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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.
Afteh 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, may advance, the keepers picking up the birds as they proceed.
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 on 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. 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 were once killed by one gun in one day. The ground selected was the best in the county, and the shot, Sir E. S., admitted to be first-rate.
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 abounding 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, and the excitement and pleasure, when his dogs make their first point at a long-searched-for covey, and as they subsequently draw after single dispersed birds, will be considerably greater than that which he will experience who can kill three times the number without the use of dogs.
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 wounding others, and be more satisfied with your shooting.
Partridges are very easy birds to kill, their flight being steady and regular; if a covey rises within tolerable distance, there is always time for the effective discharge of both your barrels without any hurry; in fact, at the commencement of the season birds rise so very close that you are obliged to wait till they are at a proper distance. Nothing, in my opinion, is more unsportsmanlike than to kill your birds too close, so that they are not fit to be carried home.
When birds are going straight away from you, they are generally on the rise, especially if they are approaching a hedge, therefore take good care not to shoot under, and when you have a cross shot, shoot at least a foot before your bird. As the season advances, and birds become strong on wing, and difficult of access, always follow your birds, and endeavour to break your coveys, by which means you will be more likely to have sport than if you went continually in pursuit of fresh coveys. I have shot much in wild countries