It’s been my experience that particular sound types are much more effective than others. Although there are many jack rabbits, deer, and birds in the areas where we hunt gray fox, distress calls such as fawn deer or jackrabbit have had marginal to mediocre success when calling in grays’. Actually, where I normally hunt, I haven’t even seen a cottontail rabbit, but that’s the call we start all our fox stands with.
When we call gray fox our technique is to target 3 “instincts” in this order. Using 3 very specific types of calls. Curiosity is always instinctive in all predators.
Hunger / Curiosity
Territorial / Curiosity
Paternal / Curiosity
Our technique involves a progression of sounds that pull on the animals Hunger, Curiosity, Territorial, and Paternal instincts. Some animals come running simply by playing one sound – a cottontail rabbit distress. Others will require the full “treatment.” Our goal is to paint a picture, through audio, that is so vivid and enticing that any fox within earshot will respond.
Starting the Stand
We always use a high quality cottontail distress sound to start the stand. Since we prefer using an e-caller when targeting fox here are some of our recommended cottontail sounds:
I would recommend starting the stand with any of the above cottontail distress sounds at medium to loud volume. Run the sound continuously for 6 – 7 minutes. Sometimes we change from one cottontail to another at the 4 – 5 minute mark.
Using a Decoy
With foxes, decoy movement is the key to success when calling with several people on stand. Or if your goal is calling animals in very, very close, it focuses the animal’s attention and draws them in. It reassures the animal that there is something small and furry that it can eat or dominate at the source of the sound.
We typically use a Mojo Critter or a FOXJACK attached to the caller. The decoy should run continuously during the entire stand.
Most of the time during the day its been our experience that a gray fox will not come to the call during the time the cottontail distress is playing. There is no doubt that they hear the distress cries but for whatever reason they are reluctant to respond. So our technique is to push them over the edge… If they do respond, mute the caller and let the decoy do its job and bring the animal all the way in.
Change of Pace
After 7 minutes of playing the cottontail rabbit distress, we change to a good quality gray fox distress. At this point it normally gets exciting!
We always use a high quality gray fox distress after the cottontail distress. Here are some of our recommended fox distress sounds (no particular order).
Gray Fox Adult Female Distress (Wildlife Technologies)
Gray Fox Adult Male Distress (Wildlife Technologies)
Gray Fox Fighting (Wildlife Technologies)
Gray Fox Pup (Johnny Stewart)
Our technique is to cycle through at least 3 different gray fox distresses changing sounds about every 2 minutes. Normally at some point during the gray fox distress cycle you will catch the movement of a gray coming to the stand.
Techniques at this point will vary depending on the situation. If the animal is coming in strong we typically mute the caller and let the decoy movement do its job and bring the animal all the way in. However if the animal hangs up, starts barking or fails to close the distance to shotgun range – use the “secret weapon”.
The Secret Weapon
Canine puppies in distress is absolutely deadly on gray foxes. Anytime I have a fox hang up outside of shooting range or start barking at us, I immediately switch to canine puppies in distress. 99% of the time the animal will come in to the decoy/caller
Here are some of our recommended canine puppies in distress sounds:
As you can see there is nothing earth shaking about our method for calling gray fox. But I’m a believer that our progression from rabbit distress (hunger) to fox distress (territorial), and on to canine pup distress (paternal) triggers an investigatory response from these very curious predators in which you can take advantage of, and if you do your part, will translate into more fur in the fur shed.