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be well rewarded, in getting numerous unexpected shots, in addition to securing your wounded bird, and experience the satisfaction of having acted in a sportsmanlike manner. The same chances in your favour result from following packs, as should you not succeed in breaking and dispersing the pack you are in pursuit of, you may find other birds; but in the event of success, you may secure every bird in the pack, especially if you have the good fortune to kill the old cock at the commencement, and this you ought always endeavour to do "per fas aut nefas," as he will frequently show his head above the heather (as he is running off, with a view of leading you away from the young birds). If you avail yourself of this opportunity, you may secure the remainder of the pack, whereas had you allowed him to escape, you might not have seen either him or the pack again during the day, or if you had, it would have been only after considerable trouble and extra walking.
On a dry, frosty day, especially if the frost be a black one and the sun be out, wonderful sport may be had, as many packs and single birds will be found to lie as well as at the commencement of the season. The more frequently the beat can be changed the better; twice a week is sufficiently often to go over the same ground, as grouse become not only very wild if constantly disturbed, but will leave their ground.
With regard to lunch, some biscuits and sandwiches ought to suffice, with cold tea or wine and water for liquid. Spirits of all sorts ought to be scrupulously avoided, especially the raw Highland whisky, than which no liquid is more unwholesome and prejudicial, especially if you are desirous of shooting well, and of not producing a feverish, unquenchable thirst, which no amount of liquid can either satisfy or allay. "Obsta principiis;" resist the first inducement which presents itself in the shape of a clear rivulet or cool spring, and you may then be able to persevere till lunchtime; but if, on the other hand, you yield to the first temptation, and only merely "take the chill off," with cold water and a little whisky, you will then be obliged to persevere throughout the day, as thirst under such circumstances and influences "vires acquirit eundo," and, if indulged, will not only produce discomfort but eventually bad shooting. Sometimes even bad shots shoot well under the temporary influence of a powerful stimulant, but when the reaction takes place there is generally a lamentable falling off, and this is too frequently the case, even with good shots, and the principle is applicable not only to one day but to continuous subsequent shooting.
Black game is very inferior to grouse shooting, and only affords a few days' first-rate sport, as there are few districts which admit of its being followed continuously except as subsidiary to other shooting; it varies much according to the nature of the country, success depending more on a favourable disposition of the ground than on the quantity of the game. If there be high mountains contiguous to the ground where black game are bred, your sport will be of short continuance, as on being disturbed and shot at a few times, they take up their abode on the tops of the mountains, soon congregate, and become very difficult of access, except by stalking at daybreak and at sunset, when they descend to the corn-fields ; but if there be no high mountains, and the country be merely hilly, with a few small covers and brushwood, then sport may be had to a certain extent on every fine day till the end of the season. In August, before they have been disturbed, they will be found on the open heather, generally in the bottoms, where there is a mixture of rushes, these being favourite breeding places, or in the brushwood or thick heather contiguous to the oat-fields, and they lie so close, that with a good dog you may frequently kill every bird in the pack: the old hen is almost always found with the young birds, and is generally the first to rise. After a few days, most of the broods leave the open heather and descend to the immediate vicinity of the oat-fields, especially if the oats are ripe, attracted thither from a distance of many miles, and frequently crossing an arm of the sea or wide water loch of more than a mile in breadth. So long as the corn remains standing, or is in stook, i.e. in sheaves, black game may be found in the adjacent covers, and be easily approached; but after the corn is carried, they become more wary, roam about, are more dispersed, and are more difficult of access; it will be then necessary to exercise caution in approaching them, and to advance as quietly and carefully as possible.
One dog will suffice, and he ought to be remarkably good and staunch — an old, close-hunting pointer, who will not go out of gun-shot, and a good retriever will be all that you will require. Avoid speaking to, or calling your dog, or whistling, as any of these operations will disturb black game more than firing your gun off. At this period of the season two or three brace of black game must be considered a good days' sport — of course in addition to what other game you may meet with to fill upthe bag—and this quantitymay be secured on every fine day with good management till the end of October, and occasionally in November on a fine, dry, frosty day. It is worse than useless going out on a wet or bad day, especially if the wind be high, as you will not only have no sport, but diminish your chance of success for the next favourable day. Avoid as much as possible going down wind when you are approaching any favourite spots : attention to this I have found from experience to be important.
You must be provided with a good strong hardshooting gun, as the black cock, when in full feather, is difficult to be brought down except at a moderate distance, his feathers being thick and close, and his bones strong. No. 3. or 4., I think, will be found necessary at this period; at the commencement of the season No. 7. or 6. are large enough.
A great quantity of black game may be killed by stalking morning and evening before the oats are carried, and as the seasons are generally late in Scotland, the stooks, i.e. sheaves, sometimes remain out till the middle of October; upon and about these, black game may be seen in abundance, two or three may sometimes be killed at a shot, provided the field is so situated that you may approach unseen under cover of some rock or other inequality of, ground. But I prefer the legitimate and more sportsmanlike mode of killing them, which may always be pursued on a fine day with success with a good dog, if there be cover