Dave Barham

Airgun World - - Contents -

Dave and his mate, Mick, teach those elu­sive rats a les­son

Af­ter our last dis­as­trous hunt­ing trip to­gether, when our friendly farmer had in­ad­ver­tently moved all of Mick’s peanut­but­ter-coated lumps of wood, Mick and I vowed to re­turn a cou­ple of weeks later to seek our re­venge.

On this oc­ca­sion, I left my beloved BSA R10 at home, safely snug­gled in the warm, fleece-lined gun cabi­net in my of­fice. It was cold, damp and rather dreary out­side and I couldn’t bring my­self to put her through all that.

To be hon­est, I wasn’t plan­ning on do­ing any shoot­ing my­self – no, tonight was all about Mick tak­ing the shots and me tak­ing some shots with my cam­era.


I’d planned to meet up with Mick for around 3pm, just be­fore it got dark. He’d al­ready told me that he was go­ing to pitch up about 2pm, to put out some more bait and get him­self set up in the barn.

Just my luck, the traf­fic was hor­ren­dous on the drive up to Der­byshire. It was a Sun­day af­ter­noon, and it seemed that the world and his mother had de­cided to go out for the day. Nev­er­the­less, I man­aged to park up with ten or so min­utes of day­light left, as the sun be­gan to sink be­hind the Der­byshire Dales.

Af­ter a quick ‘hello’, Mick ush­ered me down a path and round the back of one of the cat­tle sheds to an area where the farmer stored all his hay bales. They were wrapped tightly in black plas­tic to pro­tect them from the el­e­ments, and as we ap­proached them Mick whis­pered, “Hey Dave, some of the lads here have told me that they have seen the rats sit­ting on top of these bales as the sun goes down. I think it might have some­thing to do with the heat they gen­er­ate. We’ll give it ten min­utes here be­fore we set up in the barn again, just to see if any­thing shows.”

Well, ten min­utes passed with­out so much as a leaf fall­ing, let alone a hoard of hun­gry rats scur­ry­ing all over the bales, so it was straight back to barn and si­lence pro­to­col, with

“You don’t want to be touch­ing those rats with your bare hands, Dave”

as lit­tle move­ment as pos­si­ble whilst we ea­gerly awaited to see or hear any signs of the rats around the cat­tle feed.

Of course, we had the trusty farm cat with us in the barn again this evening, which was snug­gled up on an old feed sack next to me. I was just glad that she felt com­fort­able in the barn with us, rather than wan­der­ing around the yard scar­ing all the rats away. Un­like two week’s pre­vi­ously, the other ‘mys­tery’ cat was nowhere to be seen – things were look­ing good.


With the light fad­ing fast, I was be­gin­ning to won­der if we would even see a rat dur­ing the last knock­ings of day­light, let alone Mick man­ag­ing to get a shot off and hit his mark. Then some­thing rather as­tound­ing hap­pened.

Mr Rat sud­denly ap­peared out of nowhere. He scur­ried up the side of the feeder bin, perched him­self on the lip of the feed hop­per and be­gan munch­ing away on the cat­tle feed pel­lets. Mick had pur­posely left the hatch open just a few mil­lime­tres so the rats could scratch out the odd pel­let or three, and his plan had worked beau­ti­fully. We both saw the rat at ex­actly the same time, and be­fore I could even raise my cam­era, ‘THWACK’, the sound of lead on bone rang through the misty evening sky. The rat dropped like a stone, it didn’t jump, it just rolled off the hatch and hit the ground with a ‘thud’. “Nice one mate,” I whis­pered. The cat jumped up out of her feed sack coma to see what was go­ing on, and quick as a flash Mick was out of the door, don­ning a rather garish day­glow orange rub­ber glove.


“You don’t want to be touch­ing these rats with your bare hands, Dave,” Mick said.

“They can carry all sorts of nasty dis­eases like Weil’s, lep­tospiro­sis and loads of other nasty stuff, even tape­worms,” he con­tin­ued.

I al­ready knew about the Weil’s dis­ease is­sue, which is rea­son enough to wear pro­tec­tive gloves when pick­ing and dis­pos­ing of dead rats, but I was un­aware of the list of other nasty dis­eases and in­fec­tions that Mick reeled off to me.

A quick check on the Ren­tokil web­site will soon have you don­ning a nu­clear fall­out suit

the next time you go rat­ting – it makes for some very in­ter­est­ing read­ing!


With one rat in the bin, we set­tled down to see if we could bag an­other. Be­fore we could get back into po­si­tion, though, Mick had to set up his night-vi­sion kit. The light had all but gone now, and it was pitch black in the yard.

Once the night-vi­sion was ready to go, Mick got back into po­si­tion and we waited, and waited. The si­lence was deaf­en­ing and the air tem­per­a­ture was drop­ping fast. I guessed it was now about 3ºC, judg­ing by fact that I couldn’t feel the end of my nose, and sit­ting on a cold stone floor in a barn was giv­ing me a numb bum.

We gave it a fur­ther 20 min­utes in the barn with noth­ing mov­ing out­side un­der cover of dark­ness. Mick was con­stantly scan­ning the area with his ri­fle, look­ing for the beady eyes to light up the mon­i­tor, but noth­ing was show­ing.

Just as we were about to con­cede and head to the warmth of the lo­cal pub to de­brief, Mick’s body lan­guage alerted me to the pres­ence of an­other rat. He tensed up and slowly moved just a few inches to his left, paused, then ‘THWACK’, an en­core of the glo­ri­ous lead on bone sound­track from ear­lier in the evening rang out.

I couldn’t see if the rat had jumped or dropped like the first one, it re­ally was pitch black out there now, but I was near­est the door with my torch in my hand. I ran out­side and saw that he’d hit his mark yet again, with an­other stone dead rat ly­ing be­neath the feed bin.

“Nice one, mate. That’s two pints I’ve got to buy you now,” I said, jok­ingly.

“Blimey, if I’d known it was a pint per rat, I’d have been up here all week Dave,” he replied in his usual sar­cas­tic tone.

Mick yet again donned a dis­pos­able glove, picked up the rat and placed it in the bin.

“Do you reckon that’ll do us for the night, Dave,” he said, as I was al­ready pack­ing away my gear.

“It’s pub o’clock mate, I can see the smoke com­ing out of the chim­ney. Let’s go and warm up,” I replied.

So, that was that. We’d only man­aged two rats, but it was bet­ter than our last ef­fort, and that’s two fewer rats to eat the cat­tle feed on that par­tic­u­lar farm.

I won­der where we’ll be head­ing next!

This lump of old iron­work made the per­fect perch for Mick s ri­fle.

When the light fi­nally went, Mick set up his night-vi­sion kit.

Head­shot! Mick nailed this rat smack bang in the ear.

One down, how many more to go?

An­other one bites the dust. Note the rub­ber glove used for han­dling these rats.

This one had clearly been munch­ing on the an­i­mal feed pel­lets.

The rats didn’t stand a chance - such a clear pic­ture through the night-vi­sion.

The lads could see a few rats scur­ry­ing around the wrapped hay bales.

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