do a lot of damage,’’ Mr Heal says of the foxes. ‘‘They can also take a lot of native wildlife.’’

Last year they shot 350 of the introduced pest, and the $10 scalp bounty will enable them to give $1000 to the Euroa hospital and $2000 to Relay for Life.

‘‘We don’t have much use for the money,’’ Mr Heal said, casting his eye over dozens of drying scalps on a board. ‘‘We get a bit of ammunition and that’s about it.’’

The group is in demand, taking calls from land owners who want to be rid of the foxes.

It’s a men-only group, with a minimum of talking. Any hint of boasting is pounced on.

‘‘Four drivers at the end of the creek,’’ Mr Heal says out loud as they arrive at a new paddock and briefly dismount from the utes.

‘‘Shooters over there. We got three last time.’’

Sometimes he directs a few by calling out their names, but everyone knows what to do.

The group uses ‘‘drivers’’ to work their way down a creek bed, shouting and firing the odd shot to scare the foxes into the path of the shooters.

The drivers are accompanied by dogs, usually Jack Russells, who will sniff out the quarry and chase them toward the shooters.

At the other end of the creek, and along the way to prevent ‘‘break-outs’’ are the shooters, armed with 12-gauge shotguns.

A yelp from one of the dogs tells the shooters that little Bonney has tackled the fox and perhaps come off second best. A rapid succession of shots ring out along the creek bed, but this time, the red phantom has disappeared.

Bonney emerges with a bloodied nose but nothing more serious. She’s still keen for the hunt, and urged on by the group, she delights in the chase.

Despite having a crook back and legs, Caniambo farmer Jeff Wall can still bag a few foxes.

Not that long ago he took down three from a seated position, strategically placed along the driving line.

‘‘I got two of them as they just jumped up onto a log. The third one never made it to the log.’’

The group has standing permission from land owners to scout the properties, and in several cases they call in to remind the owners they are on the job.

Although an average of eight foxes or so is common at the weekends, on the day Country News accompanied the shooters they saw three and only bagged one.

Trevor Ralston brought him down as the fox fled the creek across the paddocks. Teenager Jordan Asquith moved in with a sharp pocket knife to remove the ears. It was the 28th scalp he’s taken this season.

The next day, when the group moved into the Strathbogie Ranges, was more productive, with 12 foxes bagged.

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