If you love shooting as much as I do, off season rat shooting can be more fun than shooting fish in a barrel. A ratting foray can become a fast and furious endeavor quickly because usually where you find one, there are tens to hundreds of them.
Rats are nasty little vermin that no one I know really likes. They eat garbage, carry dangerous diseases, dig holes and make tunnels everywhere and just generally make the environment smell bad. They multiply quickly and can take over a barn, garbage dump, building, or as we have seen in recent days, an entire city in a matter of days or weeks.
Because of this, finding a place to go ratting is usually not hard to do or get permission for. Most owners of these areas are glad to see you and will encourage you to take as many as you can. Most will give you an open invitation to return again and again as long as you respect their property which is usually not very far from where you live.
What caliber is best for rats?
I use a 22lr. Specifically the Ruger 10/22 Competition model semi auto. I like not having to interrupt my sight picture when shooting gets fast. This rifle comes from the factory shooting tiny little groups at 50 yards. I have built several custom rifles on the 10/22 base but none shoot any better than this rifle right out of the box. The only thing I might change in the future is the trigger. The factory trigger pulls around 3 lbs and I prefer a trigger more in the 1.5 lb range for precision shooting like this little game calls for.
If you really want to see rats explode, you could use a 17 hmr. Be sure to take a slow motion camera with you because the hits will be spectacular if you use a varmint variety of ammo like the CCI varmint.
But you don't need that much power to get the job done. In fact I used an air rifle on my last ratting trip. It was the Gamo Varmint. It shot a 17 caliber pellet and was just perfect for this type of hunting. These little rifles are super accurate, at least at the distance I was hunting (25-30 yards) and perfect when you are in a barn or industrial type environment where bullet ricochet from a rimfire could cause a problem
It comes with a 4X scope which held it's zero after many shots and is rated to get a maximum velocity of around 1250 fps. This is faster than the CCI standards that I shoot from my 22. Shooting activity was really high that night. I think we took 32 rats from that one set up. A good test for the air rifle and it's set up. I was really impressed and might look more into these little air guns. I had a ton of fun with it.
With a 22, I usually set up to shoot from around 50 yards. If you don't want to deal with bullet drop, you need to be around 25 to 30 yards or less but these little rifles are super accurate and perfect when you are in a barn or industrial type environment where bullet ricochet could cause a problem.
Ratting tips for beginners
The best rat shooting / hunting is best had at night using lights. Not that rats can't be taken during the day but most of their feeding and other activity is after the sun goes down and all human activity subsides.
To be successful you must have a good light, preferably a head lamp and a weapon light. Some serious ratting enthusiasts use night vision scopes and binoculars which are very nice but expensive, and you can be very effective with just the two lights mentioned above. Just make sure they are rated for above 500 lumens. You can't hit what you can't see.
Areas where good ratting occurs is usually littered with things that can be dangerous trip hazards or worse at night. Make sure you scout your area during daylight hours to identify any potential danger and also to allow you to plan your set up. You don't want to rush in at night and just set up anywhere and expect fast and furious action. It takes a little scouting to know where they will most likely be. You will see evidence of their presence.
Make sure your set up, weapon, ammo, and skill allow head shots from your position. There is nothing worse than having a belly shot rat make it to cover where you can't retrieve him, then start stinking really bad over the next few days. Your land owner probably won't appreciate it.
Leave the hunting area as clean and organized, or better, than you found it. Any landowner who has given you permission to hunt there will always appreciate this, no matter if you are hunting rats or big game.
When touching rats to clear them before you leave, always wear gloves. These are nasty little critters that carry disease and bacteria that you want no part of. Just use common sense for protection.
Below is a little footage from the fieldsports channel to whet your appetite. Go get em and have fun!