Hawthorn Fly Fishing & Angling Collection

My game book Haig-Brown, Alan Roderick 1913

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Harry Hawthorn Foundation
for the
Inculcation & Propagation
of the Principles & Ethics
of Fly-Fishing MY    GAME-BOOK f
326   HIGH   HOLBORN   W.C.
i9r3 Printed by WITHERBY & CO.
at their Printing Press in
Middle    Row   Place    London DEDICATED    TO    MY   FIVE    YEAR    OLD
THOUGH  HE WILL NEVER BE A KEENER  I HAVE to thank the kind Editors of " Fry's
Magazine," " The Scottish Field," " Baily's
Magazine," and "Our Dogs," for their permission
to reproduce such of my verses as occur in various
parts of this book. Furthermore, I have here and
there used a photograph previously published in
the " Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News,"
and I gladly take this opportunity of thanking
the proprietors of that paper for. the warm
encouragement they have ever extended to a
youthful author attempting to " walk-up" success
in the thorny coverts of journalism. A MORNING S BASKET  FROM  THE  FROME. CONTENTS.
Early Days
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Statistics and Theories   ...
Lancing College
Dorset Days
Trout and Pike   ...
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Shadwell Court, Norfolk
Chapter VIII.
Shooting Days at Shadwell
Chapter IX.
In the Highlands ...
Occasional Visits ,
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Some Strange Occurrences
Chapter XIII.
In the Close-season
Idle Verses
235 T
In a Norfolk Pheasantry
.. Frontispiece
A Morning's Basket from the Frome ...
Safely to hand
..      16
Jim Peters and the Pack ...
Nest of Young Ferrets   ...
••      35
A cartload of Norfolk Hares
••     43
The Harvest of the Lake
Some of my Beaters at Lancing
••     59
Baiting the Eel-trap
..     69
Ferrets Breakfast at Lancing
••     73
On the Wrackleford Water
..     81
An August bag at Wrackleford
••     93
A nice Trout from the Mill-race
••     97
A Sixteen-pounder from Shadwell Lake
..    109
A Gallop in the Park
..    113
A Breakfast-view at Shadwell Court    ...
..    123
On the Lake at Shadwell
..    129
Canadian Geese   ...
Dinah and her Puppies  ...
Comely and True
On the Heights of Inverlochy
Selecting Dogs for the Moors
On Slapton Lee	
A Snapshot at Hinton Manor
Waiting for Duck in an Island "
" Hurry up ! ""    ...
When the Gun is laid aside
Idle days   ...
•  153
.  164
.  169
.  182
.  I89
.  199
hide " .
.  205
.  217
..  223
••  234
WHY do we kill things ? For myself
I have no doubt, feeling in my veins
the old-time love of the chase, the
joy of possession in the quarry newly won,
that has stirred the heart of man all down
the centuries of time. A relic of barbarism
no doubt, but a very precious one, worth to
many of us more than all civilization can
offer. " He loved the high deer as though
he were their Father," wrote some chronicler
of the Conqueror's life : one of the few
human notes I have ever been able to cull
from the dry-as-dust class-books of English
Sport,  as  the  world now understands  the
term, includes so many things—from watching
B r
professionals play cricket or football, to walking on snow in long slippers—that we are
apt to forget its original scope which included merely the pursuit of wild creatures
in various forms and guises. There can,
alas ! be little doubt that hunting, shooting,
and fishing must appeal to comparatively few,
and that, as the world grows larger, so will
the numbers of those who can indulge in
sport   grow   necessarily   less.
It may sound disloyal in a book of this
description to assign the pride of place in
sport to hunting, but I do so with the
reservation that the term implies the personal
handling of hounds; that, for a variety of
reasons too numerous to mention, being
impossible for me, I naturally turned to the
more accessible and hardly less delightful
pursuits   of   shooting   and   fishing.
The immeasurable superiority of sport over
games and athletics hardly needs telling:
every lesson of courage, of courtesy, of
endurance and skill that can be claimed for
the one can be equally claimed for the other,
while sport has its literature, its prompting
to research, its intercourse with nature which
games  can never have.
Sport spurns the spectator—games live, like
parasites, upon him : men play football,
cricket, billiards, and golf by proxy, hanging
on the names and tricks of professionals in
a way pathetic to see. The Shooter or the
Fisherman is an active worker, and could
not tell you, if he tried, the names of the
half-dozen greatest experts with gun and
rod  in  the  kingdom.
The artificial manure of competition is
spread with ungrudging hand upon the
playing-fields : when rivalry enters the
shooting-field,     the     sportsman     leaves    it.
Angling matches, it is true, we have, when
gold and silver prizes reward the taking
of a few dace and gudgeon : but these
merely provide us with yet another instance
of the workingman, often the keenest of
sportsmen, having got into bad hands and
being led to mistake conviviality for sport.
The latter has at all times and in all seasons
been worth taking part in for its own sake;
if games are, they give little outward evidence
of the fact, and the cup and the medal seem
inseparable   from   them.
I write this in no carping spirit—with
no wish to wound. I have seen the cult
of games lauded to the skies—hailed as the
maker of character—allowed to oust most
other interests from the mind of boys, and
yet three decades of super-indulgence in
athletics have failed to produce a Territorial
Army  up  to  strength.    A  horse,   a  rifle,   a INTRODUCTORT 5
rod, and  nature  make   a  boy half a soldier,
even   against   his   will.
I have taken part in a great variety of games
and have won in many of them my little
successes, but they leave me cold, stone cold.
A litter of spaniel puppies quickens my heart
more readily than a 'Varsity match; the
emerald of a teal's wing, the bronze of a
pheasant's breast, attracts more intensely than
any deft juggling with an inanimate ball.
And yet I would not deny to games their
occasional thrills, even for such an athletic
Philistine as myself; the splendid energy
of rackets, the light-hearted pleasures of village cricket are—the one a tender memory,
the other a present delight; but then village
cricket is a thing of the pure country, unspeakably removed from smoke and towns,
from suburbs and grand-stands, from the
mingled  smell  of  cigars   and  grass :  part   of 6 MY GAME-BOOK
that wonderful system of friendship which
exists between employer and employed within
the boundaries of a fair estate—to the distress
of Radicals and the despair of Socialists.
Is not it, too, sometimes a fair hit on the leg-
side into the trout stream, a possible drive on
the off to the very edge of the home covert ?
Village cricket is accommodating—it begins
with the end of the morning rise; it ends
when the fish begin to move again at eve ;
in between the fall of the wickets one may
hear where a brood of ducks awaits one on
the opening day, or of a farmer's corn-stooks
infested with pigeons. Cover-point may
cruelly catch you out, but to-morrow he will
be knocking the rabbits out of the gorse till
your gun-barrels grow hot, and your fellow
batsman at the other end is as good for
fifty runs as he is good at growing strawberries. fe**.
Small wonder, then, that in the actual
copy of my Game-Book, village cricket has
here and there a page, for the striking of
ball on bat is a sound of a still summer's
evening that I do not associate with raucous
cries of " Extra Speshul," but rather with
the cawing of rooks innumerable, the cooing
of leaf-hidden pigeons, the chattering of
partridges on the stubble, and the distant
crow of a  talkative cock-pheasant.
No thinking man can indulge in sport
without at times reflecting on the presence
or absence of cruelty in his pursuits. I am
not amongst those who cheerfully state that
the fox likes being hunted, the bird revels
in a charge of shot, or that the salmon only
feeds in fresh water so that he may enjoy
the inexpressible delight of being hooked.
Still less am I at one with those pseudo-
naturalists  who  credit  animals  with  all  the Mr GAME-BOOK
fears, feelings, and sensations of ourselves :
with thoughts and reasoning powers of mankind ; who write of wild creatures as though
they were human beings with human cares
and worries, and who would fain have us
believe that Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit [sic] have
only entered upon their matrimonial alliance
after receiving the sanction and blessing of
the Rev. Dr. Owl.
The sentimental aspect of Natural History
is wholly to be condemned as lacking in truth ;
no student of wild-life can have failed to
perceive the enormous intellectual and
physical gulf between mankind and animals.
Science says, with no uncertain voice, that
the more primitive the race of man, the less
the capacity for feeling pain, and it needs no
elastic extension of that principle to suggest
that the creatures of the wild have no realization  of pain as  we   understand   the  term. INTRODUCTORr 9
Their sensations of alarm are momentary and
pass almost as soon as they are experienced :
I have seen rabbits, " bolted" by their deadliest enemy the ferret, begin a meal of grass,
when sitting, in apparently abject terror, close
to an exit from the burrow; the startled
wood-pigeon or pheasant often feeds at his
first stopping-place; the dread occasioned
by the sight of man or the sound of a gun
is not sufficiently penetrating to forbid a
return to the identical spot within a few
hours,   often  within  a   few   minutes.
Neither must the marvellous healing powers
of nature be forgotten, nor can we deny the
evidence of our eyesight that wounds are of
far smaller account to animals than they are
to man. I have seen complete recovery
from the loss of a leg in a trap on the part
of rats, hares, and rabbits. The broken
leg of a bird is self-healing, and who knows IO
a more active creature than a winged cock-
pheasant ? Imagine a man making the best
use of his legs after falling heavily with a
broken arm ; he would faint in his going, if
ever he were able to start. Long wanderings
over acres of ground, well-dusted with shot,
have failed to reveal to me more than a very
few skeletons of birds or beasts, and skeletons,
after all, are only evidence of death, not of
a lingering death. I have been out with
the keepers the day after a big shoot, and
have closely searched the scene of operations
and its neighbourhood without the sight
of a single wounded bird ; and nothing has
struck me more, in end-of-season rambles
over well-stocked fields and coverts, than the
absence of cripples and the healthiness of the
Have    animals,   too,   any    conception    of
death ?    I   really cannot credit it.    Evidence INTRODUCTORr n
often shows them as sublimely unconscious
of the dead body of one of their own species,
and if the smell of blood is disliked by some
of the higher creatures, we must not jump
to the conclusion that this fact suggests
a fear of death. Dogs hate the smell of
tobacco, but not because they are afraid
they will have to smoke! Death, too, in
itself and by itself is little terrifying. Should
we make so much of death if it were not
for the ghastly accompaniments with which
civilization has embellished it, the undertaker—•
the long box—crape—and the grim collection
of mounds which the unthinking call " God's
Acre," forgetting that God's acres are not
where men's bodies move or lie, but rather
in the gardens of departed souls, such as, for
instance, the expanse of the rainbow or where
the sun sinks rosily to rest behind the fir-
trees   of   the  lake.      Death,   for me  at  any 12
rate, would have no terrors if I thought that
I should at last embrace her on the purple
slopes of heather, with the grouse crowning
our wedding-march above the prattling of
the burn. And cheerfully so would I vanish
with her into the perfumed haze, leaving
my body to the majestic golden eagles that
float above the snow-capped hills, going to
the perhaps happier hunting-grounds that
lie beyond our ken.
Nature is accused of cruelty by one writer
after another: they profess to glory in her,
to worship her, but they are equally desirous
to civilize her and put her into a hobble-
skirt. There is nothing cruel, nothing repellent,
nothing horrible in nature : and man in his
pursuit of fish, flesh, and fowl is but following
in the path she would have him tread. It
is her law that her subjects prey upon each
other—a necessary law, or they would make h*te
her bankrupt, and having despoiled her fair
realm, would die more surely and more
painfully  than  if  they were  eaten.
Looking carefully into the handwork of
nature—her ordered chaos, her resplendent
kingdom—one can so whole-heartedly admire,
that criticizm dies on the lips of all except
arm-chair critics, whom nothing would strike
dumb except the adoption of their ideas.
It is a waste of sympathy to weep over the
imaginary wrongs of bird and beast that
roam at liberty in field and covert. Their's
is no half-hearted existence, and if life is
sometimes short, it is free from care, free
from disease and pain, from domestic trouble
and financial strain; it is without petty
jealousies, the back-handed blows of scandal,
or social insincerities. Hares do not have
to attend " At Homes" or committee meetings,   nor  rabbits  to undergo  operations   for 14 Mr GAME-BOOK
appendicitis. If partridges quarrel they do
not employ counsel, but settle their differences
in a shorter and more satisfactory way, in
which- the winner is at least less broken than
the loser. All nature dines comfortably,
works but is not sweated, has a home, leisure,
and happiness; hen-pheasants do not even
destroy nests because they want a longer
tail, or whatever is the avian equivalent for
a vote. And into this delectable kingdom
comes man with his rod and gun. He is
not a usurper; he belongs in his happier
moments to the fair world he sees around
him, and the snipe and the woodcock-, the
trout and the pike, have no more case against
him than worms, minnows, and roach have
against their aggressors. The objects of man's
pursuit have far less, for the woodcock is
amazingly indifferent to the claims of the
worm when he is not eating him, and the HHri
pike is callous to a degree about the early
needs of young dace and gudgeon. Man,
on the other hand, tempers his toll of life
with mercy, with discrimination, and with
forethought; he preserves as carefully as
he destroys, and with so open a hand that
much that is rare and beautiful is also
accidentally saved. Why do we kill things ?
Ah! well, because we like to; but if we did
not, the last remnants of nature would find
their way into the maw of civilization as
quickly as a May fly is gobbled up by a
two-pounder..  CHAPTER II.
Early   Days.
SUCH time as my father was able to
spare from his strenuous life he devoted
to riding and hunting, and some of the
elder members of the family were able to
follow his example. I, as the youngest of a
large number of sons and daughters, was left
to look after myself and burrow my own way
into the world of sport. My tastes were
allowed free scope ; the usual pets of boyhood
came to me in flocks, and at times—what
with chickens, ducks, guinea-pigs, pigeons, and
rabbits—I was at a very early stage the
proud owner of close on two hundred livestock. The next step was to dogs and ferrets,
and ultimately to the sweetest pony that ever
c .18 Mr GAME-BOOK
looked through a head-stall. She could, however, only be used in harness : had she been
thoroughly sound and fit for the saddle
this little book would have had another title ;
as it. was, before she went wrong, she gave
me many glorious rides on her broad back ;
afterwards she rattled me in a light dog-cart
to many a fishing adventure and many a meet
of hounds. She was a strawberry roan and
belonged originally to my uncle. Full of
courage and quality she was one of those
creatures that can do almost everything but
talk; her manners were fit for a drawing-
room—whither I once threatened to take her,
but was suppressed. She would have come
without any hesitation, and after all, the
precedent had been set by an erstwhile
favourite goat.
At  school at   Charterhouse,  although  not
in   my  father's   house,   it   was  hardly  to   be
wmM EARLr DArS 19
expected that I should neglect in the
" Quarter " my accumulated live-stock. The
first two years of my public-school career
were spent among dogs and ferrets when the
class-rooms were closed, then I was kicked
(literally) on to the football and cricket
grounds, and did not escape again for nearly
ten years. Unpleasant but good for me, of
course—the two things always go together.
At almost precisely the same time there was
a family crisis not unconnected with my
school-reports : dogs and ferrets were banished
utterly and the ultimatum was to the effect
that, unless the reports showed a very decided
improvement, the kennels and hutches should
not again be inhabited. The effect was
magical, the school-boy equivalent to " midnight oil" was burnt by the gallon, and at
the end of the " Quarter " one of my masters,
knowing   the   circumstances,   invited   me   to
c2 20 Mr GAME-BOOK
write my own report. Very clearly do I
recollect this incident, partly because it
resulted in my obtaining the only really
good report I ever had, but chiefly because
it struck me as the kindliest action ever done
to me by a schoolmaster.
However, in spite of this brilliant victory
won on the class-room floor, things never
returned again quite to the status quo, and the
quest of the rat and the rabbit was uncompromisingly relegated to the holidays.
Round about the school-buildings at
Charterhouse there are many acres of dense
hazel-wood copse, with here and there an oak-
tree shedding acorns for straying pheasants
or hungry pigeons. This was for years my
happy playground. But before proceeding
further an important figure must be brought
upon the scene. Returning one day from
fishing in the bathing-place at Charterhouse,  22
and having failed to catch the last remaining
gudgeon, I was met by a short, elderly, grey-
bearded man with a merry twinkle in his
honest blue eyes. He revealed to me a
whole heap of roach and dace—fine fish most
of them—and insisted on my taking home the
lot. Never was angler so thoroughly, if so
dishonestly, proud as I on my return, and
from that day to this the old man, Jim
Peters, has held one of the biggest corners of
my heart. We struck up an alliance straight
away; we met often, and he taught me many
secrets of the wood and stream till finally
I, a schoolboy of sixteen, engaged him as my
gamekeeper ! He used to come and see me
at school every week " to get his orders "—
restrictions as to dogs and ferrets, to my
mind, did not apply to him. His wages
were my spare cash and a few rabbits but,
though  the  average  of pay was  fairly good mm*
EARir DArs
considering his employer, there must have
been some tight weeks for the old man. He
never minded in the least, and could not have
been more loyal if his salary had been a
thousand a year, regularly paid. In the end
my father, in the kindness of his heart, took
him on for me at a fixed and decent wage
and gave him a velveteen coat.
Jim Peters was a wonderful fellow. He
could neither read nor write, but his knowledge
of wild creatures was extraordinary. He kept
a record of the things we shot by drawing
pictures of them in a book—it was not always
easy to tell the pigeons from the rabbits
He had a wonderful power over dogs and
ferrets : he would put his face down into
a hutch full of the latter and let them climb
all over him. Nothing would induce him
ever to strike a dog,- but he could teach his
canine  pupils   anything.    As   a  fisherman  in 24
the Nottingham style he excelled, taking big
catches whenever he went out and under all-
circumstances. He was credited locally, as
is usually the case, with using some wonderful
bait, but he almost invariably favoured a
worm, and the secret of his success lay
principally in a marvellous quickness of hand
and eye. He sternly refused ever to go fishing
without three days' preparation in which to
scour his worms, make ready the ground-bait
of bran, meal and potatoes, and set in order
his exceedingly light tackle. Nor were these
preliminaries vain. I have seen the bank
around him, on one of his best days, littered
everywhere with captured fish. When I came
down from Cambridge at the end of my
first term, he was at the station to meet me—
and I can see now the look of disgust on the
coachman's face as he got into the brougham
beside me—and we drove up the hill together, EARLr DArS 25
talking of what he had found in the  copse
since my departure.
The old man's role was that of gamekeeper,
but there was very little game to keep in
Charterhouse copse. The neighbourhood is
too thickly peopled to allow of much wild-life
and there was nothing particularly attractive
about it to birds and beasts. I only saw one
hare round there in my life and that was when
I was running with the harriers, and I saw
one fox killed in the copse by hounds. The
River Wey produced a single mallard in ten
years, a snipe and a few moorhen. A covey
of partridges was very occasionally seen on
one of the school cricket-grounds. In the
copse itself things were a little better ; there
was a fair quantity of rabbits and, strange to
say, a few pheasants. Nightingales sang there
on spring nights, and I have pursued half a
dozen magpies round those slopes for a whole 26
holiday without getting a shot at them. To
my lasting regret no records were kept of these
early days. It is within memory that seventy
wood-pigeons were killed in a season, thirty
pheasants in another, while if we got fifty
rabbits a year we were lucky. The pheasants
were a mystery : no birds were bred for some
distance round, but Jim Peters somehow or
other got them together. Nobody could say
we were drawing their birds for there were
none to draw ; my own opinion is that a few
wild birds used to breed in the copse each
year and that Jim was clever enough to keep
them there. The wood-pigeons we got in
a very good acorn-year, almost entirely off
one oak-tree. The art of shooting at things
flying was at a discount in those times and I
blush to say the old man egged me on to kill
my first pheasant and my first partridge on
the ground.      I  well   remember the  former fe*ri
occasion and how we were duly punished : ten
minutes later three more cock-pheasants rose at
our feet and I pulled at them with an empty
gun.    Poor old man he never forgot it.
We did a lot of work with ferrets, but on the
whole with niggardly results among the small
store of rabbits. These latter we endeavoured
to increase by turning down a few wild does ;
but the cats which swarmed in the copse
were too much for us. Once I remember, as
we stood in a ride together, I asked the old man
if he had seen many of the pests lately. " You
are standing on five now," was his grim
reply. They were no ordinary cats, these
Charterhouse ones ; they took to the copse
and there they lived and bred. One of the
grimmest things I ever saw was a fight between
one of them and two of my terriers. The
dogs won in the end but were hard put to it,
and I was in fear of their being permanently 28
maimed all the time. It was impossible to
call the terriers off, and the three rolled over
and over in a fighting mass down the steep
hillside. A dog and cat fight is at all times
a brutal business, but pussy is luckily a match
for nine out of ten dogs and those who try to
bait her wilfully are often themselves discomforted by the discomfiture of their canine
allies. Nevertheless, we had to take stern
measures with these wild poachers, but the
gun was more usually the weapon of
The rats round my father's farmyard offered
a welcome distraction when we ran out of
rabbits; these we quietly refrained from
persecuting during their close-season, with
the result that we afterwards had many " big
days " amongst them. We killed one champion
twenty-two inches long from snout to tip of
tail and another with a  white nose;   both EARLr DArS 29
were " set up " by old Jim and both were
destroyed once more in their second life by
the terriers. One little wire-haired bitch we
had was afraid of rats, so I put her into a
washing tank in the school laundry, and
out of a trap containing five rats, tried to
shake one into the tank for her to deal with.
All five rats, however, came tumbling out
together and immediately set upon the terrier
fiercely. Directly she was bitten she turned
upon her foes and polished them off in a trice,
and from that day onwards became the keenest
of ratters.
We had at this time a nice little collection
of dogs—two retrievers, two red setters,
a greyhound, a spaniel and three terriers.
Sometimes, riding my brother's pony, I took
them all out together, but the greyhound
invariably jumped up and bit the pony's tail
when it cantered, with none too comfortable 3o
results for either the pony or its rider. This
dog was the biggest thief and the biggest
coward I ever saw; Bob, my inseparable
terrier companion, hated him bitterly and,
if I turned my back for a moment, would
send the greyhound rattling off to the stables
at thirty miles an hour. All the terriers
were perfectly trained ratters, and learned
their work very thoroughly from an old
rat-catcher's dog, which belonged to one of
the cricket professionals at school. Any of
them would stay exactly where he was put
to wait for rats and rabbits, and only if the
ferrets appeared would come slinking back to
heel. The setters worked by the light of
instinct; but Jim had the retrievers wonderfully good considering the little real work
they had. One of them showed distinct
signs of greyhound parentage, and was rudely
described in  a  Charterhouse  magazine  as  a EARLr DArs 31
1 Camel anchored to an old man " ; but she
was a clever bitch and always growled at me
if I spoke crossly to Jim. It was said that
her father would find a penny hidden anywhere in the Devil's Punch Bowl at Hindhead,
so I suppose it must have been her mother
that was the greyhound !
Jim Peters lived in Godalming and came
daily to his work, except when he spent the
night in an old wooden studio that belonged
to my eldest brother. This he made his
headquarters, and there my brother Eustace
and I spent hours and hours talking to the
old man and listening to his fund of stories,
his hints on fishing, his remarkable store of
Natural History facts. Jim never smoked,
never drank, and never swore. He was
married, but we did not know it until he
astonished us by announcing one day the celebration of his golden wedding.    Our sporting 32
excursions of some sort or other were daily
affairs : the copse and its neighbourhood found
us busy on most occasions. Sometimes we
drove over to Peperharow Park to fish the
Wey, with the kind permission of the late
Lord Midleton, and very excellent days we
had there with the chub and roach and an
occasional trout. Peperharow is a lovely spot
with its great trees, the winding river, and
the graceful fallow-deer, and at Somerset
Bridge the Wey looks almost like a chalk-
stream with its gravelly ripples. Very
occasionally I had a little shooting on a distant
farm, and in 1896 a farmer near Thursley gave
me a freshly-shot blackcock.
Very valuable were these early days, they
taught me much about wild-life—dogs, ferrets,
guns, their care and their dangers; but,
emphatically, they did not teach me how
to   shoot.      Sitting rabbits   and   pigeons—a ■a^
pheasant or two a week—are no finishing
school for the modern gunner, but they are
vastly better in some ways than unlimited
clay-pigeons. The proper use of the gun
I learned within limits later, but I have very
great cause to remember gratefully the dear
old man and our strenuous attempts to turn
Charterhouse copse into a game-preserve.
Later came Cambridge with an occasional
day's partridge - driving at Kneesworth Hall,
Roys ton, and a day or two with Prince
Ranjitsinhji, as he was then called, at Brandon.
The latter is a wonderful shot and a wonderful
billiard player, apart from his better-known
accomplishments. Once playing with him
I broke the balls and he took the hundred
straight away on his first visit to the table.
The incident was not a very remarkable one,
for I had often before seen him make breaks
of seventy or eighty.
D 34
A " vac." or two in London towards the
end of my Cambridge time found me rather
like a fish out of water, and Bob the terrier
and I often wandered round Smithfield Market
looking for rats. Once we entered a master-
butcher's premises and boldly asked, I with
my tongue, the dog with his eyes, " Have you
any rats ? " " No, thank Gawd," was the
unsympathetic  reply.
But luckily London was not to last for long :
it brokg poor Bob's heart after a nine years'
country sojourn, and sadly missing him, I went
out into my new life that so far has proved
no whit less happy than the old. NEST OF  YOUNG FERRETS.
Statistics and Theories.
FROM my youth up I have ever been
a greedy devourer of shooting-books,
and they have always given me the
impression that if one misses two or three
birds, one's host immediately sets one an
imposition of not less than five hundred lines;
that half a dozen unsuccessful shots means
no lunch, and anything over that total of
disasters results in a speedy return home
assisted by the boot of the headkeeper.
Furthermore, after reading many accounts of
various days' sport, I had come to the conclusion that nobody ever missed anything
except   myself.    Consequently   it   was   with STATISTICS AND  THEORIES     37
great trepidation and a considerable anxiety
as to how I should perform, that I first joined
a party from that austere and accomplished
set of men known as the shooting-world. But
there was no need to have worried. I don't
think I hit anything all day, nor for many
days afterwards—except by accident. And
I also remember that on several occasions I
said, I Mark that bird," which again, according
to the books, is a sure and certain sign that
a man never has been able to shoot and never
will be able to shoot. It was not that I missed
a great number of shots, but rather that I
never got my gun off; and incidentally it
may be suggested that it is nearly as bad
shooting not to fire when one ought to, as to
fire when one ought not.
Nevertheless, nothing could have exceeded
the kindness and forbearance with which my
first efforts in the ranks of a shooting-party 38 Mr GAME-BOOK
were received. Hating to play the role of
passenger, I used to beg to be allowed to
potter about by myself with the gun, and
go back to my undiluted poaching ways :
I used to feel as nervous as one does before
going in at cricket, or before the start of a
hundred yards' race. Had it not been
for really painstaking coaching and encouragement, I should have given up the driven
partridge and pheasant after our first two
or three meetings, and should have been
content to shoot at the wrong end of
birds for the rest of my natural life which,
after all, implies a form of sport that always
has and always will appeal to me, and my
manner of describing it has no contemptuous
In a comparatively short time, thanks to
my excellent mentors, I began to appreciate
driving, and to shoot well enough—if not to
^iiiniyuduipjaniLimmmiiuuLiii'iiini mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmKm^mmmmmasrmwm m*
feel sure of escaping the headkeeper's boot,
at any rate to enjoy myself and to pray that
birds would come my way instead of taking
some other more dangerous course. And
with modified success came the desire to enter
all these things in a book, to illustrate it
with photographs, and to have a record
which spoke in pictures and numbers of all
those happy hours. That was but ten years
ago and my Game-Book extends already to
three large volumes, any one of which is sufficient to send me back long journeys down
the by-ways of memory, and to enable me to
kill my birds and fish again from the prosaic
depths of an arm-chair. My records are, to
me at least, an unfailing and constant joy
and pleasure ; many others have appreciated
them too. My sole regret is that they are not
complete, and do not go back far enough and
commence with the firing of the first shot, 4°
There  is  always   a  reticence  about   actual
performances in the shooting-field, and before
giving my own personal bag for a few seasons,
it becomes necessary to preface it with some
explanation,   though  not   with  any  apology.
I have read somewhere the published records
of both the German Emperor and the Marquis
of Rip on, and it surely is permissible to follow
although at  a very great  distance and with
becoming   trepidation—in   these   royal   and
noble  footsteps.    Moreover,   my  records   are
those of an average shooting-man with average
opportunities, and are intended to interest all
those in a like predicament.    A Game-Book
without figures is no Game-Book at all:   and x
if any one should imagine that mine are given
in a spirit of boasting, let me assure him that
no one is better aware than the writer, that
many   men   gather   in   a   single   season   that
which it has taken me ten years to collect. STATISTICS AND  THEORIES    41
It is sometimes suggested that it is impossible
to keep one's score out shooting. When
shooting alone it is of course impossible not
to do so, but when with a party, certain
clear and definite rules must be framed for
one's personal guidance. Thus, no creature
must be counted unless one is absolutely
certain it is picked up. If there is any doubt,
that bird or beast simply is not, as far as
personal records are concerned. Nor again,
if any other gun fire at one's birds, can they be
claimed, however certain one may be—as one
always is—that he is the successful shooter.
Of course there are occasions, such as the first
time through at pheasants at a really big
shoot, when one's own score is a matter of
difficult calculation, but not by any means
an impossibility as long as one is not tempted
to be over-generous to oneself, and is always
ready   to   accept   the  lowest   possible   rather 42
than the highest possible share of birds picked
up behind one. Records to be of any value
or of any permanent interest must be honest,
and though I admit there may be times when
a multitude of slain perplex one, such do
not often, if ever, come the way of the average
shooting-man. At the end of any day in which
I have not fired more than a hundred cartridges
I could in the evening with very little thought
give an account of every one of them, and
that without having prepared myself for
the task. Frankly, if scores are not kept, it
seems as though one might just as well fire at
clay-pigeons. Shooting is not by any means
a matter of letting off one's gun, and seeing
or not seeing something fall; and practically
all shooting-men know what they have killed
at the end of a day. The keeping of records
merely implies the entering up of such totals,
and if it is suggested that this procedure may
wmm  f
lead to jealous or unsafe shooting, I will only
reply that men are jealous and unsafe, they do
not become so, and no records of shooting-days,
however intimate, will make a sportsman
either the one or the other.
Well, here is my own list compiled from
1903-1913 to be followed by some analysis
of figures : 1,002 pheasants, 588 partridges,
477 hares, 1,504 rabbits, 121 grouse, 703 wood-
pigeons, 216. mallard, 17 tufted duck, 24 teal,
8 wigeon, 15 gadwall, I goldeneye, 1 shoveler,
1 red-breasted merganzer, 85 snipe, 18 woodcock, 9 blackgame, 5 Canadian geese, 35 green
plover, 1 golden plover, 4 dunlin, 5 land-rail,
2 water-rail, 18 moorhen, 5 coot, 4 redshanks,
609 rooks, 32 various; grand total, 5,510 head.
The .rooks were, of course, all shot with a
rifle, at first with a .250 but later with that
admirable little weapon the .22. Looking
over this list, a non-shooting friend commented STATISTICS AND  THEORIES     45
on the fact that there were only eighteen
moorhen! Naturally the obvious answer is
that one does not shoot moorhen except on
the rare occasions when they give sporting-
shots ; only twice have I seen them do so,
once in Wales when flushed from the banks
of a high ravine, and on a river-bank's beat
in Norfolk where they sometimes get up
nearly as high as the pheasants. The same
remarks apply with almost equal force to
coots, water-rail, redshanks, and dunlin—the
kind of birds one does not often pull trigger at,
though both water-rail and moorhen are excellent food, the latter especially as soup. Redshanks and dunlin are an admirable emetic.
The term " various" in a Game-Book
always annoys one as it is so ambiguous. I
cannot be accused of making too free a use
of it, and where it occurs in these records it
implies jays, stoats," weasels, adders, rats—and, 46
I am sorry to say, a buzzard shot in an
impetuous moment and much regretted afterwards. Someone also once told me that
Canadian geese were tame birds; anyone who
can get within range of one deserves him. I
have known five keepers harry a flock for a
month without getting a single bird.
In this total of over five thousand head
there are only one hundred and thirteen
rights-and-lefts, these have been scored at
geese, pheasants, partridges, hares, snipe,
rabbits, pigeons, grouse, blackgame, mallard,
tufted duck, gadwall, and green plover; while
mixed " doubles " have included pheasant and
hare, partridge and hare, pheasant and
partridge, mallard and wigeon. The most
difficult right-and-left to obtain is undoubtedly
that at woodcock, not because of the actual
shots but because of the limited opportunities,
in England at any rate.    Only twice have two STATISTICS AND  THEORIES    47
woodcock got up before me together, and on
neither occasion have I been able to get my
gun off because of holly bushes or something
equally opaque. It is difficult, too, to get
rights-and-lefts at wood-pigeons ; often have
I lost one of two birds in standing corn, and
a right-and-left fades into non-existence unless
both birds are gathered.
I have seven times killed two partridges with
one shot (without being sent home in disgrace),
once when there were only two to kill and they
were many feet apart. The same accident
has happened once with redshanks, three times
with mallard, once with rabbits, twice with
wood-pigeons, and twice with grouse. Only
once have I killed more than two birds with
a cartridge, and on that occasion three wood-
pigeons tumbled out of the sky very unexpectedly. The " family " shot needs every
apology.    Once, however, out grouse-shooting, 48
two of us went up to a point and eight birds
got up ; I killed my bird, an outside one, and
my companion took a couple, the second
swinging wide to his right. On going to pick
up my bird, which was close to my friend's
first one, we found seven lying stone dead,
and they could have all been covered with
a napkin. Our shots must have crossed and
wiped out the covey, but I had no idea that
more than three birds had fallen. If any
one wishes to know how many of these
grouse have gone into my records, the reply
is exactly one.
Very naturally a reader may wonder at
what expenditure of cartridges these results
have been obtained. The careful counting
of cartridges is a form of folly through which
most of us pass, like the buying of postcards
of  actresses   and  actors.
I  spent  one  miserable  season keeping  an STATISTICS AND  THEORIES     49
exact account of empty shells and though
the results were good (I made them so with
consummate care) the shooting was quite
abominable. Nevertheless by a rough and
ready method one can always tell a season's
expenditure of ammunition. I accept the
total sent in on my cartridge-maker's bill
at the end of the season, subtract what I
have left in my magazine—and there you
are! This manner of reckoning brings me
out comfortably within the one kill for every
three cartridges, which in some mysterious
way was once reckoned as implying the good
shot, but which does nothing of the kind.
In so far as cartridges to kills are a test
of shooting, a really good shot ought to
account easily for one head for every two
fired cases throughout a season of all kinds
of mixed shooting, at driven as well as at
walked-up  game.    No   one  is   a   really  good
E 5°
shot who cannot perform well at all varieties
of chances, and no fisherman is a good one
who cannot use the wet fly as skilfully as the
dry. And, in addition, the cartridge test
cannot take into consideration missed
opportunities and slowness, which imply bad
shooting; some men get off both barrels
while others are still thinking about letting
off   one.
The various other controversies which at
times agitate the shooting-world cannot fail
to occur to one in a consideration of facts
and figures. What about difficult shots ?
Different men must ever have their own
difficulties, but I am tempted to arrange
my own catalogue of these in the following
ascending scale. Easiest shots of all are
obtained at wood-pigeons or ducks coming
nicely to decoys; the next most accommodating creatures are partridges and grouse over ten
dogs or rising within easy range ; then come
driven pheasants (bad birds), then rabbits
in covert, driven snipe, flighting duck and
plover, walked-up snipe, driven grouse,
driven partridges, and finally, really high
pheasants or partridges, grouse, and snipe
rising just  within range.
It is always distance rather than pace that
makes for difficulty in shooting, and that shot
is ever the most perplexing when one has to
decide in the fraction of a second whether to
pull or not.
The " free-wheeling " pheasant, the second
barrel at plover or teal, the woodcock in thick
woods—all have their own peculiar way of
testing the gun, but are rather occasional
delights than constant trials.
And then what of sizes of shots and varieties
of load ? Probably more bad shooting is
caused   by  fickleness   in   this   direction   than
by any other cause. Get good cartridges
from a good maker, loaded always in the same
way, and rest content. Three drams of E.C.
powder and one ounce of No. 6 shot has served
me for some years as faithfully as I deserve,
and will I hope do so for many more unless
middle age introduces me to driven hippopotami. Sizes • of shot within due reason
do not affect shooting; if a bird is hit in the
tail with No. 4 or No. 6 he goes on, if he
is hit well forward with either charge he
comes down. That is the matter in a nutshell, and if one seeks to remedy false allowance
by heavy shot, disappointment is invariably
the result.
Practically all my shooting has been done
with one gun. I have on occasions used
a pair and found it much to my liking, though
rather similar to drinking liqueur out of
a claret glass.    It has always been a mystery mm
to me—though my shooting - friends laugh
at me for it—why two guns are allowed
in the field, and why so much lolling is often
crowded into one day which might delightfully serve two or three. I am not
complaining; any bag is big enough for
me, and none too big, but surely one gun,
used as fast as it can be loaded, is enough.
Of course it gets hot, and so do two ; the
obvious remedy is to let it cool when opportunity serves as it will do before long. Who
minds a minute or two of rest when the
gun becomes too hot to hold ? And then
that fourth barrel out partridge-driving—
responsible, I am sure, for many wounded
birds which, however good a recovery they
make, are not the best suited to reproduce
their kind! Good shots, so the shooting-
books would tell us, never hit when they
fail   to   kill.    Comfortable   suggestion;   most 54
delightful of theories. The man who misses
in front is yet, I think, to be born, and when
good shots fail they do so for the same reasons
as most of us do, because they shoot behind
or because the shot does not penetrate
sufficiently. I have many times seen good
shots unsuccessful in bringing down a bird,
but I have very seldom seen them miss one
altogether. Good shots have livers no less
than other men, and one can't stop up the
fourth barrel because the owner of the gun
is not feeling particularly fit or because the
covey is too quick to allow of its legitimate
discharge. Neither is the user of two guns
invariably a good shot ! mm
' Lancing College.'
A GOOD many people imagine that a
Public School is an institution where
we play at work and work at play.
Few really understand how busy is our round of
life, how a score of interests fight for existence
in a congested time-table, and how completely
full is every moment of the day. There is
little fault to be found in a multitude of
interests : they tend to enlarge the mind;
such exception as may justly be taken to our
system should rather be directed to the fact
that we live too much within ourselves, and
look upon the world with eyes too distant
even for a youthful survey.
But   to   discuss   education   in  the   middle LANCING  COLLEGE
of a game-book! Party Government most
certainly connects education and destruction,
but Party Government is a thing to be
wondered at, not copied—just as one looks
on in amaze at two cats fighting for a saucer
of milk, which they have upset in the first
I introduced the subject of school-interests
not with any sinister desire to wander from
my story, but to emphasise my boldness in
having added a new one to the already full
life at Lancing College. It is, in short, my
own old love of sport with rod and gun, and
here, on the open spaces of the Sussex Downs,
the boys and I have spent long happy hours
pursuing the sometimes imaginary partridge,
the always-accommodating rabbit, the three
hares (there are always three each season)
and other rarer creatures which sometimes
favour   us   with   a   visit.    Timid   parents   of 58
present or future Lancing boys reading these
pages might, perhaps, imagine us a wild
harum-scarum party loose upon the hills, all
armed with breach-loaders. To ease their
anxiety let me at once explain that I alone,
and perhaps also one of my colleagues, carry
the gun and that the boys are merely serving
their apprenticeship as beaters, armed with
nothing more deadly than a stick ; as workers
of ferrets or handlers of dogs.
Before I was married I used to have quite
an army of boy-retainers who cleaned my guns,
groomed and fed my dogs, tamed my ferrets
and carried out many hair-brained schemes of
mine which shall hereinafter be related. Now
that the guns and dogs have gone down the
hill to my new home, the beaters and keepers
are fewer in number because there is less to
do, but the shooting goes on just as merrily
as ever and volunteers are never wanting on SOME  OF  MY  BEATERS  AT LANCING. 6o
each and almost every afternoon the season
through. I once had, at one and the same
time in a summer term at Lancing, a retriever,
two spaniels, and twelve puppies. It was a
wild time. The kennels backed on to a range
of class-rooms, and I used to have pathetic
notes from my colleagues during a morning-
school, asking me to go out and quieten
those something puppies. The epithet was
always scholastic, but there were times when
it verged on the irritable. It was in that
same term too, if memory does not fail me,
that one of the ferrets called Satan (because,
as I was informed, sub rosa, he was the devil
to pick up), walked into the School Chapel,
though mercifully he chose an occasion when
it was not occupied.
Lancing stands high up on the Downs,
gazing over her own elms to the sea a mile
or so away;    She is buffeted by every wind LANCING  COLLEGE'
of heaven, but in return looks out upon a
kingdom of beauty on every side. Dotted with
picturesque homesteads, the hills roll away
from her at the back and rise and fall alternate,
only less rapidly than plough and grass-land
and all the variegated colours of the farmer's
carpet. Except in so far as I love all wild
country, I have no special liking for downland
scenery—the absence of v/oods and their
mystery disappoint me hardly less than the
lack of mere and river; but no one could
set foot upon the terraces of Lancing without
feeling the enchantment of these untamed
heights, nor walk the buoyant sheep-cropped
turf of the hills unconquered by the breeze-
borne message of the seas, the riot of colour,
the majesty of distance.
The College has two hundred and fifty acres
of its own, of which about a hundred are
given up to the various needs of boyhood's 62
daily life; the rest is farmed and this modest
slice of land glories in the high-flown title
of the College Shoot. And let it at once
be stated that it lives up to its name, for it
would be base ingratitude on my part not to
acknowledge handsomely its surprising fertility
in finding food for powder. Every shooting-
season it produces far more than a head to the
acre : the record bag so far is two hundred
and forty-five head, and each year shows a
total hardly less gratifying. Of course the
majority of the slain are rabbits, but a down-
land rabbit is contemptible neither in the
field nor on the table. We have killed as
many as twenty brace of partridges off this
tiny hunting-ground in a winter term, and
pheasants, hares, pigeons, snipe, woodcock,
mallard, green and golden plover have all
been duly noted in the pages of the game-book
as shot and gathered, not as merely seen.    This 'LANCING  COLLEGE' 63
corner of Sussex is a poor game-country:
partridges fare none too badly, but there is
not a pheasant bred for miles, hares are
numerous in distant parts of the Downs, but
the lack of woods makes even pigeons scarce,
and the College ground is not beloved of
snipe and is only passed over by sky-loving
duck. To realise the wonderful productiveness of this little shoot, one must further
consider that it lies in the middle of a boy's
school and is wholly unpreserved, that a
cricket ball in a partridge's nest is not an
unknown, though of course an accidental
tragedy, and sometimes our best covey breaks
the shells to daylight within a stone's throw7
of a firing-point on the range.
No story of the noble fight the shoot makes
for its existence would be complete without
mention of the Sanatorium cat, which must
be a cross between the domestic variety and 64
a tiger. As a hunter one cannot refrain from
admiring him; as the property of his mistress
I have promised and am bound to respect
him—but he brings in half a dozen rabbits
^ week, and has been caught before now chasing
a full-grown partridge up and down the
sick-wards. If one meets him in his own
grounds, he rubs his head against one's leg
and is all that a cat should be; out in the
fields it would puzzle one to get within two
hundred yards of him, though on three or
four occasions I have surprised him at a stolen
meal, and that with a gun in my hand. Still,
to destroy him wTould be a trick unworthy of
a sportsman ; he means far more to his mistress
than many rabbits do to me; but I shalt-
turn out the band when he goes naturally
to his long home, and set a sentry group above
his grave to see that his spirit does not go
poaching   nightly   over   the   Downs.    But   if LANCING  COLLEGE
the cat is a burden to be borne somewhat
heavily, the compensations of this shoot are
great, chief among which must be recorded
the loyal sympathy and co-operation of many
generations of Lancing boys; how much
harm they might do is self evident, how little
they have ever done is suggested by the bag
and a thousand other courtesies. Who would
give much for a shoot set in the midst of two
hundred and fifty boys ? Only one who
knows the Public School product at its very
We take our shooting at Lancing in little
bits, not from choice but owing to the tyranny
of class-room and the infallibility of the school-
bell. Sometimes we are out for little over
an hour, seldom for more than three, and our
methods of securing sport are diverse. It
may be the ferrets in the big warren at the
back of the butts or a hunt with the spaniels 66
through the brambles and scrub that adjoin
the playing fields ; earlier in the season we
manoeuvre the partridges into the roots—and
it is delicate work, for in a shoot of this kind
a bird is often no sooner up than he is over the
boundary; at dusk we lie in wait for the flighting plover drifting from marsh to upland
plough—on wet days we sally forth and drive
the Pad Field. The latter is a marvellous
haunt of game; it lies just behind the site of
the Old Sussex Pad Inn, the reputed home
of smugglers and only destroyed by fire in
recent years, and the Bright on-Worthing road
runs alongside its lower end. It is here that
the three hares are always to be found; a
partridge to the acre is the field's product
every year; I have seen in it pheasant,
woodcock, and strong wisps of snipe; teal
actually alight there sometimes, wild duck
and   wild   geese   fly   over   it;    rooks,   gulls,
pigeons, and plover come there at times to
feed and I often stand in the road and in
between the stream of passing motors endeavour to shoot ferreted rabbits along its high-
wooded bank. All this life in thirty acres of
plough, stubbles, and roots that to the
eye suggest no attraction to account for its
The Pad Field is undoubtedly the heart of
the shoot: it is the trump card we always play
when in doubt, and four skilful beaters can
put its coveys over one gun. Partridges
are almost as easy to drive as pheasants if
one studies their lines of flight in the varying
winds. Within a stone's throw of this field
is another of sixteen acres, all grass, and I do
not think I have ever killed a bird of any
description in it. It is a sad pill for the
Political Agitator to have to swallow, that
the better cultivated the land the more is it
f2 68
appreciated by game and their kin, and I
doubt if he will ever be induced to do so
without forcible feeding. There are none
so dainty as those who don't want to take
Our ferreting days need no particular
description: we set ourselves to kill two
hundred rabbits each year and we keep away
at them till we succeed; a red-letter afternoon once supplied us with twenty-seven,
but four, five, or six is our usual portion.
Owing to our strict method of absolute
silence we seldom lose a ferret, but the rabbits
are very dour after the first time through
the buries, and some of the earths are so big
that not even eight or nine ferrets will persuader
them to make away. Tragedies among our
ferrets are not unknown: eight we had stolen
in a single night and many of the animals
we buy through advertisment, take two men
mm*.  7°
and a boy to hold them when they first come
to us.
Some are quite untameable and make the
valley ring with their execrations on being
handled, but the boys are wonderfully clever
with them and soon get them tractable if
it is to be done. An average shooting season
sees us out on about fifty afternoons, and of
these, forty perhaps will be given up to
ferreting. It is not an uncommon event
for us to bolt stoats and rabbits from the
same burrow, and there is a mongoose at
large somewhere that eat his way out of his
cage. The faith that some people have in
this latter animal for rabbiting and ratting
is convincing, but they never seem to put
their faith to the test! | Have you ever tried
a mongoose ? " is a question I am constantly
asked. " No, have you ? " is my invariable
reply,  and  their  answer is  always   the  same 'LANCING   COLLEGE' 71
—that they know a man who has. Well, I
know a boy at Lancing who tried a mongoose,
and it bit his hand every day for a fortnight, and finally eat its way to liberty
through two layers of wire. It was the
wildest thing I ever saw, wilder than some
of our ferrets.
We have tried many experiments at the
College to increase our modest bag, but
most of them end in failures, for the intervening holidays—when we are away to better-
stocked coverts—disorganise our plans. We
have hatched out a few partridges and
pheasants; we have turned down the ready-
made articles, but they took a stride or two
and were off the shoot. One season we
reared close on a hundred mallard, and nothing
would induce them to fly unless they were
taken   away   and  liberated   from   baskets.
Such   a   travesty   of    sport    disgusted   us, 72
and most of them suffered the fate of
ordinary farm-yard ducks. Our last polecat ferret would have been a worthier object
for the gun : he couldn't fly, but he could
run. Three times we have stocked the
pond with rainbow trout, which was a brave
thing to do, for it was practically stagnant,
though fed by a spring, and only a quarter
of an acre in extent.
Twice they have completely vanished after
a few months. I fancy they get down into
the mud and die—but this year the water
is deeper and clearer and they seem quite
happy—moreover we are feeding them till
summer   comes.
Lancing gives us almost a complete cycle
of sport : when the rabbits are done, the three
rookeries claim our attention, and the rifle
drops anything between a hundred and two
hundred youngsters  in the month  of  May ; FERRETS  BREAKFAST AT LANCING. Mr   GAME-BOOK
then comes the turn of the fat carp in the
pond, the eels in the dykes and perhaps the
trout. I have caught the first mentioned
up to pi pounds and there are far bigger
fellows which roll and splash all through
the stillness of the summer nights. And_
so we drift round again to September, football and partridges. The wild life of the
place is wonderfully varied. I have more
than once met a fox close to the Sanatorium,
kestrels and jackdaws build in the great
Chapel, owls over the gymnasium, and kingfishers on a disused cricket-ground. The
green woodpecker warns us loudly of coming
rain, nightingales and cuckoos visit us. One
may often fall asleep listening to one and
awaken to hear the other ; the sea-gulls are
drifting over us the live-long day.
For  four  or five  seasons we  used  to rent
a  shoot a  mile away over the Downs, where
hares were fairly plentiful and rabbits and
partridges not unknown. Many a breezy
hour we have spent upon those hills with
by no means negligible results, and have
followed our birds till the lights of Worthing
began to twinkle faintly in the blue distance.
We have had out there at times as many as
a score of boys driving partridges to us, and
the work done by this long line would put
many   professional   beaters   to   shame.
But the limited time at our disposal, and
the threat that if the College rabbits are
not kept down, outside help and traps will
be called in, has kept us at home of late.
The rifle, of course, does far more work
at Lancing than the shot gun, though the
targets of the former are inanimate; the
supervision of over fifty-thousand shots has
fallen to my lot upon the ranges, and that
the  bullet  flies  true  is  proved  by a  school- Mr   GAME-BOOK
boy bag of close on a hundred and fifty prizes
in less  than  seven years.
The subject of this chapter tempts me
to linger on to tell of the boys' strange pets,
their kestrels, owls and magpies, their ravens
and their baby stoats, but I must away to the
joys of the holidays—to the lands where
pheasants crow, to the rivers where trout
roll and salmon leap for, as our School-
song  says :—
Salve ! laeta dulcis met a
Libertatis advenit. CHAPTER  V.
Dorset Days.
I TOOK but one holiday tutorship in
my life, but finding the daughter of
the house a more apt pupil than the
sons, I was dismissed as a tutor and reengaged as a son-in-law. The Game-Book
rightly contains this record, for did I not
propose beneath a tree on the banks of the
trout-stream and with a fishing-rod in my
hand—for the preliminary part of the interview ? And there is no fairer pool adown
that river nor one that sparkles more happily
in the sun.
'Twas   thus   that   I   first   came   to   know
Wrackleford,   and   for   eight   seasons   I   have 7*
been privileged as a guest to fish her streams
and shoot her fields and coverts. The
property extends to three thousand acres
and, one way and another, there are angling
rights over some dozen miles of quite exceptional trout-water. One may step out of
the billiard room window on to the edge
of the Wrackle and watch there great, fat
trout, hungry for bread and unafraid of man ;
these have their names, the very number of
their spots is almost a matter of knowledge,
and none dare put a fly above their noses.
Higher up, just under the waterfall, there is
another colony of fat and pampered creatures ;
these are less sacred but not less greedy for
anything except a dry-fly. I caught one on
a piece of cheese one day : but we do not
talk  much  about   it.
And so one may wander on up the river-
bank  under  bowers  of roses, with   irises  on DORSET  DArS 79
one side and on the other tall masses of
marguerites, hollyhocks, phloxes and delphiniums, and see the trout lying everywhere
on the gravel of the babbling shallows, till one
passes out into the open water-meadowTs where
cattle dot the luxuriant grass, and to the
wilder but no less bountifully-stocked reaches
of the stream. Just over the road is the
cricket-ground sloping gently towards a
rookery of two hundred and fifty nests;
the home woods miss the rookery and wander
up on to the downs and gorse—and freedom.
Parallel with the Wraclde runs the Frome,
more pretentious in appearance but not more
prodigal of fish, and over on the other side
of the downs the impudent little Cerne
comes dancing along round the slope of the
hill to mingle its waters with those of its
larger   cousins.
Elsewhere the Wrackleford estate is laughing 8o
cornfields, fir-plantations in infancy or
appoaching maturity, long wide strips of
gleaming roots, grassland and withy beds,
heather, gorse, and downland. Each morning
finds me at a loss whether to start forth
with rod or gun.
The number of trout in these waters is
perfectly astonishing and an eleven inch limit
—raised in some parts even to three quarters
of a pound, is a slight obstacle to the filling
of a creel. The river runs rich in weed and
every kind of food ; the former are. cut with
sparing hand—far better to c*ut none than
.too much: a dozen fish lost are less disappointment than a hundred or a thousand half-
starved. In these parts there are no pike
in the water and but few dace, but I have
seen eels lying along the bottom of the
Frome, when the water was low, in such numbers  as  to  make  one  despair  of the future. DORSET DArS
had many baskets of three or four brace
from both the Frome and Wrackle averaging nearly a pound a fish: on some red-letter
days the average has been just over that
I am not allowed to fish at Wrackleford
unless I play cricket on match-days : these
happen once a week. The head gardener lets
me go at six if I have made runs, and I am
thus induced to get more than I am worth.
The ground used to be in front of the house,
and when the Jersey cows broke down the
chains in the night and walked on the pitch?
I sometimes took a lot of wickets next day.
There are only sheep round the new ground,
and they no longer put me on to bowl except
as a courteous attention to the visiting team.
What admirable games we have had at
Wrackleford—close finishes, dramatic catches,
stupendous   hits,   and   fierce   bowling:   one
G 2
, 84
laughs through the whole match and often
through two innings on either side. I have
never seen a man really laugh when playing
a game except in village cricket, and I would
sooner see our secretary bat than all the
first class cricketers in the world. He is
a cricketer as cricketers were meant to be—
even if not quite first-class : he laughs when
he hits the ball and he laughs when he misses
it, and his laugh is like that of the gods on
Few places give greater opportunity than
Wrackleford for mixed days of sport. I
have been duck shooting at daybreak,
partridge shooting all day, and fishing in the
evening. My father-in-law complains at times
that I get three days sport out of one : but
to kill a duck, a partridge, and a trout on
the first of September is a point of honour, DORSET  DArS 85
even if it means being late for dinner, and
a stern reprimand. The Dorset downs are
very different from those of Lancing : their
expression is less severe, more enticing, and
richer in promises. A copse or two upon
their crowns, a fir-covert lying on their
breast, a purple and yellow carpet thrown
about their backs, remove any hint of bleakness and give an impression of warmth and
welcome. Very pleasant are the partridge
days amid these hills, twenty-brace days
of strenuous walking—now the line wanders
round the rough grasses on the slope of
the down, now descends into a root-field
almost level with the river, only to ascend
again to golden stubbles and climb round
another hill, passing from dip to dip, from
cultivated fields into gorse and wildness,
from   downland   turf     into   rough    grazing Mr   GAME-BOOK
ground. The English birds seldom leave the
roots and stubbles except to make for the
young plantations which they love either
for nesting or for a siesta. The Frenchmen,
on the other hand, haunt the downs no less
than do the pheasants which wander there
in   search   of   blackberries.
A bag of downland partridges is very
difficult to make; the birds are easily lost
and hard to follow: they disappear over the
sky-line, skim a valley, or vanish round a
corner of the hill in their flight, and experience
alone can tell where they are likely to be—
and experience is never infallible where
the ways of wild creatures are concerned.
" Too wet," I once heard a keeper say, looking
on a vast field of roots through soaking
rain. But we walked it all the same and
found half a dozen coveys congregated there
for shelter.
mm 'mwm
[Walked-up or driven, the little partridge
has many characteristics which make him
deservedly the most popular of all the game-
I grimly pursue you for half of a day,
Watch you disappear gaily two meadows away,
And, just as I'm thinking we never shall meet,
You rise, with a clatter, right under my feet!
My gun is " on safe," or I'm somehow unready,
I've a thousand excuses for aim that's unsteady,
For you often escape from a shot misdirected,
By rising when not for a moment expected.
I prefer you, I think, when I wait at my ease
For the covey to burst o'er a line of tall trees,
For then a neat double's the acme of bliss,
And it isn't disgraceful to make a clean miss !
But whether you rise from the turnip-crop dense,
Or skim, like an arrow, the top of the fence,
You're the best bird that flies o'er the meadows   and
My gay little partridge in russet and brown,     [down,
Right up on top of the downs is a charming
little shooting-box, shut in by firs to shelter
it from the wind but giving a view from
its wide-opened windows   right over the rich 88
valley of the Frome, up past the wooded
heights of Bradford Peveril, away to the
heath-land where Hardy's monument looks
defiance towards the sea. It is a stiff climb
to this resting-place for lunch, but never
did its well-filled cupboard fail to reward
the thirsty sportsman, though once the keys
left behind suggested one of the minor
tragedies of life until a strong arm broke down
the opposition of mere wood. Few things
more delectable than to lie in a hammock
at that open window on a sunny September
day, with the toil of heights and plough-
land in one's limbs, and gaze into the blue
hazy distance that hangs above the river.
Hares  are  very  numerous  in  this  part  of_
the  estate where  cultivated land and  down
intermingle, and   we   have  usually  killed all
we   want   by   lunch-time.    They   are   fond,
too,  of lying in  the  gorse  on  the   hill-top DORSET  DArS 89
and I once saw a small terrier catch a full-
grown one, and hold it in spite of tremendous
struggles until the rest of the " pack " came
up. Mention of the pack recalls perhaps the
best shooting days of all in Dorsetshire—
days when, with six or eight of the liveliest
terriers in the county, we round up the rabbits on those gorse-carpeted slopes. Plucky,
worrying little fellows are our hounds, quite
undismayed by prickly spikes, and careless
of making tunnels through the densest stuff.
Spaniels are little good for this work—the
smallest are too big, for sometimes the
gorse is scarcely above the boot-tops,
and even in the high brakes there is usually
an undergrowth as well. It is very pretty
shooting snapping at the rabbits as they
dive from one clump to another, but the
cream of the sport is on the very edge of
the   downs   wThere   the   rabbits   break   clean
Jp 9°
away from the cover and come racing down
over the open turf to the shelter of the hedge
below. And, dead or alive, they usually
reach it, for a charge in the right place sends
them rolling over and over down the steep
hill-side until they are brought up by the
fence. The pack is at times self-willed, and
one must often take a rabbit with three or
four couple of terriers close on its heels. But
their bursts of enthusiasm are wonderfully
restrained and they never go far, even when
one refrains from shooting at bunny for fear
of bringing off a double event. A couple
of guns with as many beaters may kill anything
up to fifty couple of rabbits in this way, and
one occasionally finds both black and sandy
rabbits on these hills, for which strange freak
of nature there is no apparent reason such
as the fatal mistake of introducing tame
blood into a warren.    An enormous quantity Ha   I Til
of wood-pigeons breed in the coverts all
round Wrackleford, and I have had many
splendid afternoons with them, sitting in
a hedge hidden by corn-stocks and with
my decoys all round me. Once between
three and six I killed forty-seven, having
gone up on the downs in the hope of getting
a few shots at flighting pigeons and having
brought no decoys. I saw a large flock feeding at the far side of a stubble and hiding
myself in the hedge I fired my right barrel,
ch  frightened  the  birds
me  and  I
killed with the left. After that the birds
kept coming to my one decoy till I soon had
others up, and the keeper had to fetch a
sack to carry the pigeons down the hill. One
may also have excellent shooting at these
birds as they come to drink in the water-
meadows, and many a time have I put my
waders  on and  sat  up  to  my knees in the 92
river, under a tall canopy of briers. Among
rare visitors to this estate I must mention
the golden oriole seen in the spring of 1912 ;
woodcocks often rest in the downland coverts
during the autumn migrations, and there
are always badgers on the hill. Foxes are
sometimes too numerous to be pleasant and
on the last occasion that the coverts were
shot no fewer than five came out of the home-
Most of my visits to Wrackleford have
been spring or summer ones, but one or two
days in late January, when the snipe were
in quantities along the river, recur to my
mind as a most fascinating memory. It
was strange to look at the trout stream in
its winter dress—heavy and swollen and with
no sign of the teeming life within; very cheerless it seemed, and one missed the resplendent
glories  of  the  summer,  the  brilliant  colours
of the
luxuriant growth,
the c
of flies
g   over   the   river,
turning the water
purple glides,
ever   i
md   ever   dimpled
Trout and Pike.
THE association of pike and trout is
a notoriously unhappy one in water ;
in the pages of a game-book it merely
suggests the possibility of fishing the year
round, so kindly do the two fish arrange
their family affairs. Two hundred and twenty
of the first and seven hundred and sixty-
one of the latter are my respective totals
at the time of going to press, and as there
is no " lightning result" column at the
end of this volume, I am unable to record
the capture of nineteen more of either species
to   complete   the   thousand.
The   popularity   of  the  trout   is   certainly
deserved;  no fish perhaps appeals to a larger TROUT  AND   PIKE
number of people nor lends itself more
readily to almost every known species of angling,
from the use of the tiniest fly to the employment of a quite substantial live-bait. Nevertheless, so long as trout shall continue to
feed on insects, submerged or otherwise,
so long will the delicate art of fly-fishing
remain incomparable and a thing apart
from all other methods of attempted capture.
At times the use of minnow and worm are
loudly appraised, and not altogether without
reasons other than those found in results :
and no one can fail to admire the patience
and perseverance of Thames anglers; but
if irout can, as a general rule, be caught
with a fly, we owe it to them so to tempt
them, just as we owe it to partridge or pheasant to make trial of them on the wing rather
than on the ground. For this suggestion
there   is   little   cold   loeic   and   for   much   of 96
the unwritten law of sportsmen we must hold
sentiment responsible rather than materialism.
It does not seem easy to suggest any reason
for the wonderful gameness of trout, or for
that matter of salmon, and their superiority
over the coarse fish in this direction must
be put down as one of the unsolved riddles
of nature, comparable only to the varying
degrees of swiftness attained by birds in
flight. In a measure, however, trout disappoint, and one does not find an increase
in weight always accompanied by a proportional increase in pluck. From half a pound
up to a pound and two ounces one meets
with an astonishing vitality, but a fish of two
pounds does not give twice the play of a
one-pounder. Frequently have I known a
fish of the latter weight fight far more vigorously than one of a pound and a half.
Environment,  too,  very probably affects the
rmfmm  98
vigour of trout, and those which I have
caught in a mill-race have ever given me
the   most   thrilling   moments.
Few things are more wonderful in wildlife than a trout's keen sense of danger. His
quick eye is of course proverbial and a fact
that does not ask for explanation, but how
does he know the different degrees of peril
to such a nicety ? I have seen moorhens
flutter over his feeding mouth and rats swim
by and he will take no notice, and I have
actually caught more than one useful fish
just after great white farm-yard ducks had
floated over their heads. Throw a stone
into the water and where is your feeding;
trout, or let him just catch a glimpse of
a rod point or the shadow of a cast! It is
generally supposed that much fishing is
necessary to make trout really wild, but the
frequent  disturbance  of passers-by is  almost
worse, even if no fly is ever cast over the
fish. The wildest and most difficult trout
to catch I have ever known live by the side
of a much-used footpath, and I am certain
that, until it fell to my lot to try for them,
they had never been cast at before. The
same influences which render partridges indifferent to farm-labourers, and rooks almost
contemptuous of a man without a gun, do
not seem to act upon trout; on the other
hand, their fear of human beings is acquired
rather than natural, and fish which have had
but little experience of the sight of man
are invariably the easiest to catch. Trout
without doubt at times sleep ; nature would
be unlikely to deny to fish that which is every
other creature's necessity, and only in this
way can we account for the sophisticated
trout that, lying on the bottom of a shallow
stream,   frequently   admits   of   a   long   and
critical observation. So wild a creature might
certainly appear untameable, but bread is
the key to his affections and by a judicious
and regular feeding even the ordinary trout
that have lived the wild and natural life
of the stream can be induced to take food
almost from the very hand.
It is a difficult matter to credit our speckled
friends with a rigid preference for the fly
that is actually on the water. Would a
dog refuse a bone because he was eating
a biscuit, or a rabbit a cabbage-leaf because
he was lunching off grass ? In just the same
way a trout will take a fly that attracts him,
whatever may be the particular dainty he
is for the moment dining on. The necessary
attraction in a fly is more a matter of size
than anything else: nothing alarms trout
like big flies, unless they are sunk ones and
big   enough   to   make   him    think   they   are
minnows. Nevertheless, some patterns do
attract more generally than others, and the
only reason for their superiority I can suggest
is, that they appear more natural to the fish
in some way that we do not yet understand.
Colour is most probably -in part a solution
of the mystery, else why should the gold-
bodied Wickham be such a favourite ? I
once heard an angler state he had seen a
" Fine hatch of Wickhams"; he said they
were on the water, but I think he must have
seen the phenomenon at 61, Pall Mall.
At dusk the trout lose much of their
daintiness if they remain on the feed. Big
flies do not frighten them then, nor thick
gut, nor clumsy casts and there can be no
doubt that darkness puts a severe restriction on their powers of sight. But even in
broad daylight I have made good trout rise
at   tobacco and bits of stick   so   that their 102
discrimination is not quite so remarkable
as is often alleged. Cheerfully would I fish
out my remaining angling days with nothing
but a Tupp's indispensable, a dark olive and a
Wickham, go where I might in the kingdom,
and catch more fish than I could eat.
But a wonderfully retentive memory is
the trout's : he remembers the flies " with
hot feet " for a long time, once he has sampled
them, and seldom makes trial of them again
the same day. Only once in my life have
I seen a trout actually hooked for an
appreciable time, dash off after his escape
and start feeding again immediately close
to where he was originally tempted. And,
what is more, he was caught again with
the same fly though he bolted almost to my
feet in his first adventure.
Many anglers must have noticed the strange
" flutter"   that trout   make when they dash
close past them down-stream. Do they
really make a noise as they go or does
their quick movement fool the brain into
thinking so ?
If trout are particular about what they
eat, pike certainly are not so, and instances
might be quoted ad nauseam of the hooked
and escaped fish returning again to the prospect of slaughter as though he liked it; I
have broken off a hook in a pike's mouth and
got it back again in five minutes, and it may
be taken for almost a certainty that once the
fish has made a dash at a bait he will come
again and again till he is caught so long as he
does not see fisherman or boat. Big fish are
possibly an exception to this rule, but even
they at times display suicidal tendencies.
The use of live-bait is not at all to my liking;
it is clumsy, inartistic and, bearing in mind
•the   characteristics   of   the   pike,   altogether
^eP 104
too deadly. Moreover the victim is terribly
handicapped in his fight for life, for the tackle
does not err on the side of refinement.
Paternostering with a single hook and
without a float is infinitely more sporting, but
again almost too certain in its results, and
spinning, if only for the continual motion
and the glorious uncertainty as to when the
fish will take you, is the most attractive
form of pike fishing. Sentiment again not
logic ; but after all an angler's sole requirement is not the capture of fish or he would
use a net and have done with any other device
except possibly dynamite.
The pike is perhaps the most grossly misunderstood fish that swims, and his reputation
as a great fighter or as a fresh water shark
is not to be taken too literally. I have caught
pike of all weights from seventeen pounds
downwards  and  I  have  only known  two  of TROUT  AND   PIKE
them put up a really good struggle. No pike
. in my experience has ever jumped after
being hooked, but if all one reads were true
the fish would be something akin to 'Varsity
hurdlers. Small pike of four pounds are sometimes very game and quick but, like the
trout, they do not seem to improve as they
grow in due proportion. Like the trout,
too, environment helps to make or mar them
and a pike in a fast river can, and will, put
up a very different show of strength from
his brethren of the sluggish lake. Although
I have known a fish of sixteen pounds in
perfect condition come to the gaff within
two minutes, it is size as a general rule which
makes of the pike a worthy foe, and all our
hopes in pike-fishing are fixed upon the
capture of a really big fish. And yet little
attempt is made to increase the size of our
pike     Almost   all   waters   are   either   under io6
or over-fished, and practically every lake
and river requires separate consideration if
it is to be improved. Pike increase so quickly
that some small fish must be killed, even
though the bigger ones find them a satisfactory food : it is, however, a great pity
to keep drawing on the supply of seven
and eight-pounders. Perhaps the best rule
for a lake or river is to kill all fish under five
pounds in weight up to a certain number
and to allow of the destruction of none
between five and fifteen or even twenty
The voracity of this fish is considerably
greater in small specimens than in large ones.
The latter probably allow* a long interval
between meals and I have caught many useful pike with practically nothing in their
bellies. Very little comes amiss to them
in the matter of food;    I have known pike
srmm TROUT  AND  PIKE 107
take both full-grown duck and wood-pigeon
from the surface of the water after the latter
have been shot and an attempt to swallow
a cock pheasant has also been recorded.
Their fondness for all kinds of young waterfowl is as notorious as it is annoying, and
the mother birds seem to have no idea of
this great danger to their families. Frogs
they will also consume and eels and water-
rats, in addition to their usual fare of any fish
that swims, not excluding the perch or tench;
the former indeed is one of their most favoured
delicacies, back-fin and all—the latter, because
of the slime with which it is covered, is not
a much sought after meal, but if the tench
is the pike's physician the latter sometimes
mistakes the prescriber for the prescription.
On the other hand the pike is an exceedingly shy and timid fish; in low clear water
he   is   almost   as   difficult   to   approach   as   a Mr   GAME-BOOK
trout, and he would no more attack a swimming dog with intent than he would a
human bather. Nevertheless the pike's quick
attraction towards anything moving noiselessly in the water, especially if it is bright,
might easily induce him to put his teeth
into the foot of either a human or canine
swimmer, so long as they made no splash.
I have never heard of a genuine case
of such accident, though there are many
stories abroad to this effect. To be seized
by a pike would be no enviable fate, for one
of the most remarkable things about this
fish are his rows and rowTs of sharp teeth,
and my own fingers have often borne witness to how really efficaciously he can use
Shadwell Court, Norfolk.
TO WRITE adequately of Shadwell
Court is a task impossible ; but there
are I suppose degrees of impossibility, and a greater one confronts me if
I should attempt to express some measure of gratitude to those good friends who,
for no less than twenty-two visits, have
showered upon me the glories of this wonderful place with more than lavish hand ! § Go
where you will, do what you will," have
been my orders—loyally obeyed. Shadwell
has never given me a dull moment, though
I have always grudged the hours that one
perforce must spend between the sheets
there.    How  different  is   the  atmosphere  of SHADWELL   COURT in
this place from that of those where one
must not cough for fear of alarming the
pheasants, and where the gun is only allowed
out of its case on well defined shooting-
days ! In my last visit to Shadwell, extending
over five weeks, a bag was made on every
single day, except Sundays : and even on those
days, after an orderly visit to one of the
pretty churches, there were very productive
hours spent with the pike on the great and
beautiful   lake.
In the little world of eleven thousand
acres that lies about the Court, Shadwell
is full of surprises, wonders, and pleasures.
The master mind insisting on thoroughness and perfection is evident in all directions. Order and wildness march ever
together; you could not find an untidy
edge to the miles of drive sweeping through
the   forest,   but   you   might   easily   happen 112
on a teal or woodcock's nest within three
feet of it. There are wooded morasses
through which one could not struggle in
safety in waders, but you could not discover
a hang-dog looking gate anywhere on the
place. From primeval forests studded with
giant oaks and knee-deep in bracken, one
emerges upon some trim thatch-covered lodge ;
a row of boxes—homes of the blue-blooded
thoroughbreds confronts one, now in white
magnificence among some heathery slopes,
now in the neatness of red brick and green
doors at the corner of some fir forest. I
know nothing about golf and care less, but
even to my ignorant eye the fairway and
the emerald greens of the private course
that hangs over the lake suggest perfection
and, if ever I was compelled to play the
game as a punishment, I might almost do
so   here   with   resignation,   keeping   my   eye  ii4
on the swans and ducks dotted on the waters
beneath, and my ear ever open for the cock-
pheasants crowing in the famous " Half
Moon" wood behind. And there is one
hole where the comely thoroughbreds put
their pretty . necks over the paddock-rails
and watch the strokes. Yes, I think I shall
play golf someday—at Shadwell: there is
another tee where one drives over the river—
a topped ball runs into the water and might
kill a pike. There is something in golf
after all—at Shadwell, and last spring there
were some very elegant pheasants' nests
in the rough ; the shapely feet of the birds
may often be traced in the trim sand-bunkers.
One may wander up into the gardens and
find bananas growing; squirrels, partridges
and pheasants gather on the lawns at breakfast time, a hare or two also—if haply the
gardeners   do   not   know   of   them—and a SHADWELL   COURT 115
whole family of owls once sat in the summer
dusk upon the tennis net. A long stone's
throw from the Court stands the neat fire-
engine in its hidden house, ever ready night
or day for an emergency, and the discharge
of a bomb would assemble the amateur
firemen in a trice. There is so much to write
about at Shadwell that one is at a loss in
what order to attempt the task. The home
farm and estate office, all black and white,
nestle amongst the trees outside the park
gates; not far away is yet another row of
boxes, this time green and white, and perhaps the most elegant of all.
The key-note of the place is the thoroughbreds ; magnificent stallions meet one on
one's walks, mares and foals wander in paddocks, some of two hundred acres in extent;
there is little land left to its own devices
except   where   timber   or   water   reigns   and
1 2 n6
the purple and golden vastness of the
Norwich heath. Game is a happy incident
at Shadwell—neither unduly encouraged or
unduly repressed, and yet it is not too much
to say that almost every variety of creature
'which the English shooter seeks, lives there
in countless numbers with the exception
of the rabbit. The latter has been ruthlessly exterminated. Forty-five thousand were
killed in the first year, ten thousand in
the next, and the total number of head killed
on the property during that first season
reached the astonishing number of fifty-
six thousand. Even so this was, I believe
exclusive of the game-bag over four thousand
acres which had not then come into hand.
First the warreners with their ferrets, nets
and long dogs went to work upon the rabbits,
then came the plough and completed the
task,  the whole estate was wired to prevent SHADWELL  COURT
incursions from outside, and of course a careful watch is still kept everywhere to detect
the very occasional intruder. A rabbit on
shooting days is a great rarity—rarer than
a woodcock in many places: and when
next I shoot one there, I am going to put his
tail in my bowler hat, in the same way
that all the best men adorn theirs with
" points," although these latter must be
expensive to buy.
It is perhaps more easy to imagine than
describe the extraordinary amount of wild
creatures which have their abode round Shadwell. In days gone by the pink-footed goose
was a common visitor, the great bustard
had its last English home in these parts, a
bittern has been caught by hand there within
the writer's memory and I have seen peregrine
falcon, osprey, hen-harrier, cormorant, and
numbers   of   stone-curlew   in   recent   years. n8
The hobby, the sparrow-hawk and the kestrel
are of course common, and owls are always
hissing at one from some hollow tree or
calling, calling, calling to each other through
the stillness of the night. I love to lie
in bed and listen to them tossing their
strange mysterious notes from one covert to
Canadian geese have now taken the place
of the pink-foot. Originally introduced at
Holkham, I believe, these birds have increased enormously, and it is no uncommon
sight to see a flock of fifty or sixty sitting
on the Shadwell Lake. As visitors they are
not welcome, being most untidy in their
habits and pugnacious in their attitude
towards other wild-fowl. In the shooting-
season they are wary, and unapproachable
without the greatest care ; in the spring the
gander   will   attack   anyone   who   goes   near SHADWELL   COURT 119
the nest, and I have even known one charge
a motor-car and become decapitated in the
The main lake and its islands extend to
close on forty acres; there are two other
smaller ones, besides some lesser meres and
miles of river. Wild-fowl of almost every
kind abound; I have met with mallard,
wigeon, teal, pochard, shoveler, gadwall,
goldeneye, tufted duck and merganzer, and
other rarer varieties have been noted in past
years. Swans, the finest natural dredgers
of any water, come and stay here without
let or hindrance, often taking long
flights overhead—a magnificent sight on a
sunny day. There is music in the rhythm
of their wing-beats, but the wild chorus
of the Canadian geese as they speed through
the darkness of the night, foolishly betraying
their journey, is the most unforgettable sound 120
in this place of weird and interesting voices
of  the  wild.
Otters, of course, are common in such
a natural country for them : the beaters
killed one once w7hen we were covert-shooting,
and you may see them slip noiselessly past
when waiting for the ducks to flight at
dusk. Then are the wonderful sounds of
unseen life most marvellous to hear : the
crowing pheasants going up to bed, the
partridges on distant stubbles saying goodnight, the croak of the heron as he comes
down to fish, the scream of the snipe, the
chatter of moorhens, the whistle of mallards'
wings, the laughter and quack of the birds
as they flit overhead, and finally the hooting
of the owls and the splash of some restless
I have never seen so many kingfishers
as  there are here :   they skim their jewelled SHADWELL   COURT
way round every corner of the lake, and often
favour one with a sight of their fishing.
Wonderful it is to see them sometimes pick
a tiny fish from the water as they drop from
a tree, and then skim off in alarm ; but more
usually are they poised on palpitating wings,
like tiny hawks, above the hunting-ground—
to fall as direct as a stone upon their prey,
often vanishing for a moment underneath the
water. Few more perfect sights are there than
these antics, played again and again in the
sunshine of an early summer's morning.
Naturally these vast expanses of water
are the home of countless fish : I once saw
a shoal of roach and rudd and dace, in a
narrow neck of the lake, which was twenty-
two yards long and three or four broad. I
stepped its length but had to guess its width.
Nine or ten years ago the lake was cleared
of fish with a view to stocking with trout but Mr   GAME-BOOK
the idea was afterwards found impracticable,
and the rivers once again fed the empty
bed, with what result the foregoing facts
will suggest. Furthermore, although the lake
has not really yet had time to recover, I have
taken pike of sixteen and fifteen pounds
here and numbers of others between eleven
pounds and five. But most of these fish
are not killed, they are put back to grow;
only the little ones below five pounds are
destroyed to make some room for others.
The rule of the lake is " kill any fish you
can catch bigger than the last good one
kept." In the present instance it will require
a weight of sixteen and a half pounds to
justify a sentence of death.
On hot sunny days very admirable sport
may be had with the dry-fly among rudd
and roach : on one occasion, although carefully  keeping  under  the  shade  of  the  trees A   BREAKFAST-VIEW  AT  SHADWELL COURT
a*W^ 124
and fishing lazily from the bank, I caught
something over fifty in about four hours.
There are many rudd in the lake, and roach
up to two pounds in weight, and some of the
former are, no doubt much heavier; great
eels there are, too, and perch up to specimen
size ; but except for spinning and occasional
fly-fishing, the lake is not seriously attacked
by the angler.
No doubt the pike do considerable harm
to the ducks : they once killed over three
hundred young ones in a season. The teal,
too, the gadwall and the tufted duck, all
of which breed here, must suffer greatly
though they do not appear to do so. I
saw no fewer than fifteen pairs of nesting
tufted ducks at Shadwell last year. The
great crested grebe lose their young with
regularity, but they come back again next
season unabashed;   and   coots and  moorhens SHADWELL   COURT
abound but do not increase much, although
no one bothers to shoot them except
very rarely. Sometimes the coot will get
up and give high sporting-shots, but more
often when we are duck-shooting they just
lie low. It would take a pack of spaniels
to shift them from the dense reeds that
fringe   the  islands   and   the  lake.
So far I have dealt almost entirely with
the natural beauties and natural life of Shadwell, doing both but a scant justice. The
actual shooting days must claim the attention
of a chapter to themselves. CHAPTER  VIII.
Shooting-Days  at  Shadwell.
OF ALL the Shadwell expeditions there
are none perhaps quite so happy
as what we are pleased to call the
" early morning duck-scraps." Summer or
winter alike the process, if not the hour of
rising, is much the same. The loud knock
of the night-watchman wakes us to the youthful day and then—whether it be 4 a.m. or
6 a.m.—a hot breakfast awaits us as soon
as we are down. Then away to our various
stands on the different lakes, which are
reached in the inky darkness ; decoys are set
up, and we wait in our " hides " for the incoming ducks until half the morning is over.
No ducks  are"  penned   up   at   Shadwell   or SHOOTING AT SHADWELL     127
sent to a distance in hampers to be released
at the discretion of the keepers and at the
convenience of the guns. None even are
artificially reared. This duck-shooting is at
the wild birds in their wild habits, and the
only outside assistance the guns get is that
the keepers walk the distant rivers, to keep
the birds on the move if they seem disinclined
to make in our direction. In this way some
excellent bags have been made: three of us
have shot fifty-four duck before breakfast;
fifty have more than once been secured since
then; one gun on the lake has dropped thirty
when out by himself; and never a morning
spent in this way but sees a return with a
very considerable burden. With artificial
rearing it would be possible to kill thousands
of duck in a day on these lakes, but it would
be a very different and inferior kind of
shooting.    The dusky forms that steal upon 128 Mr   GAME-BOOK
one through the gloom; the uncertainty
as to whether the next visitors will be teal,
| tuftie," shoveler or gadwall; the crouching
in the | hide" to cheat the wariest eye in
nature; the alertness caused by the sound
of a distant gun; the wonderful beauty of
the surrounding woods and water; the
sw ish of descending birds; their downfall or escape—all these things prompt me
to give to such hours the palm of the shooting world as  I  have knowm it.
And what a bird is a wild-duck, of almost
any variety : as timid as a stag, as uncertain
in his moods as the most delightful of women ;
swift as the wind, and as tough as the oldest
blackcock—even when you have knocked him
down he is very far from gathered, unless
the shot has met him in his by no means
contemptible brain. One only sees him at
his  very  best  at  flight-time.  ■B
THE   mallard.
When the darkness disperses at touch of the sun,
Your daytime is over, your night has begun,
And, anxious a peaceful siesta to take,
You flight to the wind-sheltered edge of the lake.
And there, with your head neatly tucked 'neath your wing
You ponder, no doubt, on the coming of spring ;
But never was love-dream so deep, so entrancing,
That you hear not the steps of the gunner advancing.
As free as you're wild, as wild as you're free,
You've limitless haunts on the land and the sea;
Frost and snow have no terrors—you learn in a trice
Where the stream runs unfettered by bondage of ice.
For your weight and your beauty we count you a prize,
When from reed-covered river you clumsily rise;
But give me the storm and the gathering dark,
The whistle of pinions—the dimly seen mark.
Our shooting expeditions at Shadwell have
at times had a distinct spice of originality :
one night after dinner we went out with
a motor head-light to shoot pigeons at roost
in Langmere Belt. The pigeons were there
all right but would not stay to be shot;  we SHOOTING AT SHADWELL     131
could, however, have shot any quantity of
pheasants in the strong rays of the lamp,
had we been so disposed. It was rather
a weird experience, as we expected any
moment to feel a keeper's heavy hand upon us,
having given no warning of our intended
foray. Another night we sallied forth in
the snow, under a bright moon, after ducks :
my share of this little trip was to sink my dress
trousers in a dyke, but one of the sons of
the house brought off a couple of successful
right-and-lefts. I had yet another and less
disastrous shoot in the dark—and evening-
dress. This time it was geese : they passed
my window as I was getting ready for
dinner one evening. The next night I dressed
early, and stealing out of the house at seven
o'clock, went down to the lake to wait. The
birds came quickly; I knocked four of them
down out of the darkness, and was back in the
K 2 132
hall just as the gong sounded, punctually
at seven-thirty. We only recovered three
of the geese, the fourth had vanished utterly
and we never saw him again. And in the immediate neighbourhood of this estate some
delightful sport has fallen to my lot. Chiefly
do I remember at Kilverstone the share
in a bag of close on a hundred brace of
partridges; at the Abbey a wonderful mixed
total of over four hundred head, in spite
of the date being half way through January
and  the   guns   but   five.
Partridge days at Shadwell leave little to
be desired ; every variety of stand one gets
there : from the hurdles to the tall belts,
from the twenty foot hedge to the long
clump of gorse. Perhaps the best of them all
is that known as the Black Jot, where the
birds are congregated in furze and bracken
before   having   to   top   a   long   line   of   firs. SHOOTING AT  SHADWELL     133
And, just as one cannot go partridge shooting
here without pheasants coming over the guns,
so in covert-shooting there is always the
expectation of partridges, and the stand in
the park with the mixed feathered stream
topping the lofty elms of Shadwell Long
Lane is a thing to dream of in less happy
moments. My liveliest memory of partridge
driving at Shadwell is, however, when six of
us killed two hundred and forty brace in
three days.towards the end of September.
Hares might almost be given a dozen
pages to themselves. Unwelcome because of
their destructive habits they crop up nevertheless, defeating the wire that masters the
rabbits by coming down the roads at night,
or sneaking in numbers through a gate left
open carelessly. Covert-shooting one day
I killed thirteen at a stand when expecting   nothing   but   pheasants, and as   a   stern 134
necessity they often have to be given a day
to themselves.
Eight guns, myself among them, have
killed three hundred and forty-five in the
day; on more than one occasion I have been
out when over two hundred were killed,
and once three of us accounted for one hundred and sixty-eight in three big drives.
Naturally hare-driving is not to be compared with other forms of shooting. As I have
suggested, it is a necessity—for the hare
in Norfolk comes near to vermin at times.
Nevertheless these hares are fine strong
fellows, and they race through the guns
like tiny thoroughbreds. They used to make
the greyhounds feel very small in olden
days. These dogs were encouraged at Shadwell until they struck up an unholy alliance
with two fox-terriers for poaching excursions.
The   terriers   hunted   the   woods   while   the SHOOTING AT SHADWELL     135
greyhounds waited outside. The climax was
reached one day at a shooting-party when
suddenly a hare appeared with a big fawn
dog at her scent, and the two of them
thundered down the whole line of waiting
guns.    It  was  a fine sight,  but unorthodox.
For a good many years now I have been
lucky enough to be at the Court for the
Christmas covert-shooting, which is, of course,
frequently " Cocks only." But let not the
limitation deceive ; such days have been known
to produce a bag of over three hundred of
the gorgeous fellows, and I have shot through
five days of a December week which saw
eight hundred cock-birds come to a timely
end in addition to a large amount of other
Bad pheasants are practically unknown here :
the stand at the Snarehill Wood where the
birds flushed from a slope sail over the guns 136
in the water-meadows below; that at the
Fifty Acres where, after a long bout of walk-
ing-in, the shooters stand well back to a
small covert on a hill; the Water Pit with
one belt running up to another across it at
the top, behind which the line waits—all
these places are fine testers of the man, the
gun, and the cartridges. Hardly inferior
birds does one get out of the Oak Wood,
the Thetford, or the Stake Woods. The
latter again has natural position to aid it,
but in other woods the enormous height
of the old trees lift up the pheasants as high
as one wants them. No prettier stand could
be imagined than the Stake Wood with the
lake shimmering in the distance and the
emerald sward of the turf dotted about
everywhere with shapely and majestic trees.
Almost as delightful is the Half Moon Wood
with   its   great   firs   and   dense   bracken,   the SHOOTING AT SHADWELL     137
lake again in the distance and opposite,
through the gaps of the wood, a glimpse
of the tiled roofs of the thoroughbreds'
boxes  on Langmere Hill.
Woodcock are always to be found in these
great woods : I have seen nine flushed when
pheasant shooting in the densely-brambled
carpet of the South Wood ; and the " New
Forest," all bracken and heather with here
and there a clump of trees, is an absolutely
certain find for them. Last winter in the
former covert three got up together from
a brier patch at the very moment chosen for
the lighting of a cigarette ! One sees these
birds, too, at dusk flighting to the marshes
to feed, and there are always some nests each
season on the estate. The most curious
meeting I have had with a woodcock was
out partridge-driving, when I killed one
as he topped the fence of an open field.    The 138
Cascade, half marsh and half wood, is another
sure haunt of woodcock, and is in addition
beloved of duck and pheasants. There is
always a great deal of variety in a Shadwell
bag; to kill pheasant, hare and partridge
at the same stand is a commonplace; twice
I have had seven different species to my gun
in a day, and have in all shot something like
eighteen varieties of birds and creatures of the
gun in this delectable spot, without counting
occasional attacks on stray vermin.
The great flocks of wood-pigeon which
travel this way in autumn and winter have
given us many pleasant excursions, and some
very fair bags have at times been made. The
weather, however, upon which this style
of shooting greatly depends, is seldom suitable at the right moment. Either there
is wind and no pigeons or pigeons and
no wind.    Decoys,  too,  make a  tremendous SHOOTING AT SHADWELL     139
difference when set up in numbers in the
tallest trees. The trouble is to get them there :
the pole method is absurd—how can one
carry thirty to forty feet of pole about with
one, let alone raise it up unaided ? The
string method, whereby the decoys are drawn
up into position, is admirable, but it is no
light task to fix the strings in some of these
great trees. Usually they are slung over
the tree with the help of a big stone or a
fishing weight, but it takes many weary hours
to get them satisfactorily placed. Often have
I read with amusement the thrilling accounts
of vast bags made in combined pigeon shoots.
In really rough weather these might be
possible, though even then the totals, running
into thousands, are a little too good to be true.
I have been out at Shadwell on a still Boxing
Day with every wood occupied by keepers
for   miles    and   miles    round,   with   pigeons GAME-BOOK
everywhere, and have not let my gun off
half-a-dozen times. The birds simply spent
the day in the clouds and the few shots were
obtained at roosting time. The pre-arranged
pigeon-shoot, no matter what the combination, is doomed to failure unless the elements
be kind, and the story of the dead thousands
is pretty but lacks confirmation.
As the season draws to its close, on most
estates the game appears to decrease; I
suppose it does so at Shadwell as well, but
the fact is wonderfully concealed. Many
a day have I had in January, when all shooting
was supposed to be over, and with one or two
of my host's sons have helped to put together
a hundred head, and that with only eight
or nine keepers and beaters to help in the
great woods. These are days of thought
and scheming, of hurried dashes of the whole
party   from  one end   of   the   estate   to   the HkHri
other in a big motor van to deceive the wily
cock-pheasants; glorious sporting-days, light-
hearted and prolific, with a hurried lunch
eaten in the van and always the wish at the
end of the afternoon for just one more drive !
Days, too, there have been on the wonderful
Norwich heath where alone the rabbits thrive,
though in subdued numbers; long hours
spent in tramping^ bracken and heath, in
walking round and round great clumps of
fern to eject the diffident bunny, with ever
the big chance of a shot at partridge or hare,
pheasant or woodcock. And ferreting-days,
with the box of scratching ferrets, the keen
warreners, and the long spade, sometimes
too often called into use. But the box
holds many ferrets and one can always wander
away from the digging and play the dual
part of shooter and worker of ferrets. Few
places   can   rival   the   glories   of   the   heath Mr   GAME-BOOK
either in summer, with wave upon wave
of purple rising to the distance, or in winter,
with the decayed bracken gleaming golden
in the light  of a hesitating sun.   '
Neither are my solitary rambles with the
gun to be lightly forgotten, often taken
alone with my dogs or with but a small boy
to carry the bag. Down by the rivers are
my favourite hunting-places, and in those
swampy and wild parts one never knows
what next will claim attention. It may be
a jack or a full snipe, a duck of almost any
breed, a pheasant, partridge, hare, escaped
rabbit, pigeon, or woodcock. Often up to
my ankles in water, sometimes up to my
knees, and before now up to my neck and
even over—if this is rough shooting there
is at least as much shooting as roughness,
which is very seldom the case in similar
expeditions     made     in     other    less     happy SHOOTING  AT SHADWELL     143
surroundings. And sometimes one comes
across a string of thoroughbreds off to be
galloped in the park, or walks through a
field of mares to their intense interest—
for they will follow one as though they would
come shooting too, and it needs a great deal
of gentle persuasion to convince them that even
their sweet company is not always desirable.
Once while I was standing waiting as end
gun in a hare-drive, while the vast line swept
round on the other flank, I heard the soft
pad of hoofs behind me and turning round
saw Henry the First—favourite for the Derby
in St. Amant's year, second to Pretty Polly
in the Leger, and winner of many races—
out for his afternoon constitutional. A Derby
favourite in the middle of a hare-drive!
But Henry the First would not have minded
taking part; the sound of the guns has no
terrors for him.    And with this little picture i44
as gently suggestive of the wonderful interests
of Shadwell Court I leave my subject—sadly
as I always have, but now even more so, because
I feel I have not written of it as I love it:
another degree of impossibility.
SHOOTING without a dog is rather like
eggs without bacon. Some people
prefer it, as they do the lonely eggs ;
but to my mind the combination is desirable,
whether for an excellent dish or an excellent
sport. When out with the gun a great deal
quite alone, the companionship of a dog is as
necessary as it is delightful. For twenty-
three years I have scarcely been a month
without a dog or two about the house.
The perfect shooting-dog is extremely rare,
whatever his variety. Perfect pointers and
setters however are more common than paragons among retrievers and spaniels.    The task
of the former is less trying to their nature
and they never have to pursue even wounded
game. The retriever, on the other hand, has
to chase to order—but never without, while
the spaniel has to hunt without chasing,
and in addition to do the work of a retriever,
and with the same restraint. Steadiness in
a dog is so essential to the ordinary shooting-
party, that there is always the danger of its
sacrificing courage. The dog that combines the two attributes of pluck and self-
restraint, together with a good nose, is always
worth the stiffish price that is asked for him.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, a well
broken dog is no machine, and speedily
deteriorates even to the point of worthless-
ness with indifferent handling or with lack
of work. A high-priced animal is therefore
an investment few care to make, and dog-
breaking as a pastime does not appeal to all, DOGS
even if they have time, opportunity, and
ability to undertake the task.
We need look no further for reasons to
account for the fact that few shooting-men
bother themselves with dogs, and that the
majority of retrievers we see in the fields
are with the keepers. The latter, in that
they are not shooting themselves and are
very often not even with the shooting-line,
naturally do not have to ask so much of
their dogs and are in a better* position to
command obedience than a shooter busy
with guns, loader and a stream of birds
coming  over  his  head.
On the whole I am inclined to think that
the retriever will, in spite of field trials,
tend more and more to become the keeper's
rather than the gun's attendant. Sad as
this may be, it is at least a development of
the   shooting-field   for   which   one   can   see
l2 148
clear-cut reasons, but the same cannot be
said of the unpopularity of the setter and
pointer down south. Certainly early in the
season partridges could be shot over dogs
in many districts and the unfailing excuse
of short stubbles cannot blind one to the
good cover offered by roots, clovers, mustard,
and rough grass. And as to a comparison
between walking-up game with and without
dogs, there is none in the mind of man who
has tried both methods. Shooting over dogs
would, of course, mean smaller shooting-parties,
but that is at least a questionable objection.
Whatever the destiny of pointers and
setters or the ultimate position of the retriever,
the spaniel's future is a particularly rosy one.
Here is a dog which may be taught one day
to lie motionless in the hottest corner, and
the next to find his master game in a solitary
ramble.    I  have known  retrievers  undertake
■»^prpirs«*wpr*tiwp* DOGS
this dual responsibility, but dogs that will
do so without deterioration are not many,
and there are few owners who care to risk
their favourites in pursuit of unwounded
game. Nor is the retriever of a size to
enable him to push the unwilling rabbit or
pheasant in brambles and other very dense
Of course the spaniel, perfect in both
departments of shooting, is rare—rarer perhaps than the genuine no-slip retriever.
Nevertheless, for all solitary shooting the
spaniel can do everything that the latter
can do, and a good deal more. And for rough
shooting minor faults are of small consequence ; the occasional pursuit of a hare or
a rabbit for a short distance matters little;
retrieving at a gallop is a necessity only if
one shoots by a stop-watch, and dropping
to shot or flushed game a luxury with which ISO
we can dispense. Perfect steadiness to shot
is, however, essential—and so is a keen nose,
a good mouth and close ranging; but such
a combination of virtues is not beyond the
pocket of the average shooter to procure
or beyond the intelligence of the average
sportsman to produce, supposing that he
tries his hand only on animals well-endowed
with natural instincts for their duties. The
check-cord is a wonderful aid to securing
obedience, steadiness to shot can be assured
by an unsparing use of cartridges, a perfect
nose and. mouth are largely the gifts of nature,
though the latter needs careful watching
in the early stages of training; loads must
not be too cumbersome and the close
feathered ducks are the best of all for preliminary lessons, pheasants and pigeons the
worst. Hares and rabbits are, of course,
the great stumbling blocks to dogs their lives DOGS 151
through : one cannot teach a spaniel to
ignore them, as is perhaps best with a young
retriever, for the simple reason that rabbits at
any rate are the staple product of the rough
shoot. Mercifully a rabbit seldom gives the
chance of a long chase and patience and
gentle remonstrance will invariably bring
moderate restraint in the case of hares.
More we cannot ask for until after many
Think not that I am blind to the
marvellous results obtained by field-trial
handlers, or that I consider such high training excessive. Nothing of the kind, but
dogs which gain these championships are for
the genius at dog-breaking to produce, the
millionaire to purchase. The average shooting man is not necessarily either. My
remarks are but intended to point out
how   comparatively   moderate   need   be   the Mr   GAME-BOOK
qualifications of a really useful rough-
shooting spaniel, and how these may be
acquired by a judicious working of commonsense
on nature.
It is quite extraordinary how quickly a
dog, naturally well-endowed, will learn to
be really useful. I have a little black cocker
bitch, Dinah, which never heard a gun fired
till November. In January I shot eighty-
four cock-pheasants over her in some of the
thickest undergrowth that was ever seen.
Without her help a score of cartridges would
not have been got rid of. The first two
days she chased the birds badly, then she
steadied down and at the end of a fortnight so far knew the difference between a
cock and a hen that she showed little excitement when one of the latter rose. She
was almost staunch to hares also before we
were   finished   with   the   pheasants—that   is  J54
to   say,   if   they  did  not   get  up   too   close
to her.
No one is more clearly aware than the
writer that the rough-shooting spaniel has
its strict limitations. He is best alone with
his master; only really high training can
render a dog serviceable with a shooting-
party or for work with other canine companions. Jealousy and excitability are the
spaniel's strongest characteristics, but they
are characteristics which if they sometimes
limit his possibilities certainly give him that
dash and courage so desired by the solitary
shooter who often has to work hard and go
far for his bag. Perhaps the very highest
product of the dog-breaker's art, is the team
of spaniels that will work perfectly to two
or three guns, and which in addition to finding game will retrieve only as and when
ordered. DOGS 155
There are few dogs more pleasant to shoot
over than the steady painstaking clumber,
and few dogs that look more workmanlike;
nevertheless, my favourites have ever been
the cockers and springers : their courage,
their energy, and their perseverance is wonderful, and their merry companionship serves
to brighten the days when game is scarce.
Judy, a springer bitch that I once had, was
my inseparable attendant for many years;
out with other guns she was as wild as a
hawTk, alone with me she was matchless,
especially when duck-flighting. She would
make herself scarce under a bush while the
birds were coming and never move unless
she heard one drop. To break through ice
and swim in the coldest water was her greatest
delight, though twice she nearly lost her
life through being unable to get a footing
on the edge of the ice.    I can truthfully say Mr   GAME-BOOK
I never lost a duck when I had her out with
me, and once she fetched a cock-pheasant
out of a rabbit-hole, three hundred yards
from where it was shot—in spite of the fact
that I, thinking that she was in the wrong,
was abusing her roundly for going so far away.
One morning, too, she retrieved a duck for
me and I twisted its neck and left it on trie
river bank to save the trouble of carrying
it. Returning an hour afterwards I found
it gone, and, after a long search, gave it up
for stolen. We started for home but had
not gone far before the bitch threw up her
head, stepped into the water, swam across
fifty yards of river, and disappeared on the
other side. A few moments later she was
swimming back to me with the duck in her
mouth still very much alive. And yet I
have seen that same spaniel raising a cloud
of pheasants and behaving like a  mad thing *&
DOGS 157
when out in company with (needless to say)
some very great friends of mine. We took
her out much against my will, and the
result was as expected by at least one of the
party. Many men would have called her
a worthless cur, but as a single-handed dog
money could not have bought her. Poor
Judy ! I never saw a worse or a better dog—
according to circumstances. Her's was a nature
that never did things by halves, even to the
having of puppies—she produced a total of
twenty-five   in   two   litters !
Five years divide us—fifty could not dim
The memories of flight-time and your swim
Through icy depths to gather fallen duck,
Nor fifty more blot out your dauntless pluck !
Dead you may be, but idle ?—not at all—
Cocked ears still listen for a splash or fall;
Somewhere, I'm sure, along the river Styx
You balk the wounded mallard's diving tricks.
De mortuis nil nisi what is proper,
So, doubtless, now you come no moral cropper,
And have forgotten your once constant habit
Of chasing every undefeated   rabbit.
We'll meet again ;  when Charon takes me o'er,
You'll come with wagging tail along the shore,
And by those misty dykes we'll softly steal
Stalking the ghosts of wigeon and of teal.
Bess was a very handsome black field-
spaniel with a few generations of prizewinners in her pedigree which, though they
had succeeded in putting on length to her
ears at the expense of her legs, had not been
successful in giving her a cowardly heart.
A couple of hours hunting brought her
often to a standstill, and she would lie out
on the downs crying because she could not
go on working. Often she had to be carried
part of the way home—and she was no light
weight. Shooting-men have little for which to
thank the fanciers and showmen : the standard DOGS
they ask for in dogs is very often completely
opposed to the work nature intended them
to do, and there is nothing to prevent a hard-
mouthed or gun-shy spaniel or retriever
from winning prizes innumerable. As well
reward a cow that never gave milk or a pig
that couldn't make sausages, as a shooting-
dog that has not been trained to the field.
I must resist the temptation to write much
more of my own dogs, but my Game-Book
would not be complete without mention
of Bonny. Bonny came from Ireland and
stayed with me for a fortnight; he would
have stayed longer if he had not been given
away, for I am sure he never had such a
time in his life as with me. We used to go
out shooting together—meaning, as far as
I was concerned, to stay together; Bonny
thought otherwise, and he was generally
right.    The   first   thing  he   saw  he   chased: Mr   GAME-BOOK
it was once a swan and at another time a
snipe. His original quarry he pursued until
he saw something else, and then he chased
that. Nothing would bring him back again
so I used to go on shooting by myself
in another direction and when a start was
made for home he followed a quarter of a
mile behind. Why didn't I thrash him ?
Well, one cannot thrash a dog for chasing
a snipe or a swan if he has chased a dozen
pheasants and four hares in the meantime.
Besides I could never get near him until
about three hours after the offence, and the
whip did not seem to me the best means
to inspire confidence. Bonny beat me, but
I never beat him. He had, however, a stroke
of genius one day : he accidentally chased a
wounded duck that had been shot, and
actually went clean under water and caught
it   below the   surface.    He   evinced a strong DOGS 161
desire to eat it when he brought it to the
I have had a good many bad dogs in my
time: another was a Welshman, the price
of which was a fiver : he used to look on
and wag his tail when required to work. He
was quite harmless and, as an old keeper
put it, I gave ^4 19s. lid. too much for
him : but I think the keeper over-estimated
his value. The few good dogs that one
gets hold of, make ample recompense for
the disappointments. The companionship of
an intelligent animal is one of the most
wonderful things in this world : how much
he will do for one and how little he expects
in return! It is difficult not to be sentimental when writing of dogs, especially
spaniels, and Dinah's eyes are looking up at
me  as  these  lines  are  written.
The   superiority   of   the   bitch   over   the
:    M
wdms* 162
male has struck me all through my life. The
ladies seem so much more tractable, docile,
intelligent, affectionate, and faithful. It may
be only a fancy but I write as experience
dictates, and the point is perhaps worth
consideration in view of the prejudice that
so many have against bitches. Nevertheless
I love all dogs that have useful accomplishments, whatever their breed or sex, from
the ratting terrier to the no-slip retriever
or sheep-dog. Only the idle rich in the
canine world I cannot abide, even if they
do win prizes.
How different the yapping, be-coated, and
be-ribboned lap-dog to one to whom the
following lines might aptly apply. DOGS 163
Strong indeed is the runner that baffles your wonderful nose :
You'll follow him hell for leather through the thickest stuff
that grows;
Cold does not  daunt you, nor danger, at the time of the
evening flight,
When you plunge into ice and water for your master's left-
You've crouched in the draughty grouse-butt,  you've sat
behind the fence,
You've stood in some hottish corners besides the woodlands
And  you  never  moved   an  eyelid  when  the  hares   came
scurrying by,
And you only cocked one silky ear when you saw a rabbit die.
It isn't exactly easy :  I can see by your wistful eye,
When  birds  come   flying   past  us,  and   your   master  lets
them fly:
To just sit still and do nothing; but you're worth your weight
in gold,
For, however strong temptation,  you never go till you're
You're black as a heap of coal dust, black as a naked nigger,
But never a whiter sportsman watched  for the pull of a
You're only a poor dumb bow-wow, but you'd put some men
to shame,
For there's brains in that broad, deep forehead when you
ponder the tricks of game.
M 2
*&*  CHAPTER  X.
In   the   Highlands.
THE strong contrast between games and
sport that I always feel to exist,
is very well brought out in a couple
of visits to Scotland. The first a Christmas
Corinthian tour and Glasgow on New Year's
Eve—actual showers of rain—coming showers
of whiskey, as evidenced by the appearance
of a bottle of that liquor in the pocket of
almost every passer-by; mud, crowds, cold,
wet, and nastiness. The second experience
was to awake among the Trossacks on a
glorious sunny morning with the shade and
glitter of mysterious lakes around, the misty
suggestion of imperious mountains in the
distance,  and  the  prospect  of  grouse which
irfgs? 166
every moment grew more real as here and
there a covey or two appeared, sunning itself in the heather while the train slipped
easily on.
One, of course, views immediate surroundings with eyes that look as wrell into the
future, and thus even London is fair at times.
I love to pass through her on a late December
afternoon with the lights of the shops gleaming kindly through a suspicion of fog, and I
love her in an August twilight as the cab
worries its way through mean, dull streets
to the roar and bustle of St. Pancras. All
the great stations of London appeal to me:
the long trains, the panting, powerful
engines—but chiefly, I think, because they
take one right away from gloom and smoke,
from rush, hurry and smell, from motor-
buses and many other quite detestable things.
And   then   how   restful   the   smooth,   quiet IN   THE  HIGHLANDS
journey through the gathering night: the
hum of the train as it settles down: the
distant twinkling lights: and a dreamy unconsciousness in which pointers stand at
salmon, and grouse make the reel run.
Even the shunting at Edinburgh—its
jarring into wakefulness—is welcome as marking a stage nearer one's goal. The journey
to and from Scotland is now a marvel of
comfort: I have gone on board the train,
dined, slipped into bed and remembered
nothing more until I heard a voice say,
" You will be in in three-quarters of an hour,
sir." That was on a return—I could not
sleep through the wonders that seem to beckon
one through the carriage-windows on the
Highland  Railway.
Those same good friends that have suffered
me with such patience in Norfolk, took me
to  Scotland  and let  me loose  to  work  my Mr  GAME-BOOK
will round Inverlochy and Keppoch. Leaving
St. Pancras at eight one night, next morning
I drove straight from Fort William to
Keppoch fourteen miles away, just calling
in at Inverlochy Castle as we passed. At
eleven-thirty my first grouse was dead—second
barrel—and I am not likely to forget him : just
as I had left London I shot him—I was dressed
in a dark blue suit with a pair of borrowed
boots on my feet : no time to unpack anything
except a gun. What the gillies must have
thought of my appearance on the moor I cannot
imagine. The rest of that morning I spent
rushing up and down young mountains to
pick up grouse, utterly refusing to let the men
touch them. And then, what with the heat
of the sun, the excitement, the long journey
and my unsuitable clothes, I came near to
collapsing on Keppoch's highest point. My
thoughtful companion, however,  soon pulled ON THE  HEIGHTS OF  INVERLOCHY. Mr   GAME-BOOK
me round with a premature lunch and I shot
through the rest of the day as well-
conditioned  as   the  grouse   themselves.
Keppoch is a lovely moor, with heathery
mountains running up to bouldered heights,
with crystal burns dancing down through
heath or breast-high bracken—a back-aching
moor, but none the worse for that; and the
grouse are everywhere, and blackgame, too—
often, when flushed, winging their strong
way clean across the wide valley to dimly-
seen fir-forests on the far hill-side. It is
essentially a moor for dogs, though we had
a quite good impromptu day's driving there ;
and at one stand, with the butts placed too
much in the valley, the grouse looked for
all the world like starlings, as they came
As a test of shooting the walked-up grouse
is   incomparable   to   the   driven   bird :   the IN   THE  HIGHLANDS 171
former, especially over dogs, being almost
a gift for the gun. Nevertheless, I am not
sure that one does not feel more thoroughly
the spirit of the moor, when tramping the
heather in a stern pursuit, than when idly,
though palpitatingly, watching for the black
specks to rise before the distant line of beaters.
To wander over such a wonderfully perfumed
carpet—more intoxicating to the senses than
the most exquisite bouquet : to drink
thirstily, and unwisely, from every babbling
brook—lying in the cool heather to immerse
face as well as mouth: to go on and on
unguided except by the ranging pointers in
front : to rest as one will, or, better still,
never to rest : to expect all things—from
a snipe to a blackcock, from a rabbit to a roe
—I fancy that in all this there is more of
true Scotland than in sitting motionless in
a butt.    And then the dogs—was ever such 172
grace, such beauty, such intelligence ? Can
one forget Juno and Flora, constant companions through many unforgetable days;
never a blunder, never a mistake, never a
foot placed clumsily; one moment widely
contemptuous of distance, the next, turned
to living statues on the steep hill-side—
motionless, only willing with the most gentle
coaxing to steal a pace nearer to the lurking
covey. Or again, the questing pointers have
likened themselves, in my perhaps fantastic
mind, to the white floats of anglers bobbing
down some rough waterway; they stop, it
is time to strike. And there were other
dogs, too, Irish, English and Gordon setters,
Bertha and Belle, and so many others that
I forget their names—all wonderfully good,
wonderfully staunch, and wonderfully clever,
but none quite so brilliant as Juno and Flora,
who thought it a crime even to get the smell IN   THE  HIGHLANDS
of a rabbit, though they couldn't help it,
poor   dears !
Heaven forbid that this praise of dogs
and heather should suggest that I like not
the driven grouse ; were I to be going out
to-morrow after him, I should not sleep a
wink this livelong night. He is great, a
thing to dream of, and a thing to love—
and if I dwell much more upon him (with
pen, please, not with gun) I am not at all
sure I shall not end by preferring him to his
brother over dogs. Inconstancy to preferences of the shooting-field, where all is so
good,  cause  me no misgivings  of the heart.
But all this time we are fourteen miles from
Inverlochy and have Juno and Flora with
us, which is wrong, as they belong to the
Castle and not to Keppoch. It is time to
get back to this fair home, lying in the shadow
of Ben Nevis and looking out across its own 174
sweet lake to the distant shores of the Lochy.
Far easier is this moor than Keppoch, and
yet with charming variations of high ground
and low, with river and bogs where lurked the
mallard, teal, and snipe, little coverts haunted
by roe and pheasants, corn-fields visited
nightly by blackgame and grouse, and of
course the heather and the hills, the bracken
and the grey boulders, in charming confusion.
Three miles of the Lochy shouted to one,
besides the two moors of Keppoch and
Inverlochy: it was a tantalising choice to
have to make. I badly wanted a salmon
and for five long days—long for the back
but short for the heart—I tossed my fly in
every corner of those enchanted pools; and
all the while Hunter, incomparable among
keepers and trainer of juno and Flora, sat
by the river-side saying, " Come back to
the   moor, Mr. Haig Brown, and   leave   the IN   THE  HIGHLANDS 175
something salmon alone." And in the end I
listened to him, and went without my salmon.
Only once during those five days did a fish
touch me, and then for just that fraction of
the second my finger was not on the line ;
he ran the reel and was gone. Even so I
might have had him if I had waited the
orthodox time before tempting him again,
but I was too impatient and he never came
at me any more. One glorious little sea-
trout of just over a pound was my only
tangible reward for those happy hours—
if we omit all the eels of the Lochy, which
I caught one afternoon in Pulloch when
trying for those dour salmon with a worm.
But there are no regrets : no single vain
thought of wasted time by the Lochy's
fair waters. Lots of salmon I saw—great
red brutes, which leapt almost at my rod
point; and to walk slowly down the tail of 176
Camsky casting as one went : to stand in the
deafening roar of Falls Pool and wonder
whether, if a fish was hooked, he or you or both
would go over the brink : to toss in the grey
boat upon Garden Pool and to lunch by the
side of Fank—these things were of themselves
sufficient and more than sufficient reward
even without what is almost the most pleasant
form of exercise in the world—the plying
of eighteen foot of split-cane.
There were trout, and bonny trout, too,
to be caught in the Castle Lake, and Hunter
and I had our fair share of these, spending
an hour here and an hour there on our return
from the serious business of moor and river.
Very dark in colour were these fish from the
peaty nature of the water, and they fought
deep down in the blackness with a wondrous
strength. One fellow I had on for five
minutes,    and   never   saw—he   might   have IN  THE  HIGHLANDS
been a whale or an otter, for all I know to
this day. There were distant fishings, too,
that went with the place, as for instance
Loch Treig and the possibilities of lythe
and saithe unlimited near Fort William,
but these delights I personally never sampled :
there simply was not time amidst all the
distractions   so   close   at  hand.
Nap we used to play at the Castle at
night—no one had the energy for
billiards—and never was a game more suitably
named, for I think I fell asleep over the
cards every single night. The weariness of
the Highlands is a thing to pray for.
There were rabbits innumerable round the
Castle, which used to come and feed almost
up to the front door; down in the dells
beneath the gardens we made great assaults
upon them in an occasional spare half-hour,
but most of our expeditions were  far away
from the house. Certain days stand out in
clear relief—one especially at Keppoch when
it blew and rained all through with incredible
fury. I was out alone with the gillies—they
as keen as I, and as contemptuous of the
weather. All the grouse were congregated
on the heights when at last we found them,
and every bird rose into the gale and swung
back to right or left or over my head. I
got ten brace of the best birds that I ever
saw as well as five blue hares and, alas ! two
greyhens. The latter I first saw and hesitated ;
it was the keeper who shouted to me to
shoot, mistaking them for grouse in their
sodden plumage. Not a dry rag had any of
us on at the end of that day, not a dry match
wherewith to light a pipe; but the dogs
alone were sad, because we could not use
them and they had to shiver in the rear with
the   drenched   pony.    On   every   other   day IN   THE  HIGHLANDS 179
the weather was kind, not to say grilling hot;
especially do I remember a long two hours'
motionless wait for a roe-drive among a
swarm of flies which one dared not keep
off with smoke. A cock-pheasant settled at
my very feet but nothing else I saw; three
roe came within eighty yards of me, I heard
afterwards, and then turned back. Roe-
driving I have somewhere read is not sport :
my limited experience of it suggests that
it is uncomfortable, unprolific and tiring
enough to satisfy the most Spartan of sports-
.men. The stiffness of two hours and a cock-
pheasant sitting on one's boot does not
savour  either of luxury or butchery.
Better fun by far it was to crouch under
the low stone-wall waiting for the blackcock to sail down from the hills and feast upon
the oats. Never shall I forget the sight
of fifty or sixty of these great birds, clear-cut
n2 i8o
against a grey September sky, swinging across
our front; nor the memory of the stooks,
each holding their complement of black and
handsome rascals—handsome as paint, though
not yet come to the glory of a perfect tail.
And sometimes out from the deer forests
on the neighbouring mountains the golden
eagles used to sail across our path, down which
the white heather grew in scattered profusion
among the boulders. There is hardly a
.memory of Scotland which does not charm,
even if it be only the crossing of rivers with
feet on one wire and hands on another above
and the gun theoretically between the teeth,
for thus the makers of such tight-rope bridges
must have reasoned in their minds when they
so designed them.
I have ever hated going back to school:
no third-form boy even now hates it so
much,   though  I   am  and  always  have  been IN  THE  HIGHLANDS
more than happy there. This is far from
suggesting that most stupid of sayings, that
schooldays are the happiest of one's life :
how morbid must be the mind to hanker ever
over the past, unconscious of present delights
and future misty greatnesses, even if they
exist only in the tangled hopes of the brain.
For the lover of sport, at any rate, it is the
present and future that counts, the past
but whets the appetite for further delights,
and stimulates the heart with the pleasant
tonic of memory. The going back to work
was the one cloud upon my Highland horizon :
one stand after luncheon, and then the car
waiting to take me to the English express.
I can look back and see now, as I did then,
the other cars flitting down the far and hilly
road, and stopping to put the guns down for
the next drive; and then a turn of the moor
hid   them   and   I   was   speeding   disconsolate Mr   GAME-BOOK
to the station, but not disconsolate enough
to forget to shoot a plover out of the car, as
she skimmed on to the relentless train.
Occasional Visits.
IF IT were not for the wire waste-
paper baskets that adorn its encircling roads, nobody would know
that Lake Vyrnwy was an artificial lake.
Wire waste-paper baskets suggest banana-
skins even when they do not contain them,
and however much banana-skins may hint at
big-game shooting in tropical surroundings,
they picture much more vividly to the average
Englishman a crowded railway platform on
Bank Holiday. It is the refinement of cruelty,
in the midst of such natural beauties as
surround this glorious Welsh Lake, to bring
us face to face not only with the prospect
of a banana-skin but also with a place in which
*m 184
to put, or perhaps I should say deposit, that
relic  of the governing class,  the people.
But banana-skins and their near relation,
orange-peel, are clean forgotten as one dances
in a grey boat down the drifts of this wild
and lovely stretch of water, listening to the
curlews that cry all day long on the sloping,
heathery hills, or to the plovers, no less
plaintive in their wooing, as they wanton
in abandoned extravagances of flight. And
as the boat goes slowly on its way, low hills
give place to plantations of fir, and green
fields where sheep and pheasants meet; and
they again melt into tall and far flung canopies
of heather suggesting grouse, and readily
redeeming that pleasant promise. On the
far side and at the end there rise imposing
heights, where wooded slopes ascend to wild
crags. Here and there little sheltered bays
and here and there  an island complete the OCCASIONAL   VISITS 185
picture of untamed beauty, except for the
distant view of taller mountains, straining
their necks to catch a glimmer of the lake.
The River Vyrnwy and other lesser waters,
not to mention a thousand springs sparkling
down the surrounding hills, have here been
caught and imprisoned for the use of man
in the distant city of Liverpool. The lake,
five miles long, a mile across, lies above the
village, church and all, eighty feet below.
The fishing thus has possibilities unlike those
of any ordinary angling. To lose a bait in
the door of a farm-house, or a fly in the
bed-room window of a cottage, were worth
a shilling for the experience—and who knows
but that this deserted village answers the
riddle as to where Lake Vyrnwy's big trout
disappear to ? Perhaps they go to church :
it is a pretty thought—the biggest of all,
a   twenty  pounder,   in   the   pulpit   and   the Mr  GAME-BOOK
rest in the sodden pews, listening to a discourse teaching them to avoid the meretricious
glitter of a gold-bodied fly, the worldy attractions of a silver Devon. But how to cast
a bait down eighty feet of water, how to guide
it through a window of that church, and
test the resolutions of pastor and congregation—that is a riddle unsolved as yet by all
the   resources   of   angling.
Pretty baskets can one make in Vyrnwy,
River or Lake : but the fish are not the fish
of Blagdon, with some of its bed often exposed
to the food-producing action of air and
sun. Plump half-pounders and plenty of
them, pounders occasionally and even two
pounders, but the tiny teal and green, the
claret and mallard and the zulu, do not
attract leviathans, nor does the minnow
bring forth from these mysterious depths
the big fish that one feels must be lurking OCCASIONAL   VISITS
somewhere there. Finely stocked are these
waters : I have seen a smooth surface dimpled
far as eye could scan with rising fish asking
for a dry-fly, and I have seen the Lake grow
wild and angry in a storm, with five-feet
waves riding in a little sea of wrath. It is
a sweet spot, laden with the spirit of spring
in April days, and seldom disappointing the
angler of a full basket, more especially at
the  beginning or end of the season.
Long is the journey from Vyrnwy down
to South Devon, and different indeed the
scenery and fishing when one gets there.
Here is another lake, Slapton Lee, six miles
from Dartmouth, girt about with lesser hills
than those of Wales, almost kissed by the
sea on one side—and full of pike. It is a
lake for the spinner and the general fisher ;
plough-land takes the place of heather, soft
wooded   slopes   supplant   the   beetling   crags, Mr  GAME-BOOK
and cormorant and gull are here instead of
curlew and grouse. Vast concourses of coots,
proud swans, the teal and the mallard play
and rest along the reedy banks; one fishes
Slapton in the fence months, because the
waters are closed in shooting-time—but the
fish spawn early down here and by April
most of their family arrangements are done
with. Moreover one goes there to get big
fish, and all the catch is usually returned
with the exception of specimens. It is at
least an open question whether too many
fish are not put back and whether it would
not be advisable to knock some of the small
fellows on the head. Perch and rudd live
in these waters in countless numbers, and
besides feeding the pike often grow to a
useful size themselves; I have seen a whole
shoal of the latter averaging, a couple of
pounds   apiece.    I   caught   samples   to   prove  Mr   GAME-BOOK
the truth of my assertion. One might often
stand on the bridge that leads to the village
and watch the pike feeding; there was a
fish of about six pounds there one morning,
swimming up and down with a perch held
in his mouth, for all the world like a retriever
holds a rabbit. For a long time he made
no attempt to eat it. A pretty ending to
the story would be that he took the perch
to his nest and fed his young with it: but it
is sometimes necessary, even in these days, to
sacrifice sensational stories upon the altar of
truth. I do so now, the perch was duly
swallowed in the end, and the pike had no
nest and no young that he knew of, or he
would have eaten them. Pike believe in big
families but not in bringing them up. They
are not alone in their views.
There are some good fish yet to come out
of Slapton, but they are wise and in no hurry OCCASIONAL   VISITS 191
for their fate ; specimen pike, specimen perch,
and specimen rudd are all within the sane
hopes of anglers there, and as for the tyro,
he can go on catching the two latter species
till he becomes an incurable convert to the
patient art. There are, too, fair trout
streams that run into the Lee, pretty Devonshire rivulets laughing through woods past
rocks and fern and down through grey
bridges into wide green meadows, which
will yield to the privileged angler a fair share
of fingerlings. Soft and beautiful is this fair
part of England—blue sea, blue skies, and
gentle waters lapping a sheep-dotted shore.
It is a typically Devon spot, suggestive of
peace and cream, daintily-complexioned maids
and sunny hours. But one goes there for the
pike and the spinning in a lake peculiarly
suited for such devices, not too deep, not
too weedy, not too shallow; the other things Mr   GAME-BOOK
are an accident but none the less charming
for that. Both Slapton and Lake Vyrnwy
are saved by their distance from the rail;
once the iron road is laid within close reach
of water or wild it is seldom worth the
hunter's time to use it. I have to-day read
of an angling club that likes to give all its
members competing in fishing tournaments
a prize. A glass, gentlemen, to the holder
of the stickleback challenge cup ; drink deep
to the man who fought a minnow till it
died, and look with respect on yon manly
breast adorned with medals—they each may
represent a miller's thumb ! May the gods
ever preserve the land and the waters from
a   deserving   public.
I have lightly touched North Wales in
shooting as well as in fishing excursions,
staying for a week of rain around the wild
grandeur of Capel Curig at the end of the OCCASIONAL   VISITS
season. Here were to be seen half-wild
goats with magnificent heads apparently
belonging to no one, and cautiously looking
down at one from lofty crags. Wild pheasants
gave occasional shots in straggling forests
of fir. Mallard at times haunted the lakes
among the hill-tops, and there was ever a
chance of a woodcock or a rabbit among the
scrub and copses that hung on the side of
precipices and ravines. The majesty and
the wildness of the scenery fascinated one,
and it is fair ground for a strenuous ramble
with the gun and a hardly-won mixed bag;
an ideal place, too, for spaniel work—to speak
of it with such experience as 1 could gather
from a few short pleasant days and excursions
hampered by storm and tempest. The
weather does not approve of my visits to
Wales; it snowed for me and the trout in
Lake Vyrnwy, it rained at Capel Curig and, Mr   GAME-BOOK
when I went to Bagilt on the Dee for a sample
of " free shooting" and wild-fowling, the
sun shone all day long, although it was late
January and altogether one felt more inclined
for bathing than shore-shooting. My visit to
this part of Wales was one of the most amazing
things I have done, and I am still wandering
why I left some of the best shooting imaginable away south to go on this alleged wild-
goose chase. I thought then it was the call
of the wild till I saw the coal-pits !
There is not a great quantity of public
ground at Bagilt—a narrow strip of salt
marsh running for some distance between
the railway (and the coal-pits) and the Dee
(satisfying suggestion). There were a good
number of redshanks and a lot of curlew;
the former, in spite of their fast and difficult
flight, are not birds that appeal much to the
sportsman, and the latter were unapproachable OCCASIONAL   VISITS 195
owing to unsatisfactory tides. The wild geese
and duck for which we had come, simply
were not. A blizzard might have brought
them in, but it being winter and not summer,
blizzards did not appear. The occasional
shots we fired on the marsh were sufficient
to line the railway bridge with spectators.
I believe they came up from the coal-pits
to watch us. The inhabitants turned out
in force to remark on us as we passed
through the streets. It was gratifying but
In despair we sought the help of a friendly
keeper, who took us ferreting—we dug out
two rabbits and saw another; the friendly
keeper offered us a shot at the captured
ones  and  our  cup  was  full.
My share of the bag in this little expedition
was four redshank, three wood-pigeons and
a  plover,  and  they  cost  me  fifteen  pounds.
O 2 196
Pheasant-shooting seems cheap in comparison.
The sport of the public often costs more
than the sport of the rich. I commend this
suggestion to all Radical statesmen.
Very different were two or three hurried
visits to Berkshire, and the pleasant places
cast about Hinton Manor. A lawn with
cedar trees and peacocks runs velvet-like
down to a moat in which swim large, golden
orfe, rising all day to flies upon the surface.
Pheasants and moorhens play in and out
the shrubberies. I have spent here some
happy hours walking up the partridges with
my host—hot September hours well rewarded
for the tramping of fallow and roots, with
rabbits and hares as plentifully abundant as
feathered game. In the Thames along the
confines of the property one may cast flies
for great chub, while I have known the worm
produce a barbel of  nine and a half pounds OCCASIONAL   VISITS
and an eel of nearly three. The pond in
the Warren Wood is a noted haunt of ducks,
and there are numbers of rooks to be shot
come May in the same covert. In another
wood there is a small heronry of some
dozen nests; for a long time it was deserted,
but a faggot in a tree induced a pair of birds
to return and the colony is quickly spreading.
The lakes at Hinton. Manor are one of
the few places where rainbows have done
really well; as yearlings they are placed in
the upper one, and next year go down to the
lower to be caught in autumn as fish of
two or three pounds. The gameness of these
trout is wonderful, they rise freely to an
Alexandra or almost any fairly large fly. I
have known them take greedily a May fly
fished wet. The brown trout is not in it
with these fellows : one of just over two
pounds  I  had  on jumped  ten  times  before Mr   GAME-BOOK
it was landed; their rushes are glorious,
their fight a thing to remember. Possibly
one of the reasons the rainbows have done
so well here, is that the lakes are newly made
ones with a virgin supply of food undrawn
upon by other fish. Swans and dabchicks
share their home with them. I saw the nest
of the latter there last spring, and with the
snipe and wild-fowl visitors to the flooded
meadows in winter, Hinton has written itself on my memory as one of those fair homes
of England, where a natural wildness and
the stately beauty of well ordered grounds
combine so entrancingly. The fox and the
pheasant, the heron and the trout abide
if they do not lie down together at Hinton.
A pleasant thought with which to leave a
more than pleasant place.
A few odd days in Hampshire near Alton
alone remain to touch on :  days in which we OCCASIONAL   VISITS 199
hunted rabbits through the densest brambles
ever seen, and shot pheasants out of hedgerows wide enough to be dignified by the
name of belts. Hares and partridges there
were, too, in the hop-gardens, and altogether
these were delight fully mixed hours, well
worth long journeys in the train on either
side. The rod and the gun make one wander
far over one's own country and in different
directions ; the only complaint that some of
us would make of this tyranny, is that we
cannot wander far enough or often enough.
Life is too frequently a series of little prisons.
But it is not for me to grumble thus—slipping, as I so easily do, between the bars and
tasting the sweets of wild-life, with the often
added pleasure of knowing I do not deserve
them, and that perhaps I ought to be more
earnestly, if not more strenuously, employed
Some Strange Occurrences.
NATURE is very far from invariable in
her workings, and from time to time
one comes across strange happenings
in the field or by the stream. Thus, I have
seen a wounded hare go to ground as readily
as a rabbit and have known another do likewise when unwounded and hard pressed by
a dog; in each case the fugitives were
ultimately dug out. Both French and
English partridges, if winged, will make for
a similar refuge and so will a cock-pheasant;
it is somewhat rare for an English bird to
go to ground, but the French birds think
nothing of it, even when they have not been 202
shot at. I remember once, a partridge-
drive in Norfolk over many acres of stiff
plough, with the butts placed on a warren.
Most of the birds were red-legs ; they first
ran before the beaters, then rose, and finally
dropping again some hundred yards from
the guns, proceeded to toddle through us
in perfect safety. Scarcely a bird gave us
a shot and, upon the line and the dogs
coming up, many of those leg and wing-
weary partridges scuttled down the rabbit-
holes and were, of course, left in peace. But
I have before now had to use a ferret to
recover a winged Frenchman, and no bird is
more skilful, when thus incapacitated, in
eluding its pursuers. Neither hen-pheasants
nor grouse are particularly difficult to pick
up when they have only a broken wing, nor
as a rule are snipe and woodcock. Nevertheless I have known both the latter birds earn SOME STRANGE OCCURRENCES   203
the title of " strong runners." Twice also
I have seen cock-pheasants enter a river
of their own accord when wounded and in
one case the bird swam across and escaped
altogether. The cock-pheasant is quite a
useful and fast swimmer, though of course
he is no rival to that prince of tricksters,
the mallard, in water; the latter will sometimes cling to the reeds at the bottom of the
river or lake : I have actually watched one
do so, though he ultimately came to the
surface and was secured. Another wild-duck,
which was shot by a friend of mine, was knocked
on the head by the keeper and put into the
bag: some twenty minutes later a second
duck was shot and, upon the bag being
opened, the first flew out and away quite
strongly, and was never seen again. The
shooter was too astonished to use his gun.
Winged teal are almost the equal of mallard Mr   GAME-BOOK
in elusiveness, but a tufted duck beats them
both. When these birds fall from a height,
they dive as they hit the water and then,
if there is a reed-bed within comfortable
distance, one may never see the duck again.
Neither mallard, teal, nor gadwall are capable
of this escapade : they always rest for a second
on the surface before diving, after they have
been  dropped  with  a   broken  wing.
One may sometimes see birds fall dead
without a shot being fired at them : twice
I have known hen-pheasants so collapse in
mid-air; and it is impossible to suggest a
cause unless it be fright working on a weak
or an injured heart. Rabbits occasionally
run into a snare, to go heels-over-head
just as one gets one's gun up, and the sight
appears most uncanny until one investigates
the cause. A hare going at her best pace
once hit a wire with such force that her head  206
was taken clean off as though it had been
cut with a knife: two keepers witnessed the
tradegy, standing side by side, and the incident
is chiefly remarkable for the fact that wire
and peg stood the strain. A somewhat
different type of wire—that belonging to
the post office authorities—claims almost as
many victims as the variety used by the
trapper. A woodcock is the strangest " pickup " I have known from this cause, but
partridges and pheasants will sometimes collide
with the telegraph wires as they fly, and go
on apparently quite uninjured; on the other
hand, the wires have before now helped
the man behind the gun during a drive:
once a covey came over a friend and he
missed them handsomely, both barrels, only.
to see a brace fall, just a second too late, as
they hit the telegraph wires behind him.
Collisions   between   birds   on   shooting   days SOME STRANGE OCCURRENCES   207
are rare but not unheard of. The most
curious instance that has come within my
knowledge was that of a partridge swinging
down the side of a covert and coming full
tilt against a cock-pheasant as the latter
rose : the partridge was picked up quite
dead, but the pheasant, though losing a cloud
of feathers, went on apparently none the worse
for the blow.
It does not often happen that a bird is
brought out of the skies with no more deadly
a weapon than a stick, but here are two cases
where it certainly appeared that such was
the cause of the downfall. The guns were
helping to walk in a rough field of grass, when
a pheasant swung back over the line and two
barrels were fired at it with no effect; a
hundred yards or more behind an aged keeper
was standing by the game-cart and, as the
bird  sailed  past,  he pointed  his stick at it, 208
as one might a gun, and the pheasant came
tumbling to earth. Of course the shots
previously fired took effect just at the
moment the keeper raised his stick, but it
•appeared exactly as though he had brought
the bird down. I did not actually see
this incident but, a few weeks later, I was
standing talking to the same old man at a
corner of a wood : a hen-pheasant came
out, of which I took no notice as we were
only shooting cocks, but the old fellow
once more put up his stick, and the bird
swerved into a white-walled farm-building
and came to the ground as dead as a stone.
" I often kills 'em like that," my companion
remarked, and it must be admitted he spoke
with  some  vestige  of  truth.
I read not so very long ago a stirring account
of big wagers made among sportsmen as
to their ability to have four partridges dead SOME STRANGE OCCURRENCES   209
in the air at once ! I have often wanted to
be a bookmaker—the public treat this class
so generously—but never so much as when
I read these lines. Of course the talented
author was mixing up the question of killing
four birds out of a covey and of having four
pheasants dead in the air at once ; the wagers
were an ingredient of the mixture I have
yet to come across out shooting. Personally
I have never seen four pheasants falling
simultaneously to one shooter, nor do I
believe has anyone else, but the killing of
four birds out of a covey is a matter of not
uncommon occurrence. It is, however, a
feat that varies much in difficulty—the
straggling covey early in the season is a very
different thing from that of, say, November—
topping the belt or hedge in a lump one
could cover with a sheet. The most unusual
performance   in   this   matter   that   I    have 2IO
known was when two brothers—with whom
I have enjoyed countless days of varied sport
—wiped out a covey of seven birds on the
Kilverstone Estate, a property remarkable
for its fine partridge driving over belts.
The covey came through a gap between them,
and as the elder brother secured four birds,
and the younger three, things were just
as they should have been. The latter has
often told me he was glad there wasn't an
eighth bird or he might have spoiled the
story! Nevertheless, I have seen' him kill
four birds out of a covey with a single gun,
and that in January. This story has been
discredited, but I was standing next to him
and watched the whole incident; I also helped
him to find the fourth bird after a search
lasting quite a quarter of an hour. It was
a very lively runner; the drive was over
hurdles  and  the  shooter  in  question  always SOME STRANGE OCCURRENCES   211
has two fresh cartridges between his fingers,
when using a single gun, ready for re-loading
after the spent ones have been ejected.
By this means he has also been able to
stalk a flock of wild-duck and kill four of
them as they rose, with separate shots. But
duck rising and partridges coming over are
very different things, and the former very
often do not all get up together, especially,
as in this case, when they were rising from
cover. On the same afternoon as this last
incident happened a companion gun had a
duck he had shot taken under his very eyes
from the water's surface by a large pike.
We tried for that fellow next day but could
not get him. In my shooting-book there
is a picture of a fisherman by the river-side,
underneath which is  written  " tries   for
his duck," and those who have not heard
this  story sometimes  ask me if I   get many
P 2 212
duck with  the  rod.    We would  have  given
so much to have got that particular one.
The opportunity of a writer on shooting
or fishing to exaggerate is so great, that I
am constrained to assert that, never since
I first put pen to paper in this connection
have I described an incident that is not
strictly true, or added a single head to the
bag or basket in an account of a day's sport
with gun or rod. Nature, however, is sometimes so wonderful and so curious in her
workings, that those who would record her!
doings often find themselves in danger of
becoming enrolled among the ranks of fiction-
writers. Hence this digression, both as a
result of unbelief in the past and in the
possibility   of   it   in   the   future.
One day, when we were netting the mere
at Roudham Hall, in Norfolk, with a view
to re-stocking with trout, we captured some- urn
thing over a hundred tench : in the three
hauls which we made we came across no other
fish at all except a pike of about four pounds
and another about as long as a cigarette
and a half. All the tench were of much
the same size, weighing between one and
two pounds each. Wishing to photograph,
one of them, I knocked him on the head
two or three times, put him in the back of
a motor and, on arriving at the house where
I was staying, placed him on the bare stone
of the larder. Twenty-four hours later I
got out fish and camera and proceeded with
the portrait. During this operation the fish
showed signs of life, so we put him in the
fountain and held him in an upright position ;
within ten minutes that tench was as lively
and well as he had ever been in his life.
Quite   apart   from   this   performance   on
the  part  of the  tench,  it  was  very strange 214
to find these two isolated pike in such
company. Pike, however, do crop up in
strange places, carried to them, no doubt,
as spawn on the feet of wild-fowl. There
is a tiny pond close to the level crossing
on the Norwich Heath which was not believed
to contain fish of any kind. A small boy,
with a sparrow as a bait, caught there a
pike of between three and four pounds. How
it had got there, and what it had lived on,
are   both   interesting   speculations.
Many times, when I have been fishing
for pike, I have had my victim seized by
another larger fish, and have invariably lost
them both. Once a fish of about eight
pounds took another of about four, and had
the impudence to lie with it across his jaws
just under the boat. I very nearly succeeded
in getting him, but he sheered off just as
I  had  worked  the  gaff  almost  under  him. SOME STRANGE OCCURRENCES   215
I was luckier with another fish of close on
five pounds that took a small dace I was
bringing in. I landed that fellow on my
roach-hook—killed him, or thought I had,.
and took him home an hour later. He gave
a flick with his tail when we got him in the
stable yard and in return we gave him some
brandy, with the result that he recovered
completely, was put into the lake, and is,
as far as I know, alive to this day. Pike are
tenacious of life, but not nearly so much so
as tench or carp. My brother and I have
resuscitated these latter fish after two or three
hours on land and, again, after we had hit
them over the head with the view of killing
them. My father, too, used to tell me of
a couple of carp sent to Cambridge by coach,
packed in wet grass, which were safely turned
out into one of the lakes there on arrival.
Trout   have,   perhaps,   less   vitality   on   land'
J n6
than any other fish—a fact, however, which
does not relieve the angler from the
responsibility of killing them. The quickest
and surest way of doing so is with a sharp
tap from the bowl of a pipe between the
eyes. Of all creatures eels would appear
the most indestructible. Quite apart from
the fact that they tie one's tackle into a
variation of knots impossible to unravel, they
despise utterly all ordinary attempts to kill
them. I think I have only succeeded in
murdering one in my life, and then there
was no eel left. On the rare occasions on
which I fish with a worm, I am consumed
with anxiety lest I should catch one of
these most detestable and yet most interesting
of fishes. I have never met an eel making
an overland journey by night and, indeed,
anyone who should so aver that he had
seen one would be treated with a calculating  218
suspicion. Nevertheless, I am convinced that
they do go overland at times : how else should
some of the eels of isolated lakes and ponds
get to the sea to spawn ; and anyone who
cares to test the athletic capabilities of eels
on land has only to catch one and put it down
a dozen yards from the river-bank. The
eel will be back in its native element in less
time than it takes to write these fines. CHAPTER  XIII.
In  the  Close-season.
THE three school-holidays are admirably timed : in August and September
are joys already told, in December
and January a scarcely less varied programme,
while April supplies the early trout and
the almost equally pleasurable prospect of
the game-preserve in dry-dock. This month,
perhaps, hardly finds the trout at his best :
he is none too well-conditioned and prefers
a wet fly to the dry on most days, and the
weather, though capable of kindly surprises,
is too fickle for the full enjoyment of angling.
Struggling against a down-stream gale with
no weapon but a frail cast is joyfully
tolerated   before   the   edge   is   off   the   early 220
appetite grown keen during the winter, but
after a week or ten days of it one is ready
to look round and turn one's energies in
another direction.
The woods and the marshes are at this
time repairing the ravages of nature and of
man, and these days of eggs, of young and
fluffy things, are only less delightful than the
more exciting ones of strategy and pursuit.
The pheasants are busy in the woodlands
and outside, laying their treasures in all
kinds of strange places, depositing eggs that
vary from almost every shade of brown to
green and even light blue. Wonderfully careless are they at times, even too lazy to set
up house for themselves, and one may find
as many as forty eggs in a nest—a mingled
collection of the efforts of partridge and
pheasant. The former bird, most admirable
of mothers and aided by the most constant
*M!^H IN  THE   CLOSE-SEASON       221
and domestic of husbands, is amazingly
successful in her family affairs. Speaking
generally of partridges, nothing defeats them
except the sometimes stupendous thunderstorms of June and July, or a cold, pitiless
and wet apology for summer. It is not a
little amazing that any partridge or pheasant
should rear a family, surrounded as they
are in their defenceless home upon the
ground, with every prowling enemy—from
fox to rat, fair game for straying dog or cat,
for hedgehog, stoat, or weasel. Man, too,
is more often against them than not, with
his implements of the farm or in the shape
of egg-stealer or wanton country lout. And
yet, given a hot, dry summer—and none
can be too hot or dry—the wild stock of
partridges and pheasants is assured with a
very tolerable certainty. Protective colouring
of   course   helps   the   game-birds   to   escape 222
their foes, and more important still is the
absence of scent from the motionless body
of the sitting bird; but find yourself suddenly
among a brood of tiny balls of fluff, watch
their mother leave them in the simulated
guise of a cripple, and you may well marvel
that any of these mites struggle through
the dangers of babyhood to a vigorous and
handsome maturity. It is the little partridge
that gets most of the praise in this fight
for existence, but the pheasant deserves her
share—her beautiful brown body crouched
on her nest in the decayed bracken is a
wonderful picture of constant motherhood;
she works entirely by herself, for her lord
is no lover of the family circle, and in spite
of an alleged carelessness, she, far more of
a stranger in the land than the partridge,
often has wonderful results to show for her
solicitude. (SwP 224
It is strange how birds and other creatures
love damp and wet and yet detest it : the
water-meadows are ever favoured of the
partridges—the pheasant revels in the swamps
—hares, rabbits and even foxes love cover
by the water-side—and yet a thoroughly
wet summer works havoc in the ranks of
all of them, except perhaps the fox. No
amount of inclement weather would seem
to affect them in maturity : it is only in the
spring-time of their lives that cold and rain
destroy to any appreciable extent. It is
little to be wondered at that man has tried
to combat to the best of his power this
relentless force, and the trim pheasantry—
with row upon row of tiny cottages and
front gardens, its peace and quietness and its
ha If-hours of anxious, clucking hens—has
accomplished much, though with the partridge   more  successful  results  have  attended
a IN  THE  CLOSE-SEASON       225
a judicious assistance of nature than any
wholesale taking over of her work. The
former, too, would probably be man's method
with the pheasant if vermin were the only
foe he had to fear, for the wild bird is ever
theoretically the most pleasant to pursue,
though, when it comes to practise, he
would be a bold man who declared he could
guess the family history of a rocketer.
The pheasant, no doubt, is the spoilt child
of country-life, but he makes a wonderful
recovery from the enervating effects of his
You're lord of the meadows, the woods and the park,
And among your drab ladies you're quite a gay spark ;
You've keepers and watchers to wait on your needs,
To supply you with water, to bring you your " feeds."
You're dreadfully pampered and petted, but yet
Never fairer a picture was anywhere met
Than a gorgeous cock-pheasant beneath the oak-trees,
Bathed in the sunlight and proud as you please.
Q 226
You're fond of your legs and would far rather run
Than rise and make test of Sir Somebody's gun.
But, once we can get you to show your true flight,
You haven't an equal in pace or in height.
And for all your luxurious habits and ways
We have nothing to give you but honour and praise,
For, when you are done for, your epitaph reads :
" Killed in action "—a better one, nobody needs.
It is ever by the water-side that one looks
with most confidence for wild-life. Above
the roughness of brook-land the whirling
plovers voice their anxiety and care; even
the common nests of thrush and blackbird may be found upon the ground on
the bank of a dyke, and the snipe hums
for ever through the spring and early
summer over the marshes. Very sweet and
wild and wonderful is the love-story of the
snipe, not always waiting for the sunshine and
blue sky but sometimes to be heard in the
January   dusk,   as   one   waits   for   the   more
apt music of fleeting mallard's pinions. And
very secluded and hard to find is the nest of
the snipe, sheltered under its tussock of rough
grass, with eggs and flooring scarcely discernible
from their surroundings. More elusive still
are the young : you may stare at them long
before you see them—and then, having found
them and lost them again, never see them
more ; little balls of brown-black fluff streaked
with white, they will run in amongst the
grass-stems, and the needle in the hay becomes
a commonplace.
The moorhen is of all water-birds the
most blatant in her nesting, but the clutch
of eggs is neat and comely as it hangs over
the water. Perhaps she is the most accomplished of man-foolers in this country, with
her apparent forgetfulness to escape, and yet
with the power of concealment that baffles
the keenest eye and not seldom the sharpest
Q 2 228
dog. Even when she swims, her white tail
serves the purpose of hiding her movements ;
one sees a streak of water on either side, but
the bird in the middle is almost invisible
when she keeps her head down.
The mallard, considered by most shooting-
men as the best bird that flies, is deserving
of quite as much distinction as a mother.
Her's is a beautiful collection of treasures,
usually well-hidden from rooks and* passers-
by, and carefully covered over whenever
she leaves for an airing. But it is when the
black and yellow ducklings are about that
the mallard is most admirable : was ever
so brave a mother or one so ready to dare
all for her young ? I have seen her flutter
round and round my feet, tempting me to
try to pick her up because her absurd children
would not escape into the lake—and she kept
me standing there,  afraid  to  move  for fear IN   THE   CLOSE-SEASON       229
of trampling on them in the rushes. And
I have seen another fly straight in the face
of a great, proud swan, who was imprudently
making pecks at a wilful member of her
family. It is a pretty sight to see the mother-
duck go flapping down the dyke in the last
stage of apparent collapse, while behind the
little fleet of piping youngsters follows into
safety as quickly as it can.
I fancy that swans do a great deal of harm
to young ducks whenever they happen to
meet them : a blow from that powerful
beak is an unanswerable and decisive suggestion of superiority, and the male bird,
as he patrols the water about his sitting mate,
is ever on the look-out for mischief. But
one may go quite close to a swan upon her
nest, so long as one moves with caution and
keeps two or three yards away; it is when
the cygnets are about that the cob is most 230 Mr   GAME-BOOK
aggressive, but, even so, man has little to fear
from a swan unless he is in the water or in
a very frail boat. The male birds at mating-
time fight very fiercely, and the combat often
ends in complete exhaustion and sometimes
in the death of the conquered one. The
little teal, perhaps, carries off the palm
for neatness in nest-construction among
ground-building birds of the gun : her's is
a copious mass of down, with the lovely
cream-coloured eggs only just discernible
when the bird has been frightened off ; and
when she leaves them of her own free will,
so securely does she hide them that one
might stand right over the nest and never
see it—and all the time she, too, will be
imitating the antics of the maimed and
wounded, to lure you off upon a vain pursuit.
Not always quite close to water is this
nest, but never very far away; the prettiest IN   THE   CLOSE-SEASON       231
I ever saw was among the dead oak-leaves
of a wood with fronds of yellow bracken
completely covering the sitting bird. The
redshanks come and build in places where
they are never seen in winter, and their note
of alarm is a pretty addition to the marsh
that will be without them again when
September comes. Gone, too, in this month
are the vast majority of nesting snipe, and
I fancy that most of the birds we kill in winter
are not bred where they are shot. Of all
mysterious migrations this is perhaps the
most mysterious, for why should birds leave
a place which is unlikely to freeze, and to
which later on other birds of the same species
come to escape the hardships of climate
further north ? As, however, there is a
distinct interval between the going of the
nesting birds and the coming of the others,
it  is  possible that  a food  supply exhausted 232
by young and old birds is given a necessary
respite to allow it to recover. Snipe and
duck are naturally far less affected by a wet
breeding-time than pheasants or partridges,
and unless the nests are flooded or washed
away they suffer very little. Indeed, a dry
spring and summer is something of a danger
to them, for their eggs are then much more
exposed and their haunts more accessible
to the raids of rooks, magpies, and other
egg-stealers of various kinds. It is, however,
often difficult to judge of the stock of snipe
in the country : in a wet and open winter
they are everywhere and in scattered numbers,
and they only congregate to noted haunts
which are probably the last to freeze, when
wintry conditions force them to. No bird,
perhaps, suffers less from any condition of
weather than does the wood-pigeon: in a
wet  or dry spring and  summer he  may be
looked for with confidence to increase and
multiply in no uncertain manner. Very few
are his natural enemies now : the jay, so fond
of the white eggs in the nest of sticks, was
not constant enough to that delicacy to be
allowed free run of the pheasant-coverts;
the same is unfortunately true of the magpie ;
while the sparrow-hawk, the mature pigeon's
worst foe, is also too partial to game to survive
the keeper's not unnatural wrath.
The latter, unfortunate person, is always
in someone's bad books : even shooting-men
sometimes write unkind things to the papers
about his hard-earned tips; and he is
frequently assailed as the destroyer of much
beautiful wild-life. Nevertheless, it is to the
game-preserve we have to go if we wish to
study living nature in this country : without
the keeper there would be little indeed to
view.    And with this short word in defence 234
of  a  most interesting,  courteous, and  hardworking body of men, I  bring my brief re-
collections to a close, satisfied if I have been
able to produce on paper one-hundredth part SOME  IDLE  VERSES 235
of the exquisite pleasure that there is to be
gathered from the birds and beasts of the chase
in the pleasant places of our own dear land.
It's rather a bore that I've got to remain
Attached to the end of this horrible chain ;
My Master is busy and things very slow,
But we must give the young 'uns some leisure to grow.
On thinking it over, it's all for the best
That I and the gun should enjoy a short rest,
For 'twill mean an increase, in the sweet by and by,
Of the things that can run and the things that can fly.
Contentedly, therefore, I'll stay in my tub
(For I get a run daily and plenty of grub),
Day-dreaming of triumphs with feather and fur,
Of bracken and bramble, of nettle and burr. 236
Bonny and smart is your neatly-groomed head
With its brilliant adornment of chestnut and red,
And the emerald that gleams on your strong little wing
Puts to shame any stone in her ladyship's ring.
Straight into the air, should intruders surprise
Your tree-covered pools, you jauntily rise,
And are gone in the gloom of a winter's day
Like a storm-driven drop of flying spray.
Charming your beauty and charming your grace—
But how can I say quite the same of your pace ?
For ever it prompts me to plaster my shot
Just in the region where you are not.
It would little become me if my  ack of skill
Should lead me to speak of you anything ill,
So I gladly forgive you, and wish you good luck,
And call you, with nothing but truth, "little duck."
You rose like an owl by the side of the burn
From invisible couch in the bramble and fern,
And, just as I thought I could shoot you with ease,
You vanished like lightning 'midst bushes and trees.
And sometimes I wonder when by the wood-side,
And the cry of " Mark 'Cock " echoes up the broad ride,
As right down the line you so boldly zig-zag,
" Will you, or will I, find a place in the bag ? "
You're the spook of the covert—you shatter my nerve
With your dangerous tactics and heart-breaking swerve;
But you've got your good points, I am bound to confess,
" Points," be it said, I would gladly possess.
We don't see you often, but when you appear,
You are for that reason undoubtedly dear ;
And he who can shoot you without a mishap
Wins a feather, without any doubt, for his cap ! 238
There's the breath of frost in the cold east wind, and the
sun is sinking red ;
The pheasant crows his last " good night " as he goes to his
fir-crowned bed.
There's ice at the edge of the river, the clouds are big with
And the mallard will come at the change of light, my spaniel
and I well know.
What matter the cold discomfort, as we crouch in our " hide "
of reeds ?
What matter if stock and barrel are covered with icy beads ?
The blood will soon be coursing in warm and glowing veins,
And the kiss of the wind forgotten ere ever the twilight
The rustle of mallard's pinions, the whistle of passing teal,
The wigeon's plaintive call-note, on our listening ears will
steal ;
There will follow a sound still sweeter, if the swing of the
gun be deft—
The splash or thud of the falling ducks, as they drop to a
*' right-and-left."
Gladly we linger waiting, so long as eye can discern
Those flitting phantom shadows ;   then home our footsteps
And pleasant thoughts will light our way through the inky
depths of night
Of the birds we killed, and the birds we missed, in the rush
of the evening flight.
Xome, my spotted and golden friend,
'Tis time to make the rod-top bend ;
We're much attached, are you and I,
Or shall be, if only you'll take the fly.
You can take your choice if you take it down—
Wickham, Alder or sunk March-Brown ;
But if these dainties you clearly shun
I'll put on a floating Olive Dun.
So come and dance to the tune of the reel,
And when you are weary, I've room in my creel.
Despise not, I pray you, my Hmited skill—
Or the " net " result of our meeting's nil.    mm
H35     IS 13
So") |QJ& 


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