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being driven home, when that was not the case, and the cap from its strength sustaining the cock for an instant, and then suddenly yielding and letting down the cock with sufficient force to cause the discharge of the gun. It will therefore be prudent to hold the cock firmly, and not relinquish it till you are certain the cap is close upon the nipple. There ought to be no necessity for this operation, as every sportsman ought to take care to have caps exactly suited to the nipple of his gun, in which case they can be fixed properly with the hand.
Keep your caps in a dry place in a tin box, and always immediately on returning home, remove them from your waistcoat pocket, and restore them to this receptacle, where they will become dry and fit for the next day's use, as they may have imbibed moisture from perspiration, in which case, had they remained in the waistcoat pocket, several miss-fires might have been the consequence. Keepers I have observed have frequent miss-fires, from neglect of this precaution.
HINTS ON CORRECT SHOOTING.
As every man who takes up a gun is anxious to make a good use of it, and all are not equally successful, and some much disappointed when they fail, it may not be out of place to direct attention to a subject so interesting to sportsmen, and make some inquiries into the occasional causes of failure. When there is no apparent physical impediment, it seems strange that, when success is sought by frequent and persevering efforts, it should not be attained; still how many are there who have shot for years, and who, admitting the existence of no physical obstacle, yet remain bad shots, as stationary as many billiard players, who after twenty years' practice and experience play nearly as at first. The failure perhaps in both cases may be attributable to the commencement not having taken place under favourable auspices and on sound principles, as both require some preliminary instruction to ensure progressive success. If a man in the first instance be taught to stand in a good position, hold his cue correctly with one hand and place the other firmly, but not stiffly, on the table,— to handle his gun in a sportsmanlike manner, — he must advance in both; but if in either case the preliminary instructions be disregarded or neglected, and a start be made on false and erroneous principles, the odds will then be great against either progress or success.
But to succeed in either billiards or shooting, the commencement ought to be early in life; few who start late succeed in attaining more than mediocrity.
I place billiard playing in juxtaposition with shooting, because it depends equally upon the same physical qualities and upon the early exercise and practice of them; and as it is important to success to maintain these in all their integrity, the golden rule of moderation must be observed in all things, as all excesses interfere with the economy of the stomach, and consequently, to a certain extent, impair both sight and nerve and unhinge the whole system; hence the frequent inequality of the shooting of some good shots, who indulge too freely in the pleasures of the table: but over fatigue, too severe walking, and too great anxiety, will frequently be attended with the same unsatisfactory result.
I will now address myself to beginners, and endeavour to convey such suggestions as I believe, if attended to, may be serviceable.
A young gentleman who has never shot, after having been taught in the first instance by a competent person how to handle his gun, cock and uncock it with facility, firmness, and safety,— to bring it up in a sportsmanlike manner to his shoulder,—the necessity of carefulness in reference to loading and the safe method of carrying the gun, — should then endeavour to bring it up to some object so as to cover it, and when he can do this with ease and accuracy, he may then attempt a few sitting shots at small birds, taking care to use small shot. When he succeeds in this respect I should recommend his going out with some friend who is a good shot, but without his gun, merely to observe how he kills his game in all the different positions in which it may present itself; how he manages the cross and side shots to the right and left. By devoting a few days to observation in this manner, he will be laying the foundation for more rapid progress than if he had shot for weeks alone, especially if his friend will explain certain shots to him. As a looker-on he will also perceive how little occasion there is for anything like haste or hurry, and not fail to remark the long interval which intervenes between the rising of a bird when near at hand, and its reaching the distance at which it ought to be shot: this will teach him the advantage of coolness and the impolicy of haste. After a week he may take his gun out with his friend, but with no ammunition: let him merely try to cover his game on its rising, and when he thinks he can accomplish this, let his gun be loaded with powder only; and if it be observed that he shoots steadily with this, then let shot occasionally be put in, but without his knowing it, although of course previously forewarned that he would be indulged with this experiment; and should this succeed, and the beginner shoot steadily and without impatience or hurry, then the shot may be continued; but if, on the contrary, hurry and want of coolness be exhibited, the shot must not be persevered in, nor again tried till the most perfect calm and sang froid be restored.
The very best shot I ever met with in my life, and by far the coolest, told me he was taught in this manner by his father, who was a first-rate sportsman. When confidence and coolness are acquired, further instructions may be conveyed as to side and cross shots: the principle once established, the distance at which you ought to shoot before game under different circumstances will soon be learnt from experience. When a bird is merely crossing at an ordinary pace, a foot before him will suffice; but when a pheasant, black game, or grouse is coming over your head at full flight, as the pace then is very rapid, the gun must be directed at least two or three feet a-head.
One of the principal reasons of that continuous bad shooting which characterises some sportsmen is to be found in their habit of merely shooting at their game; the consequence is, they never, except by mere accident, kill a cross shot. On some days when they get a number of straightforward shots, they are very successful, but when