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therefore suggest to the inexperienced, that the search be made within rather than beyond the spot where the wounded bird is supposed to have fallen—some intermediate or more distant object exactly in line with the flight of the bird having been kept well in sight. I am persuaded many dead birds are lost entirely owing to the search being directed very much beyond the spot of the actual fall. It is a good plan, and one which I have adopted with success, when the spot is reached where the bird is supposed to have fallen, to leave some mark and then make a retrograde movement.
I scarcely ever recollect an instance of a dead bird having been found beyond the spot where I supposed he had fallen, but, on the contrary, very considerably within it. Snipes and woodcocks, when mortally wounded, fly in a straight line with a very slight movement of the wing, their heavy flight making them appear much larger than they really are. In fact, to the experienced eye, the flight of a mortally-wounded snipe or woodcock is too peculiar to be mistaken: they rarely or ever tower except when slightly wounded on the head, and in that case they do not drop dead, although they may be picked up by the hand when marked down, if approached with caution. Instances of this kind have occurred to me with each of these birds. When they fall dead after a long flight they are not, as is often supposed, wounded on the head, but in the back; a shot having passed through the spine into the vitals, producing internal bleeding, consequent suffocation and death. Woodcocks when wounded in this manner, I have invariably found, pursued a straightforward course and dropped dead. If the mouths of towered birds which fall dead be examined, they will always be found to be full of blood, and that there is no wound on the head. The idea that woodcocks live by suction, although a very old one, is erroneous; they live on small red worms, which they discover by the exercise of their acute smelling powers vested in their bill; this member serves the purpose also of an extractor as well as perforator, and the upper mandible being longer than the under one, after the food is found and approved it is readily grasped and extracted. Hence the bill answers three purposes, and if the long tongue lying within it be included, which possesses the sense of taste, we may say four, as the entire bill is a taster, as well as a perforator, discoverer, and extractor. The places where cocks are in the habit of feeding are discovered by the numerous perforations in the soil made by their bills, and by the disordered state of the leaves which have been turned over, under which their search for food has been directed. Under hollies is a very favourite spot—in fact, under any wellcovered thick tree where the ground is clear of weeds. On open spaces on the moors frequented hy cattle, where the grass is moistened by some contiguous spring, I have often found numerous perforations, evidently the result of the previous night's search for food. In some instances, where there was much apparently very fresh work, I have found one or two woodcocks within a few yards of the spot in the heather. Where the heather is old and high, and hollow underneath, I have frequently found cocks, especially late in the season, and sometimes quite at the commencement of it, on the arrival of the first flight. In France there is a saying, 'sourde comme une becasse,' but I don't believe this is founded on truth; for although cocks will occasionally permit you almost to tread upon them before they rise, at other times they rise wildly at long distances quite out of shot, proving that they are by no means deficient in the sense of hearing—in fact, I am inclined to believe that their not moving on certain occasions results rather from indisposition to rise than from any other cause. Some persons profess to be able to distinguish the male from the female bird by the different marks on the border of the outside feather of the wing; but I do not believe this test is to be relied on, nor do I believe that the hen-bird is larger and heavier than the cock-bird (in hawks this is generally the
In favourable winters, throughout the greater part of the coast of Argyleshire, there is good cock-shooting. On the Isle of Jura it is good; on Isla, excellent. In the vicinity of Crinan, cocks are numerous, and breed in the woods belonging to the Poltalloch estate; from thence to Oban and beyond it there are also numerous first-rate cock covers. On the Loch Nell estate, about six miles from Oban, in the vicinity of Connel Ferry and Tinault and Cruachan, cock covers abound; and first-rate sport may be had during a severe frost, provided the tops of the mountains are covered with snow, for it is only under the influence of such weather that the cocks which are scattered about the country descend to the low ground and congregate in the covers. I and a friend some years since killed 105 woodcocks in a few days in the covers near Connel Ferry and Tinault.
Many of the covers are on the sides of steep rocky mountains, very difficult to be walked over, so that a number of beaters are required, as well as one or two good dogs, as cocks lie very close in hard weather: we had only three beaters, but two first-rate dogs with them, one a retriever and the other a cocker. There is scarcely any timber in these covers, so that if cocks would rise above the cover they would afford an easy shot; but this is rarely the case, as, owing to the thinness of the cover at bottom, they fly under and through it, and are at their best pace the moment they are on wing, so that many shots are most difficult. The first chance is generally the best, and is too often the only one, as owing to the numerous projecting rocks and bushes surrounded by heather, round which they are certain to dodge the moment the opportunity occurs, they easily escape from your sight, and do not reappear till they are out of distance, so that a quick shot has a great advantage in this peculiar and most exciting sort of shooting. No larger shot than No. 7 ought to be used. The shootings of Loch Nell are extensive, comprising from fifty to seventy thousand acres of high and low land. Grouse and black game are not to be found in very large quantities, but partridges are numerous.
Game of all sorts would abound if the property were properly preserved. In the first place, the moors, which are extensive, are excellent, and on the low ground the covers are numerous and in every respect suitable for the preservation of black game, as they are surrounded by corn land. Some years ago, when I last visited this property, the ground was overrun with the enemies of game— a fact exhibiting itself in the numerous tracks of ground-vermin on the surface of the land in all directions, it being covered with snow at the time.
Martin cats, which are now rare in many parts