Pest control is an inseparable part of life for many hunters. However, it requires a special set of skills and varies greatly from country to country. To get to know the ins and outs of pest control better, we spoke to three hunters: Nathan Stuart from Australia, Krzysztof Turowski from Poland, and Matthias Lusch from Germany.
We started our conversation by getting to know the hunters’ backgrounds in pest control, and they all had different stories to share. Nathan Stuart, an Australian hunter, introduced himself as a vertebrate pest control/contract shooter. He goes after rats, pigeons, rabbits, hares, foxes, feral cats, wild dogs, goats, and feral pigs – all invasive species in Australia.
Matthias Lusch from Germany also has quite a wide list of predators to take care of: “I hunt foxes, badgers, martens, weasels as well as magpies and crows with a rifle and a trap.”
Meanwhile, Krzysztof Turowski from Poland has a slightly more focused area of expertise: for him, it’s primarily foxes. “In our country, since we do not have rabies, foxes breed very quickly and have no natural enemies. Only hunters are able to manage their population effectively. I usually hunt from a stand or in the shade of trees, mainly with predator calls. Sometimes, live traps are necessary – they cover places where hunting is not possible, around buildings or hen houses,” explains the hunter.
It’s quite curious to see how each of them got into this. In Krzysztof’s case, it stemmed from quite a different activity: “I have always wanted to learn how to call game. In the beginning, it was wild boars and foxes, which I have learned to call. The fox is probably the easiest game to call. I bought my first predator call and started calling by imitating the voice of an attacked hare. This is how my adventure with fox calling began. I also have a hunter in my hunting club who is very much involved in fox hunting. This is a person who can convey his commitment to others.”
In Matthias’ case, the need for pest control came from the very early days: “I grew up in a small game area where there were a lot of pheasants and hares. It was necessary to hunt predators in order to have a good stock of small game.”
With Nathan, it’s a whole different story – one about a recreational hunter turning into a paid pest controller: “The short version is that I seem to have a skill set for tallying high numbers of pests with a bolt action rifle. Over the last few years, that’s merged from being recreational hunting to paid professional work as a business.”
Before you get into pest control, there are certain things you need to know. Nathan advises starting off with the reasoning behind the activity: “I think it’s important to understand why pest control must happen. Think feral cats in Australia, which is a polarizing topic for many. But a quick Google search will show you that Australia leads the world in native animal extinctions. Feral cats, unfortunately, play a huge role in these terrible statistics.”
For Matthias, it, too, is about species protection: “Without us, hunters, keeping the predators short, sooner or later, many native species will become extinct.” Now, as for the more practical knowledge, Krzysztof advises working with experts: “In Poland, basic knowledge should be provided to you by a hunter who takes care of you during apprentices and a hunting course, where you will learn the basics of biology and ecology of predators. Then, continue on your own hunts, searching for game burrows and training your calling.”
Because the majority of pest control happens after dark, thermal imaging plays a huge role in it – not only in finding and identifying the pests but also in ensuring maximum safety. The particular device you choose will depend on local regulations and, of course, your preferences. “Currently, I am hugely enjoying the Merger LRF XL50 thermal binoculars. Target identification is key, and a high-resolution device like the XL50 is an amazing tool. On my centerfire rifles, I’m using the Thermion 2 LRF XG50 as I like the 3x base magnification and 640 resolution. It’s a solid hybrid scope which seems well-suited to both small and larger animal pest control work,” shares Nathan.
Perhaps unexpectedly, Krzysztof dons almost the same combo: “I love my Thermion 2 XG50 Pro with brilliant magnification. This is the perfect scope for this purpose. When it comes to observation, there are no better binoculars than the Merger XL50. In fact, the XL is great for any type of hunting. This is the world’s masterpiece when it comes to thermal imaging for observation.”
Matthias, too, is team Merger, although for aiming, he’s got the upgraded Krypton 2 – a modern and versatile thermal imaging attachment that, if needed, can also be transformed into a handheld scope.
Of course, thermals aren’t everything – you need other gear, too. For Nathan, a trusty tripod, a good red LED headlight, a comfortable rifle sling, and a thermal scanner carrier are all a must. Matthias adds a regular pair of binoculars, a stalking stick, and various predator calls to the list.
And if you’re curious to learn more about the calls, Krzysztof is here to help: “For me, the model with the Scotch Predator Call sound is one of the best. Additionally, calling devices from Klausen or our Polish company called Gunbroker and Kosmaty. Each of them is great, and they complement each other brilliantly. The squeak of a mouse at closer, the sound of a hare at further distances. It is important that there are not too many of the same models in the hunting ground, so it is worth exchanging information about who uses what because the foxes will quickly get used to the same sound.”
No matter how good the gear you use is, you should always remember that it’s just tools – they won’t replace the skills and knowledge you must have. Nathan always emphasizes the importance of safety: “Sure, you need to be a good shot, but a lot of the time, it’s safety first, showing restraint to know when it’s not safe to shoot. This is especially important on sites close to urban areas where the backdrop and shooting angles can become essential to know.”
Knowing your surroundings can be considered basic hunting knowledge, and it should by no means be neglected in pest control. “If you do pest control after dark, always know your surroundings and be able to navigate the area you are hunting in safely. It can be easy to get turned around and lost in the dark when following an animal, especially in thicker timber. A thermal device with an LRF is also very handy. Ranges can be troublesome to judge in the dark viewing through a device display screen.“
Back in the old continent, Krzysztof stresses the importance of perseverance and patience. “And a bit of good hearing to be able to repeat the sounds of attracted animals. If you want to learn how to lure, just don’t give up after the first unsuccessful attempt,” says the Polish hunter. A little further west, Matthias reminds that “you should be a little more careful and pay more attention to the wind and the surroundings because the predators can smell, hear and see very well.”
You should also pay attention to the seasons, too. In Australia – or any other place where the weather gets really hot in summer – you’re unlikely to see many animals throughout the day. In fact, Matthias advises waiting until winter, as the predators have better skin during the colder months. Krzysztof agrees to this, calling snow-covered ground “the ideal conditions for hunting predators”.
While many see predator control as a duty, it becomes much easier to fulfill when thoroughly enjoyed – and that’s the reason we were curious to hear why hunters like it. For Nathan, it’s the species protection. “I enjoy contributing to the protection of Australia’s diverse ecosystem and agricultural industries,” says the hunter. For Matthias, it’s both the thrill and the tangible benefits: “Predator hunting can be very successful and exciting, especially for small game, and you can get great natural products like the skin, fat, and meat.” And to Krzysztof, it’s like a reward for his effort: “In my opinion, it is the greatest art to be able to trick a fox into thinking that he is waiting for a free meal or the opportunity to pass on his genes during the heat.”
And while this all sounds exciting, pest control can take up a lot of time and effort that could otherwise be spent on leisurely hunting. How do our ambassadors find the balance? “That’s a niggly one. So much of what I do is pest control “work” now. But I make sure each year I take time to hunt and stalk deer in the rut (during autumn) and share that passion with my children,” shares Nathan.
In our European hunters, it’s a matter of being able to hunt at all – without pest control, game animals would likely get into trouble. “There is no interference here. It rather complements each other and makes a type of hunting like small game hunting possible,” believes Matthias.
Krzysztof’s situation is similar – and comes from old local tradition: “For me, pest control is also hunting, but the impact of the sound of shooting a fox on other animals is, unfortunately, the most difficult part. If you have a fox you want to hunt and other game in your hunting ground, the shot will certainly scare it away, and it will probably not come out of its hiding place. Silencers are not allowed in Poland. However, we have a certain superstition that says that ‘every good hunter first shoots predators, and only then – something for food.’ Thanks to this, we believe that hunting predators first will bring better success with other games, and we are not afraid to hunt them, and such hunts can be very exciting.”
Before purchasing any night or thermal vision device, please make sure you adhere to the local legislation and only use it when it is allowed. Our ambassadors come from various countries and travel a lot, which allows them to test different devices. We do not encourage or support the illegal use of our devices in any events. If you wish to learn more about export and sales restriction policy, please visit the following link: Export and Sales Restriction Policy.