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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 covey: 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 wbistling, as any of these operations 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 day's sport-in addition to whatever other game you may meet with to fill up the bag—and this quantity may 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.
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 the surface. 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 of any description, 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.
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 flush 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 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 gunshot. 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 favourite spots from below, and never from above, always going round any elevated ground rather than over it. Black game are easily stalked; and for a sitting shot, I have found no charge equal to one of Ely's wire cartridges-loose shot is useless beyond 35 yards. You may pick up plenty of feathers, but the birds will fly away.
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 very inferior to grouse. They are only to be found on the tops of very high, rocky mountains, are generally very tame, and will allow you to get sufficiently near to have one shot sitting and another as they take their flight from the ledge of the rocks on which you will find them perched.