Monday, May 12, 2008

Fire from the Sky

When I left off in my last post, I had observed the first rat activity of the Spring -- a sizable roof rat that had taken up residence in the blackberries on the side of the yard. And I had hatched a crazy plan to bag him with a shot from the roof of the shed. You can get caught up on the story here.


It was a Thursday evening when I first sat on the roof of the shed, gathering intelligence on the rat's habits, and his preferred dining hour. I took Friday night off (but still baited with Cheerios and sun butter), with my plan to go rooftop-sniper-style on Saturday night.

Well, as the old saying goes, "It never rains but it pours". On Saturday morning, I went out back to enjoy the lovely day. As I started to take a seat at the patio table, I looked out and saw the large form of a rat slithering about beneath the bird feeders on the cherry-plum tree. I immediately recognized it as a fat Norway rat, which meant it was a different rat than the one by the shed. So as quickly as I could, I crept back into the house and broke out my R1. Just recently I had received a new shipment of .20 caliber pellets (Crosman Premiers, JSB Exacts, H&N Round Balls, and JSB Predators) and had only fired each type about 10 times in the R1. But from the limited shooting, I had been impressed with the accuracy of the Crosman Premiers (CPs) as well as the JSB Exacts. So I loaded a CP into the rifle and crept back out to the patio table.

My view from the table

The rat was a bold one. He was munching fallen sunflower seeds which I had just that morning refilled the feeders with. He would come out along the wooden rail and just hang out while he scavenged. If something spooked him -- like a scrub jay swooping in to scare the sparrows and finches off the feeders -- he would dash back into the ivy cover, but otherwise he was content to just be out.

So propping my elbows on the table, I lined him up in the Simmons scope. He was about 16 yards away, and hard to see down in the little dirt depression that ran adjacent to the wooden rail. I could see where he was, but couldn't make out the detail of where his head was -- the grass was in the way.

Just then, a neighbor behind us fired up his lawnmower, and the sound of the engine caused the rat to raise his head up. His body was essentially facing me, but his head was now turned slightly to his right (my left) looking over to where the mower roared. I put the crosshair in his ear and squeezed the trigger. Thunk! went the rifle, and I saw the rat roll over, wriggling his tail and kicking his hind legs into the air. By the time I got out there, he had expired.


He was easily the match of the biggest rat I've gotten. A hefty bugger with a thick tail, and kind of a long snout for a Norway. The pellet had gone in just behind his left ear and had traveled three-quarters of the way through his body before exiting just to the left of his spine.

I reckoned this was the perfect way to start the day that (as I planned) would culminate in the thumping of that big ol' roof rat.

Another 16-incher for the trophy room

Later that afternoon, I brought out my open-sighted Gamo .177 to make sure I was still spot on with the zero for the 10-12 foot distance from the shed roof. When I printed these patterns on my targets, I knew I was ready for the party.


So Saturday evening came and I began to set up. I spread out a blanket and a couple of old pillows on the roof of the shed trying to make my sniper's nest as comfortable as possible. I set up the twin red-filtered flashlights in the same manner as on Thursday and brought up my rifle, already loaded with a Crow Magnum pellet. But an hour and a half went by with me sitting up on that roof and nary a sign of the stinking rat. One thing I noticed was that the moon was noticeably brighter even though it was only two nights later than the last time I'd been up. I wondered if that made the rat shy about coming out (due to it being lighter out for any potential nighttime predators) or if the moonlight was showing me off to the rat. Most likely it was neither. I guess I had gotten a little lazy after the amazing success of Thursday's recon mission, so I wasn't as still or silent as I needed to be. It was at this point that I really regretted not having had my rifle with me that first night when I had so many perfect looks. Tired of freezing my ass off, I climbed down at about 10:30pm and packed it in. You win this round, rat.

Sunday morning showed that even though he was shy while I waited for him, at some point in the evening (or morning) he did come out and eat the bait. So Sunday night I baited again with the Cheerio/sun butter combo. I didn't plan to go rooftop again, I just wanted to test whether he would take the bait at or around 9pm, or if in fact he was now shy because of the brightening moon. I went out just after 9pm with a flashlight and tried to do a stealthy approach. Shining the light on the bait station I saw that some bait was already gone! And I heard a shuffling in the blackberries from the startled rat. Now I knew that it was only my incompetence on Saturday night (not the moon) that had kept him away, and that realization pissed me off.

The impenetrable blackberry jungle

I immediately went into the house, got my gun, loaded it and stamped over to the back end of the shed with my left hand both supporting the rifle and holding the flashlight at once. I heard more scrambling in the hedge, and this time the sounds were getting louder - the rat was coming right at me. I frantically scanned the brambles with my flashlight and gun, straining to catch sight of the beast as it drew nearer and nearer. It had all the suspense of that scene in Aliens when Ripley and the Marines are trapped in that room, looking at the motion tracker, watching the blips as the creatures close in on them.


They mostly come at night. Mostly

Well, I never did get a glimpse of the bastard, and soon the sounds of movement were gone. But my blood was still running hot. So I went into the house, put on warmer clothes and climbed back up on the shed, this time taking care to be as silent as possible. Prior to climbing up, I placed the flashlight pointing towards the bait station, this time mounting it on a convenient spot in a crook of the rain gutter drain.


After my failure the previous night, my strategy was to keep a low profile and try to remain as invisible as possible. So I silently climbed the ladder, crawled onto the other side of the roof -- the side that slanted away from the bait station -- placed the two pillows on the shingles and laid belly down on the roof with my head, arms and rifle over the roof's peak, looking down onto the bait station. Then I settled in for a long wait, determined to stay until the vermin surrendered again to that sweet, sweet sun butter.






The view from my sniper's nest

I quickly found that this was not a comfortable position. Within ten minutes, my hands were getting tingly, numb and cold. I had to slowly and quietly move them down to my sides to get the feeling back in them. I was now laying with my left ear on the pillow, not even looking at the bait station. I figured if anything were going to happen, I would hear the devil moving through the vines long before I would see him. But without my arms over the top of the roof supporting me, I had slipped down slightly, and now my feet were dangling off the eave, pointing down to the ground. But I was determined to stay put.

I was rewarded about 30 minutes later when I heard the soft sounds of something slipping through the branches again, below and to my right. I slowly raised myself back up, this time placing my elbows on the peak of the roof, supporting the weight of my head and shoulders. About ten minutes later, I could dimly make out a slightly darker form on the gate, just outside the red light cast on the bait station. I kept blinking to make sure I was actually seeing what I thought I was seeing, but I remained totally motionless. I moment later, the rat stretched out further into the light and grabbed a Cheerio just to the right of the bait station. When he ran back into the bushes to eat it, I took the opportunity to bring my gun to hand and line up the open sights. He was back again, and this time he climbed onto the bait station to lap up some sun butter that I had smeared on the front edge of it. His head was now facing towards me, his mouth and snout pointing down. I pushed off the safety, put the front blade in the notch of the rear sight, placed it right on top of his head and squeezed the trigger. Thwack! The rat seized up and turned to show his profile, convulsing slightly but otherwise staying put on the bait station. A few seconds later, his back legs started to involuntarily spasm and he knocked himself off the gate and down to the ground (out of my view) with a satisfying thump.

You can see the exit wound on his mid-right side

I quickly (but carefully) made my way off the shed over to where he'd fallen. And there he lay, dead as can be. The pellet had gone right into his cranium, and exited out his right side. It was easily the biggest roof rat I'd ever seen. He measured 16 inches from stem to stern, exactly the same as the Norway. And he was thick, too. A week or so on the high-protein sun butter and Cheerio diet had done him well. Until tonight.

The ol' bait station is getting messy

I disposed of the carcass, and packed up all my stuff. I left the rest of the sun butter and Cheerios on the bait station just to see if this big guy had buddies. When I checked the station in the morning, sure enough all the bait was gone. So there's at least one more out there in the bushes, waiting his turn in the sniper's sights. Now I just need to work up the energy to go through the rigmarole again. But you can bet I will, and when I do, you'll be reading about it here.

5 comments:

Jeanette said...

Wow! You truly hate rats!

Kodiak said...

Yeah, I'm none too fond of the little beasts. I have no issues with pet rats, mind you. But wild rats, with their diseases and the damage they can do, living in proximity to my family -- no thanks.

Glad you stopped in. I'll have some new updates in the next day or two, so swing back by if you're interested.

TSBrat2002 said...

Hey!!

Right up front, let me apologize. I meant to leave a comment back when you posted the latest, and it got away from me. Still enjoy the stories, a few lessons to be learned from this adventure, too!

E in V said...

Kodiak -

Just to let you know, I'm no longer on the "AOL world," so TSBrat2002 only exists on the Blog, not as email. I couldn't remember you s/n on RK, any most of my emails in the address book went w AOL, so I thought I'd mention it here.

Kodiak said...

e in v,

Thanks for the heads up. Drop me a line anytime at kodiakden@gmail.com

I'd love to hear if you ended up with the camo grizzly.

I am so behind on updating this site, and haven't been on the ol' RK in a while. But the action has been hot this Spring/Summer, so updates are imminent. Thanks for being a patient reader!