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.
JUST IN TIME
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.
HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES
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.