Enfield Sports Customer Guide to Ratting & Pest Control

Guide to Hunting Legally and Safely


Enfield Sports Customer Support Guide – Ratting by Matt Manning

Enfield Sports Customer Guide to Ratting & Pest Control

Air rifles can be put to good use controlling rats around farms, outbuildings, fields, hedges, hen houses and gardens. Here’s how to go about it.

A rat settles on the maize heap and Mat gets ready for the shot.

A rat settles on the maize heap and Mat gets ready for the shot. Credit: M Manning

An air rifle is particularly suited for killing rats. With sensible use of backstops — most often concrete walls in a farmyard scenario — an airgun for rat control can be safely and effectively used in places where you wouldn’t dream of firing a shotgun or rimfire rifle. In fact, although the limited power of legal limit (sub-12ft/lb) air rifles is often regarded as a drawback, lower power levels and the consequent reduction in risk of ricochet can often be a huge advantage — especially when carrying out pest control in confined spaces or close to livestock.

Rats breed all year long so farms can be quickly overrun. Whilst the farmer will have measures in place – usually poison – an airgunner can be a useful addition to the rat control campaign.

A productive night’s shooting can yield 40 or 50 rats — often many more — so an airgun shooter’s contribution can be major. Numbers on farms tend to peak during the colder months of the year when natural food becomes scarce.

Where you will find rats

These places attract rats:

  • Heaps of rubble
  • Dilapidated sheds,
  • Stacks of logs
  • Piles of scrap metal
  • Log stacks
  • Animal feed and grain
  • Around hen houses

If you have permission to shoot on a farmyard or on ground that’s managed for pheasant shooting, the chances are there will be rats. Rats are smart and will search out easy feeding opportunities and it doesn’t take them long to find them. On a shoot, you will usually discover rats in areas close to feed hoppers especially if close to a bank or log pile.

Rats will sniff out a meal and quickly set up home close to places where they can steal food from troughs and silage clamps. Grain stores are a favourite, and rats can cause major problems when they find their way into places where foodstuffs are stored.

Treat rats with respect

Rats should be treated with the same respect in terms of swift despatch that a hunter should try to give any quarry. Rats are surprisingly hardy creatures and I try to take them out with headshots — this sounds like a tall order until you consider that farmyard rat shooting is rarely done at ranges much beyond 15m. With practice, most people should be able to group shots within a 25mm circle when using a pre-charged airgun to shoot at 15m from a stable sitting position. The tricky thing, however, is getting rats to keep still long enough for you to get a steady bead on their head. So the best answer is to get them busy with some bait.

The best bait for rats

One of the toughest parts of using an airgun for rat control is getting a telling shot at these fidgety rodents, but it’s much more easily done if you use some bait. My favourite approach is to target rats either as they emerge from their burrows or as they make their way along their runs between their nesting site and wherever they’re feeding. Place a tempting offering where they can’t miss it, and they’ll probably stop to investigate. Liquidised cat food is one of my top rat baits

It may be messy but liquidised cat food is great for stopping fidgety rats

Rats can’t resist piles of this smelly, fishy sludge, and the fact that it has been turned into a soup means they have to pause and lap it up if they want to get a bellyful.

I’ve also been experimenting with the fishmeal pellets you can buy from angling shops, too; they’re clean and dry, rats seem to like them and, if you buy the really tiny pellets, they have to stop to get a decent mouthful which gives you time to get them on the cross-hairs.

It may be messy but liquidised cat food is great for keeping fidgety rats exactly where you want them


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