You cannot be too particular as to making dogs down charge; this is so essentially necessary to ensure good sport, that it must never be overlooked or lost sight of; it is the first act of obedience, upon which all others are founded. The sportsman will, of course, on no account stir one inch after having discharged his gun, till he has reloaded it. No dogs will down charge well if this rule be not strictly attended to. A good sportsman will rather lose fifty birds than move. Want of attention to this fundamental principle in shooting, on the part of impatient and overeager sportsmen, I believe to be the fertile cause of accident; and it is at the same time subversive of sport, and almost invariably defeats its own object.

The more work you give setters, the better they will generally behave; at least, I have always found it so; and having shot many thousand head of game to setters, I have a great partiality to them. For general work for all seasons and all weather, I prefer them infinitely to pointers; they are much more hardy, will do more work, and are not so liable to become foot-sore or chafed by the heather as high-bred pointers; neither are they subject to be chilled in cold weather. If the weather be hot, dry, and sultry, then it must be admitted that pointers have the advantage on the hills; but there is rarely a lack of moisture on the moors. The best plan for those who can afford it, is to have both pointers and setters, and work them alternately, as circumstances may suggest. Three days a week are sufficient for pointers ; but setters may be worked almost every day if you get the right breed. It must be borne in mind that there are many different breeds of setters, varying in size, shape, colour, and quality, but more particularly as to their speed and endurance. There is a large, heavy breed, very steady and stanch, with good nose, but almost useless on the moors, being incapable of fatigue, and very subject to lameness in the shoulder. This breed is, of course, to be scrupulously avoided. They are generally of a red and white colour. I do not mean to say that all setters of this colour are of this description, as I have met with some first-rate dogs in every respect, red and white, but' they have always been large.

The breed I have found best in every respect is a light-built, small setter, with long, smooth, silky hair, much feathered about the legs and under the tail. I had this breed for many years. Many of them were quite black, with the exception of a white spot under the neck and at the tip or end of the tail. Their produce was black, black and white, and dark red; they had capital legs and feet, and were very broad in the chest. No day was too long for them; and when in their prime, they could work every day in the week, and I never recollect them either foot-sore or lame. They were remarkable for stanchness as well as speed. Some of them invariably dropped when they found their game, others pointed and only dropped occasionally. Some that I bred backed one another instinctively the very first time I took them out, before a head of game had been killed to them, and gave hardly any trouble in breaking.

I once shot over some setters, many years ago, which came from Sir John Shelley's, the very best I ever saw. They were very fast, most indefatigable, had capital noses, carried their heads well, and found their game at a very great distance. These dogs could hunt every day, and no day was too long for them. They were large, but beautifully made and very handsome; colour, black and white; much feathered about the legs and tail. Dogs of this description are more suitable for grouse shooting than for any other sport; in fact, their speed is thrown away in field shooting, except it be in those districts where the fields are from fifty to a hundred acres; but pointers, perhaps, are better calculated for partridge shooting, as they hunt closer and more cautiously than setters, the latter being apt occasionally to run over birds if too fresh, and not kept under by sufficient work, especially when they are young.

For pheasant shooting, where they are thin, and not over-preserved, so as to make dogs not requisite, there is no dog equal to the Sussex spaniel; but in these times of preserving, pheasants are generally so numerous, that a few beaters and a retriever are all that are required. In strong covers, furze, or thick hedge-rows, spaniels afford excellent sport; very little game escapes their close hunting and excellent noses, but a relay of them is necessary, as they will seldom work throughout the day, especially if the covers are strong and thick, and a little wet at starting in the morning, and they take so much more out of themselves than any other dogs at the commencement of the day, being more eager and vivacious; their subsequent melancholy aspect when done up towards evening, affords a very striking contrast to their lively and sprightly appearance in the morning. For woodcocks there is no dog equal to theim A steady old pointer or setter may be made good for cocks, but they will never find half the quantity that spaniels will flush. This I have found from experience, having tried both on alternate days in a good cock country, the result being always most decidedly in favour of spaniels. No bird lies closer than a cock when he is not wild; consequently, a low-scented, close-hunting dog must have the advantage, in addition to his inferior size enabling him to get under bushes and other places where a pointer or setter, even if disposed, could not so easily pass; but close as woodcocks lie on particular days, they are sometimes very wild; and when this is found to be the case, it is advisable to beat down wind as much as possible, otherwise you may not get a shot.

When dogs are working hard, it is of the utmost importance to have their food ready for them immediately on their return home, as they will then eat with appetite what they require, before they get upon their benches; whereas, were the food not ready, they would retire to their beds, and be indisposed to move even when the food was brought; and if forced from their benches, would soon return without eating half the quantity requisite. The consequence of this neglect and inattention, if persisted in, would be a falling off in condition, and inability to do regular work. Some dogs are very shy feeders, and require much attention on the part of those whose duty it is to take care of them; and it will be frequently necessary not only to feed these alone, but to humour and coax them, and sometimes feed them with the hand. By the neglect of this care and attention many a valuable dog is lost, the feeder being indifferent about the condition of his doge, and merely placing the food in the kennel, leaving each dog to take his chance. The sportsman must either see his dogs fed himself, or have a

« ForrigeFortsett »