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nary cases, sufficing; but the gensdarmes are incorruptible—so much so that I never knew, or even ever heard of, a solitary instance to the contrary, although they seldom interfere with persons shooting, except at the commencement of the season, and then only during the two or three first days, when they are ordered out in pairs by their superior officer to explore the country, and make their report on their return.
Their province when out is to ascertain that all persons whom they may find shooting are furnished with a porte d'arme, and also to declare proces verbal against any chasseur they may find either trespassing on any standing corn, or allowing his dogs to do so. This is a delit de chasse against the public, from which there is no escape when a gendarme declares his proces, but is easily compromised with the garde-champetre; in fact, five francs to each garde-champetre, on the opening of the chasse, makes them blind during the entire season — and this is very intelligible, as their pay is miserably low. Some of the private gardes-champetre are, however, a little more difficult at first, and require stronger arguments than the former, but, with management, are not at all refractory. I never had any proces after my first year's residence in France. A garde-champetre cannot declare his proces except he has his badge of office on him; and this consists of a plate, in the centre of which is written the name of his parish, together with his title, functions, &c. which he has on his arm, or on a belt fastened round his body; but as it is bright, and may be seen at a distance, they frequently pocket it, when in pursuit of any delinquents, and only produce it when close at hand. As the gensdarmes are always on horseback, they are easily perceived from a distance, and their appearance at any time is hailed by the legitimate chasseur with pleasure, as the poachers, with whom every district more or less abounds, and who are considered a great nuisance, are immediately put to flight, and do not reappear for several days. The braconnier du village is never interfered with or molested by the garde de chasse, the latter being generally a neighbour, relative, or friend of his; and if you make any complaint to the garde, his reply invariably is, 'Mais, monsieur, il faut que tout le monde vive.' I have sometimes known gensdarmes to have visited particular districts on foot, disguised in a plain dress, when commanded so to do by their chef, in consequence of complaints having been made to the gendarmerie against certain individuals for poaching, i.e. shooting without a porte d'arme. The gensdarmes, however, never interfere with the huttiers, provided they confine themselves to their hut-shooting. There is one singular circumstance under which a gendarme can make a proces verbal, which I mention as illustrative of the paternal care of the French government, and that is, in the case of a chasseur being found shooting in his own standing corn. The proprietor, when detected in this predicament by a gendarme, is considered as doing a public injury, and is as liable to a proces for delit de chasse as a stranger.
HUT-SHOOTING EST FRANCE.
On the French coast, duck shooting from huts is so extensively resorted to by the peasants, and with so much success, that not only are the towns in the immediate vicinity of the operations supplied with wild-fowl during the season, but even Paris is indebted to this prolific source for a portion of its constant and abundant supply, as I believe they have no decoys in France similar to ours. Very few, if any> chasseurs pursue this sport as an amusement; it is purely one of business, and hundreds of the poorer classes obtain their livelihood by it during the winter months. It involves little expense beyond ammunition, a gun, and a pair of marais boots, and no skill in shooting, all the shots being sitting ones, and at a short distance; and as the barrel of the gun rests upon a bar of wood, or piece of turf, under the aperture through which the muzzle is presented, and as there is no occasion for hurry, the most deadly aim can easily be taken, especially when a large flight of ducks is to be fired into. I have known one man kill as many as forty wild ducks in one night and morning, for it is only during the evening and morning flights that any number of shots are had; wild-fowl rarely move during the night, when once settled to their feeding places, unless, by some accident, they may have been disturbed; but sometimes a shot or two is had when the moon is up.
The places selected for the building of the huts are various; if on private property, permission must be obtained from the proprietor, and this is rarely refused; but, in some localities, certain positions are so very favourable and lucrative, that they are let by the proprietors to the huttiers by the season; but, generally speaking, fourfifths of the huttiers make their huts on 'Men communal? where they have a right to do so if they belong to the commune; and as all along the sea-coast, at least in those parts where I have resided, there has always been a vast extent of marais, or marsh, which has been 'bien communal,' the poorer classes experienced no obstacle to their obtaining their living in this manner. And no forte d'arme is required.
There is a sort of tacit understanding between the huttiers not to interfere with one another; so that when a huttier has once taken up a position, he maintains it year after year, without being interfered with by his brother huttiers. Sometimes huts are located within a quarter of a mile of the sea-coast, sometimes at a distance of six or more miles, the remote places being as good, sometimes better, than those in the immediate vicinity of the sea: the essential point is to be either near the feeding-ground, or in the line of flight taken by the wild-fowl night and morning.
I resided during several winters close to a large marais, which was distant about seven miles from the sea. In and about this there were from thirty to fifty huts; and as the place of my abode, at this season of the year, was not more than half a mile from the scene of operations, I used constantly during night to hear the report of the huttiers' guns, which resounded along the marshy ground more like small cannon than fowling-pieces; but as the arm generally used by these men is an old musket converted into a copper cap gun, and will carry a pretty good charge, the loudness of the report can be well understood, somewhat augmented by the stillness of the night.
The summer season is generally selected for the building of huts, in order that they may be made warm, dry, and comfortable: they are ordi