Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey (see Duck dogs: traps), in his introduction to The [Shooting] Diary of Colonel Peter Hawker, author of "Instructions to Young Sportsmen", -1853, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, Green: 1893), admires Hawker's expertise and the depth of his knowledge, and gently deplores Hawker's egotism. To the modern reader, this egotism comes across also as a peculiar lack of imagination--a judgement which is perhaps unjust, since Hawker was also very fond of and knowledgeable about music. Instructions to Young Sportsmen went into many editions--was very popular perhaps partly because Hawker was a veteran of the Peninsula War--was wounded, and soon afterwards heroically attempted to rejoin his regiment. He eventually fully recovered, although, in his advanced years, his old wound caused distress. Nevertheless, readers seem always to have perceived something repulsive (other than his delight in killing vast numbers of birds?) about Hawker's texts, since both the Diary and Instructions (ninth edition; 1844) which the Poodle History Project received through Inter-Library Loan contained mostly uncut pages. When your editor complained of the Diary, "Nobody's ever read this book!" a companion casually glanced through it and replied: "I can certainly understand why."
Like many Victorians, Hawker is far more interesting as an observer than as an advisor. Endearingly, he himself observes that a certain section of Instructions... is "narcotic." Also endearing is his ability, unusual in his time, place and social class, to appreciate skills and local knowledge of a lower social order: in this instance, market gunners; his immediate reaction is to make technical improvements (and during development of these ideas he makes arrogant asides). Perhaps this habit arises from the same social attitude which in the early 19th century increasingly prevented the Royal Navy from promoting for ability exclusive of social class? Another difficulty--or perhaps it's our difficulty--may simply be that Hawker, who possessed independent means, was at leisure, and who had large human resources at his command (to go shooting after a blizzard he gathered 12 men to cut through snowdrifts in order to take his punt several miles) might have deeply enjoyed a profession, almost certainly engineering. There was an apparently subdued Mrs. Hawker, and even a raft of little Hawkers. One wonders, what would Jane Austen have made of him?
Hawker's limitations are important in the context of the Poodle History Project since egotism/lack of imagination and dogs--particularly Poodles--don't mix! His Diary contains affectionate descriptions of his favorite Pointer, but no indication that he owned or even shot over, a St. John's dog (Labrador) either during upland shooting or waterfowling; typically, he remarks on the inadequacies of canine companions despite whose failings he shot brilliantly, for example: "I have now to record one of the most brilliant day's shooting I ever made in my life, when I consider the many disadvantages I had to encounter. I had but three dogs: poor old Nero, who was lame when he started; Red Hector, who was so fat and out of wind that he would scarcely hunt; and young Blucher, a puppy that never was in a field but three times before, and who till this day had never seen a shot fired..." (Diary, 1 Sept. 1819, vol. I, p. 173.)
Apparently because of his social and material advantages, and individual inclination, he did not "break" his own dogs; although Hawker, of all people, had he been so inclined, would have trained his own dogs, since, in his way, he was a free spirit. Although he appreciates the people who owned market-waterfowling dogs (he employed, apparently on a full-time, long-term basis, a highly-skilled market waterfowler as guide/advisor/companion), he doesn't describe their dogs, and perhaps these were concealed from him.
Following that "narcotic" introduction, here are some chunks from Hawker which are more or less pertinent to the Poodle History Project:
Hawker provides "A List of Birds, etc. which are most commonly followed by Shooting sportsmen; alphabetically arranged, with their proper names, as selected by Bewick; their Latin and French names, as given by Linnaeus and Buffon; with general directions for getting access to them," pp. 209-288. The most relevant is the mallard duck, to hunt which Poodles are perfectly suited, and were probably specifically bred to do so.
"COMMON WILD DUCK. Anas Boschas--Le canard sauvage
"The male bird of which is called mallard, and the young ones flappers. To find a brood of these, go, about July, and hunt the rushes in the deepest and most retired parts of some brook or trout-stream; where, if you spring the old duck, you may be pretty sure that the brood is not far off. When once found, flappers are easily killed, as they attain their full growth before their wings are fledged; and for this reason the sport is often more like hunting water rats than shooting birds.
"If you leave the brood, after having disturbed them, the old bird will remove them to another place long before the following day.
"When the flappers take wing, they assume the name of wild ducks. About the month of August they repair to the corn-fields, till disturbed by the harvest people. They then frequent the rivers pretty early in the evening, and show excellent sport to any one who has patience to wait for them. Our sporting writers in general have given no further directions for duck-shooting, than to walk quietly up a brook, and shoot them as they rise. In doing this, if you have only a single gun, and should spring a bird at an uncertain distance, halloo out before you shoot, as there may be others under a bank, and much closer to you, that would spring on the discharge of your gun.
"You need not be at a loss to know a wild duck. The claws in the wild species are black.
"Some sportsmen recommend common land spaniels for duck-shooting; and nothing is more common than to see, in a picture, a smart-looking tyro attacking a flock of wildfowl with two open-mouthed dogs of this description. This is an art we have yet to learn; and, I conceive, the best recipe to acquire it, would be, first to tie the ducks by their legs, taking care not to do as the Italian once did with a hare, that he bought and tied up, in order to win his wager of shooting one,--blow off the string, and set the game at liberty. I must, therefore, to be on the safer side, recommend my young pupils to use either a Newfoundland dog, a mute water spaniel, or an old pointer, that will keep close, and fetch dead birds." (Pp. 223-4)
"On Dogs." Hawker's nine-page chapter on dogs, pp. 289-297, is general and modest compared to his massively-detailed sections on other subjects, for example, duck guns, punts, techniques of night shooting on the "ooze"--mudflats, numbers of birds shot, etc. The tone of voice is somewhat different, and perhaps it was drafted by an advisor? (This chapter is followed by a 14-page chapter on the diseases of dogs, including RE distemper, mange, sore feet, thorns, strains, poisons, and observations on mad dogs.)
"Dogs....with all the perfection to which we have brought both the breeding and breaking of these animals, we are not always sufficiently particular. In the one, we are apt to let them degenerate for want of a proper cross; and, in the other, we are too well contented (provided they have "plenty of hunt in them") with their merely being broken well to back and stand, without regarding the importance of their lying down to charge, and being stanch from chasing hares or rabbits. Putting the credit of our dogs entirely out of the question, we forget the number of shots they spring by committing such faults.
"If you want game, take old dogs. Young ones, however fleet and well broken, know little more than the A B C of their business, while old ones are up to every kind of trick. [Illustration of a draconian check collar for breaking pointers, and description.] ....however...a dog is far more likely to become a first-rate one, by being made a companion of, and corrected by rating and shaming him, than by being kept entirely away from the breaker, except to be taken to the field, and there flogged for every fault he commits. I had a friend in Dorsetshire, who was not only one of the best shots that ever lived, but who had, perhaps, the very best dogs in Europe, and I know this was his plan....
"With regard to spaniels, they are, nine times in ten, so badly broken in, as, in general, to be only fit to drive a large wood; but, if taught to keep always within half a gunshot, they are the best dogs in existence for working among hassocks and briars. They should be trained very young, or they require an unmerciful deal of flogging; and it is sometimes advisable, at first, to hunt them with a forefoot tied up in the collar. [Advice not to punish a dog by kicking him; always flog with a whip or switch, meantime hold his head between your knees; if obstinate dog will not come out of cover when repeatedly called--be silent:--he will then begin to listen for you--and, through fear of being left behind, will most likely come sneaking out, so as to be caught for a timely flagellation. Illustration of new dog slip, "cheapest and best."]
"NEWFOUNDLAND DOGS. Here we are a little in the dark. Every canine brute, that is nearly as big as a jackass, and as hairy as a bear, is denominated a fine Newfoundland dog. Very different, however, are both the proper Labrador and St. John's breed of these animals; at least, many characteristic points are required, in order to distinguish them.
"The one is very large; strong in the limbs; rough haired; small in the head; and carries his tail very high. He is kept in the country for drawing sledges full of wood, from inland to the sea shore, where he is also very useful, by his immense strength and sagacity, among wrecks, and other disasters in boisterous weather.
"The other, and by far the best for every kind of shooting, is oftener black than of another colour, and scarcely bigger than a pointer. He is made rather long in the head and nose; pretty deep in the chest; very fine in the legs; has short or smooth hair; does not carry his tail so much curled as the other; and is extremely quick and active in running, swimming, or fighting.
"Newfoundland dogs are so expert and savage, when fighting, that they generally contrive to seize some vital part, and often do a serious injury to their antagonist. I should, therefore, mention, that the only way to get them immediately off is to put a rope, or handkerchief round their necks, and keep tightening it, by which means their breath will be gone, and they will instantly be choked from their hold.
"The St. John's breed of these dogs is chiefly used on their native coast by fishermen. Their sense of smelling is scarcely to be credited. Their discrimination of scent, in following a wounded pheasant through a whole covert full of game, or a pinioned wild fowl through a furze brake, or warren of rabbits, appears almost impossible. (It may, perhaps, be unnecessary to observe, that rabbits are generally very plentiful, and thrive exceedingly near the sea shore. It, therefore, often happens, that wigeon, as they fly, and are shot by night, fall among furze brakes, which are full of rabbits.)
"The real Newfoundland dog may be broken in to any kind of shooting; and, without additional instruction, is generally under such command, that he may be safely kept in, if required to be taken out with pointers. For finding wounded game, of every description, there is not his equal in the canine race; and he is a sine qua non in the general pursuit of waterfowl.
"Poole was, till of late years, the best place to buy Newfoundland dogs; either just imported, or broken in; but now they are become much more scarce, owing (the sailors observe) to the strictness of 'those ------ the tax-gatherers.' I should always recommend buying these dogs ready broken; as, by the cruel process of half starving them, the fowlers teach them almost everything; and, by the time they are well trained, the chances are, that they have got over the distemper, with which this species, in particular, is sometimes carried beyond recovery.
"If you want to make a Newfoundland dog do what you wish, you must encourage him, and use gentle means, or he will turn sulky; but to deter him from any fault, you must rate or beat him.
"I have tried poodles, but always found them inferior in strength, scent, and courage. They are also very apt to be sea-sick. The Portland dogs are superior to them.
"A water-dog should not be allowed to jump out of a boat, unless ordered to do so, as it is not always required; and, therefore, needless that he should wet himself, and every thing about him, without necessity.
"For a punt, or canoe, always make choice of the smallest Newfoundland dog that you can procure; as the smaller he is, the less water he brings into your boat after being sent out; the less cumbersome he is when afloat; and the quicker he can pursue crippled birds upon the mud. A bitch is always to be preferred to a dog in frosty weather, from being, by nature, less obstructed in landing on the ice.
"If, on the other hand, you want a Newfoundland dog only as a retriever for covert shooting, then the case becomes different; as here you require a strong animal, that will easily trot through the young wood and high grass with a large hare or pheasant in his mouth."
"Launching Over the Oozes." Including "The Admiral" Buckle's statement to the author. Pp. 382-9:
"The Hampshire punts are built round at the stern, and the recoil of the gun is received entirely by a knee fixed only to the bottom plank (instead of a cross piece), which is less likely to tear away the sides of the punt. The bottom is made of one elm plank, an inch and a quarter thick, to which this knee is fixed by bolts and screws; and consequently, as there is no recoil on the sides of the punt, every part, but this plank, is made as light as possible. But even this plan is now discarded by all but the old bungling Hampshire gunners. A rope breeching is now adopted by the very few launchers that remain for the new school, as shall hereafter be shown....
"As proof of my former argument against the safety of the Hampshire punts, I need only observe, that, since my second edition, three men (Vincent, Jones, and Tanner) were drowned, and another (Harnett) was killed, by his gun. These regular western channel gunners are now, therefore, become very shy of shooting afloat, for which, by having punts that are so crank, and draw so much water, and guns proportionally so short in the barrel, they have always been the worst equipped of any 'big gunners' (as they call themselves) on the British coast.
"They have, of late years, therefore, adopted an entirely new mode of getting at the birds, for which that vast tract of ooze near Lymington is better calculated than perhaps any other mud in the world.
"They start off, generally in the afternoon (provided the tide serves, so as to be low enough at the proper time), keeping as close as possible to the shore, and going before the wind, till they arrive at the leeward end of their beat; the whole track of which, for one night's work, may be about five or six miles. They then go ashore, and either get into a pot-house, if they have sixpence to spend (which is not always the case), or lounge about the shore till day-light disappears, and the birds begin to fly; having first put all 'in order;' that is, to draw out their mould shot, which they generally have in, for the chance of geese 'going down along;' put in smaller shot; and regulate their gun so that it will bear about eighty yards, when the punt is on the dry mud. No sooner are the wigeon pitched than off they set, in tarpaulin dresses; and looking more like chimney-sweepers than gunners, crawling on their knees, and shoving this punt before them on the mud. No matter whether light or dark, few birds or many, bang! goes the gun;--and no sooner have they picked up what few birds are readily to be found, or missed the fowl, which they very frequently do, as the punt, by even a few periwinkles, might be thrown off the line of aim, they proceed again; thus travelling all night (by 'launching' over the mud, and rowing across the creeks) in a direct line, similar to the march of an army of coots. I should not omit to mention, that, as the birds will seldom allow them to get into the punt to fire, they lie down just clear of the stern, and draw the trigger with a string.
"A launching punt, in severe weather, may sometimes be used to great advantage by day, when it blows such a gale as to drive the wigeon in from sea, to the channel's edge, where they shelter themselves under the lee of the mud; and keep sufficiently in the 'wash' to prevent their legs from being frozen. Then it is that a Hampshireman hauls his punt across the oozes, if they are too hard frozen for him to launch her, and gets into one of those little creeks, which, in very rough weather, and at low water, can be approached by no other means. He then paddles down the creek to where he suddenly pops on his game. If he can then catch the birds clear of the rounding mud, he perhaps makes a capital shot; and, if not, he is obliged to hoot them up, and do the best he can on the wing. As all this is more or less among the breakers, he frequently half fills his boat in the scramble; but, as the channel's edge is generally hard and shallow, he is in no serious danger, provided he does not attempt to follow his outbound cripples. After having made the shot, he catches up what birds he can get; and then hauls his punt upon the mud, in order to empty out the water, and proceed for a fresh attack. Thus, by undergoing misery of this kind, the Hamapshire launcher may be filling his bag, while a man who could only shoot afloat would be obliged to stay at home. Thus the mud, and the mud only, affords the chance for his sport.
"But when the water flows over the ground, and 'knocks up' a sea that would make his little craft totter like a walnut shell, then his reign is at an end; and the proper gunner, with a long-decked punt, would be killing half a sack full, where the launcher 'dare not show his nose,' by being able to work against a head sea, that would swallow him up; or, if going to leeward, to ship twelve yards of canvas, and go by him, as a frigate would pass a sand-barge.
"Launching is perhaps the most laborious, and the most filthy work in all the department of wildfowl shooting; and not only that, but it so ruins the country, that in a very short time it entirely 'breaks the haunt of the birds,' without having yielded any material advantage to those who adopt the system.... [Inventor of launching punts was the late Lieutenant Harnett, RN; poem about Harnett's invention having "ruin dealt" to all the Hampshire coast; observation about local conditions and birds.] But now....most of the birds [sent] to Poole Harbour, and other places where the mud will not admit of launching. On this point there is a difference of opinion by two of the cleverest men in the 'profession.' Buckle says that 'launching is the ruination of a coast.' My man (Read) says that it may be had recourse to, without injury to the ground, provided you allow the birds to feed until they are full, before you shoot at them. I...am of Buckle's opinion, which is now pretty well proved to be correct....
"With regard to the day shooting in these parts, the state of the Hampshire coast, in winter, was ... [thus] truly and ably described by 'the Admiral' (Buckle)...[in] the following oration.
"'Mr. Hawker,--Sir,--It's all up with gunning now! The poor gunners'll be starved! The birds'll be all banished off the coast! I come all the way from Sowthampton here, and never shot a gun!! What with them Itchen Ferry lubbers, in their washing-tubs--and the poppers along shore--and them young monkeys of boys rowing about to look for cripples--and the gentlemen jokers knocking about, at all tacks, in every kind of craft, from Royal yachts down to launching-punts--they won't allow the poor birds one minute to pitch! --There they were! some firing a pound of mould-shot, at every little trip that passed by, half a mile off!--Some of 'em had got cannons 'board, to heave boluses after the geese!--and another lot had got half a ship-load of muskets and rifles!--But I can't larn as e'er one among 'em got a bird, except two of my cripples, as got away last night. I should have had a noble shot at them large curres just abreast of Calshot: -- I suppose there was three hundred of 'em, as thick as ever they could stow; and, just as I let go my starboard paddle, to give it 'em home, some dandy chap pops off at one of them little gulls! so I rows up, and axes him, if 'twas to be as he was a poor man, how would he like to have the bread took out of his mouth in that there manner? -- Well, thinks I, this'll never do! so I gets my punt o'board my craft, and sails down to Leap. This was worse and wrose--here they were on all day, and all night too! and fellows, from all parts, had come here, to quarter, on purpose for gunning. Well! the next day, I drops down here, as you see, sir; and I never could have believed any thing could be as bad as this! I brought up, off Lymington, about low water; and I'm burnt if there wasn't some chap or other stowed away in every spreader, besides them bird-frighetners from Itchen Ferry, that had got down here; and buried their selves the same as the launchers do--and there they kept peeping out of their holes,' (here he became quite dramatic), 'and popping up their stupid heads, and looking, for all the world, like so many dead people rising out of our St. Mary's church-yard! This is a precious pretty pass for gunning to come to! To have all the birds drove away by them as kills none theirselves, nor won't let others, as do know how, kill 'em--and by stupes too--wot knows as much about gunning, as gunning knows about them!! Ah, Sir! prowising 'tis to be so another winter, with the blessing of God, I'll get off to Wexford, in Ireland, or to foreign parts, or somewhere or other, where we can get a few heavy shots in peace!!'"
Waterfowling in France. We've included a good deal of Hawker's material (pp. 502-509) because this complements Clement; the huttiers used Poodles.
"We found the French peasants very intelligent and useful to assist in shooting; and, although quite ignorant of following birds on the water (in comparison with Englishmen), yet they were pretty well up to the making of bastions, huts, and every other trick for getting shots on, and from the shore.
"The French coast is plentifully supplied with wildfowl; which there are far more easy of access than in our country.... Here the birds are now far more numerous than on the coast of England....The only objection, however, after the ten or twelve hours' sail, which this would about be from Lymington, or Poole, is, that the isolated situation of the country, and the misery of the inhabitants, preclude your having any further amusement than the constant pursuit of sport.
"FRENCH HUT-SHOOTING CALLED LA CHASSE A LA HUTTE.
"As the French hut-shooting is the only means which a very bad shot, with a very bad gun, may kill ducks while as dry and as warm as if by his fireside, I made a point, on a subsequent excursion to France, of going up to Peronne*, which may be styled the university for chasseurs on this system, in order to make myself master of it, and insert it in the third edition, under an idea that its great facility, and little inconvenience, may better suit the generality of my readers, than the more scientific plans of wildfowl shooting. The lakes of Peronne are better calculated for a lover of comfort to shoot at his ease than any place I have seen. The water, being part of the Somme, is not quite stagnant; and is, in every part, about four or five feet deep, surrounded, and intersected, by innumerable islands and walls of rushes. The waters here are rented by different 'huttiers' (hut-shooters), who get the chief of their livelihood by supplying the markets of Paris, and other towns, with wildfowl, which they shoot, instead of taking them by decoys, as in our country.
[Pg. 503n: "*The hut system is also tolerably understood near Calais. Monsieur Huret I found to be "le plus fort huttier" there; and, if I remember correctly, it was he that I met one morning with forty-three wildfowl, that he was just bringing home, with his basket of call-birds, after one night's sport.]
"Though the French, in some places, are very expert at catching birds (particularly on that vast tract of wild sand between Crotoi and St. Valery, where I have seen the whole mouth of the Somme spread with nets and surrounded by lines of horse-hair nooses), yet shooting from the hutte (la hutte) is the favorite, and most general, method of getting wildfowl in France. The common way of making a hut is to dig a hole in the ground by the side of some pool or pond; and then roof it over with turf, so that not an opening remains, but one hole, into which you crawl; out of which you fire; and in front of which are fastened, to three separate pegs in the water, two tame ducks, and a drake. The drake must be in the centre, and the ducks one on each side of him, at about five yards interval; and the birds being thus separated, will, frequently, be calling to each other; and if so, there will seldom pass a wild one, but will come and drop with them. You cannot, in general, succeed with less than three call birds. Indeed, I should recommend having never less than six; and, if you have twelve, or even more, --all the better.
"The chief point, however, to be attended to in England, is to get, if possible, some young wild-ducks bred up, and pinioned. Or, by way of a makeshift, to select tame birds which are the most clamorous, even if their colour should not be like the wild ones. But in France you have seldom any trouble to do this, as the ducks used in that country are mostly of the wild breed; and three French ducks, like three Frenchmen, will make about as much noise as a dozen English.
"The Italians, in order to make their call-birds noisy, for a 'roccalo,' burn out their eyes with a hot needle; a practice at which I am sure my English readers would shudder; though the translation of what they say in Italy is, that 'these are the happiest birds in the world; always singing.' (It may be necessary to explain, that a roccalo is a plantation, and a large silk net, into which various small birds are driven, as soon as they have collected, by a Signor, who is concealed above the trees, in a highly elevated box, similar to a small pigeon-house. Out of this he hurls down a large stick upon the birds; and they, flying down, as if to avoid a hawk, are all made prisoners in the net which is placed behind the trees.) But, to return to the huts of Peronne: they are very superior to the common ones. The way to make them is this: -- Cut down a large square in the reeds, about eight feet by four; make a foundation of either stone, or wood, or brick. Then drive in six piles on each side; and on them put six hoops, precisely like those to a tilted waggon. The foundation being then formed, nothing remains but to build up the sides with turf, or what else you please, and thatch the roof and the whole of the inside. In front there must be either two or four port holes to fire through (each one bearing clear of your call-birds), and at the back a little door to crawl in at, which you enter by a labyrinth. This hut, being built among high reeds, and afterwards strewed over with them, is completely invisible; although as commodious inside as a large covered cart. Here the huttier of Peronne goes regularly every night, wet or dry, and takes a great coat (if he has one), with a piece of brown bread, and a sour apple, for his supper. In front of his hut are fastened, to piles at each end, three separate ropes about twenty yards long. On the centre one, he ties four drakes, and to the one on each flank four ducks; making, in all, twelve decoy birds; and these, being (to use a military term) dressed in line, whatever bird he sees out of the ranks, he knows must be a wild one: and as the lake, in moderate weather, is like a mirror, the night is seldom so dark but that he can see to shoot at the very short distance which his miserable gun, and miserable powder, will kill.
"The great man of the huttiers here was, and perhaps still is, Monsieur Desabes. To his services I was recommended by the proprietor of which he rented his share of the water. He informed me, that the huttiers never allowed shooting from a boat, or at birds on wing, through fear of disturbing the pond; and said, that his plan was to take his night's rest, and leave the birds until a little before daylight; when they would be all doubled together; and when a shot would do far less mischief to the decoy than if fired before the birds had fed and slept. Here he is perfectly right. But that if a 'grande compagnie' should drop, the noise would awaken him, and he could then take his choice whether to fire or not. After inspecting all his apparatus by day, he would make me go with him by night, and being unwell at the time, and unprepared, I was scarecely in the humour to do this; particularly as I knew it was past the time of year for this kind of sport. I agreed, however, to go, and was conducted to one of his best intrenchments, where his twelve decoy-birds, all in battle array, were placed under the light of a beautiful moon, within the quarter of an English gun-shot of his hut, which was uncomfortably warm. Here I remained, more likely to be suffocated than chilled, for I know not how many hours; but not a wild-duck ever came, though this three alignements of decoy-birds kept chattering away, like the other bipeds of the French nation; and although the whole valley, for a league, was resounding with the quacking of decoy-ducks, and defended by the masters of them, yet I could not have the honour to say, I had seen or heard the firing of a single shot. Had my experience ended here, therefore, I should have had but little inducement to recommend the French system. But I have since imported the French breed of decoy-ducks; tried it in England; and find, that by this means, a gentleman with his little gun may sit at his ease, and kill more wildfowl than by any other plan I have ever seen; and without the risk of driving the fowl entirely away from his pond, which he would be liable to do by the use of punts, or any other mode of attacking them.
"In this shooting, let it be remembered, that the ducks usually quit the large ponds at night, and therefore the huts for them must be made round the smaller waters, where they feed. But for the dun-birds, and all kinds of curres, the large pond will be the best place, as they seldom leave it; and, if not too hard pressed, they may be driven like sheep (by means of a person paddling to and fro, at a distance; and occasionally making a little noise), either by night or day, towards any of the batteries which the shooter may choose to open on them.
"Coots may be driven in like manner, but will not double up for a shot, like the others. Ducks and mallards will not allow you to drive them; but on the first alarm will generally take wing.
"As a proof of the superiority of the French decoy-birds to the common English ducks, I need only mention, that several winters ago, when I sent over some of them to my kind and lamented good friend, the late George Lord Rodney, for his beautiful pond at Alresford, Mr. Sparry, then the bailiff, in order to secure them, for the night on which they came, put them within a few hurdles, close before his house. When he got up in the morning, no sooner did he open his door than a number of wild-ducks flew up from within the little fence he had made, and into which these birds, of course, had enticed them. Several times ducks had constantly been in, and all about, the place; but these had never decoyed the wild birds, in the manner that had been done by the Frenchmen.* These birds have since bred so well as to stock the whole pond; and, by their progeny being fed, when young, with oats on a drum-head, they would every day, while Mr. Sparry's family resided near the pond, fly in, from all parts, and muster, like soldiers, to a roll of the drum!.... [* Pg. 508n: "Many years ago, I sent a dozen French ducks to the Regent's Park; and, the winter after, I observed that they had there decoyed at least thirty wildfowl: wigeon--tufted ducks--and dun-birds. This was, of course, a great novelty in the very smoke of London. But, on my return to town, after the following winter, I do not remember to have seen any. Perhaps the skating may have driven the wild birds off, or perhaps the following winter was too severe for them to remain in fresh water."]
"If the hut system is adopted, two or three huts should be made, and then the hutter has a choice which to take, according to the light and the wind. (Vide plate.) [This plate forms the footpiece for Clements. In other parts of his book, Hawker presents various devices, including a rig for wheeling and floating a -lb waterfowling gun, and a method of firing with a line from behind a punt (in order that the punt, on which the gun rests, will absorb the recoil, and also so that the person who's lying flat on the mud pushing the punt doesn't have to move to fire, etc.) and in relation to one of these rigs, pg. 509n: "The 'Invisible Approach' will be the best of all apparatus for this sport, in places where the ground is not too boggy to admit of either wheeling or carrying it; because with this you have your hut ready made; and a sweeping charge to cut a lane through the fowl. The machine might be left all night, with the gun ready loaded, and the call-birds planted. You have then only to steal down in the morning (which is always the time that birds assemble and sit thickest together, while 'washing up' or sleeping, after their nightly feed); crawl into your den; take the oakum ball out of your pan; prick the touch-hole; prime, and cock: in doing the one, let your pan very quietly down; and, in doing the other, hold the trigger; or the catch of the scear may spring the birds. Then get back, and lie to your gun; and when you find the company swimming to your fancy, -- pull away."]
"Wildfowl Shooting in the Fens. Punt, guns, etc. used for that purpose." The Fens had supported the immemorial way of life of Fenmen and their water dogs, which, incidentally, Cromwell, who came from the Ely area, had attempted to protect, and which, in Hawker's day, finally passed out of existence if not out of living memory. Pp. -513:
"Having returned from France, and learnt the system of that country, we will now finish our wildfowl excursions with a few observations on the fens, and other fresh waters, where it is the most likely to answer. The punts in the fens are made low and all open, except having a little flat deck in front similar to what Buckle used, before he saw the proper decked ones, only much narrower than his, in order that the gunners may be able to pull them through the reeds, in places where they cannot use their paddles.
"The guns here, instead of having any thing to check the recoil, are, like his, merely rested on a broad thwart, or gunning-bench, about the centre, and in a groove at the bow, to support the muzzle; so that the shooters here fire in the manner before stated, viz. they lean with the hollow of their shoulders hard against their fowling-pieces (as they here call punt guns); and, after thus checking the recoil themselves, allow the gun to run under their arms. The fen guns are built purposely to avoid a recoil, and to shoot very close, at a small bunch of birds; and, consequently, they are not on the very best proportion to make heavy shots in a flock. For, notwithstanding they are from forty to seventy pounds weight, and from seven to ten feet in the barrel, yet they are only about an inch in the bore. Although, as an extraordinary circumstance, the fen-gunners sometimes kill from thirty to forty birds at a shot, yet they now-a-days consider it very good work to secure a dozen.
"This is nothing great, in comparison with what has been formerly done on the coast; for instance, from thirty to forty wigeon, besides lost birds killed from the shoulder; and from seventy to eighty different wildfowl from a swivel gun. These, however, though shots extremely rare, are not to be set down as extravagant impossibilities, when we consider, that a shoulder gun of twenty pounds weight may be fired with half a pound, and a stanchion-gun with a pound and a half of such shot, that any one grain of it might stop a bird! and this shot...has fifty grains to an ounce.
"The winter shooting in the fens is not what it was; as they have been much drained for cultivation, by which the wild parts are less extensive; and the use of large guns having of late years been the order of the day here, as well as everywhere else, the birds are now much wilder, and not so plentiful. Putting this aside, however, the fens have not so many advantages as people are led to suppose; for, should there be a hard frost, the whole of the reed beds and meres become one continued sheet of ice, and without a vestage of food for the birds; unless, by the way, you take the precaution to keep a place open for them, which plan answers most admirably, to get the very best shots that can be made. But should the weather be open, the greater part of the wildfowl remain in the decoys [see Duck dogs: traps] during the day-time, and this marshy country is too much extended to select any particular spot for their evening-flights: consequently, save having a tolerable quantity of bitterns, occasionally most excellent snipe shooting, and in summer the flapper shooting, here is not much to be done till about the last fortnight in March, when the birds are distributed preparative to their breeding. Then it is that old ducks and teal may be put up and killed right and left with a double gun; and then it is that we have the greatest chance of catching the ague!
"The fens from Holme to Ramsay were, at one time, the best I had seen....But afterwards, in 1816, I found those near Winterton, in Norfolk...far superior; and the variety of wild birds here was such, that, in the breeding season, you might kill from twenty to thirty different sorts in a day. Some, by-the-by, I had never seen before, and, if I mistake not, I was favoured with a sight of two or three, that were not even in Bewick....In many parts you could scarcely walk without treading on the eggs of terns, plovers, redshanks, and almost every other kind of marsh-bird. At certain times, in the winter, the fowl, on their passage from Holland to the south, dropped in here, and literally blackened the centre part of the lakes called Horsey-broad, and Heigham Sounds, where they fancied themselves protected by the surrounding ice. I was shown by Rogers his plan of getting fowl on the ice. It was to cut four horses' leg bones, and after filing them smooth, like skates, to place them longitudinally under a very small punt; and then, lying on his breast, to shove over the frozen part, with two iron spikes. Any other means of passing a place that was partially frozen would be dangerous in the extreme.
"I, however, went to this country again, in 1824, and found, that owning to the drains for cultivation, and increase of the decoys, the quantity of birds was, and has for some years been, so much reduced, that I was obliged to alter the MS. of this statement from the present to the past time. My acocunt would otherwise have proved a gross exaggeration. This shows how a few years will put a sporting book out of date!
"The fens are famous for the ruffs and reeves: but these birds frequent such awkward places, and are so wild during the summer, when they come here to breed, that, as I before observed, they seldom afford much sport for the gun."
"Shooting Wildfowl on a River, etc." Because of the special relationship between Poodles and mallards, we've included this section, pp. 521-3:
"For killing common wild-ducks, that frequent a river, you have only to go a little before sunset; place yourself against any dark bush or bank; and there wait, patiently, and out of sight, till they come down and fly round you; which they will generally do several times, before they drop into the stream or marshes.
"As wild-ducks most frequently betake themselves to the springs and rivers about dusk, you have no occasion to wait for them longer than just the last hour, or half hour before dark; but, if they have been much disturbed or shot at, they will not always fly sufficiently early to be seen; though you may plainly hear the shrill, and somewhat melancholy, sound of their wings. If, however, the twilight is followed by a full moon, these birds will often withhold coming to the river till the moon has completely risen; in which case you might have to wait till an hour or two after dusk. But then the sport is considerably better, and will last much longer, with the additional advantage of your having a continued good light for shooting.
"Wild-ducks generally come to the same place, unless they have been shot at, or there should be a change of wind and weather.
"It often happens, that wild-ducks, dunbirds, and other fowl, come down at night to large rivers, ponds, or lakes, which are so deeply surrounded by floating reeds, that no one can approach the water; and the birds, aware of this, do not lower their flight till they come near them. So far from this defying the shooter, it is one of the finest opportunities that can be afforded for death and destruction. Let him sit, in a small punt or canoe, fore and aft, among the rushes, where, towards dusk, he will be so completely hid, that he may either shoot at birds flying within pistol shot, or wait for a good chance on the water; from whence (his boat being hid on each side, and foreshortened to the only point of view) he will be pretty sure to escape the observation of the birds. This plan may be resorted to where there are no rushes, such as under the bank of an island, or in a small brook, near which there may be no hiding place. Here, however, nothing would surpass the French system, for those who had the means of adopting it.
"All these strategems may become unnecessary in places which are strictly preserved, and where wildfowl shooting is interspersed with that of snipes and other birds; but as these places are now but rarely to be met with, I have thought it necessary to dilate at considerable length in the foregoing instructions relative to shooting wildfowl, which are now but seldom to be killed without care, patience, and good management.
"Having now, I trust, sufficiently explained the best methods for killing all kinds of birds, on land; on fresh water; by sea; in harbour; out of harbour; and in every situation that I can think of; there remains, I believe, no more that need be said under this head. I shall therefore proceed...[to give advice for] health and comfort..."
Ague (malaria). The year after the publication of Hawker's ninth edition, Charles Louis Alphones Laveran (1845-1922) was born; as an army surgeon in Algiers, he discovered the parasite which causes malaria, and received the Nobel Prize, 1907; previous to this, malaria was endemic in Europe, although incidence was reduced through drainage schemes which brought wetlands under cultivation.
Pp. 529-530: "Our sportsman will then, having taken care to provide himself with a little good tobacco, or a few cigars, have recourse to smoking; which, next to the sovereign remedy of taking a little purl, before you inhale a vaporous atmosphere, is the best preventive from catching the ague when fen-shooting; and perhaps, one of the greatest preservatives from cold and illness, of any thing in existence. It is, however, the last thing that I mean to recommend making a constant practice of, when not required..."
Pg. 540: "Huxham's Tincture of Bark, as an effectual stimulus to brace the nerves of a bad shot. The sportsman has only to take a dessert spoonful in a glass of water before he goes out. (The less, however, all stimuli, and indeed all medicines, are had recourse to, the more effectual they will be when taken.) When for a short time in Holland, I always kept well by taking a teaspoonful of this medicine in a glass of Madeira, before inhaling the air of the marshes.*
Pg. 540n: "The new French remedy for the ague is now in general use, and nothing has yet been found more effiacious. After clearing the bowels with a good dose of medicine, give five grains of sulphate of quinine in treacle, jelly, etc. directly after the cold fit; and continue it, three times a day, for nearly a week after the appearance of the disease has subsided. The dose is sometimes increased to ten grains thrice a day, and there is no danger resulting from an overdose. (I insert these directions precisely as they have been forwarded to me, under an idea that nothing could be more desirable for a work that professes to treat chiefly on wildfowl shooting, than a recipe for the ague.)
So the reader may perceive the additional qualities of the Diary here's a sample from September, 1819 (a few days later than the quotation in our introduction), vol. 1, pp. 175-7:
"11th.--Was called up this morning with information that my man, who had gone off with my duck punt on wheels, containing all my baggage, for Brighton, I having engaged his passage for France to-morrow night, had met with a severe accident the other side of Winchester. The horse took fright going down Movestead Hill, three miles from the town, ran away, broke the carriage and wheels to pieces, and most severely wounded the man. I had therefore, ill as I was, to drive off, to put several coachmaker's workmen to replace the wreck, get a cart to convey the wounded man to the county hospital, and make arrangements for hiring other horses in order that my sailor and my things might not lose their passage to France.
"12th--Left Longparish (Hawker's home) for London, on our way to France.
"14th--Submitted to and had accepted by Mr. Chappell my new-invented apparatus for running over the keys of a pianoforte in a mathematically true position.
"15th--Got to Dover.
"16th.--Had so good a passage to Calais that we set foot on both English and French ground within three hours and five minutes. After being, as usual, fleeced by innumerable scoundrels, we proceeded post (the most expensive, yet by far the worst mode of conveyance in France) and stopped for the night at Boulogne. Here, as a matter of course, we had to sit up till one in the morning airing wet sheets by a fire made of green woodl
"17th.--I was to be called at six this morning; but at near seven no one was up, and I had to alarm the whole house before I could get a soul to move; when, at last, half a dozen fellows ran out, all inquiring what was the matter. In short, after crawling like a road waggon the whole day in a pour of rain, and in a machine that was worse than open, we reached Abbeville, where, to my great mystification, I found that my man, punt, guns etc. had been neither seen nor heard of, though I could see nothing to prevent their arrival five days ago. By way of comfort, too, I learnt that the river was full of wild fowl.
"18th.--This day, I, in constant anxiety about my man, property, and the whole of my shooting apparatus, on which the winter's pleasure depended, offered a premium to the first beggar (Abbeville swarms with these poor wretches) who should announce the arrival of my flotilla etc., and at four this afternoon, to my great joy, an old woman in wooden shoes came, in as much ecstasy at receiving the money as I was at in finding my things (which it would take years to replace) had arrived, and very narrowly escaped shipwreck.... I then proceeded to my little villa at 'Port' on the banks of the Somme, where I was received in procession by the populace of the village, and presented with bouquets, as is the custom for what the call the 'grand seigneur' in this country.
"19th.--After arranging all my things etc. I went to survey the water, and although it was so hot that the air swarmed with butterflies, yet the wigeon, teal, and ducks were by hundreds and thousands on the Somme, but in some degree protected by the dreadfully dangerous currents that now run like a mill tail in spring tides all over this place; and in the evening I went out for fowl (the birds, it appears, are only here by day till hard weather), but not a fowl remained in the river, for all the ducks etc. had dispersed to feed inland. I shot at some birds in the dark and stopped 9 or 10, and on sending out the dog he brought me 4 large curlews. I am delighted with my house and everything about the place, except the trouble of having always to guard against thieves...
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