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chance is at thirty-five yards for the first barrel, and for the second barrel as soon afterwards as he can manage; his worst chance is after the bird has passed, as so much time is lost in turning round, so that only a long shot can be obtained; besides, in taking a bird as he is advancing, if there be a miss, another chance may be had; moreover, an advancing bird is a very easy shot, when the sportsman has accustomed himself to take advantage of it—I prefer it to all shots. To kill birds flying rapidly over your head requires considerable skill, as it is necessary to shoot three or four feet in advance of them—the precise distance can only be learnt from experience. At the time of pulling the trigger, the bird must be momentarily lost sight of. All these shots can be better managed with both eyes open than with one; indeed, on all occasions I think the two eyes have the advantage. Black cocks may be killed at a great height when passing immediately over your head, if the gun be properly directed well in advance. I don't think their flight is so rapid as that of an old cock pheasant when well on wing. Partridges are perhaps more rapid in their flight when driven and coming over your head in this way than either grouse or black game. The snipe is a very easy bird to kill, if you go down wind on him, as he flies round you, and when in condition his flight is regular. The woodcock is a much more difficult bird, owing to the extreme irregularity of his flight, sometimes as rapid as a hawk, at other times as slow and heavy as an owl. The snipe is constantly alluded to as a difficult bird to kill, and the woodcock as a very easy one, but I have arrived at a very different conclusion after considerable experience in each sport. A particular friend of mine, formerly residing in Scotland, now unfortunately no more, killed on and in the immediate vicinity of his own property on the west coast of Scotland, between four and five thousand woodcocks, and he entirely concurred with me in this opinion, and no better shot ever put gun to the shoulder.
I believe if an appeal were made to the experience of old sportsmen, who have had equal opportunities of judging of the merits of this question, it would be found that a much larger number of snipes had been shot consecutively than of woodcocks. I admit that the excitement of woodcock shooting is greater than that of any other bird shooting; and I am ready to allow that that may have considerable influence, but I nevertheless believe, independently of this circumstance, that the woodcock is the more difficult bird to kill. If he could be found in the open marsh, that probably would not be the case, as the difficulty is partly induced by the nature of the locality in which he is found, independently of his sudden and unexpected rising, and his habit of flying behind the first rock, bush, or other obstacle which may present itself. A woodcock scarcely ever continues his flight straight forward, when he reaches any object he can dodge behind.
SUGGESTIONS ON THE SHOOTING DRESS.
Dress, generally speaking, is so much a matter of caprice, and occasionally involves so much amour jtropre, that it would be hazardous to give an opinion or offer advice on the subject. Almost every one is influenced by his own taste and fancy, occasionally assisted by the deferential suggestions of a confidential tailor, as to what is most suitable and becoming, what is fashionable and what is not so.
But as regards a shooting-dress the matter altogether changes its complexion, as it involves not only considerations of suitableness, but also of comfort and health—objects of far more importance than external appearance. The sort and quality of dress will depend upon the time of year in which its use is required, and the country in which it is intended to sport. If in Scotland,
on the moors, great benefit will be derived from having the coat, waistcoat, and trousers of woollen, on account of frequent exposure to wet and damp in the shape of fogs, mists, and rain; and as during the same day the sportsman will be often subject to alternations of extreme heat and cold, as he ascends from the valleys to the tops of the mountains, he will be less likely to suffer from these sudden and frequent transitions, and less liable to be chilled in a woollen than in any other dress, and will feel less uncomfortable when wet through.
The difference between the degrees of temperature in a valley and on the top of a mountain in Scotland, even on a fine day, must be felt to be known and believed. The transition on a very warm day in August, as you reach the summit of a mountain breathless in the pursuit of game, is trying to any constitution, but more especially to those of sportsmen who have just left London at the end of the season. The only way to guard against such prejudicial influences, to which all must be accessible under similar circumstances, is to be provided with suitable clothing; and none will answer this purpose so well as that which is woollen, and it can be had of any substance, thin and fine for the commencement of the season in August, and thicker as the year advances.
A double-breasted waistcoat will not be without its advantage, opening it as you ascend the mountain side, and closing it immediately you face the sharp cutting hreeze at the top. From this, practice I have derived much comfort, and prevented myself from catching many a severe cold; the warmth is thus retained, and the perspiration not suddenly checked, as it might have been, had you encountered the icy cold wind without this protection to your chest—a part of the body which is at all times very susceptible of cold, but under such circumstances especially so.
Flannel waistcoats are so indispensable for health as well as comfort when taking strong exercise, especially in Scotland, that no sportsman should be so unwise as not to use them; woollen stockings are also equally necessary; these also may be had fine for the commencement of the season, although I am convinced the fine ones will soon be relinquished for the thicker and warmer ones, as the water on the damp mosses in the morning, and also late in the day, is sufficiently cold to be disagreeable with thin stockings; and the thick stockings possess an advantage besides their warmth, in protecting the feet from being wrung or excoriated by the shooting boots, which is no uncommon occurrence at the beginning of the season, and to which you will be always subject with thin stockings, under strong made boots. The most comfortable boot for