Saturday, April 21, 2007

First Rat of the Season

This is my first post here, so it may be a little long-winded as I introduce myself and my circumstance. I hope some of you will bear with me and hear my tale. I've been in my house for a year and a half now, and almost from the beginning realized there were rats in the back yard (though thankfully, not in the house, attic, garage, etc.) Roof rats are what we have here, and there is generally a steady (although not overwhelming) supply of them that appear under -- or sometimes on -- the birdfeeders at the back of the yard. They must nest back inside the short retaining wall that runs along part of the yard, covered by ivy and blackberry bushes -- perfect rat terrain. And my newly placed bird feeders must have been just what they were looking for.

I bought a new scoped Gamo 440 Hunter in .177 about a year ago, and have used it to dispatch eight or nine rats, some at night, and some bold ones in the full light of day. I enjoyed the hobby of air gunning so much, I recently upgraded to a second-hand scoped Beeman R1 in .20 -- it's a beautiful (and big!) rifle.

The new Beeman R1 .20 air rifle -- pure shooting pleasure

So after a long winter with no action (well, as long as a winter can be in northern California), I spotted two juvenile rats in late March. They were so quick, and crafty, that I could never get off a shot. They would dart out, grab some food and dart back. If they were ever stationary, it was when they were low in a depression in the grass, or in some way placed just well enough as to not give me a decent shot. I shoot very conservatively, only wanting to take a shot that I am sure will kill quickly, and it was like the rats knew it. Many were the curses I laid down on those lucky little SOBs.

Anyway, after about a week, they dissappeared and I never saw them again, or anything else until this morning. A new little rat, even smaller than the mysterious pair was out scavenging under the feeders. She was quick, but she also had the unfortunate (for her) habit of sitting stationary for a few seconds up on the little rail of wood that borders the back corner of the yard under the feeders.

The feeders, tree and 'rail'

So I broke out the R1, snuck out into the back yard through the garage, sat myself at the patio table and loaded a Crow Magnum pellet. The rat would only come out when the feeders were packed with birds, as this provided a means for seeds to get knocked down to the ground, as well as an early warning system for any potential danger. As soon as the birds were back, so was she. She paused on the rail in her customary spot, and I pushed off the safety, leaned my elbows on the table, lined her head up in the crosshair and squeezed the trigger. I heard a thump as the pellet hit the wood of the retaining wall behind her, and when I got my sight picture back, the rat was not to be seen. I went out to the spot to investigate and there she lay, immediately on the other side of the wooden rail, exactly where the force of the pellet had knocked her.

I put on gloves and used plastic bags to transport her to a more picture friendly spot and got some pics. I was amazed to see that the pellet had punched a nearly perfect hole through her ear on its way to entering just over her right shoulder blade. The pellet passed almost the full length of the body and exited through the side of the lower abdomen near the left hind leg.

Will the style catch on?

It's the first time I've given a rat a pierced ear, but she wasn't around long enough to adorn it. Well, that's my tale. I hope some folks enjoyed it.