Page images
PDF
EPUB

and this is taken advantage of to place an unbaited gin there, into the jaws of which they are apt to drop their legs. But all are strongly attached to their young, and, cruel as it seems to be, this instinct is the keeper's strongest aid in obtaining possession of them. It will, therefore, be desirable to include under these heads all the various kinds of winged vermin, so that in setting any particular trap or bait the keeper may know which of his enemies is likely to be taken by it.

1. Birds which strike their prey on the ground.—The eagle, the kite, the kestrel, the sparrow-hawk, the buzzard, the harriers, the owls, the raven, the carrion crow, the hooded crow, the magpie.

2. Birds which only take it on the wing — The peregrine lcon, the bobby, the merlin, the sparrow-hawk.

3. Birds which will take a dead bait.—The kestrel (rarely), the raven, the carrion crow,

the hooded crow, the magpie. 4. Egg-destroyers, which are tempted by the egg of any bird.The raven, the carrion crow, hooded crow, the jackdaw, the magpie, the jay.

5. Birds which are apt to perch on any elevated post or stone, where a trap may be set unbaited.—The buzzard, the harriers, the sparrow-hawk, the kestrel, the jackdaw, the jay, and, though more rarely, the peregrine falcon, hobby, and merlin.

Guided by these known habits, the keeper proceeds to lay his plans for circumventing the several species which infest his beat; but he will have great trouble with most of them, and especially with the various hawks, which can scarcely be trapped at all excepting in the breeding season, when their nests must be sought for, and as soon as the young are nearly fledged they must be taken alive; then selecting an open space, tolerably near the place of their nativity, fence it in, where necessary, with thorns, so as to exclude cats, stoats, &c., which may be taken with less valuable baits, and there set half-a-dozen steel traps, properly concealed, round a circle in which one of the poor little victims is securely fastened by the leg to a strong peg by a leather strap six inches long. If there are several of these young ones, two may be thus surrounded, one for each parent bird, and at some little distance from each other, reserving the remainder for a

a

a

a

milder fate, for if any accident should happen to the two first immolated, before the capture of the old birds, then those saved must take their turns in beguiling their parents to destruction. The old ones are sure, when they hear the cry of their young, to go down to their aid, and in walking round, endeavouring to accomplish their release, they spring one of the traps, and are irretrievably caught. This will succeed to a certainty with all the winged vermin, and no keeper who knows his business will suffer the eggs to be taken, because in that case he loses his chance of getting rid of the whole family at one swoop.

The birds which are ranged under the first list can sometimes be tempted by a live bait into an enclosure, made in as natural a manner as possible, upon the principle last described, setting the traps round in a similar manner. A tame pigeon tied by the leg, and suffered to walk round a limited circle, will attract the buzzard, the harriers, and sometimes the sparrow-hawk, and by these means they may be taken with one of a lot of traps, which must be thickly set outside the bait. The raven and the crow are quite as fond of dead flesh as living, and they may be caught with gins planted just at the edge of a piece of flesh, or a dead lamb, and securely fastened to a strong peg. An egg forms the best bait for the hooded crow or the magpie, and it will generally secure the attendance of either if fixed in a three-branched stick, eight or nine inches from the ground, and surrounded closely by steel traps. The jackdaw and the jay may be taken in the same way.

A good plan of trapping egg-destroyers is to set the trap in water, so that it will drown them when caught, and thus prevent them from alarming their own species and from escaping with the loss of a leg. To do this, proceed as follows:- Take a hen's egg, blow it, and fill it with clay or plaster of Paris, if it is to be had; insert a piece of wood in its side, sufficiently long to support it on a level with the water's surface when stuck in the bottom at the distance of the length of the trap from the water's edge; make a bridge of clay between the egg and the land, and on this set the trap, and conceal it with moss. The raven, crow, &c., will walk along this till they reach the egg, and inevitably spring

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the trap in doing so. Of course the egg must be placed a few inches from the plate, greater or less, according to the size of the bird for which it is intended. The water beyond the egg should be deep, and if the trap is fastened by a long chain the birds will flutter into it, and soon sink out of sight.

Lastly, the unbaited steel-trap may be set on a pole or high stone, on the plan shown in fig. 97, at page 405. The spot may be selected without any other reason than its being the usual perch of some particular bird, if it is possible to find it out; but, supposing this is not known, then its habits must be considered, and advantage taken of them. A tame owl exposed in the daylight will serve to draw to the nearest perch most of the birds of prey, and especially the hawks, which it is otherwise very difficult to capture. If one is to be obtained it may, therefore, be tried, tying it on to a perch near a high post in a tolerably retired spot, but in the full glare of day. Here it is soon found out by a swarm of small birds, but unfortunately for the present purpose they will generally strike the gin and catch themselves instead of leaving it for the birds more desired by the keeper. Sometimes a dead cat, or any conspicuous dead animal, will draw from his retreat the hawk or the harrier, and then a gin on the nearest post is likely to capture either; but these expedients are rarely successful, and excepting in the breeding season the gun is far more serviceable than a whole score of these engines.

THE VERMIN TERRIER.

The vermin dog is the keeper's right hand, and even more than that, for without his aid he will lose one-half the captures of four-footed vermin, which he might otherwise make. No keeper should be without one carefully broken from game, and if he has a good dog, and knows how to use him, he need fear no loss of game by any vermin without feathers. Any kind of terrier with a cross of the bulldog may make a good vermin killer, but the special propensity to kill vermin rather than game runs in particular strains, which ought to be selected for the purpose.

POISON AND THE MODE OF LAYING IT.

A good trapper will seldom use poison, on account of the danger inseparably connected with it, either to the human kind or to dogs, whose lives are sometimes still more highly valued by keepers than the members of their own family. Sometimes, however, a particular bird or pair of birds is doing great damage, and yet is so cunning as to elude every trap set for him or them, and also to keep out of shot. Here strychnine may be justifiable, but only as a last resource, and its careless or indiscriminate use ought to cause the dismissal of the person employing it in that way. Of course strychnine cannot be employed against those birds which will not take a dead bait, and its effects are confined to those which will do so, and to the egg-destroyers, which may equally be taken by the steel-trap set round these baits as by the poison contained in them. I cannot, therefore, see the advantage of the process, but I have been assured by one or two really good keepers that they have been sometimes enabled to succeed with the one after failing with the other, and I therefore shall not set up my opinion against their more extended practice.

No other poison is to be compared with strychnine, five grains of which will suffice for any bait. This quantity may be inserted in its dry state, a pinch at a time, in punctures cut in the flesh which forms the bait, whether part of a larger animal or the whole of a small one. This should theu be placed where dogs, cats, and children cannot get to itthat is, either beneath the earth in a run or in a tree. If an egg is used, a small hole is made in one end, the strychnine is inserted, a piece of the skin of another egg is glued over the opening with some of the white, and the aperture is securely sealed. The egg is then placed where it will be likely to be taken by the bird and is yet out of the reach of children, and there it is left till it is broken and despatched. The carcases of all animals killed by this poison should be immediately buried.

CHAPTER IV.

POACHERS, AND THE BEST MODES OF COUNTERACTING

THEIR SCHEMES.

GENERAL REMARKS-LABOURERS THE BEST PRESERVERS OF GAME, AS

THEY ARE ALSO THE WORST POACHERS—THE CERTIFICATED POACHER -THE REGULAR POACHER, AND HIS PROCEEDINGS.

Notwithstaniling all the clever trapping and careful rearing which may be practised, and although a good head of game may be shown in July and August, yet, uuless proper precautions are taken, it will be poached either before the season or as soon as it commences. The recently formed " Association for the Prevention of the Sale of Game out of Season" may be expected to do much in stopping poaching before the proper time for killing each kind of game, and it will doubtless put an end to the traffic in live birds, which has so long held out a premium to the wholesale poacher. There can be no excuse for the sale of live birds of game out of season any more than for that of dead game, for if pheasants are wanted to breed from they may, and ought to be obtained before the 12th of February, up to which time it is legal for licensed dealers in game to sell them—that is, up to ten days after the closing of the shooting season. Those who require more young birds than they breed to turn out for the approaching season may just as well wait till the 1st of October, for there are no tame-bred birds shot till the leaves are off the trees, and this seldom happens till the beginning of November. October pheasant shooting is confined to outlying birds bred in the small coverts and hedge rows near the great preserves, and does not include the battues, for which alone tame-bred birds are required. Hence, not even the most inveterate lover of wholesale murder is injured by a strict adherence to the letter of the law, while if he is a breeder he is benefited, because he cannot be tempted to buy his own young pheasants to turn down, as has more than once happened within my know

« PreviousContinue »