Saturday, July 14, 2007

Harvest Time

Blackberries are ripening all over the back yard. Soon I'll go out and pick a few pounds worth for my wife to make jam. I've been going out periodically to grab a few of the ripe ones to enjoy myself. A couple of evenings ago, I was over on the side of the back yard grabbing a few berries when I heard a rustling back in the brambles not more than a couple feet in. It sounded like something was struggling to get through the sharp tangles. My first instinct was that it was a bird -- there are many that frequent the yard and they love the berries as much as me. But after a few seconds, when nothing flew out of the bushes, I had a strong suspicion it was a rat.

It has been a few weeks since I last saw a rat in the yard. Several weeks ago I capped a roof rat who was nonchalantly enjoying seeds under the bird feeders in the middle of the day. I put a .20 hollow point pellet right in his snout. It traveled in through his face and exited through his back about halfway down the length of his body. My wife was out of town and had the camera with her so I couldn't get any good pics. I actually took a few shots with my cell phone camera -- but they are terrible quality.

A quick side trip in the Way-Back Machine:
The scene from three weeks ago

These pics suck, even for a cell phone camera

The pellet punched a clean hole right next to his nose...

...went through his head, neck and chest and then out his back

A couple of days after that I popped another roof rat -- this one in the boiler room, but she had enough juice in her after the shot to escape back into the ivy where I couldn't find her. That's the peril of gut-shooting a rat -- they don't die instantly and can sometimes motor off. That pisses me off so much. It's only happened a couple of times but it drives me nuts -- I want the rats dead but I don't want them to suffer. I think I'll do a separate post to elaborate on this and my other feelings when I shoot. At any rate, the end result was a rat that was going to expire, but without a chance for me dispose of it (or to get photos for that matter).

At any rate, the movement in the brambles told me that there was more action to be had. But there had been no conspicuous action under the feeders, so I figured the rats had gotten too wary to come out during the day. I decided to try a little baiting to see if they were out there at night. We had some really nice (and stinky) cheese left over from when some friends visited us recently. So I cut off a bit of the rind and set it out under the feeders before sunset. I had no intention of stalking the rats and trying to hunt them, I just wanted to see if they were out there. I checked the cheese with binoculars and flashlight before turning in at around 11:30pm, and it was still in place. When I checked again at around 6am the next morning, it was gone. I repeated the process for three nights -- all with the same result. The last night of this was last night (Friday).

So this afternoon (Saturday), I was looking out the window and saw the unmistakable form of a rat under the feeder. And this was no roof rat. This was a big Norway. So out came the Beeman R1. I watched from inside the house for a few minutes to watch his pattern, so I knew where my best chance to get a clear shot would be. He was concentrating around the base of the tree -- and man was he big. Maybe I was used to seeing those last couple of roof rats, but he looked like a chihuahua! When I had the gun on him, he filled up the sight in my scope (set at around 7x). I also noticed that there was a second, slightly smaller rat that was shuffling around as well. But the biggun was what I kept my focus on.

I decided to try a shot from the sliding glass doorway since it was already open. I silently slid the screen door open about a foot and put the gun out, resting the back of my left shoulder against the door frame. There he was, just to the left of the tree, scavenging amidst a few birds and in no apparent hurry. When I brought my eye to the scope, however, I saw that the rat was just behind a sparrow on one side and a towhee on the other. There was a slight window between each bird but it wasn't worth taking the shot and accidentally clipping one of the birds. So I waited for a better presentation. That came moments later when he ventured out again, this time in front of the tree.

With nary a bird in sight, I flicked off the safety and put the crosshair between his head and chest (my strategy being that if I missed slightly one way, I'd put it in his grape, and if I missed slightly the other, I'd put it through his heart/lungs. In this instance, the pellet flew straight and went right through his neck. He rolled straight over onto his back and kicked weakly a few times. He was dead within ten seconds.

The R1 comes through again -- he died right where he was hit

I can't say enough about the knockdown power of the Crow Magnum. I've seen how it tears up the lemons I sometimes use as targets. Round nose pellets (particularly the exceptional Beeman Field Target Specials) are extremely accurate, but they penetrate so well they tend to 'pin-cushion' the target without imparting most of their energy. The CMs can still pass through the target, but the broad face (and forward expansion cup) really bring a lot of blunt force and leave it in the target where it does terrific damage.

The pellet severed his jugular and who knows what else

Boy was he big! Seeing him up close confirmed that this was one of the biggest I've yet shot. He had large feet and a thick scaly tail. I brought out the tape measure to see the tale of the tape. He was just over 16 inches long from stem to stern, and quite robust. If there were such a thing as a trophy rat, he would have qualified.

His head+body was just over eight inches -- his tail another eight

Putting him in the bag I could feel his heft. This was bigger than the last two Norways I got back in May. The very first rat I shot (Summer 2006) was a big Norway. But I'm not sure she was as big as (and certainly not bigger than) this rat.

How much to have him taxidermied?

After disposing of him, I kept a watchful eye out that way for the rest of the day, but the smaller rat never appeared again while I was looking. I'll wait a week or two then use the baiting technique again since it seems to have gotten the rats comfortable with coming out into the shooting range. I have a friend that wants to come over for a night shoot, so I'll bait for a few nights again with some stinky cheese right before he comes to increase the likelihood that we'll get some action. I can't wait to see his reaction when that first rat comes shambling out of the night with beady eyes reflecting the beam from the flashlight. Hopefully it'll be one of these big Norways. Then it will be his turn to tell a tale.

I wonder if he has a big brother