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side of him by five o'clock; but, even before that early hour, Rob Roy's “ bedrels, the corbies, and the hoody craws had entered upon office. I made them welcome to their share; but preserved his head, horns, and skin, together with that of his chief; which are as handsome trophies of the chase as any
I have in
A FEW HINTS ON DEER-STALKING, GROUSE
SHOOTING, AND ROE-HUNTING.
(Not mentioned in “ The Moor and the Loch.")
In high wind deer are always difficult to drive. Should they make a pause, they will in all likelihood turn in the face of a hundred men, and not suffer themselves to be driven further. As the wind becomes stronger, the higher you ascend, the deer on the tops of the hills are most difficult to drive. The lowest ground always the best for driving on a windy day.
In south and west wind, the deer are far easier stalked, as the colder and sharper north and east keeps them always moving and beating against it. When fired at they will go double the distance with an east or north wind.
Deer will go far more readily to the high passes in the morning, and to the low passes in the evening; so this ought always to be attended to.
Never stalk between two herds, if it can be helped; it is always considered bad stalking.
Ox deer, or “heaviers" as the foresters call them (most likely a corruption from the French hiver), are wilder than either hart or hind. They often take post upon a height that gives a look out all round, which makes them very difficult to stalk. Although not so good when December is past, still they are in season all
the winter; hence their French designation. Yeld hinds are also fit for the table till the end of January. The latter are easily distinguished by an experienced forester, from their light colour. The ears of the “heaviers” are always cropped, that they may at once be known from the hinds. This deformity makes their hornless heads look perfectly hideous. When stags grow very old, their horns go back just like a tree going to decay.
The best time for a quiet stalking shot is either early in the morning or late in the evening, as the deer are not so much on the alert, and busy feeding. It is at these times also that they are apt to come down from the high to the low ground.
Some forests are so crowded with hinds and calves, that stalking between deer is often unavoidable: this is the most difficult of all stalks. You have to keep a look out upon the deer on each side as well as those in the middle which you are advancing on. Should those on either side catch sight of the sportsman, or get his wind, he may still have his shot, if there is any cover in front, by running forward under shelter of it. Sometimes when the deer on both sides have taken the alarm, even should the ground be bare, those in the middle will stand staring, trying to discover what had frightened them. Under these circumstances, whenever the sportsman sees the deer on either side begin to move, his only chance of a shot is to run on; and perhaps the attention of the centre ones may be so fixed on their companions as to allow him to get within range. When the wind is fair, the best plan is to have good patience until the deer feed up, without attempting to stalk between them. When you have a side wind, however, it is very difficult to manage,
especially with a train of men and dogs, to all of whom the stalker must give his signal at once, perhaps with only twenty yards of ground to come and go upon.
When stalking a herd, or between deer, down hill, the best way is to slide upon the back with your feet foremost. This can be done by leaning upon the elbows, and using the heels of the shoes to draw on the body. The knees will thus be prevented from rising too high. Should you attempt to crawl down head foremost, the back will often be two feet higher than the head, and the stalker never be aware of it. In sliding down the hill, both stalker and sportsman must have their eye upon
the deer; and, if they raise their heads, must keep the exact position they were in when the deer looked up. It is very bad generalship, either with deer or wild fowl, to clap down quickly, as they at once see this maneuvre. Instead of doing so, remain steady as a rock, until the deer begin to feed again, or look in a different direction. Should they suspect you, and thus render it necessary to move out of sight, withdraw yourself inch by inch, so as to prevent their seeing the least motion. In stalking up hill, you must crawl sometimes upon hand and knee, occasionally flat upon your face when the deer come more prominently into view. As they always look down hill, greater caution is required than when stalking from above. Should two good stalkers be noticed by deer, one ought always to remain where they were first perceived; the other advancing alone. If the deer are in sight, and not far off, a knowing forester often restrains the eagerness of the novice, by telling him to “coont the grass as they go along;” that is, to count each deer as they raise their heads for a moment when feeding up.
This, by ensuring a very slow advance, doubles the chances of their escaping the notice of the deer, and keeps the young stalker more cool. The forester all the time has his eye on the leading deer. When selecting your hart, raise the rifle most leisurely to the shoulder. If brought up in a hurry, or in the same way that a quick shot takes aim with his fowling-piece, you are almost certain to miss.
A good forester generally becomes very nervous in the long run, from the bungling of some gentlemen, and the ill temper of others, together with his constant anxiety to procure them fair chances.
When roes haunt a small belt of plantation, it is often impossible to say where they will break cover. The surest plan is to take a pass a little way off, as the roe, wherever it may break, soon falls into a beaten track when leaving one wood for another.
It is a rare thing to take a right and left at roe; they slip past so quickly, and generally in small numbers. I have known many old sportsmen who have shot them all their lives, and yet never killed a couple right and left. Blood-hounds are now coming into vogue, instead of foxhounds, for running them out of thick coverts. From the truer nose, slower movement, and more deep-toned voice of the blood-hound, he is certainly far better adapted for the purpose. This noble dog is supposed to be the lineal descendant of the old deep-flewed English slot-hound, or talbot, and there is certainly little difference except in colour. The prevailing hue of the talbot was white, that of the blood-hound is black and tan. All the finer