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stantly during night to hear the report of the huttiers' guns, which resounded along the marshy ground more like small cannon than fowlingpieces; but as the arm generally used by these men is an old musket converted into a coppercap gun, and will carry a pretty good charge, the loudness of the report can be well understood, somewhat augmented by the stillness of the night.
The summer season is generally selected for the building of huts, in order that they may be made warm, dry, and comfortable: they are ordinarily sufficiently capacious to contain two persons and a dog. The places selected are sometimes on small islands or promontories commanding a view over two pieces of water surrounded by reeds and rushes, occasionally at the edge of a piece of water, sometimes exactly in the centre of it, if the water be what is called an overflow, or artificial, which it very frequently is, by being supplied from some neighbouring canal or stream, and contained within certain boundaries by sods and turf conveyed and placed there by the huttiers. When this is the case, the hut is almost invariably placed in the centre; and as the water is only knee-deep, the huttier walks through with his marais-boots, fixes his decoy-ducks to their different positions, and picks up his birds after a shot without difficulty; whereas, in deep water, a man requires a dog to fetch his birds, and a boat to convey him to and from his hut, if it be on an island. The most convenient places, therefore, are where the water is shallow, and quite as good as those where the water is deep, if the spot be judiciously selected relatively to the line of flight of the fowl; and this is easily ascertained, as it is a curious fact in natural history, respecting the instincts of birds of passage, that year after year they may be observed arriving and departing to and from precisely the same direction, as if a road were marked out in the heavens for them to pursue. And they have also a certain line of flight at night, when they come inland to their feeding-ground; so much so, that sportsmen, in many places, remain in the evening to await the flight at particular spots, and have good sport.
In the beginning of the month of November, I have frequently observed the arrival of wild fowl of all kinds, together with plovers and snipes, all coming from the same direction against the wind, as if they had all one destined point to reach; and although all these birds of passage invariably travel against the wind, the large and various flights scarcely ever arrive except the breeze is sharp and cutting. A moderate breeze, although in a favourable quarter, is seldom attended by any large flights of fowl. From the 28th of October to the beginning of November, I have generally observed the largest flights of all sorts of birds of passage. On the 28th of October, in the year 1828, at Montreuil, in France, I witnessed the arrival of the greatest amount of snipes, ducks, teal, and plover, I ever saw in my life. The wind was blowing strong from the south-east, and had been in that quarter previously through the night. During the whole of the day I observed large flights arriving — snipes dropping in the marais, the plovers upon the plain, the ducks and teal in the river and different large pieces of water in the marais. All the huttiers were of course out on the night succeeding this arrival of the wild fowl, this being a signal for the commencement of their nocturnal operations. I killed, in four consecutive days, 120 snipes, with some few teal, ducks, and golden plover. The amount killed by the huttiers, of ducks and teal, was large.
The huttiers seldom kill any other wild fowl from their huts besides the common wild duck and teal. The flights of widgeon will not drop to the call of the decoy-ducks. Sometimes I have known them kill a bird called "le rouge" which is considered in France the best eating of all the wild fowl: it is generally very fat when in good condition. The male bird has a reddish breast, and the bill is large, flat, and round. It is not, however, what we call the red widgeon; if anything, it is rather smaller. I have never met with these birds in either England or Scotland; I therefore suppose they are not very common, and have only very rarely shot them in France.
I will now endeavour to describe how the hut is constructed, and give some slight detail of subsequent operations. When the spot is fixed on, and the size decided, a little trench is dug round the external circumference, to a depth sufficient to carry off any water from the intended base of this nocturnal domicile. The centre is then excavated to the depth of about one or two feet, leaving an intervening space sufficient for two persons to sit down comfortably. The superstructure, which is of circular form, is then made by willow or hazel branches fixed deeply and firmly in the sides, the longer and stronger ones forming a semicircle, by each point being fixed in the ground at the opposite sides of the excavation: a small opening is left either in the front or in the rear, to admit of the huttier's access. When the woodwork is completed, straw and dry rushes are introduced thickly between the branches, and strongly interwoven; there is then a final covering of turf, with the sward outside, so as to give the hut, when finished, the appearance of a mound of earth. A door is made to close the aperture through which the passage is effected,
the external part of which is also covered with turf. There are also several loopholes, through which the huttier can either command a view of his piece of water, or pass his gun through when occasion may require: these he keeps filled with straw, removing, and replacing again, as occasion may require. Huts, when made in the manner which I have described, are very warm and comfortable, in fact sometimes too warm. There is, of course, always a good supply of straw, fern, or dry rushes at the bottom, and with sometimes a board or two underneath. I have often found them very serviceable as a place of refuge from a heavy storm during the day, when out snipe shooting.
From three to five decoy-ducks are generally used — if three, then one mallard; if five, then two — and these are tied by the leg, in the water, to stakes driven in for the purpose, and are placed at respective distances, some on one side of the water, some on the other, so as to leave the centre clear for the reception and killing of the wild fowl, without molestation or injury to the decoy-birds. The wild fowl will, however, drop frequently quite close to the tame birds, in which case the huttier is obliged to exercise patience, till a fair opportunity presents itself of his being able to secure the most productive shot, clear of his own ducks, by availing himself of the moment when the largest number may be together. When the water