Rat control: with .22 Wildcat air rifle & Sightmark Wraith HD
PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 May 2021
Mick Garvey is on a rat control mission, armed with the Sightmark Wraith HD day/night scope & a .22 FAC FX Wildcat air rifle
The return of the Sightmark Wraith HD day/night sight from Scott Country International has set me a problem. Do I fit it on the 17HMR and set about the squirrels with it on behalf of red squirrel conservation, or do I slot it on the .22 FAC FX Wildcat? After a short deliberation, I decided to go with the airgun choice to see how it stacked up against the Sightmark Wraith 4k that I had on test a while back. I even returned to the same area to keep the comparison as near as possible the same … apart from the weather, which has been absolutely awful and everywhere is waterlogged and almost ‘paddy field’ in appearance. Out of all the fields I have to shoot over, I could easily count on one hand how many have been drilled and sown – it is really that bad!
The plan was the same as with the 4k; a smallholding with a grain barn next door, which attracted the rats, and even though the grain had long gone, the spillage kept them interested, the same deal as the previous 4k outing.
My FX Mk1 Wildcat has always been supremely accurate and reliable, so I knew that if the rats were out, then we’d have a few. I had long swapped out the rifle’s top mounting dovetail rail for a Picatinny and the Wraith slipped straight onto the grooves like it belonged there. Everything seems to fit just right on this combo; the eye relief is spot on and the height is equally correct. The FX still sports the standard shroud, which does an excellent job of shutting up the bark of the FAC power. It had recently been in for a service with The Sportsman Gun Centre, who did an awesome job and were in contact with me all the way through, even though it was just a service. Considering the amount of use it’s been through in my hands, the technicians told me that it was in exceptionally good condition and very consistent. I have considered replacing the FAC ‘Cat with something more up to date, such as the Impact Bronze, but when something is working as well as this, then I might just hold off for a while.
MAN WITH A PLAN
The plan was simple; I would have the airgun set up on the Wicked Lights Rekon tripod, which gave me the ability to use both hands for spotting with the thermal. Another Wicked Lights item would sit on top of the Wraith, the A51IR LED lamp, although the IR illuminator supplied with the Wraith would be more than enough for short-range ratting, if only I had batteries for it. The A51IR has the three-option LEDs, giving you either a visible red LED lamp, a 940nm IR or an 850nm IR, all at the twist of the forward-mounted dial. Intensity is controlled by a rear dial and smoothly turns the beam intensity up or down. Beam spread is the usual up-front lens-rotating method. Pellets would be the Air Arms Diablo Fields in 18gr and 5.52 head size.
Once the extremely simple zeroing had been completed, and the green cross-hair chosen, it was time to get those dirty rats sorted. Activity seemed to be down on my last visit, but there was still plenty to go at. The zero had been set at 25 yards, but with just a touch of holdover I could easily reach the rats showing further out to 40 yards.
It was a bitingly cold, clear night with a slight but cutting breeze and snow had been forecast coming in from the north-east, but I was more than prepared for it, layering up with fleeces and hoodies and the Jack Pyke Argyll smock never ceases to amaze me with how well it keeps out the adverse elements, whilst allowing full movement. Weardale trousers with wellies kept everything south warm and dry, and topping of the outfit was the Hawke beanie … I could have stayed out all night if I’d wanted.
The track into the yard had rats running around as I arrived, but not in the numbers as the last time I was there. I parked the truck, overlooking the fields, with the Rekon-mounted FX sitting nicely at the back of the Hilux, and with the tailgate dropped I had a comfy place to sit if needed and somewhere to put my coffee.
It doesn’t take long for the rats to feel confident enough to start feeding again after disturbing them, and the first one was ‘schwacked’ within minutes – a young one that measured no more than a few inches, but a rat is a rat, no matter what the size. The grain barn had been emptied, but there must have been plenty of left-overs in there because I could hear the squealing and banging of feeding and fighting rats inside, and I made a mental note to see if I could get access inside from the farmer sometime soon.
BARN OWL ACTION
There was plenty of other wildlife showing out in the fields; deer, badgers, hares, rabbits and owls, all glowing like beacons through the thermal spotter. The rabbits were beyond the range of the Wildcat, and we don’t shoot the hares here … magnificent creatures in my opinion and great to see.
I was busy watching an owl working its way along the hedge-line, periodically dropping down to check out some prey, then back up to continue the search. Suddenly, it turned and headed straight toward me and I had a fantastic full-screen view of the barn owl coming at me … then it dropped once more and took my shot rat. There was no bad feeling; in fact, I was quite happy to help with its feeding. My only regret was that it wasn’t recorded, but the Quantum doesn’t have the facility. Maybe it’s time to upgrade to the Accolade spotter … we’ll have to see how the piggy bank feels about that. So, one from one, and nothing to show for it.
I sat down with a coffee on the tailgate to reflect on the Wraith HD’s performance and how it compared to the 4k. Without doubt, the 4k has some great features, but it has one problem and it’s nothing to do with the scope – the problem is actually the Wraith HD and its superb pricing. My only gripe, if you can call it that, is the battery system on the HD. It uses AA batteries and these soon get eaten by the hungry Wraith, but I’ve collected a few small battery banks over the years, and I’m using these to power the unit. A couple of elastic bands hold it in place against the fore end and provides plenty of power for an evening. It must be a great position to be in for Scott Country, to have these two NV scopes battling it out for customers, and whichever one a customer chooses they won’t be disappointed.
AS BIG AS CATS!
Back to the rats and they seemed to be getting more active and venturing out of the cover and a spurt of five shots took five rats in a couple of minutes. I had to give one a second look because it looked huge, and on retrieval, I could see that it wasn’t far off the same size as my Wellington boot. The A51IR easily picked out the eyeshine from my targets and the numbers started to grow, but I was now experiencing another thief, the rats themselves were taking the shot rats, and watching them tug the dead ones back to cover actually made me laugh. At one stage, there was a couple fighting over one body and I had to step in and take one out, leaving the other to its prize.
The first flurry of snow appeared, and in no time it had turned into an almost complete white-out blizzard. Luckily, I had taken a few snaps of the fivesome. I retre ated to the front seat, hoping it would pass, and 30 minutes later it had eased sufficiently for me to continue the rat purge. The snow had definitely slowed them down, but the ones coming out were bigger and glowed like molten metal against the newly fallen snow. Another five were ‘schwacked’, one lying too far under the keepers’ caravan to retrieve, so just the four for the photo. The snow had come down so hard and fast that it had covered my first five, and even with the thermal I couldn’t locate them – fox food!
I’LL BE BACK
Things had really started to slow down, so with a total of 18 rats shot, some unretrievable, it was time to wrap up, and starting the Hilux up made me realise how cold it was – the dash read-out showed -2ºC, but I didn’t feel the cold at all, thanks to Jack Pyke. The remaining rats would be soon feeling the heat again, though, and I’ll be back on a regular basis. With a bit of luck, I’ll be rat-raiding from inside, too. See you next month!