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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 the 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 seen 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.
In sparrow trap-shooting, the rise is twenty-one yards, and the boundary from forty to sixty yards from the traps. The rules are the same as for pigeons in all other respects, and the directions for shooting will also apply, the sole difference being in the size of the shot, which may be No. 8, 9, or 10. When two barrels are used, No. 10, or even dust-shot may be employed for the first barrel if the gun scatters very much, and No. 8 or 9 for the second; but so much depends on the pattern made at thirty and forty yards by the gun intended to be used, that no positive directions can be given suitable to all cases. The best plan is to use the largest size which will cover a target sufficiently close to prevent a sparrow escaping at each of the above distances; and as this can readily be tried, the experiment should never be neglected. Sparrows often get away when hard hit with No. 9 or 10, which sizes do not always break a wing-bone at forty yards, and therefore, unless, as before remarked, the gun scatters very much, No. 7 or 8 should be preferred.
OPEN SHOOTIN G.
GROUSE SHOOTING-PARTRIDGE SHOOTING SNIPE SHOOTING.
BEFORE proceeding to describe the nature of each kind of shooting, it will be necessary to allude to the varieties of grouse, partridges, and snipe respectively, to the nature of their habitat, the dogs used in finding them, and the best kind of gun for killing them.
The varieties of grouse which are met with in this country are four, but in America, and in other parts of the globe, they are vastly more numerous. Of these four the capercaillie is very rarely found in Great Britain, having only recently been re-introduced into Scotland after being completely exterminated. It is, however, tolerably common in Sweden, but is every year becoming more and more scarce there. The black grouse (or black cock and grey ben, as the male and female birds are called) is, on the contrary, common enough; but the shooting of this variety is not to be compared with that of the red grouse, which is the kind usually meant in speaking of grouse or grouse shooting. Black grouse are met with in the south of England, as well as in the north; and in Scotland, and are also commonly found in Scandinavia, and occasionally in Russia, Poland, Germany, France, and Holland. On the other hand, red grouse are peculiar to the British isles, being found in England, Ireland, and Wales, as well as Scotland, which last has, however, given the distinctive name “Scoticus” to this species. Lastly, the ptarmigan, though occasionally met with in the Highlands of Scotland, is chiefly confined to still colder climes, being common in Sweden and Norway, from which many are annually sent to the markets of this country. The following is a more detailed description of each :
The CAPERCAILLIE, WOOD GROUSE, or COCK OF THE WOOD (Tetrao urogallus) is so much larger than the other Tetraonido, while at the same time it has enough of the family character to identify it, that it is needless to occupy space in minutely describing its generic characters. Since the year 1760, or thereabouts, this fine bird has been quite unknown in Scotland, but after several failures in other hands, Lord Breadalbane has now succeeded in rearing a stock, which it is hoped may become completely naturalized in Scotland. In 1838 and 1839 Thomas F. Buxton, Esq., collected fortyfour birds, two-thirds of which were hens, and presented them to his lordship, who turned some out into the forest, retaining the rest in a large aviary. Both sections bred well, and the stock is now greatly increased, but disease within the last few years has somewhat thinned their numbers again. There seems, indeed, to be no difficulty in rearing the capercaillie in confinement; the Duchess of Athol and the late Earl of Derby having each succeeded in effecting the object to some extent. It also freely breeds with the black grouse, the hybrid partaking of the characters of each. The malé bird is nearly as large as the turkey, the female being considerably less. The nest is made on the ground, and the hen lays about eight or nine eggs.
The Black Grouse or BLACK-COCK (Tetrao tetrix), the female of which is the GREY HEN, is chiefly confined in Great Britain to Scotland, and the most northern counties of England; but it is also found in Sussex, Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, Somersetshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire. On the Continent it is common enough in the most northerly countries, especially Scandinavia and Russia. The generic characters are as follows :-Body of the male black, with a beautiful glossy blue over the neck and back; wing coverts brownish, greater coverts white, forming a white spot on the shoulder when the wing is closed ; tail black, and much forked ; legs and thighs covered with mottled feathers ; toes toothed; the eye has a red spot above and a white one below it; weight about four pounds. The hen is only half the weight of the cock; in colour she is barred with dusky red and black above, and dusky red and white below; her tail is slightly forked, but not nearly so much so as that of the cock. The length of the black cock is twenty-two inches, of the grey hen seventeen to eighteen. The nest is made on the ground, frequently under a low thick bush, and with very few materials. The eggs are about six or eight in number, of a yellowish white, spotted and speckled with orange brown; they are two inches long, by one inch five lines. Black grouse do not pair, and the hens are not attended by the cocks from the time when the former begin to sit, after which the males assemble together, and until the latter part of the season are rarely seen to associate either with the young birds or with the old hens. In their first plumage all the young birds resemble the hen, but towards the end of August or the beginning of September, the young cocks moult and assume the black colour peculiar to the adult condition of the While undergoing this transformation, these young birds are mottled with black, and look very ragged and patchy; but as the old cocks are tough and dry when dressed, these marks of youth are eagerly sought after by the gourmand. A young blackcock which has still a few grey feathers is in perfection, the