After years of trying many different methods, using an air rifle to control rats takes a lot of beating. As a technique it has the advantage that you don’t have problems with immunity. Not only that but you’re not leaving poisoned bait lying about where other animals might be exposed to it. On the other hand it does have the disadvantage that you have to be a reasonable shot.
Now I don’t advocate it as a sole method. But it works in well with other techniques. Ten or more years ago we had a lot of rats and a friend turned up with an air rifle with a starlight scope. He just quietly shot rats at night in the dark. He did admit that it felt like cheating at times. I was present when there were three rats looking over the edge of a trough in my direction. He shot the one of the left, then the one of the right. The one in the middle quietly faded from the scene. I suspect it was getting a bad feeling about the neighbourhood.
What we discovered was that with somebody out and about shooting them, the other rats were far more cautious about venturing far afield and tended to take more poisoned bait, so you got a synergistic effect.
My own experience is that if you are just shooting with iron sights, you can punish the brazen ones who venture forth in daylight. But you’ll not solve your problem.
Using a red beam of light does work well for a while. It doesn’t have to be an expensive piece of kit, I’ve seen people use the red wrapping from the appropriate Quality Street sweet. They just used sellotape to fasten it over the end of a torch. It worked perfectly adequately. There again after a while, it does seem that rats grow wary of red light and stay down.
Then there’s proper night vision equipment. It is expensive. I know people who have a starlight scope that cost more than the air rifle they’ve attached it to. I’ve never run to that expense, but if you are tackling a serious problem it’s probably necessary. But there are downsides. A friend of mine went into a factory in town where they were having a problem and he promised to try and help. He sat in the dark and eventually could hear some rustling. So he picked up his rifle and looked down the night vision. He said it was like a scene from ‘Aliens’. “They’re coming outta the goddamn walls!” He admitted that it came close to freaking him out. To be fair, he did most of his shooting from his bedroom window. He had a silencer on the rifle and would just shoot the rats in the back street.
But one advantage anybody has who comes to help control rats here is that we can offer them the assistance of a dedicated professional. Local knowledge comes in useful. The arrival of a cat on the scene meant we had to make changes. Once we’d welcomed Billy onto our staff, we stopped putting down poison bait. After all it seemed a bit ungrateful really. On the other hand, for all I know, Billy might be trying to tell us to put down horse radish or mint sauce.
Now we have a friend who comes and shoots rats for us when he can get the time off. When Billy first saw him ‘at work’, he used to sit and watch him from a distance. After a couple of nights Billy would then move closer and just sit six or ten feet away from him and keep an eye on the job.
Eventually he came across to get his ears scratched.
Recently we have had a couple of weeks of miserable wet weather. We’ve found that there’s no point in trying to shoot rats in the rain, they’ve got more sense than to come out in it. Billy is pretty much of the same opinion. But then we had a fine evening and our hunter arrived with his rifle. We left him to it.
Just as it was nicely dark, Billy appeared and sat next to him. They both sat there companionably and Billy watched as the first few rats bit the dust. Then he went across, nipped one that had been shot and had gone down, and carried it off somewhere. Two minutes later he was back.
Now it’s obvious that he feels that hunting involves changing your location reasonably regularly. When he felt our rifleman had been in place too long, he’d climb onto his shoulder to get him to move. In the new position he’d drop back down out of the way. At one point our rifleman said he wondered when Billy was going to start pointing out targets.
Eventually it was getting late and cold and the rats had decided tonight was a good night to stay in. Our rifleman went home, but by this time Billy had already taken another two of the nicer rats off for later. I suppose he regarded it as a fee for consultancy.
It has to be admitted, we do tend to work with a lot of highly qualified professionals.
As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”