Well it’s Christmas morning here in Scottish Deerhound land and in the spirit of giving, through the wonders of the web, and with credit to Google Books - we bring you . . .Reminiscences of an old sportsmanBy Colonel John Potter Hamilton
Published by Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860
Original from Oxford University
Digitized Jul 31, 2006
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Enjoy and Goodwill to all from Bonnie Scotland!Reminiscences of an old sportsman
By Colonel John Potter Hamilton
CHAP. XL.DEER STALKING. THE SCOTCH FOREST. THE FOREST OF MAR. THE DEER-HOUND. A HUNT. ANECDOTE OF DEER-STALKING. EXTRAORDINARY SHOT AT A DEER. ANTISEPTIC QUALITY OF PEAT. NO HAIR-BREADTH ESCAPE.
“The antler'd monarch of the waste
Sprung from his heathery couch in haste;
But ere his fleet career he took,
The dew-drops from his flanks he shook;
Like crested leader, proud and high,
Tossed his horn'd frontlet to the sky ;
A moment gazed adown the dale,
A moment snuffd the tainted gale,
A moment listen'd to the cry,
That thicken'd as the chase drew nigh;
Then,, as the headmost foes appeared,
With one brave bound the copse he cleared;
And, stretching forward free and far,
Sought the wild heaths of Uam-Var.”
Lady of the Lake, canto 1.
In writing on the subject of deer-stalking, I do not pretend to have any practical experience of this exceedingly exciting field sport. But in a work of this kind, which comprises a variety of field amusements, I cannot omit the subject of deer-stalking, particulars of which I have gathered from friends and from having had read to me the interesting work by Mr. Scrope.
Deer-stalking may certainly be esteemed one of the most splendid and exciting of our field sports, and we now find it pursued with much ardour by many noblemen and gentlemen, who pay very high rent to the Scotch landlords for the indulgence of their taste. I have heard that Lord Henry Bentinck pays for two forests nearly 30001. per annum. This sport requires the full development of muscle, sinew, and wind, as well as all mental energies. Both deerstalking and fox-hunting are excellent schools for- a military man, for to be successful in either requires skilful tactics and a sharp and keen eye in examining the features of the country, and the latter to be a good horseman. I have heard it more than once mentioned, that the Duke of Wellington considered officers who had been thorough fox-hunters best adapted for the duty of the outpost. There can be no doubt that stag- hunting is a more social sport, provided the country will admit of this chase; but in the Highlands of Scotland, where the country is so wild and precipitous, and presents so many obstacles to the chase, hunting the stag with hounds is quite impossible. Yet in some parts of Scotland the harts are coursed with deer hounds, and I have mentioned a most interesting account, in which two famous deer-hounds succeeded in capturing a stag after an arduous chase. I have always understood that the grandfather of the present Duke of Athol *, who introduced the larch tree into Scotland, was the first nobleman who found such a fascinating charm ia deer-stalking, and by his perseverance in planting several thousand acres with this tree, had an ample field for indulging in his favourite sport. I have "been told by persons acquainted with him that he was a most expert shot with a rifle.
In many of the newspapers great complaints have been made at so many thousand acres being given up to deer-stalking and grouse shooting which formerly afforded pasturage to large flocks of sheep, and in some of the valleys and more fertile parts to the small black cattle, and that in the indulgence of these field sports the community suffers considerably by the loss of this pasturage. But I verily believe this has been much exaggerated, and as a proof I will give an extract from what a gentleman, who is an experienced deer-stalker, says on this subject. " Some forests are entirely cleared of cattle, others only partially so; thus, for instance, in one forest the agreement was that the sheep and cattle were to be removed by the llth of August from that portion not entirely reserved for deer; part of it was always for deer."
Deer will not remain where there are cattle and sheep, but where cattle and sheep are, it is not properly a deer forest. The usual plan, however, is to have a sanctuary, and the sheep and cattle removed during the stalking season. The large forests, such as the Mar Forest, and Invercauld, Blair, Ardvarkie, and one or two others are reserved for deer.
It is these great forests, you may say, that feed the others, which are not strictly speaking regular deer forests. No doubt there is a certain amount, but it is very trifling, of waste in having deer forests. The rental probably of the deer forests might be more for the public good if turned into sheep walks; but as I said before, this chiefly applies to Lord Breadalbane, Duke of Athol, Lord Fife, Mr. Farquharson, Lord Henry Bentiuck, Prince Albert, Lord Lichfield, and a few others, who either sacrifice their own territory to their deer, or pay for them as a sheep walk, and reserve them for deer.** Now the few people who can do this can do very little damage to the country, and are a great benefit to Scotland, where they spend their money freely. In one forest was paid 5501., and you may always reckon expenses just about double the rent. Then you must remember that a great portion of a deer forest is only fit for deer, and would not feed anything but a goat. Scrope is the great authority, but his experience is confined to the Blair forest alone. It certainly is the most splendid of all sports. " Ask any of the farmers of Leicestershire or Northamptonshire whether they dislike having packs of fox-hounds in their country; their answer will be, ' Certainly not; for although the sportsmen may do us a little damage in riding over our fields, it is amply compensated by the large sums these gentlemen expend in our counties, many of them keeping their ten or twelve hunters, or perhaps more, and the forage for these animals purchased of the farmers.' Independent of this, the noblemen and gentlemen belonging to these hunts spend much money in the neighbourhood in the expenses of their establishments, and many of the respectable farmers keep a good hunter, and when the hounds come within reach, thoroughly enjoy the sport. The higher classes in this country are certainly entitled to indulge in these manly amusements, which afford vigour to the mind and robust health to the body, and in this respect makes a marked distinction between the same classes of other European nations."
The Forest of Mar, though much less extensive than many others, is averaged at fifteen miles in length and nine in breadth; but here, instead of the deer being destroyed for sheep-walks, the Earl of Fife preserved strictly the grouse and black game. He also introduced from Norway the capercailzie or cock of the wood, which increased to a small number, but when the forest was let these noble birds soon disappeared. The wild boar was also turned out in this forest, but the want of acorns was so severely felt by these animals that they likewise one after another also died. In wild and uncultivated countries like these, the wild boar could certainly do little damage, and if by care and attention and artificial feeding for some time the forest could be stocked with wild boar, a battue for shooting them would add greatly to the excitement of the sportsman, although not always unattended with danger. For when the wild boar is wounded he becomes exceedingly fierce and savage, and will then rush on man and dogs.†
The purest specimens of the deer-hound now to be met with are supposed to be those belonging to Captain M'Neil of Colonsay.
When I was about sixteen years old (then a subaltern in the Scotch Greys) I resided during part of a summer at the country house of a gentleman, in whose family I boarded, in the Duchy of Brunswick, for the purpose of learning the German language. In the vicinity were extensive forests belonging to the Duke of Brunswick. I soon made the acquaintance of one of the Duke's jagers (gamekeeper), whom I found on all occasions particularly civil and obliging. One evening the jager called on me, and informed me that if I could be at his house the next morning at five o'clock, he would go with me, accompanied by another gamekeeper, each having their large rough bloodhound in slips, to the spot where he had wounded a stag with his rifle that evening. I was punctual to the time, and found the keepers ready to start with their dogs for the forest. When we arrived at the place where the jager had wounded the stag, they examined the ground closely with the dogs to discover some drops of blood. Having succeeded in this, the dogs, still in their slips, went on tracing the deer, always by its blood. After pursuing our route slowly for about two miles, we arrived at part of the forest where the underwood was of three or four years' growth, and the blood very fresh. The jagers then felt certain that the stag, from exhaustion from the wound he had received, had lain down among the adjacent cover. My friend the jager, having directed me to a rising ground a short distance from a sheet of water in the valley, told me that the stag when roused by the dogs would certainly make for the water; and letting them out of their slips, they rushed full speed into the cover. I was now all expectation and excitement, from the hope that the wounded stag would soon make his appearance. This hope was shortly realised, for the noble animal came limping out of the cover, pursued by the dogs, and directing his course to the sheet of water, as had been anticipated by the jager. He dashed into it, closely pursued by his enemies. Before he had swam a few yards the dogs overtook him and dragged him to the shore. The two jagers, who had run full speed to the side of the water, soon dispatched the stag with their couteaux de chasse. His antlers were very large; and he was a full-grown deer. I returned home much pleased with, my morning's adventure.
The following circumstance will prove the exquisite sense of smelling possessed by the Highland deer-hound. One of this kind, named Bran, when held in a leash, followed the track of a wounded stag, and that in most unfavourable rainy weather, for three successive days, at the end of which time the deer was shot. He was wounded first within nine miles of Invergarry House, and was traced that night to the estate of Glenmoriston. At dusk in the evening the deer-stalkers placed a stone on each side of the last fresh print of the hoof and another over it, and this they did each night following. On the succeeding morning they removed the upper stone, when the dog discovered the scent, and the deer was that day traced over a great part of Glenmoriston's grounds. On the third day he was retraced to the lands of Glengarry, and there shot.
A remarkable instance of the sagacity displayed by a deer-hound is illustrated in the following anecdote. "A gentleman walking along the road to Kingston Hill, accompanied by a friend and a noble deer-hound, which was also a retriever, threw his glove into a ditch; and having walked on for a mile, sent his dog back for it. After waiting a considerable time, and the dog not re-turning, they retraced their steps. Hearing loud cries in the distance, they hastened on, and at last saw the dog dragging a boy by his coat towards them. On questioning the boy, it appeared that he had picked up the glove, and put it into his pocket. The sagacious animal had no other means of conveying it to his master than by compelling the boy to accompany him."
The account of deer-stalking by Mr. Cooper will be found exceedingly interesting to most persons, but more particularly to those who are partial to field sports. "There is no describing," says this ingenious writer, " the irresistible fascination of this pursuit to the true- bred Highlander. Day after day will he traverse the haunts of these noble animals, or sit with inexhaustible patience, wrapped in his plaid behind a grey stone upon some well-known commanding height, watching for a sight of them ; or creep for miles together on his belly, like a worm, to approach them undiscovered. The lapse of time and the severity of the weather are alike unheeded ; he only thinks how to circumvent his wary prey. If successful, he is richly repaid; if he fails, it is but to renew the tedious and toilsome quest until his perseverance is at length rewarded." He now proceeds to detail the operations of the persons he accompanied to deer-stalking: — " Cautiously creeping up the little hillock until their eyes could just peer above the topmost heather, Glenvallich and the forester, throwing themselves on their faces, scrutinised with their glasses the brown expanse before them ; nor was it till more than a quarter of an hour had elapsed in the inquiry that they arose from their recumbent position. ' Nothing is stirring or in sight, as far as we can make out,' said Glenvallich; ' let us move forward. Eemember, Tresham, we shoot at nothing but stags. The hinds with calves at their foot are not in condition; and the yell hinds, as they are called—those which have either had no calves or have lost them — your eye is not practised enough to distinguish from the others. You may see plenty of roe-deer here, for the wood is full of them; but don't shoot at them, for you might disturb and lose a stag worth fifty roes who might be lying a few yards off us.' Instead of abruptly ascending further, they now slanted along the face of the hill till they reached the water-course, a deep gash worn by a rapid and perennial torrent quite through the soil into the living rock of the mountain side. The rugged banks were covered with dense thickets of the trees common to such situations, which overhung the stream or interrupted its course with their fallen and withered boughs; the torrent itself dark, foaming, and impetuous, leaping from rock to rock and ledge to ledge in many a pretty fall, and sometimes in cascades of considerable height and grandeur. The pass led by a pool between two of these falls; a deeply furrowed ledge of rock afforded stepping-stones when the stream was low, by which an active man might spring across. Having overleaped this obstacle, they soon emerged from the wood upon the more open bill, where the heather, although still long and thick, was less tangled than in the forest, and the more solid and less broken ground afforded firmer footing. The change was very comfortable to Tresham, who now soon recovered his failing wind, and felt his sinews recover a firmer tone, and they cautiously approached the crest of the height to which they had won their way with so much toil. Glenvallich now stealing forwards, began with curious and jealous eye to scan through his glass the broad hollow which rose gradually above them.
After continuing this survey for some minutes in silence, he beckoned Tresham to his side. ' Antlers, by Jove!' said he, in a half whisper ; ' I have them, and in no bad place either. This will be our game, or I'm mistaken. See—take the glass; look to the left of that white stump below the rock there, close to a small single white stone; there he lies; I can see him with the naked eye.' ' And I can't catch a glimpse even with the glass,' replied Tresham, after peering through the telescope ; ' I see nothing, Charles.' ' Why, don't you see that brown spot ? You can't have found the place. By heavens! there's more of them ; give me the glass. Yes, faith, there are one, two, three hinds feeding, and their calves too; see, look again.' But it was in vain Tresham's unpractised eyes wandered over the brown waste, until, as by chance, the field of the telescope traversed the place, a slight movement of what he had taken to be the withered branch of a tree caught his eye." After a little consultation as to the best mode of getting at the deer, the author proceeds:—"One or two roes passed the sportsmen, and several blackcock, the sight of which tempted Tresham sorely to exercise his skill at a flying shot; but if there were any deer in the wood, they took other passes than those watched by the two gentlemen. The forester how came up, and Glenvallich informed him of the stag and hinds he had seen. The methods of best approaching them unobserved were eagerly discussed ; and having decided that it was at all events advisable to reconnoitre them from a shoulder of the hill above them, the party set their faces boldly to the brae, and began to breast it straight up. And now once more was Tresham made sensible of his own deficiency, and of the superior vigour of his companions. .Pride and ' pluck,' however, bore him on, though his knees bent under him, and his head swam with the sustained exertion. The signal to halt and reconnoitre was at the moment as gratifying an intimation as he could have received. Five hinds with their calves, and two stags, were now distinctly visible full eight hundred feet beneath them, as they stood or rather lay perched upon the brink of a giddy precipice which rose above the hollow. 'Well, Maccombich, what is next to be done ? — must we climb the hill and go round the scour ?' ' Ay, deed that ye must,' responded the forester. ' See,' continued he, throwing some light particles of grass into the air, ' the wun's a up the hill, and there's no a burn or corrie that'll hide us. It's doon yon burn, below Craigcoirllichdhu, we must go, and tak the hollow a' the way to thon bit hillock, and then we'll at them easy ; they winna stir the day anyhow, we're sure o' that.' As Duncan made these observations he was cautiously retreating from the brink of the rock from whence he had been observing the deer, when all at once his person became fixed in an attitude of eager attention, which might have supplied the sculptor with an admirable study; and straining his eyes towards the upper extent of the corrie, he exclaimed in an earnest whisper, ' Oh, Glenvallich ! we're in luck the day; there he is! there's the very stag your honour was after the last time ye cam up; him that ye touched on the side, and we couldna' get sicht o' again. I've seen him twice since yon, and a grand one he is. Oh, Trochconnilorst, but we'll hae you the day, or the mischiefs in't. We must go clean round the scour noo anyhow, for we'll hae to come down the Glaig—noo you're on him.' This information set the party into instant motion. Off they started in high spirits, leaving Kenneth to watch the deer below them, lest any accident should startle them, or lest they should feed away from the spot. The ascent proved most arduous, for they had to pass round the peak of one of the loftiest mountains in Scotland, at a height scarcely two hundred feet below the summit. Tresham was once more forced to abandon his rifle to his gilly, and still he found himself lagging behind; for Maccombich, stimulated by a sight of the animals he loved, forgot the inability of others, and glided up the hill with the swiftness and sure-footedness of a goat. Even Glenval- lich at length found it expedient to call upon him to slacken his speed; and Tresham, breathless and reeling, was absolutely forced to make frequent halts. Youth and spirits, and good English bottom themselves failed at length, and the young man came to a stand-still. ' You were right,' said he, ' about this cursed jacket; it is too heavy for such work — by the Lord man! a fellow to climb this mountain should go in a querpo; the kilt's your only — to the devil with the velveteen 1' and he threw it from him, remaining in his shirt sleeves and waistcoat. ' Stay, stay, Harry! those white arms will never do; they would give alarm at two miles distance. Here, here's the jacket you despised in the morning.' 'Thank you; this is a relief; and now have at it once more.' The highest point was reached at length, and a descent little better than a precipice lay before them. But though Tresham, in cooler moments, might have shuddered at the danger he ran, his mind was too highly excited to scruple at following his daring companions, who bounded downwards at a rate which soon brought them to the bottom. ' Now for it, Harry; now for it in earnest,' said Glenvallich, after a moment's halt to recover breath. ' Double- quick while we may—we shall soon have to go slow enough;' and entering the a body of shallow watercourse, they descended its rough bed at a rapid pace. The waft of a hand from Duncan, who led, stopped the party, and crouching low, they changed their quick step for a stealthy pace, with which they rounded a height, and under its shelter remained until their exact position with regard to the object of their quest should be ascertained. ' Look here,' whispered Glenvallich, taking Tresham by the arm, after having made a short examination himself, ' what think you of Duncan for a pilot ?' Eaising his eyes to a level with the heather top, Tresham could see, at the distance of not more than three hundred yards, the horns of a noble stag just arising between two braes. No other part of the animal was visible; but the moving of the antlers, which slowly turned from side to side, proved sufficiently that he maintained a vigilant look-out after his own safety. ' We'll match him yet, I think,' said Glenvallich, retreating a few yards to get further under cover of the rising ground. Maccombich, followed by the rest of the party, crept upon all fours from the water-course across thirty or forty yards of long heath-covered moor until they reached a maze of peat-bog cracks of little depth, but sufficient to cover a man creeping flat upon his belly. This, although the moss was moist and muddy, they were forced to submit to, as the only way to cross unseen by their intended victim, and in this manner they gained about a hundred and fifty yards more upon the deer's position. The forester alone was now sent on to ascertain the means of further progress; and after an absence of more than ten minutes, which to the sportsmen seemed a full hour, he returned creeping like a worm, and beckoning the party to follow in the same manner. This they did, and at length, keeping along the peat cracks, got a chasm deep enough to afford sufficient cover for the whole body. ' He's no a hunder yards from you this moment, Glenvallich,' whispered the forester, in scarcely audible accents, ' and the wind is strong from him. Ye must climb this knoll; if ye can get him within eighty yards, dinna seek to get nearer, for he's in a wide green hench, and he's very jealous. I dinna think ye'll mak muckle better on't, but ochone, sir 1 tak time and be canny; I wudna for ten pounds he got awa'.' ' Never fear me, man; but here's Mr. Tresham must take the first chance; I'll fire only if he misses. Come along, Harry.' The forester cast a look of mingled disappointment and remonstrance at his master, but it was disregarded. Tresham also, who still shook from head to foot with recent exertion and present excitement, would have excused himself from interfering with the anterior rights of his friend in this particular animal; but Glenvallich would not listen to him. 'Have done with this debating,' said he; 'we shall lose the deer ; follow me, Tresham.' Cautiously, like a cat stealing on its prey, foot by foot, inch by inch, did Glenvallich, grovelling in the heather, advance towards the crest of the knoll in front of him ; when the deer's antlers moved, he was still; when they took their natural position, he moved forwards. Tresham followed in his track, stopping or advancing as he did, until they had reached some twenty paces onward from the ravine. Glenvallich then signed to him to raise his head with caution. He did so, and saw, with a sensation of eager delight which increased his agitation to a painful pitch, the noble stag lying amongst some rushy grass, apparently in the most unsuspicious tranquillity, occasionally scratching a part of his hide with a fork of his antlers, and driving away the insects which appeared greatly to torment him. 'Take him as he lies, Harry; aim low, at the shoulder,' whispered Glenvallich. The heart of Tresham beat more audibly than ever it had done in going into action, as he carefully extended and levelled his rifle. Whether it was the slight click of cocking, or some movement made in the heather as he stretched out the piece to take aim, is uncertain; but the stag started, and made a movement as if about to rise, just at the moment when Tresham was pressing the trigger. The circumstance probably unsettled his aim, for the rifle exploded, but the ball flew over its intended object. But not thus was the unfortunate animal to escape; for scarce had the report of Tresham's shot made him start from his lair when the rifle of Glenvallich gave forth its fatal contents, and the stag, making one high bound from the earth, tumbled headlong forwards, and lay struggling in the agonies of death. He had anticipated the possibility of his friend's failure, and prepared to remedy it, which he did effectually, for the ball had struck the animal just behind the shoulder and went clean through his heart. ' Hurrah ! capital; grand ! by Jove he has got it,' shouted Tresham, starting up; but the arm of Glenvallich pulled him down again. ' Hush ! be quiet,' whispered he ; ' never do so; there may be twenty more deer near us of which we yet know nothing; such a halloo would send them all off. Load your piece—load quickly.' While they were performing this necessary operation Maccombich, who had joined them, and was keeping watch around them, touched his arm, and pointing with one hand showed him three fine stags moving off to the further hill, alarmed, no doubt, by the reports of the rifles, and probably by the exclamations of Tresham. ' God bless me ; this is a lesson I shall not forget,' said the moJtified young man. The hunters advanced to break the deer, as it is called, by cutting the throat and disembowelling it; and while Maccombich was performing this sportsmanlike duty, it was amusing to watch the rapture to which, when unrestrained by habitual caution, he now gave full way on the glad occasion of a successful shot. Apostrophising it in Gaelic, he addressed to it every reproachful epithet he could think of as a villain which had so often baffled their murderous efforts. It was a scoundrel and a rascal, and a devil, to whom he wished a bad end, and .whose soul, heart, and liver he gave to the devil; then changing his tone, he lavished upon it every expression of endearment. It was his dear, his darling, his bonny beast, his cattle, his love. He seemed to abandon himself to the intoxication of delight, and it was singular to see a man, habitually grave and reserved, acting as if he was deprived of reason."
Glenfeshie, in Badenoch, affords very good deer-stalking, a party having killed in one day seven stags, all in very good condition. At Garrick a Mr. Littledale had three to his own rifle in one day. Lord Alexander Russell accomplished a similar feat in one day at Eothie- murchus. A correspondent in Perthshire says: " There has lately been a large party at his Grace the Duke of Athol's, who have killed a great many fine stags. In Glenfiddoch, on the 28th October, Lord Arthur Lennox killed a stag of seven points. On Wednesday the Prince Edward of Saxe-VVeimar killed one of nine points; and on Friday Lord March knocked down a noble animal of eleven points. At Balmoral the Prince Consort has not killed so many deer as he did up to this time last season ; he is shooting very indifferently, and it is said the prince has lost his nerve when deer-stalking." " Lord Lovat has an extensive deer forest in Eosshire; he is an expert rifle shot, and active and zealous in the preservation of deer, which will tend to give perpetuity of deer-stalking, a most exciting and manly amusement." Mr. Scrope mentions an extraordinary shot made by the Hon. Edward Lascelles, who killed a stag on the trot at three hundred and twelve yards' distance near Loch Maree, and what makes it very singular it was the first he had made at deer. " The Duke of Gordon possesses a vast tract of deer forest, extending more than seventy miles, but with the exception of Glenfiddoch and Gaick, where the deer are preserved, the remainder is principally devoted to pasturage." The forest of Corrichbah, which belongs to the Marquis of Breadalbane, is in Argyleshire. It had undergone a change like many of the other forests of the Highlands, and most parts of it were converted into sheep-walks. About forty years ago the noble marquis had thirty-five thousand acres entirely given up as a deer forest, and I have been told that he succeeded well in stocking this forest withthe capercailzie or cock of the wood, and I much regret the wild boar has not become a denizen of this wild tract of country; but I conclude that until the oak tree will suit itself to some parts of the soil the sportsman must be content with stalking deer and shooting the roebuck and capercailzie.
It is very dangerous to persons unacquainted with the nature of the bogs in Scotland, and the same may be said of those in England and Ireland, but custom will soon enable the sportsman to traverse these morasses. They may be traversed with perfect safety whenever stones lie about them, although the ground may look ever so bad. Peat has many antiseptic qualities, and Mr. Scrope says," many instances are recorded of bodies long buried being found fresh and unimpaired after a lapse of years." He mentions particularly the body of a woman who was found six feet deep in the Isle of Anxholme in Lincolnshire. The antique sandals on her feet afforded evidence of her having been there for many ages, yet her hair, nails, and skin, are described as having shown scarcely any marks of decay. I have seen at Bordeaux in a considerable sized vault numerous bodies of persons who had been buried for many years in the adjacent churchyard, which, on being disinterred, were found in perfect preservation, from the antiseptic nature of the soil. On entering the vault I saw a man placed upright against the wall, full seven feet in height, who had been porter to some French nobleman. A little on his right was a French marquis who had been killed in a duel, and the sexton showed me the wound which he had received on his right side. In another part of the vault was a man, with his wife and six young children, all in good preservation. I felt the skin of some of these bodies, which was like dried parchment. Besides those I have mentioned, there were many others which did not interest me. I have also seen those dried bodies of the monks in one of the convents at Palermo, dressed in their monkish habits, but these had been previously embalmed. No females are allowed to visit these receptacles of the dead.
Mr. Scrope says, " The most perfect shots and celebrated sportsmen never succeed in killing deer without practice ; indeed, at first they are quite sure to miss the fairest running shots. This, I think, arises from their firing at distances to which they have been wholly unaccustomed, and is no reflection upon their skill. It ia seldom that you fire at a less distance than a hundred yards, and this is as near as I would wish to get. The usual range will be between this and two hundred yards, beyond which, as a general rule, I never think it prudent to fire, lest I should hit the wrong animal, though deer may be killed at a much greater distance, particularly with the present inventions and improvements in rifles. Now, the sportsman who has been accustomed to shot guns is apt to fire with the same sort of aim that he takes at a grouse or any other common game ; thus he invariably fires behind the quarry, for he does not consider that the ball having three, four, or perhaps five times the distance to travel that his shot has, will not arrive at its destination nearly so soon; consequently, in a cross shot, he must keep his rifle more in advance. The exact degree, as he well knows, will depend upon the pace and remoteness of the object. Deer go much faster than they appear to do, and their pace is not uniform, like the flying of a bird ; but they pitch in running, and this pitch must be calculated upon. Firing at a target is a veiy necessary practice in the first instance, partly to gain steadiness and confidence, but principally to ascertain the shooting of your rifle at all distances. You can make no use of a change of elevation in your sights when deer are running. The best way, therefore, is to have one sight alone slightly elevated, the less the better, and to make the variation depend upon your aim. Having once become a fair shot at a target, I would advise no one to continue the practice. It is apt to make one slow and indecisive. One step often brings you into sight of the deer, consequently one spring makes them vanish from it, so that you must frequently take snap shots. Indeed, it is quite wonderful (as any experienced person can bear witness) how suddenly and unexpectedly they disappear, either by sinking under a hill or running amongst the deep channels of a moss, or by a hundred means of concealment that the rugged nature of the ground affords them.
" In firing down hill you must be very careful to keep your face low down to the sight, which sportsmen do not pay sufficient attention to, and think, therefore, that the ball mounts, which is a great mistake. When your head is too high, the line of vision does not follow the line of the barrel, but crosses it, and has a downward tendency, whilst the barrel perseveres in a more horizontal direction; and this is the doctrine of elevated sights.
" You will often have to stop suddenly and fire in the midst of a sharp run, or when you are dead blown; stand as steadily as you can, and be at once collected : practice alone can give you this power, and it will give it, for I myself was as sure at these sort of shots as at any other, provided the deer were running. I found it more difficult to take a quiet shot while lying on my stomach in the heather. Sometimes the wind is so tempestuous that you have no power over the direction of your rifle. There are no means to counteract this, and you had better go home ; but if it be not too vio-. lent, you can kneel on one knee and get a rest by supporting your left elbow on the other.
" Take care that the ramrods to your rifles be large and strong; they will otherwise be broken in the hurry of loading. I recommend you, moreover, to make one of your hill-men carry a very long and stout one in his hand, having a mark made in it at the length of your barrel, that you may ascertain the exact load. I used no other when this was at hand. As for the sport itself no one can have a proper perception of till he is chief in command, and able to stalk the deer himself; and this he cannot do without long practice, and a thorough knowledge of the ground and habits of the animal. Novices, therefore, having very necessarily a deer-stalker allotted to them from the forest, who very properly keeps the devoted rifleman in due subjection, he will not permit him to show a hair of his head above the heather on certain ticklish occasions, and the miserable youth is always totally unconscious of what is going on. This not showing a hair of his head is rather cruel to the poor stag, as it does not allow him a hair-breadth escape." Mr. Scrope enters into all the details of the apprenticeship of an aspirant to deer-stalking, which may also be learned by perusing that very entertaining story by Cooper in the conversation between Glenvallich and Tresham. As to poachers, Scrope states one never hears of such ruffians as infest the preserves in England; men who screw up their courage at the beer-houses, asserting with imprecations that they will shoot any keeper rather than be taken.
A vicious set they are, bringing up their families in idleness and profligacy; proceeding from crime to crime, till at last their career ends either on the gallows or in transportation. Your Gael, on the contrary, has a fine rough sort of humour about him ; peculiar enough, to be sure. Thus the man who refused thirty thousand pounds for betraying his prince was hanged at last for stealing a cow.
* I had the honour of dining with the Duke when he resided in Great George Street, Westminster. At that time he was about eighty years of age. He had lived to see a frigate built of the timber of the larch which he had planted. She was called the " Athol." A curious circumstance occurred when the Duke first imported the young larch trees from Norway. His gardener, conceiving they should be kept warm, put them in a hot-house, when, having apparently died, they were thrown on a dung-heap. The gardener wrote to his Grace to announce their fate, when the Duke informed him that they should have been planted in the open air. A short time afterwards the gardener passing the dung-heap, observed that the discarded plants were alive and throwing out green shoots, and immediately followed the Duke's recommendation, and these plants formed the first plantation on the Athol estate.
** Part of the Duke of Athol's forest kept for deer-stalking amounts to 51,708 imperial acres.
† When I was in the then Electorate of Hanover, a gamekeeper in the neighbourhood lost his life in a battue from the attack of a wounded wild lioar. He had his thigh ripped open, and before medical advice could be procured he bled to death.