Abstract: Caragana korshinskii Kom. and Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb. are pioneer shrubs for water and soil conservation, and for windbreak and sand fixation in arid and semi-arid areas. Understanding the water use characteristics of different pioneer shrubs at different ages is of great importance for their survival when extreme rainfall occurs. In recent years, the stable isotope tracing technique has been used in exploring the water use strategies of plants. However, the widespread δ2H offsets of stem water from its potential sources result in conflicting interpretations of water utilization of plants in arid and semi-arid areas. In this study, we used three sets of hydrogen and oxygen stable isotope data (δ2H and δ18O, corrected δ2H_c1 based on SW-excess and δ18O, and corrected δ2H_c2 based on −8.1‰ and δ18O) as inputs for the MixSIAR model to explore the water use characteristics of C. korshinskii and T. ramosissima at different ages and in response to rainfall. The results showed that δ2H_c1 and δ18O have the best performance, and the contribution rate of deep soil water was underestimated because of δ2H offset. During the dry periods, C. korshinskii and T. ramosissima at different ages both obtained mostly water from deeper soil layers. After rainfall, the proportions of surface (0–10 cm) and shallow (10–40 cm) soil water for C. korshinskii and T. ramosissima at different ages both increased. Nevertheless, there were different response mechanisms of these two plants for rainfall. In addition, C. korshinskii absorbed various potential water sources, while T. ramosissima only used deep water. These flexible water use characteristics of C. korshinskii and T. ramosissima might facilitate the coexistence of plants once extreme rainfall occurs. Thus, reasonable allocation of different plants may be a good vegetation restoration program in western Chinese Loess Plateau.