Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

stag is overtaken before he is able to reach a distant herd, he is preferably pursued, because he is first in sight—not that the deerhound will then abandon him for any other stag, but if some other stag had intervened before the wounded one had been reached, the former would have been pursued, and the scent of the latter quitted. The wounded stag once reached will not, however, be quitted by a first-rate deerhound till he is brought to bay, except the animal has sufficient strength and speed remaining to enable him to reach and get into a large herd, when he will probably escape, as the best deerhounds seldom or ever succeed in separating a wounded deer from the herd; indeed, it is generally labour lost.- The slight distinction to which I invite attention is for the purpose of showing that the sagacity of the deerhound is sometimes overrated. In support of this view I cite the following instance:— A large stag had been severely wounded, and blood was on the ground where the shot occurred; several minutes elapsed before a first-rate hound could be brought up and laid on the scent; he went off at speed, and when the parties who followed him arrived at the top of the next mountain, they perceived him in close pursuit of a large stag, which was soon brought to bay and shot, but on examination proved to be a fresh stag, the wounded one being found dead on the

following day. The fresh stag in all probability rose before the hound when on the scent of the wounded animal, and was preferred; proving that the best of deerhounds do not infallibly pursue the scent of a wounded deer, preferably to a fresh deer rising immediately in sight. Some persons entertain so favourable an opinion of the instinctive sagacity of the deerhound, that they believe he will not abandon the scent of a wounded deer under any circumstances. Experience is, however, the other way. The sportsman who has deer driven to him, and who has the command of several double-barreled rifles, may possibly be indifferent as to the use of the breech-loader, but this weapon will be invaluable to the stalker, who only avails himself of one double-barreled rifle, as an opportunity will frequently occur of which he can avail himself of reloading after an unsuccessful shot, in sufficient time to make a second trial of his skill.

A striking instance, as far as opportunity is concerned, of the advantage derivable from a breech-loading rifle occurred to a friend of mine; of which he could not avail himself, having only a muzzle loader. He was out grouse-shooting, when he espied three stags which had arrived on his moor from some neighbouring forest; as chances of this kind occasionally occurred, he was in the habit of carrying a few balls in his pocket;

[ocr errors]

he was using a copper-cap gun, from which he instantly drew the shot and substituted the balls; and leaving his dogs with the" gillie, endeavoured to stalk the three stags; he could not approach nearer than 130 yards, and this position he reached only by crawling on the ground and lying as flat as possible; then finding he could not get one inch nearer, he thought he would hazard a shot, as he did not think there was any chance of the stags coming in his direction. He fired, but without success; the stags raised their heads and gazed about in all directions, and seemed for some time undecided which way to move, apparently not being aware from what quarter the shot proceeded; at last they advanced slowly towards the spot where the stalker lay in concealment, till they came within twenty yards of him, when he rose and took a deliberate aim at one and killed him. Now, if he had had a breech-loader, he could easily have reloaded the empty barrel which he had in the first instance unsuccessfully discharged, and had a right and left at two of the three stags, and as easily have killed two as one, as he was a first-rate shot—lying flat on the ground in heather, which was not deep; it was impossible to reload a muzzle-loader without being seen, but with a breech-loader there would have been no difficulty.

For those who like to indulge in considerable slaughter, Lancaster's four-barreled rifle would be a luxurious instrument to use, in the event of a large herd of deer being driven past at a convenient distance. For moderate appetites his double-barreled rifle will be found to answer sufficiently well. Lancaster's cartridges cannot be refilled: whereas the Lafanchaux cartridges can be refilled three or four times. Moreover, the Lafanchaux rifle is in every respect as efficient; it is equally strong, and is without any complication, and I know of no double-barreled rifle which surpasses the one made by Lang, and which is more generally approved of not only by the deer-stalker, but by the Indian sportsman, whose attention is sometimes directed to a more formidable and much more important quarry than deer, and when the facility and dispatch in reloading the breech-loader are sometimes available for the salvation of life. The strong binding power of Lang's improved lever renders this weapon as safe and efficient as it is possible to be made; and his judicious arrangement of the relative positions of the two barrels to the line of sight is such, that they carry to the greatest accuracy to any given distance: within and beyond that given distance it will be necessary for the sportsman to exercise his own judgment, having a fixed principle for his guidance.

The difficulty of arranging the relative posi

tions of the two barrels of a double-barreled rifle arises from the effect of the recoil, which, taking place at the moment of combustion, gives a slight external tendency to the barrel from which the discharge occurs before the bullet has escaped from the muzzle; so that if the axis of each barrel were parallel with the line of sight which lies evenly between them, any object at a long distance, at which a strictly accurate aim were taken, would not be hit, as the bullet from the right barrel would deviate slightly to the right, and the bullet from the left barrel to the left of the object aimed at. It has therefore been found necessary to give to each barrel a slight internal tendency, by which means the effect of the recoil is partially counteracted; and here the skill of the gunmaker is called into exercise, as it is by a nice arrangement of the degree of convergence that the line of trajection is made to intersect the line of sight at a given point. This may be fixed at 150, 200, or 250 yards, but it cannot be made to intersect the line of sight at each of these distances, because, the axis of the barrel not being parallel with the line of sight, there can only be one point or distance at which the line of trajection can intersect the line of sight: beyond and within this point, as I have before intimated, the sportsman will have to exercise his own judgment. The subject admits of easy mathematical

« ForrigeFortsett »