Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the passing herd to take the most deliberate aim at those stags which he selects as most worthy of his attention. The best stags generally come last, so that he must not be impatient. Contiguous to some passes, places of concealment commanding them are built of stone in the shape of a horseshoe, with loop-holes through them, thus affording the sportsman who is supplied with two or three double-barreled rifles the opportunity of indulging his murderous propensity to a considerable extent. I am aware of one instance in which six shots were had under these circumstances from three double rifles, in which five stags were killed on the spot; the sixth, which was wounded, being subsequently captured by a deerhound. This happened on Lord Breadal bane's forest—the late nobleman being the sportsman who performed this feat. Any first-rate rifle-shot might simultaneously have had similar success with the same number of rifles from the same spot, as a large herd of stags and hinds passed at an easy distance. Stalking stags is quite another matter; the sportsman must work hard, sometimes crawl upon his hands and knees, exercise judgment, patience, and perseverance, before he can obtain even one shot, and that not always at his own distance, or from the position which he would prefer.

The numerous difficulties incident to deer-stalking constitute its charm and fascination; and that it is more fascinating than many other sports may be inferred from the fact, that sportsmen who have taken to stalking, although possessed of the best grouse shooting, become so passionately attached to it that they frequently entirely abandon the latter sport. In the first place, the stag to be stalked must be discovered by the use of a good glass; his precise position ascertained, and the best and securest way of reaching the nearest spot to him, from which a fair shot may be had, must then be discussed and decided on—for it is by no means an easy matter at all times to get within shot of a stag, although he may be in a recumbent position, as his head is always turned to the wind, and his sense of smell so acute that he would readily wind anyone at a long distance who attempted to approach him down wind. His sense of sight is also acute, so that the stalker must equally avoid coming within range of this faculty: in fact, the difficulties incident to stalking are endless; so much so, that the best contrived plans of approach sometimes fail, and the longest amount of labour, perseverance, and patience may be unrewarded. Before attempting to approach a stag the direction of the wind must be attended to, and the possibility of any back currents considered, as these exist amongst the mountains as frequently as they do in large rivers and seawater lochs; but a highlander accustomed to the work is generally pretty well up in these matters, and can give the requisite information. If there be several stags together, one or two of them will invariably be on the look out, with their heads towards the wind. The least thing excites their suspicion; so much so, that too much caution cannot be exercised. A few grouse disturbed by the stalker, flying rapidly over some recumbent stags, would create alarm, excite suspicion, and frequently cause them to rise and move off; hence the cause of the non-preservation of grouse on deer forests, and hence the necessity of the greatest caution in every respect. The subject of dress is a matter of some import, and must therefore be entertained; for although the sportsman, as a rule, ought never to be within range of the stags' sight, if he can possibly avoid it, still it will sometimes happen that he cannot escape from being partially so, even when he is crawling on the ground, so that the colour least liable to excite attention by its contrast with surrounding objects is unquestionably the best. No dark colour is good; slate and light grey are about the best, and the whole dress should be similar in this respect—cap, coat, and trowsers. Stone, slate colour, or light grey, are not distinguishable at a long distance, and I believe will be found to be practically the best. They afford little or no contrast to the rocks or heather. Sometimes when a recumbent stag is reached, he is not in a favourable position for a shot; and if the patience of the stalker be exhausted he will be naturally anxious to disturb him, without too much alarming him; hence a question arises as to the best manner of proceeding under the circumstances. An old and experienced stalker informs me he has frequently adopted the plan of placing his mouth near the surface of the ground, and then uttering a low moan with the greatest success; the stag, on hearing the sound, generally rises, but not suddenly, as if much alarmed, and then gazes about as if he were anxious to ascertain whence the noise proceeded before he may venture to depart, thus affording an excellent opportunity to the stalker of taking a most deliberate aim; the easiest and at the same time the most fatal shot is behind the shoulder. If this part be not accessible, and the head be sideways, then behind the ear—between the eyes if the head be immediately opposite to the stalker. All these are good objects of aim. The spine and brain are equally fatal parts if hit; but the heart presents a larger surface, and consequently offers an easier shot, and sufficiently satisfactory to those stalkers who are more desirous of killing to a certainty than of piquing themselves on the particular manner in which the result is arrived at.

In the event of wounding a stag, which not unfrequently occurs, a deerhound is required to pursue and bring him to bay; if the hound be of first-rate quality and be laid on immediately, he will generally soon accomplish his task; the best dogs for this purpose are the produce of the large wiry Scotch greyhound crossed with either the bloodhound or foxhound, as those of the pure breed of greyhound are seldom staunch at bay, and are also deficient in nose, whereas the produce of either of the crosses is invariably staunch at bay, and can be relied on. By crossing with either bloodhound or foxhound, you secure nose and courage and retain sufficient speed—in fact, all that is required. On these points I express myself advisedly, my opinion being corroborated by that of a first-rate sportsman, who has had ten years' constant experience with hounds of each of these breeds on a large forest, and having had each description under his control and management. It is generally supposed that a first-rate deerhound invariably pursues a wounded deer preferably to others, and that he never leaves him till he brings him to bay, although he may encounter other stags before he comes up with the wounded one; this may sometimes be correct, but as there are instances of the very best deerhounds abandoning the track or scent of a wounded deer in favour of a fresh intervening stag, it may be reasonably assumed that when the wounded

« ForrigeFortsett »