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not so killed, a “lost bird;" and if another is to be allowed, a “no bird.”
3. The bore and charge of the guns to be used must be specified ; also whether single or double barrels. Any shooter using a drachm more shot, or a bore of a size larger than that named, to be disqualified and forfeit his stake.
4. The shooter to call "pull" when he is at the mark ready to shoot. Should the trap be pulled without the word being given, the shooter may take the bird or not; but if he shoots, the bird must be considered taken. If the trap is pulled and the bird does not rise, it is “no bird” at the option of the shooter; but if he shoots at it either on the ground or trap, or after it rises, and miss, it is to be scored « lost.” 5. A bird must be shot while on the wing in order to
fair bird,” excepting with the second barrel in double guns, and it must be gathered before passing the boundary either by the shooter or deputy. In doing this one person only must officiate, and he must gather the bird without the aid of any kind of implement. Should the bird perch on the boundary, and then fall back into the ground, it is “ lost;" or if it should perch in any tree or building, and then fall to the ground, it is also “lost.” But if a bird, so hard hit by the shooter that, in the opinion of the referee, it would have fallen within bounds, is shot at by a scout, the shooter may be allowed another bird on the order of the referee ; but if a bird is palpably missed, the referee may give it as a lost bird, even if killed within bounds by a scout. A bird once beyond the boundary is “lost,” even if it falls dead within it.
6. In case of a miss-fire another bird is to be allowed, if the gun was properly loaded and cocked, and the miss arose from the cap or other detonating material not exploding; put if, after giving the word “pull,” the trigger is not bulled, or the gun is not properly loaded and capped, or does not go off owing to the shooter's own negligence, the bird is to be scored “lost."
7. If, in the opinion of the referee, the shooter is mechanically baulked by his antagonist, or by any person other than his own backers, he may be allowed another bird.
8. Neither of the shooter's feet is to extend beyond the shooting mark, under any pretence whatever, until after his gun is discharged.
9. In single shooting, if more than one bird is liberated, the shooter may call“ no bird” if he likes, and claim another; but if he shoots he must abide by the consequences. In shooting with H and T traps, according to the toss, the trap H or T must be pulled at each shot.
10. In double shooting, when more than two traps are pulled, the shooter may call “no bird," and claim two more; but if he shoots he must take the consequences.
11. Either party may, on depositing a sovereign in the hands of the referee, claim to have the charge of his antagonist drawn; but if it should prove not to be over the stipulated weight, he must forfeit the sum so deposited to his opponent.
12. Each shooter in a match or sweepstakes to be at the shooting mark at the expiration of five minutes from the last shot. But, in case of accident, he may claim an extra quarter of an hour once in the course of the match.
13. In case of a tie between two or more in a sweepstakes, it must be shot off during the same day, if there is sufficient light, unless the prize is divided by agreement. If, through want of light, it cannot be finished at once, it must be shot off on the first available day.
PRACTICAL DIRECTIONS FOR PIGEON AND SPARROW
The gun for pigeon shooting should be a very hard hitter, for these birds, when really strong “blue rocks,” will take a great deal of killing. For double shots, which of course require two barrels, the usual bore selected is 12, and the charge 2 to 3 drachms of powder and if to 11 ounce of shot, which may be No. 5 or 6, at the fancy of the shooter. If he is a very quick shot, and takes his bird at or very near to the trap, No. 6 will suit him well for his first barrel and No. 5 for his second. But a slow shot will do better to load both his barrels with No. 5. In Book IV., the question relating to muzzle loaders versus breech loaders will be fully considered; but I shall here remark that the latter kind can pretend to no advantage over the former in pigeon shooting, while it is still doubtful whether it quite comes up to it in strength of shooting. Most professed pigeon-shots, therefore, use the muzzle-loader; but certainly I have seen very good work done with the new kind of gun.
The kind of pigeon which is considered the best is the “ blue rock," à fast and very hardy bird, which appears to be the nearest approach to the wild rock pigeon or dove, and is or should be marked and coloured like that bird. Many other varieties of the common domestic pigeon are, however, very generally used in pigeon matches; but if the conditions specify “ blue rocks only to be used,” the birds should answer to the following description :—Beak reddish brown; iris pale orange, approaching to yellow; head and neck bluish
grey, the sides of the latter with green and purple iridescent reflections; shoulders, upper part of the back, and wingcoverts grey, the greater coverts having a black bar near the end; primary and secondary quill feathers bluish grey; tail feathers twelve, both ends being light grey, with a lead-grey middle; throat purplish green; all the under parts pearl grey; legs and toes reddish brown; claws brown. If the pigeons are not of a good sort, or are obtained from inn-yards or other places where they become tame, they do not fly the moment the trap is pulled, nor do they go off at a fast pace. Hence the person who supplies them ought to be particular in obtaining them from retired farm-houses, and it is no uncommon thing for Barber (the chief London purveyor) to send 200 miles for such birds before a great match. The usual price in London is 148. to 15s. a dozen, but in the country they may often be obtained at 6s. One of the most common tricks played off upon the match-shooter is by means of this difference in the birds, where the person who pulls the string is aware of the quality of each. Thus, supposing he sees that certain traps contain strong birds, and others the reverse, he pulls the latter for the shooter that he wishes to favour, and reserves the former for his opponent. Hence it should always be a condition that each shooter should pull for his opponent either by himself or a deputy, and this plan would tend to prevent occasional trickery, and still more
frequently complaints of it without foundation. Just before putting the birds into the trap, it is usual for the man to pull a few feathers from the tail coverts, which is done to make them lively, and thus go off keenly. Sometimes, however, one or two wing-feathers are included in the pull, with the intention of causing the flight to be slow, and for the purposes of fraud; but the person supplying the birds generally knows the quality of each too well to require to have recourse to so clumsy an expedient.
In gathering a doubtful bird, great quickness of eye, legs, and hand are required; for it often happens that one will drop from a momentary stunning without being winged or mortally wounded in the body or head. In such a case, the moment the man approaches within a yard or two, the pigeon rises, and probably just scrambles over the boundary. The skilful gatherer creeps stealthily and in a crouching attitude up to within a couple or three yards of his victim, when stooping as low as he can without interfering with the action of his legs, he rushes with a short and very quick action of them to and by the bird, and while passing, picks it up by the head, or sometimes, when he has a large hand, by the back, just behind the wings. To do this neatly requires great practice, and as it is of considerable importance to success in a match, a good gatherer is highly valued and proportionally paid. Dogs are sometimes used to retrieve pigeons, but they are not nearly so clever as such active men as th: son of the celebrated Barber, the well-known London purveyor of pigeons.
The attitude in shooting varies according to the number of traps used. Thus with one or even two traps only, it is customary to adopt the ordinary shooting attitude, with the left leg advanced; but where five traps are used, this position does not give a sufficient command of ground, the five traps nearly occupying a fifth of the surrounding circle. Hence the skilful pigeon-shot stands square to the front, with both toes touching the mark, and with heels about two feet apart, more or less, according to his height. In this position, being opposite the centre trap, he can turn either way equally well; and it is found that it gives him far more facility, especially in using the second barrel, than the ordinary shooting attitude. Formerly it was the custom to make it a rule that the gun should be held below the shoulder until the trap is pulled, but this led to so many wrangles, and on the wbole there is so little gained by having the gun up, except with single traps, that there is now no restriction whatever. When one trap only is employed, which is very rarely the case in a match, the gun certainly ought not to be at the shoulder, because the shooter then covers the trap, and the moment it is open and the bird rises, he pulls, with a great chance of killing, especially if the bird goes straight away. If, however, it flies right or left, there is no great advantage, even with one trap. When five are used, it is a positive disadvantage to the shooter, unless there is collusion between him and the puller of the traps, who may in some way indicate which he is about to pull
, and then the gun may cover that one in readiness each time. Or the shooter may make his selection, and the puller, seeing which he covers, may give him that bird every time; and this trick I have certainly seeu played on more than one occasion. Where, however, there is any positive fraud practised, it is more commonly done by means of the quality of the birds used for each of the antagonists. It is to avoid these several chances of trickery that it is sometimes arranged for each shooter to pull for his antagonist, and certainly there can be no objection to the plan if both are skilful enough to execute it well; but it requires some little practice to avoid showing beforehand which string is going to be pulled, and at the same time run no risk of pulling more than one.
In shooting at pigeons when they turn right or left, the gun must be aimed considerably in front of the bird, if it is a fast one, and turning either way, and over its back if going straight away. Where two barrels are allowed, and the bird is not killed dead, the second should be given as soon as possible if the wing is not evidently broken; for otherwise it may get out of shot, and the second barrel is then useless. So also if the bird is hit and not disabled, and dropping to the ground, walks deliberately away, the second barrel should be let go, or the distance may be too great when it rises. A shot on the ground, when a bird is without doubt hit, is permitted; and it reckons “dead," although it could probably have escaped the boundary if not shot
a second time.