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scription of shooting, as I dislike the confinement so much that no amount of game would be any compensation. As a continuous pursuit, the charm in shooting appears to me to consist more in the inducement to exercise—imparting health, vigour of body and mind, and good spirits—than in the amount of game slaughtered. Of course every sportsman likes to kill a certain quantity of game as a reward for his exertions, but I do not think the large amount killed is always an evidence of the pleasure and sport that has been had.
For my own part, I would much rather shoot over a wild country where there was a mixture of game, where the result of the day's sport depended upon my own exertions, and where in the morning, before starting, I should be in a pleasing state of doubt and uncertainty as to the quantity and kind of game I might kill,—than shoot over highly-preserved land, where the amount to be killed was limited and fixed before starting, so that I should know nearly to a certainty how much I could kill, as well as the description of game. But 'de gustibus non est disputandum:' so I will say no more upon this point, but return to my relinquished ground in the marais, and to the operations of the huttiers thereon.
As long as the weather remains fine and open, they go regularly every night to their huts; but when there is no moon, and the nights are very dark, and their chances of sport reduced, they do not go so regularly. The twilight is then of short duration, and when night once sets in the obscurity is so great that although they might hear the ducks in the water before them, they would not at all times be able to discern them, so as to take a shot, and would therefore be compelled to await with patience their chance at daybreak; but as one good shot repays those who go at night, they seldom desert their posts till after daybreak.
When a frost takes place, if it only lasts a few days, it does not much interfere with their sport, or rather success. They break the ice with a pole, fix their decoy-ducks, and keep the centre as clear and open as they can, and sometimes make some capital shots. When the frost continues beyond two or three days, the nocturnal part of the business is relinquished, and they merely go to their huts in the morning, an hour before daybreak, and try their chance; after which they resort to the river, which in a severe frost gives good sport, and attracts a host of chasseurs, especially on Sunday: then every man who has a porte d'arme is sure to be out, and a great many who have not immediately make a rapid retreat on the appearance of a gendarme.
From Montreuil to Etaples, a distance of about three miles, the latter place being on the seacoast, there is an excellent river for wildfowl shooting in every respect suitable. In the first place, it is not more than from forty to sixty yards in breadth, till within a mile of Etaples, where it empties itself into the sea—in this latter distance it is about double its former breadth: in the next place, it pursues a very circuitous and serpentine course, forming inviting angles, corners, and nooks for wildfowl to drop in; and as throughout the distance the banks are high and overhanging, every opportunity is afforded to the sportsman of close approximation to the objects of his search, when either observed from a distance in the river, or seen to drop into it.
The numerous turns and bends in the river afford also endless places of concealment as the wildfowl approach from the sea, either at the usual hours of flight or at the rising of the tide; and first-rate sport might always be had during a frost, if it were not marred by the superabundance of chasseurs. Early in the morning, and sometimes during the day, when the weather was very severe, I have had capital sport; the flights of fowl were numerous and large, and when the tide rose they came inland in quick succession, following the course of the river, and generally within gunshot—some dropping in the river, others pursuing their aerial course.
By keeping concealed behind a bank, I have fired on these occasions a series of very productive double shots in succession, and found Eley's common cartridges very successful; but although I have frequently fired into the middle of very large flocks of widgeon, and almost constantly killed two birds with each barrel, I seldom killed more with the cartridge. But the advantage of the cartridge is found in actually killing your birds, there being no plunging or diving in the water. Nine times out of ten they fall dead; whereas, although with loose shot more birds might be brought down, four out of five would be winged birds, and occasion much trouble, loss of time, and of subsequent sport, even if you were accompanied by a good retriever. For single birds, at long distances, I found Eley's cartridges un exceptionable.
During several severe winters at Montreuil, the flights of wildfowl were large and abundant, combining an endless variety. I killed many birds that were unknown to me, besides ducks, teal, widgeon, dun-birds, pintails, sheldrake, wild geese, and swans. Of wild geese there were many large flocks. I often saw flights of swans; in one there were as many as twenty-one. I happened to get a shot at one which was alone in the river, and killed him. The common and red widgeon were very numerous, but the most abundant in very severe weather was the black widgeon, which the French call 'pilet.' The flights of these are large, there being sometimes as many as from twenty to fifty together. They are very tough and difficult to kill, and when only winged give the retrievers much trouble; in fact, without the further assistance of the gun, they would escape, as their power of diving and keeping under water is very great. As a sitting shot in the water, at a moderate distance, they put the best of guns to the test—so much so that it is better, when you can get a chance of a shot at a number of them flying, to avoid a sitting shot, although close. These birds are, however, strong-flavoured, and not worth cooking.
WILDFOWL SHOOTING, AND INSTRUCTIONS AS TO BUILDING AND USING A PUNT.
The western coast of Scotland affords ample opportunity, during the months of November, December, and January, for wildfowl shooting from punts, to those who are fond of this arduous and sometimes rather perilous amusement. In the first place, there is an abundant supply of wildfowl of every description, especially if the winter be severe; in the next place, there are numerous