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The Moor and the Loch
Wild-Fowl Shooting on the Highland Lochs


THE exciting nature of the winter shooting on one of our large Highland lochs, if well frequented by water fowl, can hardly be conceived by a stranger to the sport. It, in fact, partakes so completely of the nature of deerstalking, that a man who is an adept at the one would be sure, with a little practice, to be equally so at the other. I should have been astonished to find this amusement so little followed by gentlemen, had I not sometimes witnessed the bungling manner in which they set about it: it is, indeed, as rare to find a gentleman who knows anything of this sport as a rustic who has not a pretty good smattering of it. The reason is obvious. The squire, who may be a tolerable shot, is all eager anxiety until he can show off his right and left upon the devoted fowl ; while the clod, having only his rusty single barrel to depend upon, and knowing that if the birds should rise, his chance is very considerably lessened, uses all the brains of which he is master in order to get the sitting shot ; and knowing also from experience, that the nearer he gets to his game the better his chance, spares no trouble to come to close quarters. He will crawl for a hundred yards like a serpent, although he should be wet through, reckless of his trouble and discomfort if he succeed in his shot.

I will now suppose the squire by the loch-side on a fine winter morning, dressed perhaps in a flaring green or black velveteen, with a Newfoundland retriever of the same sable hue. He sees a flock of fowl well pitched on the shore, which most likely have seen both him and his dog, and are quite upon their guard. He looks round for a few bushes to screen him when near the birds ; and then with a sort of half-crouching attitude, admirably imitated by his canine friend, advances upon his game. Unless the place is particularly adapted for a shot, the flock have probably seen him appearing and re-appearing several times, and whenever he is sufficiently near to alarm them, fly up together to his no small chagrin. But should he by any chance get near enough for a shot, his dog, not being thoroughly trained, will most likely either show himself, or begin whimpering when his master prepares to shoot, or, in short, do something which may spoil the sport; and even supposing the better alternative, that he should have no dog at all, and be within shot of his game, he will, in all probability, either poke his head over a bush when going to fire, or make a rustling when putting his gun through it, and so lose the sitting shot.

Now for the few hints I have to offer. It may be thought that none were wanting, after the subject of wild-fowl shooting has been so well and fully discussed by Colonel Hawker; but I have never seen any suggestions to assist the beginner how to proceed in the winter shooting on our large Highland lochs ; and many a man may have it in his power to enjoy the recreation in this way, who has neither opportunity nor inclination to follow it in all its glory on the coast with a stanchion gun and punt.

The man who engages in this sport must be of an athletic frame and hardy habits : he must not mind getting thoroughly wet, nor think of rheumatism while standing or sitting in clothes well soaked, perhaps for an hour at a time, watching fowl. As to waterproof boots, they are totally out of the question : the common diker's boots would so impede your walking, and also be such a hinderance when crawling upon ducks or running upon divers, as considerably to lessen your chance ; and the India-rubber boots would, in no time, become so perforated with briers and whin as to be of little more service than a worsted stocking. The most suitable dress is a light brown duffle shooting jacket and waistcoat, as near the shade of the ground and trees in the winter season as possible, your great object being to avoid the quick sight of the birds; shoes well studded with nails, like a deer-stalker's, to prevent slipping, and a drab coloured waterproof cap. Should the weather be very cold, I sometimes put on two pairs of worsted stockings, but never attempt any protection from the wet. If snow is on the ground, wear a white linen cover to your shooting jacket, and another to your cap.

A gun suitable for this sport is indispensable. It certainly ought to be a double-barrel, and as large as you can readily manage ; it must fit you to a nicety, and carry from two to three ounces of No. 3 or 4 shot, (I prefer the latter,) both very strong and regularly distributed. Its elevation must be most true, if anything over-elevated. As to length of barrel, calibre, &c., every man will, of course, suit his own fancy, and give his directions accordingly. Should he not be au fait at this, by explaining the sort of gun he wants to any of the first-rate makers, he need not doubt their giving him satisfaction, and none more so than William Moore. I never use any shot larger than No. 4, except for hoopers, [Wild-geese, bernacle, brent-geese, &c., seldom pitch upon the Highland lochs; the former only for a short time to rest. Last winter (1841) some flocks of wild-geese, the common grey lag, appeared on Loch Lomond during the first storm. They remained about a week, and when seen, were always feeding on the shores. Three of them my brother killed. I never knew this to occur before; for although wild geese have occasionally pitched for a short time, they always choose the deep inaccessible places of the loch, and, after resting for a few hours, took their departure without attempting to feed. I went to the loch shortly after the geese had left it, but the thaw unfortunately began the next day ; and of the five days I remained, it rained nearly three : I, however, bagged thirty-eight head of wild-fowl, mallards, golden-eyes, dun-birds, wigeon tufted and scaup-ducks - my charge never exceeding 11 oz. of shot. It was a curious fact that there were fewer hoopers last winter than in many of far less severity. Scarcely any came to Loch Lomond at all, and I did not see one, though I looked for them in all their most likely haunts. During the severe winter of 1837-8, not one wild-goose of any description was seen, although there were numbers of the common wild-swan, and a few of the black species, one of which was shot ; so much for the uncertain movements of wild-fowl.] (when, of course, I would sacrifice my chance at other birds,) as a fair shot at a small bird like a teal might be missed with larger ; and a man should not go alarming the whole shore, firing random shots at flocks of fowl nearly out of reach on the water.

Next in importance to the gun is a proper retriever. [My first attempts at shooting were in pursuit of wild-fowl when quite a boy, and I still consider it superior to any other sport. In these early days, however, I had no idea to what perfection a retriever might be trained; if the dog took the water well, and was close mouthed, I expected no more. As I was always obliged to lead him by my side, he often spoiled my best chances, either by showing himself, or hampering me when crawling over difficult ground. I was at last so disgusted with these encumbrances, that I generally dispensed with their services, and trusted to my own resources for recovering the killed and wounded. The consequence was, that the greater proportion of the latter always escaped, and unless the wind was favourable, not a few of the former were drifted away. On one occasion I was foolish enough to swim 100 yards into the loch in the middle of winter after a golden-eye, and had some difficulty in regaining the laud. I had watched it for some time, and at last succeeded in getting to the nearest point on the shore. The golden-eye, however, was diving a long shot off, as these shy birds not unfrequently do : without once considering that the wind was blowing strong from the shore, I fired, and the bird dropped dead. To my great chagrin, it was blown rapidly out into the rough water. What was to be done ? Had it been able to make the slightest effort to escape I could have allowed it; but there it lay, still as a stone. So, throwing off my shooting-jacket and shoes, I plunged in, waded up to the neck, and struck out for my prey. By the time I reached the bird, it had floated fully 100 yards; but getting its leg between my teeth, I wheeled about for the land. My difficulties now began, for the waves were very high and dashed right into my face. Several times during my slow progress I determined to leave the golden-eye to its fate, and as often braced myself up again, unwilling to have so cold a bath for nothing. At last I neared the shore, got into calm water, and, after sounding once or twice, struck ground, and reached terra firma with my prize, the leg of which I had nearly bitten through during my exertions. It was an intensely cold day about the end of December, with frequent snow-showers ; and had the golden-eye not been the most valued of the diving race, I should never have made such a fool of myself. I arrived at home quite benumbed, determining no more to act the part of a retriever.

Another stormy mid-winter day, a farmer sent to let us know that a flock of wild-swans had appeared off the shore; my brother and I instantly started with our duck-guns. When we had reconnoitred with our glasses, from a rising ground, we saw that the flock were resting some hundred yards from the land, but had little doubt, from the high wind, that they would soon seek its shelter. We accordingly chose different, stations, and crawling to them with the utmost caution, waited patiently for upwards of an hour. At last the swans, by imperceptible degrees, and much turning and wheeling, neared the shore, opposite my brother ; but the water being shallow, they began to feed, as soon as their long necks could sound the bottom. He was thus forced to rush down to the edge, and take the distant shot. One lay badly wounded : had the wind been blowing towards the shore, the swan was so disabled that it could not have made head against it ; but as it blew sideways, the creature managed to paddle itself out into the waves, every now and then uttering its wild piping cry. There was no boat nearer than a mile; we however set off at full speed, and with a shock-headed urchin at the helm, launched into the deep. The wind was blowing a perfect gale, the waves lashing over, wetting us to the skin, and every time we changed our course, we were in danger of being swamped. We had almost given up hope, especially as the white foam of the bursting waves was so exactly like the object of our search as to prevent our distinguishing it at any distance, when the "gilly" at the helm called out, "I hear him!" All eyes were strained in every direction, and the poor swan was at last seen rising over the billows like the spirit of the tempest. There was much difficulty, and some danger, in getting it safe on board, and in all probability we would never have perceived it, had it not betrayed itself by its dying song. My retriever would have recovered both these birds in five minutes, and there would have been no risk of his spoiling the shot beforehand.]

The Newfoundland is not quite the thing: first, his black colour is against him-brown is much to be preferred: then, I should wish my dog occasionally to assist me in this inland shooting, by beating rushes or thick cover up creeks, where you may often plant yourself in an open situation for a shot, and your dog put up the fowl, which are almost certain to fly down past you. If you accustomed a Newfoundland to this, he might, from his strength and vivacity, learn the trick of breaking away when you did not wish him. The best and most efficient kind of dog for this work is a cross between a water-dog and large terrier;-the terrier gives nose, and the water-dog coolness and steadiness. I should say, that before you can procure one which upon trial may prove worth the great trouble of thoroughly training, you may have to destroy half a dozen. You should begin your training when the dog is very young ; and, if you find he is not turning out as you could wish, seal his fate at once. The dog you want must be mute as a badger, and cunning as a fox: he must be of a most docile and biddable disposition-the generality of this breed are so : they are also slow and heavy in their movements, and phlegmatic in their temper-great requisites ; but when fowl are to be secured, you will find no want either of will or activity, on land or water. The accompanying wood-cut may serve to show the sort of dog I mean, being a likeness of the best I ever saw. He never gives a whimper, if ever so keen, and obeys every signal I make with the hand. He will watch my motions at a distance, when crawling after wild-fowl, ready to rush forward the moment I have fired ; and in no one instance has he spoiled my shot. I may mention a proof of his sagacity. Having a couple of long shots across a pretty broad stream, I stopped a mallard with each barrel, but both were only wounded : I sent him across for the birds ; he first attempted to bring them both, but one always struggled out of his mouth; he then laid down one, intending to bring the other; but whenever he attempted to cross to me, the bird left fluttered into the water; he immediately returned again, laid down the first on the shore, and recovered the other ; the first now fluttered away, but he instantly secured it, and standing over them both, seemed to cogitate for a moment ; then, although on any other occasion he never ruffles a feather, deliberately killed one, brought over the other, and then returned for the dead bird.

The only other essential to the sportsman is a glass ; one of the small pocket telescopes will answer best, as it is of great importance to be able to set it with one hand while you hold your gun with the other, and the distance of a mile is all you want to command.

Having now equipped our wild-fowl shooter, we will again bring him to the shore. His first object should be to see his game without being seen himself, even if they are at too great a distance to show signs of alarm. To effect this he must creep cautiously forward to the first point that will command a view of the shore for some distance ; then, taking out his glass, he must reconnoitre it by inches, noticing every tuft of grass or stone, to which wild-fowl asleep often bear so close a resemblance that, except to a very quick eye, assisted by a glass, the difference is not perceptible. If the loch be well frequented, he will most likely first discover a flock of divers, but must not be in a hurry to pocket his glass, until he has thoroughly inspected the shore, in case some more desirable fowl may be feeding or asleep upon it. I will suppose that he sees some objects that may be wild-fowl. Let him then immediately direct his glass to the very margin of the loch, to see if anything is moving there ; should he find it so, he may conclude that it is a flock of either ducks, widgeon, or teal ; those first perceived resting on the shore, and the others feeding at the water's edge, of course not nearly so conspicuous. [Duck-shooting on rivers and streams is generally unsatisfactory, there are so many turnings and windings which prevent you from seeing the fowl until they are close at hand, also so many tiny bays and creeks, where they conceal themselves beyond the possibility of detection until the whirr of their wings and the croak of the mallard betray their hiding-place. Unless the river be large and broad, even the most expert wild-fowl shooter must expect few heavy sitting shots, and content himself with the greater number being distant flying ones.]

If there is no motion at the margin of the loch, he must keep his glass fixed, and narrowly watch for some time, when, if what arrested his attention be wild-fowl asleep, they will, in all probability, betray themselves by raising a head or flapping a wing.

He must now take one or two large marks, that he will be sure to know again, as close to the birds as possible; and also another, about two or three hundred yards, immediately above, further inland. Having done this, let him take a very wide circle and come round upon his inland mark. He must now walk as if treading upon glass : the least rustle of a bough, or crack of a piece of rotten wood under his feet, may spoil all, especially if the weather be calm. Having got to about one hundred yards from where he supposes the birds to be, he will tell his retriever to lie down ; the dog, if well trained, will at once do so, and never move. His master will then crawl forward, until he gets the advantage of a bush or tuft of reeds, and then raise his head by inches to look through it for his other marks. Having seen them, he has got an idea where the birds are, and will, with the utmost caution, endeavour to catch sight of them. I will suppose him fortunate enough to do so, and that they are perfectly unconscious of his near approach. He must lower his head in the same cautious manner, and look for some refuge at a fair distance from the birds, through which he may fire the deadly sitting shot. After crawling serpent-like to this, he will again raise his head by hair-breadths, and, peeping through the bush or tuft, select the greatest number of birds in line ; then drawing back a little, in order that his gun may be just clear of the bush for the second barrel, after having fired the first through it, will take sure aim at his selected victims. Should he unfortunately not find an opening to fire through, the only other alternative is by almost imperceptible degrees to raise his gun to the right of the bush, and close to it ; but in doing this the birds are much more likely to see him and take wing. Never fire over the bush, as you are almost certain to be perceived whenever you raise your head : more good shots are lost to an experienced hand by a rapid jerk, not keeping a sufficient watch for stragglers, and over-anxiety to fire, than by any other way. Having succeeded in getting the sitting shot, the fowl, especially if they have not seen from whence it comes, will rise perpendicularly in the air, and you are not unlikely to have a chance of knocking down a couple more with your second barrel ; but if they rise wide, you must select the finest old mallard among them, or whatever suits your fancy. Directly upon hearing the report, your retriever will rush to your assistance, and having secured your cripples, you will reload, and taking out your glass, reconnoitre again; for though ducks, widgeon, &c., would fly out upon the loch at the report of your gun, yet the diver tribe, if there are only one or two together, are perhaps more likely to be under water than above when you fire ; but more of them anon.

Another invariable rule in crawling upon ducks is always, if possible, to get to leeward of them; [If you have also a bright sun at your back, and in their eyes, your advantage is great; but should the sun and wind favour opposite directions, let the nature of the ground decide your advance.

I was last winter shooting wild-fowl with a gamekeeper who firmly held the common notion of their keen noses. We saw a flock of about twenty pitched upon a long point, and no possibility of approaching them except directly to windward. " Now, Sir," says the keeper, " if you'll stalk these ducks so as to get a good shot, I'll never care for their noses again!" They had the full benefit of the wind as it blew pretty strong, but there was some soft snow on the ground, which I knew would prevent their hearing ; so I took him at his word, killed three with my first barrel, and, had they not been intercepted by the trees and bushes, would have knocked down at least one more with my second. The keeper has said ever since that their noses are not worth a straw :-my decided advice, however, is never to stalk wild-fowl to windward, if it can 6e avoided : for should the snow be at all crisp with frost, or if there are many twigs and bushes to crawl through, their noses become acute enough ! ! !]

for although I am firmly of opinion that they do not wind you like deer, as some suppose, yet their hearing is most acute, I have seen instances of this that I could hardly otherwise have credited. One day I got within about sixty yards of three ducks asleep upon the shore ; the wind was blowing very strong, direct from me to them, a thick hedge forming my ambuscade. The ground was quite bare beyond this hedge, so I was obliged to take the distant shot through it : in making the attempt, I rustled one of the twigs-up went the three heads to the full stretch, but when I had remained quiet for about five minutes, they again placed their bills under their wings ; upon a second trial, the slight noise was unfortunately repeated : again the birds raised their heads ; but this time they were much longer upon the stretch, and seemed more uneasy. Nothing now remained but to try again; my utmost caution, however, was unavailing, the birds rose like rockets. I never hesitate concealing myself to windward of the spot, where I expect ducks to pitch, feeling confident that, unless I move, they will not find me out. I have often had them swimming within twenty-five yards of me, when I was waiting for three or four in line, the wind blowing direct from me to them, without perceiving by any signs their consciousness of an enemy's vicinity. [Perhaps the sportsman may ask what it signifies whether wild-fowl are aware of your approach by hearing or winding? My answer is, that although it is of little consequence when crawling upon ducks, yet when lying concealed, expecting them to pitch, it is a considerable advantage to know that you will not be detected by their sense of smell; otherwise the best refuge for a shot must often be abandoned for a much worse.]

When the weather is very hard, and ducks are driven to the springy drains, a simple way of getting fair shots, but seldom practised, is, to make your man keep close to the drain, and take your own place fifteen yards from it, and about forty in advance of him. The ducks will then rise nearly opposite to you. To walk along the drain is not a good plan, as they will generally rise either out of distance or very long shots : and, if you keep a little way off, they may not rise at all. When the loch is low, the sportsman may often get a capital shot at ducks, the first warm sunny days in March, as they collect on the grassy places at the margin, to feed upon the insects brought into life by the genial heat.

But to return to our wild-fowl shooter, whom we left glass in hand looking out for divers. He sees a couple plying their vocation fifteen or twenty yards from the shore, about half a quarter of a mile from where he stands. He selects his vantage ground as near as possible for a last look before commencing his attack. Having gained this, he makes his dog lie down, and peeps cautiously until he sees the birds-waits till they both dive together, then rushing forward whilst they are under water, again conceals himself, expecting their reappearance. The great difficulty is always to keep in view the exact spot where the birds come up : once lose sight of it, your progress is stopped, and, in recovering your advantage, the birds are almost certain to see you and fly. When within one race of the divers, cock both barrels, and as soon as they together disappear, rush to the nearest point on the shore for a shot. If the day be calm, the rising bubbles will show where they are; you can then clap your gun to your shoulder, ready to fire. Always, in such cases, shoot on wing and be sure to fire well forward: should a diver only be winged, it is useless to tire your retriever in pursuit ; but if he is at all struck about the legs also, a good dog should be able to secure him.

So much for the small morillon. The golden-eye is a still more artful bird, and requires more caution. If, without seeing an enemy, he is at all alarmed while diving near the shore, he will probably swim out to a considerable distance; reconnoitring all the time, and making a noise something like a single note of the hurdy-gurdy. You may perhaps expect his return, and wait for him ; but although he may remain about the same place, making these calls, and apparently careless, he is all the time very suspicious ; and I only once or twice, in my whole experience, knew him return to the spot where he was first discovered. Should he get sight of you, there is no hope, even if he does not take wing, which he most likely will. The little morillon may return, if you think him worth waiting for ; but he is so hard and coarse on the table, that it would be paying him too great a compliment. The golden-eye, on the contrary, is a great delicacy - a sufficient proof, I think, were there no other, that morillons are not young golden-eyes, as many suppose. This supposition, I have little doubt, arises from the colour of the female golden-eye being pretty much like that of the morillon. The shape, however, is different, and the size of the female golden-eye nearly equal to that of the male. I have shot them, right and left, when diving together, the female being the most wary of the two. The morillon may be in the same flock, as different kinds of divers often are ; but there is not half the caution required to get a shot at him, and, when compared, he is much rounder in shape and one-third smaller in size. It may be said, "and why should not this be the young of the same species ?" I answer, " that the young males of all the duck tribe that breed in this country, from the mallard to the teal, gain their bright feathers the first moulting, after which the young males are at least equal in size to the females : but my chief reason I have already given, if the morillon is the young bird, why should he reverse the usual order of things, and be less tender and delicate than his parents ?"

When several are diving together; you must get as near as possible without alarming them ; and, selecting a couple who dive at the same moment, hoot away the others, who will be far out of reach before their companions come up. They will probably never miss them until they have taken two or three dives, thus giving you an opportunity of getting the shot ; of which you would have had a much worse chance while they were together.

In recommending this, be it observed, I am supposing the ground of difficult access when favourable, even a novice should be able to get within a run of any number of fowl, without being seen by the most wary of the flock, and can then make his selection. For my own part, I hardly ever adopt this plan, but where the ground is bare and open, an unpractised wild-fowl shooter would stand no chance otherwise.

When the flock is large, it always puzzles a beginner to ascertain the length of time they are under water, in order to know what time he may safely allow for his last run, which in such a case must generally be a long one. The fowl are continually coming up and disappearing again, which confuses him, and unless he knows the depth o f the water, the only way to find out how long they are under, is to watch the most marked or detached of the flock, and then choose his devoted pair. If the water is very shallow, those below are sure to perceive the flurry made by their friends at the top, as soon as you commence your last run, and instantly join them in their retreat. In such cases it is always best to try for a distant sitting shot, from the nearest refuge you can safely reach, among as many as you can get in line. But by attempting this, there is always a risk of losing the chance altogether, and it should never be resorted to except under such circumstances, or with dun-birds, who keep more close together, and thus present a better opportunity for a heavy sitting shot than any other divers.

Of all wild-fowl, a flock of dun-birds is the most agreeable to the sportsman's eye. They are the most stupid of all the diver race : I have even seen them, after having been driven from their feeding-ground, return in the face of the shooter, who had only lain down without any covering or concealment whatever : they have begun diving again within thirty yards, and of course given him a capital shot. I never wish for assistance in manoeuvring any other kind of water-fowl, but these may be herded like sheep; and, if feeding on one side of a bay, you have only to conceal yourself at the other, and send your man round to where they are diving. They will most likely come straight towards you, and, again beginning to feed, will probably every five or ten minutes draw all together with their heads up. Now is your time to fire, if you have the good fortune to be within shot ; but should you prefer two birds in the hand to waiting for their knitting together, you may have a capital right and left when they come up from diving : I, however, should be loath to lose the opportunity of the sitting shot.

There are many other divers that frequent our lochs, such as the tufted and scaup-ducks, &c., but they may all be approached in the same way as the golden-eye and morillon; none are so shy as the former. [Last winter I had a good opportunity of contrasting the artful and suspicious nature of the golden-eye with that of the more confiding morillon. When shooting wild-fowl on the banks of the Teith, I discovered, with my glass, a golden-eye feeding at the top of a long creek, and a couple of morillons at the bottom where it joined the river. As they were at some distance from each other, it was impossible to keep an eye upon both. So, knowing that if the golden-eye got a glimpse of me, he would not stay to take another, I was obliged to trust to the simplicity of the more social morillons. I got within a fair distance for my last run, when the morillons, who had caught a transient glance at my manoeuvres, paid the compliment of giving me their undivided attention ; but, as they did not leave the ground, nor show any other sign of alarm, I was congratulating myself that all was safe. The moment, however, that the golden-eye came up from the dive, he perceived that the morillons were resting on their oars, and instantly was on his guard, It was most curious to see the conning and tact of the creature, which l had every advantage for observing, as 1 was well concealed. He kept cruising about, with outstretched neck, peering first on one side of the creek, then on the other, always selecting the best points of sight to halt, and make his observations. Nor would lie recommence his repast until the morillons had set him the example. And, had I not known his usual precaution of making the first dire or two, after being scared, very short, he might even then have escaped.] Those that feed on fish, such as the goosander, speckled diver, shel-drake, &c., require rather different tactics. To get a shot at any of these, you must watch which way they are feeding, and, taking your station somewhat in advance, wait until they pass you : they will not keep you long, as they are very rapid in their movements. Take care that the water is pretty deep where you place yourself, or they may dive at too great a distance from the shore for a shot ; but, after all, they are good for nothing but to be stuffed for a collection.

The only other bird that requires a separate notice is the mighty hooper, monarch of the flood. To get a shot at the wild-swan is the great object of the sportsman's desire : he is not naturally so shy a bird as the wild-duck, but still his long neck, and acute sense of hearing, render great caution necessary. If, as often happens, he is feeding along the shore, you have only to plant yourself in an advantageous situation a good way ahead, and it will not be long before he makes his appearance ; but if lie is feeding at the mouth of some brook or stream, you must crawl in the same way as when after wild-ducks. Should you get within a distant shot of a hooper, and are not close to the water-side, instead of firing from where you are, rush down to the edge of the loch, and before the swan can take wing, you will have gained ten yards upon him. When the thaw begins after very hard weather, they are almost sure to be feeding at the mouths of any mountain burns that run into the loch. Should you see hoopers feeding greedily, nearly out of range of your gun, in place of taking the random shot, try to prevent their being disturbed, and return at dusk of evening or grey of morning, when they will most likely have come pretty close to the shore, especially if any little rivulets run into the loch near: this rule applies to most waterfowl. If a swan be alarmed by an enemy on shore, his wont is not to fly, but to swim majestically away.

Widgeon and teal are approached in the same way as wild-ducks, only the widgeon are less shy than the ducks, and the teal than the widgeon. You may sometimes, in calm weather, see widgeon in a large flock purring and whistling a couple of hundred yards from the shore; you need give yourself no trouble about them, as they will probably not leave their resting-place until they feed in the evening. Always try to get a heavy shot at widgeon, which, with a little patience, you may generally accomplish. Teal are usually in small flocks ; so that, if you can get two or three in line, you had better fire, for fear of losing the sitting chance altogether. I once killed .six at a shot ; but, except when they collect in small ponds and drains about the loch-side, so good an opportunity seldom occurs. I have occasionally seen shovellers on our lochs ; but only in the hardest winters. They resemble wild-ducks in their habits : the only one I ever shot was among a flock of ducks.

Good sport need never be expected when the loch is large, as many of the fowl swim up creeks, and among the morasses in shore, where it is difficult even to get a flying shot ; while those that remain on the margin of the loch are so concealed by the bushes, &c., that it is quite impossible to see them. The lower the loch the better ; at all events, the shore should be clearly defined. At such times wild-fowl have always favourite haunts for feeding and resting.

There is a common saving, that specimens of all the different kinds of water-fowl which frequent the loch in winter, present themselves during the harvest-moon. This is erroneous ; for even the morillon, earliest of the diver tribe, seldom appears so soon, and the tufted and scaup-ducks, dun-birds, &c., never until the winter sets in. Multitudes of wild-ducks do come down from the moors, during harvest, to feed upon the corn-fields on the banks of some of the larger lochs, and, when the stubble becomes bare, return to the moor-lochs until these are frozen over, which again drives them back. This is the only foundation for the vulgar error. A day or two is generally sufficient to freeze over these little lochs, and their occupants then come down to the larger ones, the greater parts of which remain open long after the storm has set in. Now is the time for the wild-fowl shooter : if the ground is covered with snow, so much the better. The fowl are then in groups close to the shore, pinched with cold and hunger, seeking shelter and a scanty morsel. If at the same time it is windy, with drifts of snow, no weather can be more propitious for clucks, widgeon, teal, and all wild-fowl that feed at the margin. When the snow is falling thick and fast, a capital sitting shot may sometimes be obtained, though the ground be so bare as to offer no concealment. In most cases, however, it is best not to take the cover off your gun till the shower moderates a little, as snow is so apt to penetrate, and make it miss fire.

If the weather be open, the higher the wind the better, as it drives to the shore whatever fowl are upon the loch, although until the frost sets in they will be comparatively few.

The most auspicious weather for divers is one of those frosty days, accompanied by mist, when the loch is perfectly calm, and looks like a mirror dimmed by one's breath. You may then hear their plash in the water -sometimes even before they can be seen-and, if care is taken to make no rustling among the bushes, when they are above water, you have every prospect of a good chance. The smoothness of the surface and the mist makes each bird appear twice as large as it is, which enables you much more easily to catch sight of them coming up from the dive. The mist is also an excellent shroud if the ground is open, without a bush or tuft of reeds to hide behind, when the birds are above water.

The wild-fowl shooter must never forget that true proof of his skill consists in obtaining sitting shots, and stopping a number of fowl at one discharge ; and, unless with divers, must not think of a flying right and left.

As an instance of what may be done by patience and caution, I may conclude this paper by mentioning, that the gamekeeper of a relation, having seen a flock of ducks pitched upon the shore, and no way of getting near them but over a bare field, crawled flat upon his face a distance of three hundred yards, pushing his gun before him, not daring even to raise his head, and at last got within such fair distance, that he stopped four with his first barrel, and one with the other, securing them all. His gun was only a small fowling-piece. I should add that he had been trained to deer-stalking, under his father, from a boy.


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