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ON THE GAME LAWS, SHOOTING, &c.

BY CECIL.

Looking around this jovial little island for sports and invigorating manly amusements, very few of them take a precedence over shooting, whenever it can be enjoyed upon anything approaching to an extensive scale. Since the last enactments of the legislature on the preservation of game, however, a great change has taken place in the circumstances under which, and the situations where it is now to be met with in any degree approaching to abundance. Ten years ago, country gentlemen possessing small estates, opulent farmers, and persons of that class, who were not restricted by their landlords, could enjoy their shooting over the land which they occupied, and which generally produced a fair show of partridges, pheasants, and hares, at all events in sufficient abundance to afford a moderate day's sport; and thus, accompanied by a neighbour or friend, they were enabled to enjoy themselves in a manner conducive to their pleasure, and compatible with their occupations. Nor, on such occasions, was the morning's sport alone the subject of amusement; the recapitulation in the evening over the social glass, when the events of the day became the source of discussion, including many incidents which cannot now be introduced, in consequence of the changes which have taken place, such as the conduct, condition, and perfections of the pointers or setters, are events which have, with the changes that have taken place, passed away like visions, and are no more to be indulged in. The classes of sportsmen here alluded to are nearly annihilated, at least, the game which was the object of their pursuit, and, therefore, the cause of their station in the sporting field, is extinct within their precincts; it has flown to other lands, where it is beyond their reach; or, wandering, is destroyed by the numerous assailants who are ever on the look out for it.

It was evidently a principal intention of the promoters of the last enactments on the game laws so to legislate as to increase and facilitate the opportunities of shooting with which the middle classes of society might avail themselves; but in this case, as in some others, their very intentions have been defeated, and productive of opposite consequences. Unfortunately, man is not gifted with the faculty of prescience; and however maturely laws or other arrangements may be considered and proposed, it is not unfrequently found that in some particular instances they present features quite at variance with the wishes of the promulgators. With a view of rendering this sport more thoroughly available to those persons who were not either proprietors of large estates, or sons of such fortunate mortals, officers in

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the army and the few others who come under the required classification for pronouncing them qualified, the restrictions were entirely abandoned, and the bare fact of procuring a certificate was rendered a sufficient protection to enable any man to shoot wherever he felt inclined, providing he could obtain permission from those in whom the property of the game became vested—a property which also, by the very same laws, became somewhat changed. This, added to the legalizing the sale of game, raised up a host of pursuers of various denominations, which, on small and unprotected estates, have thoroughly dispersed the game from such localities, and it is now only to be met with on gigantic possessions, where a retinue of keepers are supported for its preservation, and perhaps occasionally on some few of the adjoining fields belonging to persons fortunate enough to have their property so situated as to be in such a manner supplied from the great preserve. Even in such cases, the quantity of game will greatly depend on the measures adopted to encourage it; if much disturbed, it is quite certain to revert to the fields in which it lies quiet. On land not strictly looked after, the game will inevitably be poached, as the sale of it is a temptation which a poor man, imbued with that innate love of sporting with which so many are possessed, cannot resist. Thus small estates are, generally speaking, totally destitute of game, and the persons who formerly enjoyed a little promiscuous shooting may now toil days and weeks without being able to bring to bag a brace of birds per diem. It is incredible, the scarcity of game on lands not preserved, particularly in the principality of Wales. Only two years since, I experienced this myself, walking over very considerable tracts of land presenting the most enticing harbour for all kinds of game, especially partridges and pheasants, upon which not one of the feathered species could be found, with the exception of woodcocks and snipes, a very few hares, and now and then a solitary rabbit. I will venture to assert that a man may walk from day-break to dark in those parts of Breconshire, Carmarthenshire, and Cardiganshire, which are not preserved—and, in fact, preserved estates are far from being numerous-without obtaining, with the exception of woodcocks and snipes, half a dozen shots during his perambulation; and yet many parts appear to be most particularly calculated for the haunts of game.

A strict attention to the preservation of game on all lands of moderate value, and especially where the science of agriculture has not arrived at a state of considerable perfection, cannot fail to be attended with very favourable results, not only to the owners of the soil, but to the community at large. Whatever means can be devised, founded upon true economical principles, to raise the greatest quantity of human food, is evidently a source of universal benefit. Under this consideration, therefore, the preservation of game in districts where but little produce is obtained, cannot but be regarded as a subject worthy of consideration, especially when it is borne in mind that game subsist in a great measure upon various seeds and vegetable substances which would be otherwise lost; not that I am about to assert that partridges and pheasants will not trespass at certain periods of the year upon the labours of the husbandman, taking portions of wheat, barley, oats, peas, or other grain, when first sown, or when about to ripen, but the quantity, unless the game be very abundant, is but trifling, and consequently the loss of it is not experienced, for I would by no means advocate the preservation of game to such an extent as to be injurious to the agriculturist. It is, on waste land, or that which approximates to that condition, which is best calculated for the purpose; there game may be encouraged to great advantage, without incurring much expense, and most clearly without producing any detriment to the crops.

The facilities of locomotion which the railways afford will no doubt become, in course of time, the means of game being preserved on remote estates not occupied or visited by their owners, in trust for minors, or which, from other causes, are not now attended to. They will no doubt be gradually brought into a more useful and flourishing condition. I could not but feel surprise when, a short time since, I paid a visit to Mr. Jones's training establishment at Rockley, in Wiltshire, to find that the estate, which is extensive and well adapted for preserving game upon, was quite neglected: surely it would be a very great acquisition to any gentleman desirous of sporting, to make a proposal to rent the manor, and a part of the mansion, a very excellent one, the whole of which, as a matter of course, is not required by the present occupant. Many very valuable districts in South Wales might, in a similar manner, be rented, and a head of game encouraged at a very trifling expense, so that, in point of fact, it would cost very little more than keepers' wages.

Gentlemen who are desirous of enjoying this very delightful recreation, and who are not possessed of a sufficient territory of their own, might, with little cost and care, very readily preserve a good head of game in Wales, by entering into an arrangement with the owners and occupiers of land, upon which, at the present moment, no care is taken of it; such an arrangement would be a mutual benefit. Everything that promotes the distribution of the circulating medium in an unfrequented district cannot fail to be advantageous to the inhabitants. On many of the small estates and farms in South Wales, the game is of no consideration whatever; and the holders of them would gladly enter upon terms for the preservation of it on very moderate conditions; and thus, by combining several of them together, privileges of shooting might be very easily obtained. Limited tracts do not, as a matter of course, present inducements to incur the expense of keepers, inasmuch as the cost of preserving one thousand acres is nearly if not quite as great as that of preserving four or five thousand, woodland districts, as a matter of course, calling forth a greater power in the protective department than an open country does. It appears almost unnecessary to suggest that in cases where a preserve is to be formed by the combination of small estates and farms, that portion of the agreement must be to the effect that it should continue for and during a certain period of years, at least twelve or fourteen, providing that the occupants of the land should continue in possession during that length of time.

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For the purpose of establishing a head of game where little or none is in existence, several circumstances require consideration. In many instances it happens that some lawless characters have been in the habit of trespassing without opposition, and they consider themselves to have acquired almost a prescriptive right; it sometimes requires much determination and perseverance to convince such gentry that their company will be dispensed with. They are not unfrequently troublesome customers. Another class of persons generally more annoying, who, being armed with a certificate and a sort of tacit privilege from the occupiers of the soil, pass nearly the whole of their time in the pursuit of game; although ranking somewhat higher in their position in society than the common poacher, they seem scarcely to possess feelings one degree more refined. It ought, therefore, to be an understanding in the conditions upon which the right of shooting is obtained, that such persons should be disposed of by the proprietors of the land. To preserve a head of game so long as their trespasses are permitted, would be an effort of impossibility.

It is on all occasions, in our peregrinations through this world, most desirable not to give offence to any individuals, let their condition be what it may; to a man of high principles and good feelings it must be a source of great annoyance to create unfriendly sentiments with persons in such a sphere in life as those with whom he may have personal meetings. All these matters being duly weighed, and the most advisable course determined upon, the next consideration worthy of notice will be that of engaging keepers, and the arrangements relative to them; upon their qualifications and duties so much depends. One man will

preserve a great head of game, where another will have comparatively none; one man will be constantly at variance and quarrelling with everybody with whom he comes in contact, while another makes friends; not that it is desirable he should be too friendly with a numerous body of acquaintances, by some of whom he may be tempted to transgress his duties towards his employers, but, as the old adage says, more“ flies are caught with sugar than with vinegar," conciliatory manners are at all times most essential. If every man who offered himself for the situation could be deemed eligible, there

ould be very little occasion for expatiating on the duties; but that is not the case, quite the reverse; and, unfortunately, those who require their services very rarely know anything of the practical part of the business. It is an occupation which gentlemen never undertake. The task is such that amateur keepers have not yet embarked their talents in night-watching and destroying vermin ; and it is an acknowledged axiom, that no person can acquire a perfect knowledge of any occupation unless, at some period, he has entered into the detail thereof, and, in point of fact, served an apprenticeship to it. The proficiency of a keeper is not to be determined by his ability to kill a given number of pigeons from a trap, or by his prowess in pugilistic encounters; at the same time it is requisite he should be a good shot, and that he be possessed of courage, resolution, power, and a knowledge of the art of self-defence: the latter will give him a great superiority over the yokels with whom he may at times come in contact, but he should be guarded

by a disposition not inclined to a display of his power unnecessarily. One of the most useful branches of the art of self-defence in which a keeper can be instructed, is the use of the single-stick; not being permitted by our laws to carry fire-arms, the odds are fearfully against him when opposed to miscreants, who, totally reckless of consequences, are provided with those death-dispensing weapons.

The nocturnal marauders who make most havoc in preserves are seldom unprovided with guns, for the two-fold purpose of killing game and protecting themselves against those who attempt to interfere with them in their illegal practices.

This is a subject which has frequently called forth the attention of the legislature, without any code of laws being adopted which could with propriety sanction the permission of arms being carried by keepers ; indeed it is a circumstance which presents the utmost difficulty. That it is a great hardship for keepers to be compelled to stand the fire of their enemies, without resorting to similar means of self-protection, nobody can for one moment express a dissentient opinion; but there would be the greatest danger in allowing them to exercise their own discretion in the use of arms, much bloodshed would naturally ensue, and the exhibition of revengeful feelings would be too frequently the result. At the same time, when poachers are convicted of having resorted to the use of deadly weapons when in pursuit of an unlawful calling, the utmost severity which the laws allow ought in all cases to follow their conviction. With regard to a keeper's talent with his gun, although not the only qualification which he requires, it is nevertheless a most important one, especially if he be at any time required to kill game, as a good shot will bag so much more than a bad one with less disturbance. It is almost incredible the effect produced in a preserve where game is frequently fired at without being killed; those which are wounded and not recovered will also add much to the annoyance of the report of the

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and this will be more than ordinarily vexatious in preserves which are not extensive. As a matter of course, the outskirts will be the scene of the keeper's actions whenever he is required to kill garde either for home consumption" or "for the market," although the latter is generally supplied by the owner and his friends, after a battue, or when a number have been shot. With all the care and attention in the world, it is not possible on all occasions to drive the game from the outskirts to the centre of a preserve. A custom is not unfrequently adopted by keepers, but it is one which cannot be justified, of driving the game clandestinely off adjoining land on to that of which they have the care; this practice is chiefly resorted to just before the breeding season commences, and is an operation which they commonly perform during the night, or very early in the morning. I have known some men boast vastly at having done this, but I do not think it redounds much to the credit of their employers to sanction it.

It is a very common occurrence with those who take but a superficial view of human nature, of man, his social habits, and his course of life, to ascribe to those who are in any way engaged in those pursuits which are designated pleasurable amusements, to assign to all,

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