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ledge. If the market for game out of season, and especially for live game, is destroyed, one of the main supports of the wholesale poacher is done away with, for as long as he can get 153. a brace for live birds he will take them in preference to 4s. 6d. to 5s. for dead ones, which are the respective prices paid to the poachers for pheasants.


My own opinion has long ago been strongly expressed in favour of encouraging labourers to preserve the game from the poachers. They are of little use in trapping vermin, and wherever a good head of game is required a keeper must be maintained for that purpose and for generally superintending the game, especially where pheasants are to be reared; but for merely protecting partridges and grouse from poachers, commend me to the labourers on the south country farms and to the shepherds in the hill districts. If they are with you all the poachers in the world may be defied, while if they are against you no keeper can be sure of showing you good sport. The following observations on this subject were written five years ago in “ British Rural Sports,” when my knowledge of preserving was confined to a small district; but the more I have since seen and known of it throughout England and Scotland the more I am convinced of their truth :

“With regard to the poacher, everything depends upon the labourers on the farms. If they like to countenance the poacher, or if they unfortunately are poachers themselves, all the efforts of a keeper will be of little avail. The best plan is to make all the labourers feel an interest in the preservation of the game.

Let every man receive at Christmas a certain sum proportionate to the head of game killed during the season, and the outlay will be found to be well bestowed, since it will go much further than the same sum laid out in extra watchers. I have known 650 acres of land preserved entirely, in the neighbourhood of a large town, without any regular keeper, and with an outlay in the shape of presents to labourers certainly not exceeding 201. a year. On this farm hares were as thick as sheep, and partridges sufficient


to allow thirty brace to be killed in three or four hours. All parties were in earnest in keeping poachers away, and the result was as I have stated. This shows what labourers can do if they like, and what they will do if it is made their interest to do so. They are either a great evil or a great boon to the game preserver, and he must make up his mind either to have them as warm friends or bitter enemies. The regular and systematic poacher is a formidable fellow, opposed to all law, and making a living in the best way he can. After a time nothing comes amiss to him; and, though at first he has taken to his trade from a love of sport, it has ended in his adhering to it from necessity, since he cannot get work when his character is known, nor can any man, after poaching all night, be fit for work in the day also."

The poaching labourer is the worst of all poachers, because his attacks on the game are insidious and constant. He does not, it is true, sweep a whole district in a night, but he steals the eggs in the breeding season, and when the shooting season begins he takes a covey quietly now and then, and his hare once or twice a week. These are not so much missed, and the loss therefore does not cause such an uproar as that caused by an incursion of poachers from a distance. To him bushing is no obstacle, because he watches the birds settle, marks to a yard where they are, and then takes them even if they are close to a bush. For these reasons, therefore, let the poaching labourer be stopped early in his career, before he becomes confirmed in his habits, and this may often be done by making it his interest to abstain. A few shillings and a civil word or two from master or man will often save the labourer, who is hesitating on the brink of the pit which leads to his own destruction, for there are few instances of the confirmed poacher ending his days in a respectable




The certificated poacher is a great nuisance in some districts, numbers of such gentry making a living by selling their game, obtained on land over which they have no right to shoot. These men can only be fined 21. and costs, if they are convicted; and, keeping out of the way of the watchers, by giving leg bail they escape in the greater proportion of cases; while a single fair day's shooting will pay the penalty, when incurred. Such men are often good sportsmen, and their dogs first-rate, whereby they sometimes succeed in overcoming the animosity of the keepers or their masters. Of this I remember a notable example some years ago. A strict preserver of game, who was also very fond of a good dog, happened to come upon one of this class of poachers, in pursuit of a wounded pheasant, which his dog was in the act of retrieving. So intent was he on assisting his canine friend, that he overlooked the presence of the proprietor of the soil, till he was pulled up with “Hollo, sir! what are you about?" Nothing daunted, he exclaimed, “Stop a minute, squire, let my dog find this pheasant, and I will talk to you about it.” “D-n your pheasant, at least, my pheasant, I should say; let it be, and I'll send you a summons tomorrow," was the angry response, which was met by what would only have irritated most men still more. "I won't have my dog spoiled for any body; let him do his work, and I'm your man. Look, squire, can your retriever do that?” During this colloquy the dog had been proceeding in his work, and had led the two several hundred yards in various directions, the pheasant having been a runner, and taken to a dry ditch. At length he pegged his bird, and elicited so much admiration, that “The Squire" bought him for a long price, and not only forgave the offence, but promised an annual day's shooting, if his land was spared during the remainder of the season. The compact was made, and fairly kept, to the great advantage of the owner of the soil, who thereby benefited considerably, for the levier of the “black mail” kept other poachers off for his own sake, as well as out of consideration for the squire's knowledge of dogs, and admiration of his own powers of breaking.


The systematic poacher is of all ages and classes. Some are brought up in luxury, but refusing to work, they descend in the scale, and consider poaching the only gentiemanly way of earning money. Others have been reared as labourers, but, beginning with a single hare or partridge, they have incurred the displeasure of their master, have been thrown out of work, and almost compelled to carry on their unlawful vocation. From all these the keepers and watchers have to protect the game, and this at all hours and seasons. Every year they assume some new mode of attack, and countermine as fast as the keeper forms his schemes for detecting them.

There are several precautions which every keeper regularly takes, varying according to the locality where his beat is fixed. Everywhere, however, he, as well as all his watchers, must obtain a knowledge of the persons of all the poachers in his district, and this alone will greatly serve to keep them quiet. Poachers will never go, by choice, where they know they are sure to be recognised; while, on the other hand, wherever there is a keeper who relies upon his brute strength, the poacher goes at once, preferring a good thrashing, or the chance of a shot, to the certainty of identification, which spoils all his after prospects. The moment he goes into court all the keepers in the neighbourhood put their mark upon him, and he must work an uphill game in all directions

. There are certain nights when the keeper's experience tells him that particular kinds of poaching will be practised, and on these he will take especial care to watch the poacher and all his gang, by the aid of his assistants. In some counties this is comparatively easy, but in wooded districts it is almost impossible, if the poacher's cottage is surrounded by trees; but as far as may be the plan should be carried out, and instead of allowing the poacher to watch bim, the keeper should be the most on the alert. In open countries, a telescope serves the cause, and one man on a commanding spot can blockade two or three cottages till the evening sets in, when, to make sure, one watcher must be set on each doubtful offender. In this way it is very difficult to elude detection, and as in very dark, as well as very light, nights nothing will be likely to be attempted, there is nearly half the month in which watching is very little required. In pitch dark nights nothing can be done for want of light, while in strong moonlight identification is almost as easy as in bright daylight—and the poacher, unless he is greatly pressed for money, will seldom risk it. A dim light, which will just enable him to see a pheasant as a dark body in the trees, is the one selected; and if there is a strong wind to drown the sound of the gun, so much the better. Hence it is that the mock-pheasant is so useful in deceiving these men; for if it is examined at the full moon, it will never be mistaken for the real bird. Nothing annoys the poacher more, for he hates to shoot without any result; and, if these decoys are well made, no eye can tell the real from the counterfeit. The following is a cheap and good plan of making them. They are very easily moved from branch to branch, a nail being merely driven into a probable perch, and standing upright, it is received into the hole drilled in the body, which is thus secured from falling, while it sways gently backwards and forwards, exactly like the living bird. Fig. 100 represents a the perfect bird, of which b is a section ; c shows the pole from which the bodies are cut, and d the lath forming the tail, fastened on with two nails.

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For partridges bushing is the best remedy that can be adopted against the nets, which are yearly swept over the ground wherever the poacher thinks he can do so with impunity. The bushes are often stuck in the ground at regular intervals and in straight rows, but this should never be done as the poachers sweep the nets up between the lines and thus set the bushing at defiance. They should be stuck into the

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