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paniers had been removed from the p.oneys' backs and placed on the ground, so as to allow the poneys to feed at liberty till our return. One of the gillies, on replacing his panier, happened to raise the lid, and discovered that a weasel, attracted no doubt by the savoury smell of the grouse, had managed to raise the lid and get into the basket, without being able to effect his escape. His fate was of course, immediately on our return home, decided by the terriers — so much for the termination of this day's sport.
After grouse shooting, the pursuit of partridges becomes very tame work, more especially in those counties in England where these birds abound to such an extent, that one large turnip field will furnish a day's sport to a party of six or more guns, the surrounding stubbles having been previously driven for this purpose. Boys, or a man on a pony, with a brace of wild spaniels, may be employed. I have known as many as eighty brace of partridges killed in one turnip-field in this manner, the field being extensive and the turnips close and thick, and the day exactly suitable. There were six guns; no dogs except one or two retrievers. The field was walked over or beaten three times during the day. After the second beat the party took lunch; the last beat was the most productive. The guns were at regular distances from each other, keepers and game carriers walking between them. The success of this sort of shooting depends upon method, regularity and order. The line must be rigidly kept, and after the discharge of even one shot, the party must halt until the gun be reloaded, and when "all right" is pronounced, they may advance, the keepers picking up the birds as they proceed. Many running birds will always escape during the day's shooting, where the turnips are very thick, and the ground much soiled by game, defying the sagacity of the best of retrievers; but on the following day the greater part may be recovered.
This sport is generally commenced between 10 and 11 o'clock, it being found, as in grouse shooting, adverse to good and successful sport to disturb the birds before they have finished feeding, and the dew be off. And, moreover, between the hours of 10 and 6, there is abundance of time to satisfy any reasonable appetite for shooting, and to make an excellent bag. If the day be fine and dry, the dew off, and you use dogs, the birds, when found and shot at in the stubbles, will immediately fly to and drop in the first thick piece of clover or turnips, or thick hedgerow, whereas, had you found them at daybreak, they would have dropped in some bare place and taken a second flight.
It is difficult to give precise instructions as to partridge shooting, as they of necessity must be relative to the country in which it is pursued. In Suffolk and Norfolk, where partridges are most numerous, and turnip-fields abound, it may be pursued without the use of either pointer or setter, merely by having the stubbles driven; but, to my taste, shooting loses the greater part of its charm without the use of dogs; however, "de gustibus non est disputandum." It must,however, on the other hand, be admitted, that to those who are fond of having a number of shots, without much fatigue, and are indifferent as to using dogs, that there are no counties like Suffolk and Norfolk for this description of shooting. One hundred and ten brace of partridges, I believe, were once killed by one gun in one day, the point to be decided by 100 brace. I do not know whether there was a wager or not; I think there was. The ground selected was the best in the county, and the shot, Sir R. S., admitted to be first-rate. The day was fine, and the task easily accomplished. The birds were driven continuously through the day into turnip-fields. Several guns were employed, and a loaded one always in readiness, so that no chance was lost. So much for what can be performed in Suffolk and Norfolk.
The contiguous county, Cambridgeshire, is almost as good. From Newmarket to Thetford, there is a vast extent of country abounding in game, and particularly partridges, the soil being exactly suitable for breeding, and also abundant in every variety of food, and birds are so numerous, that the only difficulty is to keep them down by fair shooting; but all counties are not so fortunate in this respect, and the difficulty in too many is the other way, in which case the sportsman must be satisfied with a few brace, and, to obtain them, have good dogs, be an excellent walker, good shot, and skilful in his tactics. But I am inclined to believe that the man who can kill with a brace of good dogs his twelve or fifteen brace over a wild, unpreserved country, will enjoy his sport much more, in the variety afforded him by the different sort of ground which he will go over, the excitement and pleasure he will experience, when his dogs make their first point at a long-searched-for covey, and as they subsequently draw after single dispersed birds, than he who can kill double, or even treble the quantity, without the aid of any dog, or without going out of one turnip-field.
In a wild country, where birds are scarce, the first difficulty is to find the covey. The primary object, when you have succeeded in this respect, ought to be to kill the old birds, and drive the others in the direction of some good lying, such as clover, turnips, furze, or whatever the contiguous land may afford in the shape of cover; if your dogs are good, and you manage well, you ought to get the greater part of the covey; if, however, you are shooting over ground where birds are scarce, and you are desirous of increasing your stock, never on any account kill any covey down, always leave at least four birds.
In partridge shooting, always give your dogs the wind as much as possible, and as this principle is important as to the success of your day's sport, it ought to be attended to in the morning before starting, so as to regulate your beat during the day; a great deal frequently depends upon your entering a field from the right quarter; a good marker is very requisite, two if you can have them, as single birds at the beginning of the season lie very close, and are easily passed by the best of dogs. The best shot is No. 7., to commence with, and, as the season advances, No. 6., but never larger—some use 5., and even 4., which in my opinion is a very great mistake; you will wound and destroy more birds with large shot, but you will bag more with small without wound