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of any description contiguous, capable of affording them temporary shelter —long grass or fern will sometimes suffice, if the day be fine and dry; of course you cannot kill so many as by stalking, especially of the old cocks, but they occasionally lie close, and are sometimes taken by surprise. The young birds, when isolated, will generally lie to a point throughout the season, when found either in thick heather or in brushwood; but generally speaking, after the first month black game pack, and when one rises the rest follow; but as in covers they are sometimes dispersed, it is always a good plan, when you see one bird rise out of shot, to advance as speedily as possible, in case there should be others not far distant. In large covers, if there be a party, the guns may be distributed and the birds driven by beaters to one point; this expedient I have known resorted to with great success: those guns which are forward must keep well out of sight, as the old birds rise very high, as soon as they perceive any one standing in the line of their intended flight.
At the beginning of the season black game cannot easily be driven out of a cover by beaters without the assistance of one or two dogs, as they will lie till they are almost trod upon. The best dogs for this purpose are close-hunting, steady, mute spaniels; they will be sure to find every head of game in the cover; but they must be well under command, and broken from chasing, otherwise they will do more harm than good. In the first month of black game shooting I have had better sport with spaniels than I have ever had with either pointers or setters; the latter cannot find half the birds in very warm, sunny weather, especially when they drop in thick brambles and bushes, and spaniels will find every single bird. It is of course indispensable that your spaniels down charge, but as they will frequently Hush several birds when a number are found together, before they perform this act of obedience, several shots may be lost, which would not have been the case with pointers; they will however very soon repair this temporary disappointment, by finding all the birds again, if you can mark them down, no matter where they may drop, where pointers or setters would have failed.
Some patience is requisite with spaniels; they must not be hurried, and not only be allowed time to hunt their ground closely, but encouraged to do so; it will be necessary for the sportsman to be vigilant, and have his eye continually on them, so as to know immediately when they come on game, and keep up with them as they advance. It is a little more fatiguing, and at the same time more exciting than with pointers; but you get a great many more shots, although many of them may be at a greater distance and more difficult. I am however persuaded that the man who is active, a keen sportsman and a good shot, will kill one-third more with spaniels than with pointers during the first month; in fact, so long as black game lie well: the reverse will be the case as soon as they become wild and difficult of access; the bustling spaniel must then be discarded, and the steady pointer adopted — but even the pointer must not be allowed to go out of gun shot. Always avoid as much as possible showing yourself on the tops or on any rising ground unless you have previously beaten the ground below which the tops command, as those birds which are on the look out would instantly perceive you, and immediately move off. Invariably advance towards any favorite spots from below, and never from above, always going round any elevated ground rather than over it.
Ptarmigan give little or no sport, and are generally, I should imagine, pursued more as a matter of curiosity than for sport. For the table, they are considered very inferior to grouse. They are only to be found on very high, rocky mountains, near the top, are generally very tame, and will allow you to get sufficiently near to have one shot setting and another as they take their flight from the ledge of the rocks on which you will find them perched. As their colour so nearly resembles that of the rocks, or large stones, on which they are sitting, they are not so readily seen as might be expected, although within the ordinary range of sight. A sitting shot is frequently the only chance that presents itself, as they may be out of sight the moment they leave the edge of the rock on which you may perceive them; they, however, fly but short distances, so that by following them up, if there be any quantity on the mountain, you may fill your gamebag; but you will find it rather hard work, as these birds never leave the rocky part of the mountain, and the walking will necessarily be very rough and bad, and you must make up your mind to a fall or two.
I recollect, some few years ago, when in Invernesshire, accompanying some friends to a high mountain expressly for the purpose of shooting ptarmigan. It was in the month of September; the morning was very fine. As we were on ground abounding with game, we killed grouse and black game before reaching the mountain, and saw several roebuck; but as a climax to this commencement, on arriving at the base of the mountain, we saw five large red deer taking their departure, and winding their way round the side of the mountain, and immediately above them two immense eagles hovering; but they soon disappeared with the deer, and we commenced our ascent, by no means an easy task, difficulties increasing with our progress. It really appeared an endless job, what with the acclivity and the height, which was so very much beyond what we expected from our estimate of the distance at first sight. In fact, the surface of a high mountain is as deceptive as that of a large water-dock, when you look at it from the shore, and try it afterwards with a pair of oars. We, however, accomplished our task by reaching the summit, and very soon found some ptarmigan; but we had no sooner commenced shooting than a thick mist came on, immediately succeeded by a most copious fall of rain, so that we could only kill a few brace, and before we could reach the bottom, and get access to our Mackintoshes, which we had left there with our poneys and game baskets, we were well soaked; but this was a very common occurrence, almost a daily one, as it rained almost every day, and the finest and most cloudless morning was no guarantee for the remainder of the day being fine.