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may then attempt a few sitting shots at small birds, taking care to use small shot. When he succeeds in this respect I should recommend his going out, with some friend who is a good shot, but without his gun, merely to observe how he kills his game in all the different positions in which it may present itself; how he manages the cross, and side shots to the right and left. By devoting a few days to observation in this manner, he will be laying the foundation for more rapid progress than if he had shot for weeks alone, especially if his friend will explain certain shots to him. As a looker-on he will soon perceive how little occasion there is for anything like haste or hurry, and not fail to remark the time which intervenes between the rising of a bird when near at hand, and its reaching the distance at which it ought to be shot at: this will teach him the advantage of coolness and the impolicy of haste. After a week he may take his gun out with his friend, but with no ammunition : let him merely try to cover his game on its rising, and when he thinks he can accomplish this, let his gun be loaded with powder only; and if it be observed that he shoots steadily, then let shot occasionally be put in, but without his knowing it, although of course previously warned that he would be indulged with this experiment; and should this succeed, and the beginner shoot steadily and without impatience
or hurry, then the shot may be continued; but if, on the contrary, hurry and want of coolness be exhibited, the shot must not be persevered in, nor again tried till the most perfect calm and sang froid be restored.
The very best shot I ever met with in my life, and by far the coolest, told me he was taught in this manner by his father, who was a first-rate sportsman. When confidence and coolness are acquired, further instructions may be conveyed as to side and cross shots: the principle once established, the distance at which you ought to shoot before game under different circumstances will soon be learnt from experience. When a bird is merely crossing at an ordinary pace, a foot before him will suffice; but when a pheasant, black game, or grouse are coming over your head at full flight, as the pace then is very rapid, the gun must be directed at least two or three feet ahead.
One of the principal reasons of the continuous bad shooting of some sportsmen is to be found in their habit of merely shooting at their game; the consequence of which is, that they never, except by mere accident, kill a cross shot. On some days when they get a number of straightforward shots, they are very successful, but when the majority of shots happen to be cross ones, they scarcely kill anything; and they cannot understand the reason, ånd merely tell you they are in bad shooting, or the gun does not suit them, as they thought they had covered every bird they had shot at. The habit of shooting well before game is easily acquired, if attempted early, and practice will soon make the judgment correct in this respect. Where this principle is well understood and acted on, good shooting must be the result, provided there be no physical obstacle, and the necessary aids and appliances are not wanting, one of the most essential of which is a suitable gun.
In securing a first-rate gun there is no difficulty, but a gun may be first-rate and at the same time altogether unsuitable to the person using it, if he has given his orders indiscriminately, or taken any gun the gunmaker may have thought proper to recommend. A good and experienced shot may shoot well with any good gun, whatever its peculiar make may be, but he will shoot better with one that exactly suits him, especially in quick shooting in cover; it is therefore essential, in the first place, to ascertain the form and make of gun you require, and give your orders accordingly; and one of the most important features in a gur, as to your advantageous management of it, is the length of the stock between the trigger and heel plate, which has more influence on correct shooting than any other circumstance, especially if the gun be a heavy one. The requisite interval will depend upon the length of your arms—if these be short, the interval should be 14 inches to 144; for a person of middle stature, 141 inches; and for a tall person with long arms, 14 to 15 inches. If a person with long arms were to use a heavy gun with the interval of only 14 inches between the trigger and heel plate, however good a shot he might be, he would find himself disappointed, as the gun would scarcely ever come up to the object on his first bringing it to his shoulder, and he would constantly shoot under rising birds, particularly cocks. Let those who are sceptical on this point try the experiment, and I believe they will find my theory correct: even an eighth of an inch makes a wonderful difference in this respect.
The next consideration is the bend or inflection of the stock, which ought to be in proportion to the length of the neck; a short neck requiring a straight stock. But the bend of the stock is not of so much consequence as its proper length; because if the bend were exactly what it ought to be, the gun would not come up properly, so as to cover at first sight the object to which you wished to direct it, if the stock were a quarter of an inch too short. Having the bend and length of the stock all right, the next portions worthy of consideration are the locks, which are as important to good shooting, as any other part of the gun, especially if you have several guns. With bad
locks, or with locks of too great, or of unequal strength, either by the main spring or scear spring being too powerful, or the incision in the tumbler being too deep, it is difficult to shoot well; and unless especial care be taken in giving precise orders in this particular, there may be annoyance and disappointment. I invite attention to this point because I have not unfrequently met with guns made by first-rate makers signally deficient in this respect, although they were highly finished in every other particular; the fault having arisen solely from carelessness and inattention.
If your locks are of equal strength, and the stocks of the same length, the same force will be required to pull the trigger, and there will be no disappointment; but if your locks be unequal in strength in the different guns, the easier locks will go off before you are prepared, and the harder ones not till you have given a second pull, and the point of your gun be lowered, than which nothing is more vexatious; and as with a long stock the finger will come more readily and more heavily upon the trigger than with a short stock, it is of as much importance to have your stocks of similar length as it is to have your locks of equal strength. The above statements being the result of long and frequent experience, I think will be found to be correct, and well worthy of attention.
Although many of the remarks in the preceding