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to go down wind, you must teach your dogs to hunt at right-angles to the wind (and they very readily acquire this mode of proceeding with proper management), so that immediately a point is made you can go down wind and head your dog, by which means you will not only get close to the bird before he rises, but have an easy sideshot, either to the left or right hand, as you please, by the direction you take when you get immediately opposite to your dog. As nineteen snipes out of twenty fly against the wind when flushed, they are indisposed to rise as you advance down wind upon them; whereas, were you to go up wind, they would rise at a long distance, and at the same time give you a comparatively difficult shot, and on particular days you would not in this way get near a single bird.
Snipes are generally supposed to be a difficult shot, and so they are if you go up wind to them; but the reverse will be the case if you proceed in the orthodox and sportsmanlike manner by going down wind; the bird will then fly slowly round you, and so far from there being any occasion for hurry or quickness, patience will be required to allow the bird time to get at a sufficient distance before bringing your gun to the shoulder. Always take good care to shoot about a foot before your bird when he is crossing to the right or left. When there is a steady breeze, the flight of a well-conditioned snipe is very even and steady, offering one of the easiest possible shots. No. 8 is the best sized shot if you do not expect any other game; but if there be a chance of ducks or teal, No. 7 will answer every purpose —larger shot will not succeed so well, but cause disappointment.
I rather fancy the marais in the vicinity of Montreuil are not so good now as they were formerly, owing to the extent to which draining has been carried, and also in consequence of a great increase in the number of French chasseurs: I will not call them sportsmen, as I never met with one who answered our idea of a sportsman; they are all what are vulgarly called Pot Hunters, as they will all shoot any sort of game on the ground whenever they can get the opportunity; and as their dogs are taught to fetch their game, chase hares, and not to 'down charge,' the amount of noise and confusion which takes place after a Frenchman has discharged his gun and killed his game, can be easily understood. Many and many a good day's snipe-shooting I have had spoiled by them; many a day the marais would have afforded me a hundred shots if I had not been interrupted: but as they had a more legitimate right to be there than myself, I only make this statement as a matter of fact, and not as a just subject for complaint, except so far as relates to their mode of proceeding, which was as prejudicial to their own sport as to mine.
The moment a Frenchman has killed a jack snipe, you will hear him calling to his dog at the very top of his voice to bring his game — ' Apporte vite a ton maitre! vita, apporte !'—and if the dog does not take the right direction, you will hear a considerable portion of that part of a Frenchman's vocabulary which commences with sacri nom, &c.; and as your attention will be naturally directed to the quarter from whence the noise proceeds, you will sometimes observe the man and dog both running, the man persevering in his address to his dog—' Apporte! sacrS nom
i !'—and perhaps the dog giving tongue (this
I have witnessed), the consequence of which is that the dog generally flushes five or six snipes before the unfortunate jack is found; and when this is accomplished, and the jack deposited in the carnassiere, or game-bag—without which appendage no French chasseur takes the field—then, and not till then, does the Frenchman think of reloading his gun, which of course has had the opportunity, from the moist atmosphere of the marais, of getting tolerably well damp, in consequence of which an endless number of missfires ensue (accompanied by an additional quantity of sacre nom, &c.), which are attributed to the caps, and not to this unsportsmanlike mode of proceedIng. The vexation and annoyance, as well as loss of sport, which is occasioned by a brace of such sportsmen in a marsh full of snipes, can be more readily imagined than described; and this has very often been my fate. However, French sportsmen are always very courteous and polite, and never offer you any intentional annoyance — at least, I never experienced any during the many years I shot in France.*
None of the marais in the vicinity of Montreuil are dangerous, neither are the bogs deep; but there is sufficient water to make large boots absolutely necessary; and as the pace you are obliged to walk at, so as to avoid the holes from which peat has been extracted, is necessarily slow, the large boots will be found more comfortable than fatiguing.
Those who have attempted snipe shooting in wet marshes, without the protection of large marais boots, have generally had but too good reason to repent it, as severe rheumatic attacks have almost invariably been the consequence. If the marais boots are properly made, and of suitable leather, and the dressing which I have recommended is well rubbed into them, they will not let a drop of water through; but these boots must not be used anywhere but in the marais, as the leather is very soft, and easily damaged— one day's cover shooting would completely spoil them. Two pairs will suffice; but a third pair will not be 'de trop' in case of accident, as you sometimes may get in over the tops, as I have frequently done, and then they will require a longer time to dry before they will be ready for use, as they must on no account be dried by the fire, except at a great distance from it. It is a good plan to fill them with tow, and hang them up in the kitchen during the night, and out of doors in the daytime, if the day be fine, until perfectly dry, and then they may be dressed, the composition being well rubbed in with the hand.
* Except in the receipt of procis verbals from proprietors over whose lands I had inadvertently passed, they being very jealous of any invasion of their rights, in the shape of trespass within their preserved inclosures.
The boots ought to be made sufficiently large to admit of your wearing two pairs of woollen stockings, a second pair being essential to comfort, keeping the feet warm and dry; and as the nature of the ground over which you are shooting will not admit of your walking fast, you will not find the extra pair an impediment to your progress.
A friend of mine, who used occasionally to shoot with me, and who was an excellent sportsman, would never condescend to wear large boots, or take those precautions which I found to be so essential to my immediate comfort and subsequent