Last night saw me out on one of my favourite permissions – a sheep farm that has lots of out buildings. It offers good sport with both rabbits in the fields and rats around the yard.

The rodents are an out and out pest and a health hazard. But the rabbits aren’t without blame either; their prolific and constant digging around the edge of the fields makes the fences unstable and increases the risk of sheep escaping.

Arriving with around an hour of daylight left, I headed for a bramble covered bank in the corner of one of the sheep fields. Fortunately, the woolly inhabitants hadn’t spotted me and stayed well away.

An old trailer used to take kids on rides around the farm sits alongside the field and provides a superb, elevated vantage point to cover the bank. There are hay bales to sit on and the sides of the trailer provide cover and a handy rifle rest.

Sat on my perch, I had a good view of the bank, which is riddled with holes, and waited for the rabbits to appear. My rifle for the evening was a .22 calibre, 12 ft. lbs. Brocock Bantam which is matched with an MTC Viper Pro Tactical 3-18×50 scope and is a true tack-driver.

The spot never ceases to disappoint. In fact, it takes super-human levels of self-restraint not to over-shoot it. Sure enough, the rabbits obliged once again and a fully-grown buck, by the look of his tattered ears, soon appeared.

Wary of the potential for a shot rabbit to kick itself into a hole, I waited, watching through the scope, for him to move. Eventually he did and at around 25 metres, the shot was a formality. Or so I thought. I lined the Bantam up, squeezed the trigger only to hear the pellet zing off the barbed wire and fly wide. Needless to say, the rabbit didn’t hang about for an encore.

The kids hay ride trailer provided a superb vantage point to target the farm’s rabbits

Setting up the Brocock Bantam Sniper HR with Nite Site night vision equipment for a night’s rat shooting


By now the light was starting to fade so I made my way back to the truck to fit my Nite Site infrared gear to the Viper Pro Tactical.

If you’ve ever shot in the dark with a .22 calibre 12 ft. lbs. rifle, you’ll know how difficult it is to judge distance. To solve the problem, I use a NiteSite laser range finder. Unfortunately, I’d taken the battery out and forgotten to put in a replacement. I therefore I decided to leave the rabbits alone and concentrate instead on the farm’s abundant rat population as the barns have plenty of features to gauge distance by.

I’d positioned myself in the corner of one of the larger barns which had until recently housed sheep. There was plenty of straw and feed on the ground and I expected the rats to be making the most of the bounty.


Switching on the NiteSite, I swept the area, expecting see multiple sets of eyes staring back at me. I could see plenty of feed on the ground but no rats. Increasingly desperate, I swept the infrared beam up the walls – the rats live in the cavities behind – hoping to see one poking its head out.

At last I saw a pair of eyes staring back at me at the far end of the barn. I adjusted the parallax and zoomed up the magnification. Something was wrong though and sure enough, the eyes turned out to belong to an owl. No wonder the rats weren’t putting in an appearance.

The owl stood its ground and somehow I felt like I was intruding, getting in the way of nature, so I backed out of the barn, leaving its ratty inhabitants to my feathered fellow hunter.

Shooting sticks provides a stable platform when shooting heads up with night vision gear

The Bantam Sniper HR paired with am MTC Viper Pro Tactical scope makes an ideal combination for controlling rats and rabbits


I moved to a second, slightly smaller barn and, with the Bantam on some trigger sticks, I swept the infrared NiteSite round the interior once again. At last my luck had changed, or so I thought, as the beam revealed a pair of rodent eyes glinting at me.

I lined him up, confident the Bantam would help open my evening’s account. However, squeezing the trigger only resulted in the dreaded pop of a dry fire. In my mind I thought I must have missed one of the pellets holes when loading the magazine.

The rat, though startled, was still there. I cycled the bolt again and took careful aim once more. Same result. What the…?


By now the rodent had disappeared, along with a couple of others I’d seen scurrying around, so I switched my torch on to see what was going on to discover that I’d left my fully loaded magazine back in the truck.

Thinking that things could only get better, I went to leave the barn and retrieve it. Just then heavens opened and any enthusiasm for waiting for the downpour to finish before retrieving my magazine and carrying on soon diminished. As soon as the rain stopped I gave in, accepted what the airgunning fates had been telling me all night and went home.

There’s always next time…

10-shot magazine and a slick bolt action delivers quick follow up shots if necessary