Advice from Quill Productions’ Graham Cocker on how to protect your pheasant feeders from rats...

Q: How can I protect my feeders from the dreaded rats?

GRAHAM CROCKER from Quill Productions replies: In November, the natural food sources are getting more scarce and a pheasant hopper makes a nice easy buffet.

First of all, poisons outside in woods or game strips are a big no-no, so other methods need to be deployed.

A tunnel trap with a Mk4 Fenn (still a perfectly legal trap for rats) is effective if set in the right way but traps should be inspected daily. If you buy a new vermin trap box then you might want to smear it with mud and dirt to take away any ‘new’ smell. A bit of wheat or maize in the tunnel entrance, under the trap and on the plate will also help. Look for the rat runs and tunnels to set traps on used routes. The other thing, that is often forgotten, is to wear gloves when setting the traps so there is no lingering human smell. Rats are clever creatures and will soon find a different route if they suspect something fishy is going on.

If you have the time, an air rifle or rifle is pretty effective and now the clocks have gone back it makes it easier to fit in. My own preference is to use night vision rather than lamping as it doesn’t disturb the birds.

When the shooting season ends and you stop feeding, feeders are more prone to rat chewing as they try to get the last of the feed out. Apart from a few feeders to be left for the remaining birds at the end of the season, I would tip any residual feed out for the birds and, with the useful company of a few terriers or a trusted friend with a gun, collect up the feeders for storage until next needed.