Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Now Where Were We?

Let me start this post with a couple of notes. First off, I want to apologize for taking such an extended layoff since my last post. Today is January 14, 2009. It has been over six months since I posted about the rat I sniped from my perch atop the shed. Over the summer, I had a lot of ratting adventures in the yard, but I could never seem to get it together and get the stories posted. For those who had become loyal readers of this blog (all three of you!), I feel terrible that I neglected it (and you) for so long. Please forgive me.

Accept this FTD 'Pick Me Up' bouquet along with my apologies

That said, I am now trying to get caught up with the backlog of stories. I made notes and drafts of some stories as they happened, so I am rounding those out and will post them as they are finished. For organizing purposes they will be cataloged by the dates they happened as opposed to the dates when I finally got my lazy ass around to posting them. So look for new posts to show up in May/June/July/etc. of 2008. But hey, enough of my yacking. Let's boogie!

Okay, so after my rooftop sniping success, I went top shelf again one other time. In spite of my best attempts to remain silent and undetected, for some reason, the rats would not emerge. I knew they were close -- I could hear them in the bushes and I knew they were being drawn to the sunflower seed butter. But even after waiting for well over an hour, not one showed his head while I waited. About 45 minutes into my wait, the batteries on my twin flashlights started to fade. I had deliberately not put in fresh batteries because I wanted the light to be slightly subdued. But by the one hour mark, the light had dwindled to the point that I could no longer see the target area. So I decided to call it a night.

Climbing down from the shed roof, I walked around the perimeter of the yard, scanning the blackberries with my flashlight. In at least five different spots in the yard, I heard shuffling in the bushes when I drew near. It seemed as if every 25 feet or so, there was another rat to be heard back amidst the vines. I got the unsettling feeling that I was surrounded. It was nearly midnight, and I was dead tired -- which made it an even more surreal experience. I went back over to the walkway/gap between the garage and shed to check one last time on my bait station when I heard more shuffling. A moment later I saw a medium-sized roof rat climbing over the stump of an old rose vine at the base of the brambles along the side fence. I had my gun, but the rat disappeared before I could even consider lining it up. Baiting back in this tight, confined area just wasn't conducive to continued success. Clearly I needed to find a new means of taking the fight to the enemy.

The next day, I moved the bait station to a new spot along the fence on the opposite (south) side of the back yard. This placement was closer to the bird feeders. It was also close to (even more) blackberry and rose bushes from which I had heard activity that night. I baited it that night with sun butter and a few Cheerios to see if the rats would find it. Sure enough, in the morning it was picked clean.

My amateur diagram of the yard with key features noted

The new bait station placement was preferable in a lot of ways. It allowed me to shoot from a comfortable sitting position on the patio. Also, it was at a distance of around 17 yards which allowed me to use the scoped R1 again. And that distance also meant that I could wait without having to fear every tiny noise or movement I made. I would have to be quiet, sure, but not a statue.

I placed lemons on the bait station to use as stand-ins for rodents to get in some target practice. I wanted to find the most accurate pellet for the job, and also wanted to make sure my scope was zeroed for that specific pellet and this new distance. I found that my new .20 JSB Exacts were going more or less where I wanted them so I set up that night for the shootout. In the shed, I had some old bamboo tiki torch holders, so I took the torch part out, drove the stake into the lawn and placed one of my red-tinted flashlights on top, pointing at the bait station. I turned it on at dusk, took my place at the patio table, and waited for darkness -- and rats -- to descend.

It was right at 9pm (the 'witching hour' for most rats around my place) when I spotted a rat emerge from the vegetation about five feet to the left of the bait station. The top rail of the fence was a perfect highway to the sun butter, but the rat hesitated. He seemed shy of the red light. I had replaced the batteries, so it was shining particularly brightly. In fact, the light looked almost more white than red. The rat started along the fence rail but quickly balked as he got closer to the brightest area centered on the bait station. Instead of continuing on, he jumped up onto the top of the fence and disappeared into the darkness of some branches that overhung into the neighbor's yard.

It was about fifteen minutes later when I spotted him again. This time he must have been on an unseen branch or vine because he was supporting himself on the other side of the fence, peeking over like the neighbor from Home Improvement.

Is that you, Wilson?

He finally worked up the nerve to stretch down from above/behind the bait station and start eating the goods I had smeared on the base of it. He was now perpendicular to me -- his head pointing down and his tail up -- but I had a perfect look at him. I raised the rifle and brought him into scope view. I centered on his head and squeezed the trigger - thunk! Through the scope I saw him leap off the fence and onto the ground, then I heard some thrashing in the bushes below. I was certain I'd hit him, but I didn't want to break cover. I was going to take all comers this night. So I waited about ten minutes for another rat to show before my curiosity got the better of me and I went out to retrieve the carcass. When I got out there, it was gone.

I searched high and low in the darkness, but could find no sign of him, not even a drop of blood was to be seen. I could clearly see where the pellet had gone into the wood of the bait station, and it looked like my shot went where I wanted it -- maybe a tad higher than intended, but it definitely looked like a trajectory that would have put it through the rat. In fact, I could even see small traces of rat hair sticking out of the hole in the wood. But no blood. Could I have somehow just barely grazed him? I doubted it, but the lack of blood or a body was hard to refute. Of course it was entirely possible that I could have wounded him gravely, but that he had enough life in him to sneak back into the thicket before expiring -- that's happened before. Another search in the daylight of the following morning did not reveal anything new. All I was left with was a tiny tuft of hair and uncertainty.

And like that... he's gone

However, the daylight did reveal that either he, or another rat had come back in the night and polished off the bait. So one way or another, there is more action to be had.


JP said...

"...sure, dozens of people watch that channel..." You're up to 4 readers now. I read your posts, and imagine myself out there. Where I'm at, I've got slightly bigger rodents to bag: skunks, racoons, and opossum always make their way into town and into my area. I'm looking to get a .25, probably that Walther Falcon on pyramydair. Anyway, maybe I'll bag some and shoot you a link to my works. Good plinking. JP

Kodiak said...

Definitely keep me posted on your progress. That Falcon looks like a really nice gun, and in .25 caliber it should make short work of the pests you describe. Let me know if you go with the conventional or the gas-spring version. Good luck to you and keep reading!

JP said...

Hey Kodiak, I've got a blog now, but compared to yours, it's just a bit dull. Only 2 posts, mostly consisting of describing how I can't hit water falling from a boat, and I'm just starting to get down how the software works. It's a start. Here's a link: http://madmangraphics.com/jp5/ Haven't bagged anything else, but I'll get there sometime. JP

E in V said...

Hey, It is good to hear from you again!

Amateur drawing? Surely you jest!