Don’t write off ratting as a pursuit for winter nights. It’s often possible to catch up with these scavenging rodents for daytime rat shooting during the warmer months – Mat Manning gives us his top tips.
Rat shooting is something that most of us instinctively associate with cold winter nights. It is a fair assumption as rats are largely nocturnal animals, find out more from Mat on ratting by lamplight. They tend to cause most problems when harsh weather forces them to move in off the countryside and forage around farm buildings.
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Rats home in on silage that is fed to cows. Holes in the banks reveal the presence of rats on the farm. Mat prefers to shoot from a sitting position and with the support of sticks when ratting.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that rats can’t be encountered during spells of warmer weather. These scavenging rodents are a year-round problem on a lot of holdings, and numbers can often spike during the spring and summer months, making it a perfect time for daytime rat shooting. I’ve been shooting a lot of rats on a large dairy farm close to my home over the past few weeks. It looked like the owner had got off lightly as there was hardly a rat to be seen on the holding through the autumn and winter but what few there were obviously managed to breed successfully through the spring, and they became far too abundant. A large population of rats can soon make an expensive dent in a farm’s feed supplies and also has potential to spread disease to livestock and even farm workers.
My efforts with the air rifle are starting to drive numbers down to a more acceptable level, and I was back on the farm this morning for another go at daytime rat shooting. Targeting rats during the day may sound strange but it’s not uncommon for them to be more active during the hours of light when the days are at their longest. And on this farm it’s actually pretty common to encounter rats above ground by day because the artful rodents have adjusted their behaviour in order to avoid the barn owls that hunt around the farm after dark.
The rats have been nesting in the banks of a slurry pit and among stored haybales. They tend to show themselves when they venture out to feed on the rows of maize silage fed to the cattle. They’re surprisingly bold, and most of the shooting is done over ranges of between 12 and 20m. A sub-12ft/lb airgun is the perfect tool for the job and I’ve been using a .177 Air Arms S510 Superlite. With sensible use of backstops, this setup lends itself well to shooting around the confines of farm buildings, and the cattle barely raise an eyebrow at its quiet muzzle report.
My Hawke Vantage 3-9×40 Riflescope is also ideal for this shooting scenario. Its front parallax dial enables it to focus right down to just 30ft, which is perfect for ratting at close quarters – as is its Mil-Dot reticle which offers plenty of different aiming points when shooting within your usual zero range. I like to wind the magnification down to 5x for ratting as the consequent increase in field of view makes it easier to pick up these fidgety rodents in the sight picture.
Being able to focus your scope for close range shooting is a big advantage when farmyard ratting.
This sort of shooting is all about precision so, rather than wandering around hoping to get shots, I prefer to find a promising area and then set up an ambush. This static approach enables me to shoot from a sitting position, and with the support of sticks, which makes a big difference when it comes to accurate shot placement.
Mat uses his scope magnification a 5x to assist with fast target acquisition.
I didn’t have to wait very long to put my setup to the test, as the first rat of the session ventured out about 15 minutes after I’d settled onto my stool. The skittish rodent popped out through a hole under a barn wall and scuttled across the yard before settling down to feed. Rats know they are vulnerable when out in daylight, so they seldom linger for very long. That means you need to be fairly swift with your shots, and I wasted no time in steadying the Vantage’s crosshairs onto the unsuspecting rat’s head and snuffing it out with a wallop to the skull.
Never use your bare hands when clearing up after a farmyard ratting session.
I had obviously picked a productive spot, as a steady trickle of rats followed over the next hour or so before the action came to a sudden holt. By then my tally had reached seven rats, which I picked up with a shovel and disposed of on the farm’s fire site before moving on to target another area. It’s important to clear away shot rats in order to avoid creating a further health hazard but never be tempted to pick them up with your bare hands as they can carry infections including Weil’s disease. Fortunately, you can usually find a shovel propped in the corner of a farm building.
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Hawke Vantage 3-9x40 AO
11 layer fully multi-coated optics for maximum clarity. Adjustable objective for parallax correction. 1⁄4 MOA low profile no-snag fingertip turrets. Fast focus eyebell and high torque zoom ring. Threaded objective/ocular for optional accessoriesFind Out More