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teal were crept and bagged; so that by four o'clock, when the sun sank in the west, and with him the light in December, I was well content to cry “Hold, enough!" The day, however, was but begun with the fenman.
There is one, whose dwelling I have noted in poor Chatterton's lines, at the head of this paper, whose whole time is passed upon the water, fishing and fowling, from January to December. The fens can boast of many of these; to whom one may say, in the words of Trinculo to Caliban, “What have we here, a man or a fish ?" There was Tom Maddison, who was killed by cholera, when cholera ravaged the fens of Cambridgeshire some ten or twelve years ago; Wilson, who figured in Crowland and Cowbit Wash about the same period; and now my friend with the beard, who looked as if his chin had been unconscious of a razor for six months. Their abodes are self-constructed, of the rudest materials; or, and that not unfrequently, made out of an old sea-boat, and fixed in one of the Droves. It is astonishing to witness the perception of all kinds of fowl by twilight, and at immense distances, by these wild people. Their sense of hearing seems equal to their powers of vision, for they will over and over again give you the signal of approaching fowl, when to our unpractised ears and optics there is nothing but a cloud in the distance, and the sigh of the wind among the reeds. Poor fellows ! how little does he who feasts upon the produce of their cold and midnight watch imagine the privations and rudeness of him who toils! “I can get at your man,” said a friend of mine, “but how am I to get at his mind ?" Not at all, my dear fellow; for he has none.
He has a kind of knowledge or instinct, or something approaching, but you must content yourself with such information as his rude speech may give; for, depend upon it, you are not half so puzzled with his ignorance as he is with your intelligence. I once heard Lord Denman, at Huntingdon assizes, address one of the gunners, who was there as a witness against a man for stealing a bow-net-“ Apply your mind to the question, my man;" and then added his lordship, having evidently a doubt upon the subject, “if you have one." Ha, my lord, thought I, put a jumping pole in his hand, a punt under his knees, and, it may be, his old firelock in his hand, and he would puzzle you, and half your bar to boot, to come within a mile of him.
The day was over; the inn was gained, the reckoning settled, and the pony at the door. I left the scene of splendid sport with arrangements to come again on the Friday; but it was freezing even then, and one of the aborigines told me he did not like to see the little white bubbles in the dikes—they were particles of congealed air upon the surface of the water-as they foretold frost. The ride home was not without its charms. The birds were busy in their flight into their feeding grounds; the great guns were constantly greeting them as they alighted or lowered over the splash ; the shepherd's dog was heard to landward; the distant clocks and bells at intervals told of the approach of evening; the labourer's friendly “good night" came every now and then with welcome to the ear, and in a brief space I was at home.
It was a sharp frost that night, and keener still the night following. The snipes and fowl were banished from the Wash; and when once they have taken their flight it is all up with that country for the winter. Next July will bring them and the young birds back, but until then the poor gunner's “occupation's gone."
It is to repeat a thrice-told tale to offer anything in the way of instruction in snipe shooting to the majority of your readers; but at the same time it is equally true that the "young idea must be taught how to shoot.” And, although there is no teacher like experience, it assists the young, confirms the wavering, and assures the skilful to read how things were managed in a day which ended with a bag of nigh upon twenty couple of snipe.
We were under the necessity, at starting, of beating “up wind;" a thing ever to be shunned in snipe-shooting. To obviate, as far as could be, the ill effects of this step, I led over the fields which were barest, taking the chance of the birds alighting, after I had flushed them in the rougher grounds. Arrived at a rough ground, such a circuit as brought me to the top (so to speak), and enable me to beat it down wind; that is, to cross the wind, returning at the end of each beat over the beaten ground. By this process, I wormed my way five miles and a half, until I had arrived at such a spot as enabled me, on calculation, to ensure as much work back as time would serve for. Arrived at a dike, I never parted with the gun until after the man who carried the pole had jumped, and imitated the snipe's call; or until after I had called it, in the first instance, keeping guard with all in readiness, if a bird rose, as they frequently will, at one's very feet. I used a single barrel ; a double might have been-I will go further, and say, would have been-of more service three or four times; but what one gains by the double is more than counterbalanced by the effect of extra weight upon both arms and legs. If the last ounce weighs the donkey down, the extra pound of iron and of shot tells upon
sportsman at the end of an eight hours' walk. The fen is very unlike the woods or the fields. One often slips an inch or two backwards or forwards for 100 yards together; and what has a heavier strain upon the muscles of the legs than that? Nothing except the continued exertion of repeated pole-work where the dikes are wide and close together; and every fifty yards is followed by a leap of 15 or 20 feet, which soon tells upon both arms and legs, or at any rate is discovered the next morning. The great thing in jumping with a pole is to set it nigh enough to you to leap, as it were, over it, not on the side; and to be careful that the quant, or crutch at the end, is long enough. There is some danger and far more bodily strength called into action by using a pole with too small a quant. Again, the pole should never be less than fifteen feet in length ; should be thickest in the middle, with the top part tapered off rather more than the bottom, of the best red deal, and without a knot. There is nothing to be named with No. 8 as snipe-shot. Clarke, the gunner, told me he was out with a gentleman on the previous Saturday, who struck every bird ; but as he shot with dust-shot (and they had none other there) he literally bagged but a single snipe. I have tried all sizes, 6, 7, and 8; and although when shooting with a double, I have occasionally 'used No. 6 in the second barrel for long lengths, I think there is nothing in it, and that No. 8 is the best after all.
An hour's walk at any time will tell where the snipes lie. As hares will one day lie on stubble, on the tilts the next, on grass land the day following, and in the quick lines the day after that; so the snipes will be found on the dry warm grasses, or in the splash, by the sides of the dikes, or on the barest feeding grounds, as fancy, or instinct, or the weather sways them. And, strange to say, it is almost next to uselessness to beat for them elsewhere.
A dog, as hath been frequently remarked, is useless, and worse than useless, where snipe are numerous. It is all very well to have a good water-spaniel by the sides of rivers or lakes; but on ground where one can walk up to the bird when he is killed, a dog is not wanted; and if he runs up to his game when the gun goes, it is ten to one but he runs up a couple of snipe also. Besides, if a snipe is not killed dead, he is the best fellow imaginable to tell of his where-about. He is certain, on being approached, to flutter up and cry "'Scape,” so that there is every chance afforded to pick him
up. I have been asked repeatedly, “ When do you shoot at a snipe?” And I have as invariably answered “ As soon as I can.”
By this it is to be understood that there is hardly such a thing as waiting for a snipe. Now and then a bird will rise at one's foot, and fly across the wind, so that some time is given and opportunity afforded to kill him at any distance; but this is the exception to the general rule; and hence it is that all who excel in snipe-shooting fire as soon as the bird is on the wing. I once took a friend out of the fens to a day's pheasant-shooting; and I was truly astonished to see how entirely he was baffled by the long-tails. He shot before them, under them, anywhere, in a word, but at them. Had they been snipes, he would have killed them with scarcely a miss : as it was, lie bagged but a leash, in (I shame to say it) from 20 to 30 shots! No doubt he wounded many of the poor birds; but it only shows that woodshooting or hare-shooting is as different from snipe-shooting as one thing can be from another. Quick’s the word with a snipe; and especially in cross shots, one must fire well forward. In this haphazard kind of work it is well to use as much shot as your gun can possibly carry pleasantly; for, when there is a recoil, there is an overload, which defeats its own object; and, instead of insuring the death of the quarry, may very well be termed“ a life preserver.'
MARE AND FOAL.
LEVITY, THE PROPERTY OF J. C. COCKERILL, ESQ., AND HER FOAL, QUEEN ELIZABETH, NOW THE PROPERTY OF LORD DORCHESTER,
ENGRAVED BY E. HACKER, FROM A PAINTING BY J. F. HERRING, SEN.
The very gentle reader—“ my honourable friend, if he will allow me to call him such”-has, we'll engage, a turn for the turf; without a doubt he is what we might term a thorough racing