may be subsequently tenants, in cutting down the game as closely as they possibly can,— and this not so much for the sport as for the profit derivable from the sale of game. Restrictions as to the sale of game I think both unnecessary and unfair, as the tenant is fairly entitled to dispose of the produce of his ground in any manner he may think proper; and where very heavy expenses are incurred in preserving, a portion of the game may be reasonably applied to meet them. If moors are once well stocked, well looked after, and the vermin kept under, no fair sporting will ever injure them. Some proprietors limit the number of guns; but, with the conditions already named, such restriction is altogether unnecessary. 1 will now endeavour to give a few precautionary hints to those who wish to rent moors. If it be possible, never take a moor later than the months of February or March; for two reasons: the first is, because, as grouse pair in the month of March, you can easily, through the medium of a competent person and a brace of good dogs, make a fair estimate of the stock of birds on the ground; and in the next place, if that be satisfactory, and you decide on becoming tenant, you will have the best months in the year for the destruction of vermin which may be on the ground, — without which necessary operation the best prospects of sport might be seriously interfered with, espe

cially if there be any accumulation of vermin arising from previous neglect; but in any case, if there be a good stock of game on the ground, there will always be a certain amount of vermin to be disposed of in the months of February, March, and April. Cats, polecats, stoats, and weasels, can only be kept under by regular trapping during these months, —and although hawks and other destructive birds can be destroyed at any season, the spring of the year, before they breed, is the most advantageous time; you will then get rid of a generation of enemies, and protect your game when breeding, which is most important. I will not say more on this subject here, as I have treated it fully in a chapter specially devoted to it.

Never take moors in June or July, unless you know them well, and are thoroughly satisfied as to the stock of game. You cannot try them at this period of the year with dogs; and if you take them, relying on the good faith of the agent, or on their previous high reputation, you may be woefully disappointed, for reasons which I have already given at the commencement of this chapter; but if you have no alternative, then send some competent person, upon whom you can depend, to go over the ground, and question the shepherds and gillies, and obtain all possible information; especially ascertain who was the previous tenant, as this may be important, and be a clue to your obtaining the information you desire.

Although an experienced keeper, in this way, and by going over the ground carefully, might form some estimate as to the quantity of grouse, by certain infallible indications of their presence, still it might be far from an accurate one; but as it is the only course which can be pursued at this season of the year, it must on no account be neglected. Be sure to have most stringent conditions as to the burning of the heather, as without these your best prospects of sport may be completely destroyed. All shepherds will burn more than they ought to burn, especially if they are the servants of a tenant farmer, and not of the landlord, and they will always have a ready-made excuse for the excess. Your safety, therefore, as regards this practice, is solely in the responsibility of the landlord; the quantity to be burnt each year must be distinctly stated, determined, and agreed on, in your lease, and a heavy penalty attached to any excess,— as your sport may be destroyed for three or four years by any reckless or extensive burning. The burning generally takes place in the month of March. If the weather be dry and the wind high, the conflagration proceeds rapidly, and as the shepherds generally select the night for the commencement of their operations, your keepers and watchers must be on the alert. No heather can be legally burnt after the 10th of April; the penalty for each offence subsequent to that period is five pounds. Heather ought only to be burnt in small patches, and not in whole districts, as is frequently done; in which case the grouse are not only driven off the ground, but those bred contiguously to the denuded spots more easily become victims of birds of prey, by their opportunities of sheltering themselves when pursued being decreased. On moors where there are many bare places, packs bred near them will always be found to be reduced to a very small number by the 12th of August.

A very assiduous and attentive keeper, who had had the charge of extensive moors for many consecutive years, and who was constantly on his ground, told me he had invariably observed this result,^—notwithstanding his having been as successful as any man I ever met with, during a long experience, in the destruction of vermin of all sorts. This circumstance is partly explained by the fact, that hawks, coming from any contiguous ground, will return to spots day after day, where they have once been successful in taking game; so that a keeper, however much he may be on the alert, may lose several young birds before he may get a favourable opportunity of destroying the enemy. The keeper to whom I have above alluded, T have known remain on his ground all night, in order that he might be in concealment at daybreak, when a falcon or hen harrier was in question. His house being at a distance, and a sea-water loch intervening, made him prefer the occasional adoption of this plan to going home and returning in the morning; but it was, of course, during the short nights of the summer months. His perseverance was sometimes put to the test, but he seldom failed.


It is contracted and agreed between A. B. Esq., of Grouse Hall, Perthshire, on the one part, and C. D. Esq., of Pall Mall, London, on the other part, in manner following (that is to say) : the said A. B. hereby lets to the said C. D. and his heirs, but excluding assignees and subtenants, without the special consent of the proprietor in writing (the proprietor not being bound to assign any reason for withholding such consent), and that for the period of five years, from and after the first day of May, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three, the exclusive right by himself, or others having his authority, of killing game over the whole of the farms and moors of , in the parish of ,

« ForrigeFortsett »