Shooting by Hon. Mrs. Lancelot Lowther

In these few words on Shooting for Women, I must begin by saying that as this is my first attempt at writing, I hope any faults I may make will be lightly treated. It is only within the last few years that the idea of a woman being able to see a gun without screaming, much less fire one off, has even been thought of, but now I venture to say that there are many women who are just as good shots with both gun and rifle as men, and perhaps some better. I do not mean to infer that we can count amongst our number anyone who can take the place which Lord de Grey, Lord Walsingham, and a few others take amongst men, but as shooting becomes more popular, and is more practised among women, I daresay we shall in years to come see some of the latter just as good even as those I have named.

I am afraid it will take some time for men to get over the terror which the sight of a woman with a loaded gun in her hand always gives them. The reason of this is that they think we are much too careless to be trusted with such a dangerous weapon, and that we think no more of carrying a loaded gun than if we had a walking-stick in our hands. The first thing, therefore, that a women who takes up shooting has to remember is, that as an Irishman once said about a gun, "loaded or unloaded, she's dangerous." One cannot be too careful in handling either a gun or rifle, always to have it at half cock when not actually shooting, and always to take out the cartridges when getting over or through a fence. Accidents happen quite easily enough without Providence being tempted by the neglect of these simple precautions.

A woman requires a light gun if she is to carry it all day. There are, of course, as every one knows, a variety of different bores. I will mention the ones mostly used, which are the 20, 16, 14, and 12-bores. The 20 and 16-bores are mostly made for women, but personally I prefer a 12-bore double-barrel hammerless gun. Of course it must be made rather lighter than for a man. I have always myself used one of these that was specially made for me, weighing exactly 6 lbs., both barrels medium choke, and a thick india-rubber pad at the end of the stock to prevent all recoil. The cartridges I use are made with Schultze powder 35 grains, and seven-eighths of No. 6 shot. I have found this a perfect gun, and one I should always recommend. It is not too heavy, and is first-rate for shooting pheasants, partridges, pigeons, etc.

The great thing in ordering a gun is to have it very well balanced, a thing which is hard to describe but which is easily told apart, as no one who has tried the two can fail to appreciate the well-balanced gun as against the badly-balanced one. It chiefly consists in having the muzzle and stock of the gun to divide their weight, neither one nor the other being a half ounce too heavy. When choosing a gun, it is necessary to put it several times quickly to the shoulder at an object level with the eye, and if the sight taken comes fair on the mark aimed at, the gun will probably suit. Another thing to remember and guard against, is having cartridges loaded too heavily for the gun, as it makes the gun "kick," and nothing puts you off shooting so much as expecting every time you fire to have your shoulder bruised. This is beside very dangerous for a woman. If, however, a gun fits you properly, and the charge of the cartridges is proportionate to the size of the gun, a "kick" should never happen.

You must also be particular to have the stock exactly the right length, so that it can be brought up quickly and easily to the shoulder. It must be held firmly against the shoulder, with the left arm extended as straight as possible from the shoulder and the right hand behind the trigger guard.

More accidents happen by following game with the gun than by any other means. There are very strict rules of etiquette to be observed in shooting, as in hunting or any other sport, and nobody is more hated and feared than a jealous shot. These are indeed a source of danger to everyone, as they are always so anxious to add another bird to their score that they never give any thought to their neighbours, or think of other people. For a person, whether a man or woman, who is beginning to shoot, the best thing is to go out with some experienced shot or keeper who will thoroughly explain the art of shooting, and show how to load and unload a gun and how to hold it. To quote from the excellent article on Shooting in the Badminton Library: "A beginner should at first start with a small charge of powder and be taught to fire this off at small birds, every attention being paid to his handling his gun with safety as if it were loaded. He may next shoot at small birds with a half ounce of shot. If he succeed pretty well, and is above all things careful in the way he manages his gun, he can next be permitted to fire at pigeons—with their wings slightly clipped, so as not to fly too fast—from under a flower-pot or out of a trap, at a distance of fifteen yards."

(Used at Charles Lancaster's Shooting Grounds.)

You must remember that accuracy of aim will only come by practice. When you are fairly sure of yourself the next step is to go out to walk birds up, but you must get it carefully explained by an authority what birds you ought to fire at, and what are to be left alone, and on no account should you, if walking in line, fire across a neighbour's gun, or at birds that strictly belong to others from their having got up nearer to them than to you. It is always better to fire a yard too far ahead of flying birds or running game than too far in the rear. In the former case, the shot is more likely to meet the mark, in the latter it never can. In the former if it does count a hit it means one in a vital part, the head, in the latter at most it means a wound in the extremities. It is utterly impossible to measure distances in the air in front of a flying bird or running game; instinct, aided by practical experience, will alone teach the hand and eye to obey the brain in this respect, and to give the correct distance at which to aim in front.

If a rifle is required for small game such as rabbits and young rooks, a 300-bore Holland rook rifle would be useful. Rifle shooting is a far more difficult thing, and requires more practice than shooting with a gun. You must have a very steady hand and straight eye to be a good rifle shot. It has often been remarked that a woman as a rule shoots better with a rifle than a gun. I do not quite know why this should be the case, but so it is. When shooting with a rifle one must never forget that a bullet from even one of the smallest rifles goes a very considerable distance.

I used, as a girl, to have many an enjoyable evening's sport with my rifle in the park at home, stalking "Brer" rabbit, of which there were any number, but the difficulty was to get up to them, as they were very shy from being constantly shot at, and at the slightest noise used to scurry off and disappear like lightning down their burrows. Some evenings I used to bring home two or three rabbits, though oftener than not, none at all, but whatever the result, it was all the same a very pleasant way of spending a summer's evening, and there was a good deal of excitement about it. Then another great amusement of both my brother's and mine was rook shooting. Most people, unless they have tried it themselves, would think there couldn't be much sport in shooting at a young rook sitting quietly on a branch of a tree unable to fly away, but let them once try rook shooting with a 300-bore rifle, when there is enough wind to blow the trees about, and they will find it requires no small amount of skill to fetch down a young rook from the top of a high tree which is gently swaying to and fro. There are two difficulties in this particular form of shooting which affect a woman perhaps more than a man. The strained attitude in aiming, necessitated by the height at which the rooks build their nests, causes serious stiffness at the back of the neck, which soon communicates with the muscles of the shoulders and obliges one to rest awhile. Again, and this more especially occurs when the tree-tops are moving, the tiny target a young rook makes when peeping out of its nest, will soon become indistinguishable among the twigs and branches around it, unless the sight taken is both instantaneous and accurate. Many a time has it happened to me to gaze and gaze down the barrel of my rifle vainly attempting to draw a bead upon the swinging rooklet, until everything becomes blurred and blotted, and I was perforce obliged to bring the rifle down in despair.

I may say at once that I have a decided preference for the rifle as opposed to the gun, though I should be the last to minimise the pleasures of pheasant and partridge shooting. I am not one of those women who prefer the excitement of a regular "battue" to the more sober joys of a quiet pot-hunt. To begin with, there is no doubt that a woman is a great bore at anything like an organised shooting party. It would do the intending lady-shot good to see the faces of the men on hearing that they are to have the honour of her company during the day. The smothered grumbles of the younger sportsmen are drowned in the more forcible ejaculations of the older generation. But apart from this, and I am not for one moment assuming that it is the duty of women to consider exclusively the whims of the sterner sex, there always seems to me to be some special enjoyment in sallying forth with the object of replenishing an exhausted larder, and with the certainty of having to work one's hardest to accomplish the task. Every shot then becomes of importance, and the comparative scarcity of the prey redoubles one's vigilance and activity. Should the wily partridge elude your aim on these occasions, you feel as if some tremendous disaster had occurred, and your spirits do not recover their normal condition until some special success has rewarded your efforts, and a long and difficult shot has added another victim to the bag. In shooting, as in so many other pursuits, it is quality not quantity that should be sought.

From a Painting by Miss Maud Earl.

One of the most amusing day's shooting I ever remember was a hare drive in Austria. We left the house at one o'clock and drove about eight miles through a very flat country to the "rendezvous," where we found a perfect army of beaters who were chatting volubly in an unknown tongue. I discovered later that they were talking Polish, which is the common language of the peasants in that part of Silesia adjoining the Austrian-Russian frontier. The men were mostly barefooted, but in other respects resembled the average English beater. The keepers were distinguished by their green livery and Austrian conical hats. They carried horns slung from their shoulders, and when a line had been formed some quarter of a mile in length, the signal was given by the head-keeper on his horn and was taken up by his subordinates. An excellent method was observed in allotting a certain number of beaters to the care of each keeper, who was then responsible for their maintaining a good line and preventing stragglers.

The ten guns were of course distributed at intervals along the line, and we started across level fields of potato and beet-root sugar roots which took the place of our turnips, and were much easier to walk through. There were no fences, and the fields were divided by ditches and low banks. Game was plentiful, and although we only shot for about two-and-a-half hours, we succeeded in killing about two hundred hares and several partridges. The beater who carried my cartridges was greatly excited whenever I was fortunate enough to kill a hare, and jabbered away in his native tongue. I have never heard anything approaching that language. It is a fearful and wonderful thing, and I wished I could have brought some of it away with me to use on special occasions in England. The only drawback was the weather. It rained cats and dogs, and while I was glad to note that England has not the monopoly of inclement weather, I must confess that the Austrians think no more of a wet jacket than we do. At five o'clock we gave up, and returned home wet to the skin, but none the less my husband and I have the pleasantest recollection of our first day's shooting in Austria.

Before closing this article I must refer shortly to the subject of dress. The first thing to remember, is always to have a dress of some dark or neutral tinted material that will not be conspicuous on a moor or when birds are being driven, and which will also keep out the rain. A short skirt, breeches, thick boots, and either woollen stockings or gaiters, and a double-breasted loose coat are the most convenient as well as the most sportsman-like. But the coat must be loosely made, so as to allow one to bring the gun up to the shoulder quickly and easily, otherwise it will seriously interfere with the shooting.

Gwendoline Lowther.

From a Painting by Miss Maud Earl.

A friend, whose name I may not divulge, has kindly given me the following notes, and I venture to think that their excellence will make them acceptable, even though the writer prefers to remain unknown.—Editor.

Shooting is a sport which requires neatness, accuracy, and the most persevering practice. Its real pleasure lies in successful shots rather than in the number of slain. Of course this does not mean that you should chance doubtful shots, but rather that you should gain the skill enabling you to kill a driven grouse, or partridge, or rabbit crossing a ride, or a high-flying pheasant, neatly, instantaneously, and with scarcely the loss of a feather or fluff of fur. To do this, constant, steady and unremitting practice will be necessary.

With regard to the choice of a gun I have little to add to Mrs. Lowther's remarks. Many people would say that you might begin practising with a common gun, but my strong advice is to get a good weapon to learn with, for you will overcome difficulties much more easily if you have a really good gun, and one that fits. The good shot, indeed, may do fairly well with a less perfect gun, but in my opinion a beginner should have the best possible weapons to her hand. Bad shooting will not spoil a good gun, but an uncomfortable ill-fitting, too heavy gun, may spoil the novice as a shot for ever.

Having chosen a suitable gun, the next thing to do is to learn to shoot. If the gun fits you well, this is no difficult matter, at all events up to a certain point. Aim should be constantly taken at a small paper target set up in a room, and regular practice should be had every day at bringing the gun quickly up to the shoulder, with the sight on the mark at which you aim. Thus, fixing the eye on the imaginary point at which you are shooting, and holding the gun lightly and firmly, bring it up to the shoulder so that as soon as it is in position you could fire at the object without delay. As soon as you find you can do this, the gun still unloaded, should be the companion of your walks, and should be brought up to the shoulder in the same way at birds, rabbits, or any mark animate or inanimate that you please. This practice will have the double advantage of training your eye and hand, and accustoming you to the weight of the gun, which though not great, will yet be felt after you have tramped a good many miles.

Then you need to learn to judge distance. A good plan is to fix on an object in front of you when out for a walk, and after saying to yourself how far it is off, to pace the distance. Another good plan is to cut out of cardboard a rough figure of a bird, pheasant, or partridge, and fasten it to a tree. Then measure forty yards, thirty-five yards, and twenty yards, for you should never shoot at birds much nearer than that. After this begin at twenty yards and move slowly back, aiming every yard or so and making mental notes of the size of the cardboard bird as it appears to you. Half the missing, and more than half the wounded birds, come from a want of power to judge distance. Fortunately continued practice is very easy, and you should be always measuring distance when you are out walking.

Boys when they learn to shoot either go out with the keeper or get shots at jays, hawks, or other vermin in the woods, or they surreptitiously prowl about the hedges and shoot at anything that moves. But there are objections to both these plans for women, who may not have woods in which to range, and it is hardly necessary to say that the shooting of small birds is not to be encouraged. So for the next step I would suggest the clay pigeon. I have found that practice at these is very useful, and the flights are so ingeniously arranged that plenty of variety is given to the shooting. If there are several shooting people in the house, it will be possible to organise little competitions and sweeps which will improve your shooting by the spirit of emulation. I may add, by the way, that in country houses a clay bird shooting competition is a capital thing to fill up the day in the cub-hunting season, when after an early morning's sport, the rest of the day sometimes hangs heavily on our visitors' hands.

The next step is to the rabbit, though bunny is a most difficult and deceptive animal to shoot, having been made by nature at least six inches too short. The best way for a beginner to shoot rabbits is to go out with the ferrets, and get shots at them as they are bolted. I prefer shooting rabbits in this way for quite a beginner, to stalking them in the open when feeding near their holes, as until one is pretty sure of killing them, there is always a danger of wounding them, and then they creep away into their burrows to die miserably. Never shoot at a rabbit going dead away from you, and learn from the first to aim well forward. Of course the easiest of all shots for a beginner is at a hare crossing in covert, but hares are hardly numerous enough in most places and often are more or less preserved for harriers or coursing. By the time you can hit a wood pigeon and bowl over a rabbit neatly, you will have made some progress, and will be able to take up the various kinds of shooting in turn.

I will speak of grouse first, because these birds afford the very best shooting possible. For women who have the opportunity, there is no doubt that driven grouse are in some respects more suitable to their powers than the birds to be obtained after a long fagging tramp over the moors. With the universal popularity of driving, both with shooters and the owners of moors, such opportunities are likely to come frequently in the way of women, whose means enable them to shoot in Scotland. Driving is popular with owners because it is better for the moors, a larger proportion of old and therefore useless and injurious birds being thinned out by this method, than when a moor is shot over dogs in the ordinary way. With shooters it is popular, because driven grouse afford perhaps the finest shots of any known game, with the possible exception of the Himalayan pheasants, as they sweep with their grand rush down the sides of the mountains.

There are certain points which all shooters of driven grouse should bear in mind, one being that the eyes should be, so to speak, working in front of the gun, which should come to the shoulder with one movement, and the trigger be pulled at once. It is this instinctive action in shooting which makes the constant practice, on which so much stress has been laid, so necessary. It cannot, so far as I know, be acquired in any other way, but if a woman has the perseverance and keenness necessary, she is likely to acquire it more quickly than a man.

Birds, it must be remembered, coming at the pace of driven grouse, fly into the shot, and therefore the shooter must aim further in front than would be the case with birds going at a slower pace. But the angle at which the birds are coming, their height, and the inclination of their flight, all make a difference. Infinite variety is the characteristic of shots at driven birds, and it will need all the coolness and steadiness of nerve of the shooter to meet each occasion as it arises with promptness and success. When the birds are coming within shot, the gunner should fix on the bird she means to shoot at first, this being the one which is easiest for her, that is to say, the one which offers the sort of shot at which she is best, and at which, therefore, she can fire with the most confidence. Then keeping her gun at the shoulder, she will take the second available one. There is no necessity to look to see if the first one has fallen, for if you have missed you can do no more, and if it is dead you should waste no more time on it. This is undoubtedly the method of shooting grouse most suitable to women. It gives the minimum of fatigue with the maximum of skill, and it is to skill rather than bodily force to which a woman must look if she would excel in sport. For however young, strong, and active she may be, it must never be forgotten by the prudent sportswoman, that we are the weaker sex.

If, however, the moor on which the woman has the chance of shooting is not suitable for driving, and some far northern moors yield better results to dogs, then she may try her luck over the pointers and setters. Very delightful you will find this, but it is well not to overtax your strength, not only on your own account, but also to avoid being regarded as an encumbrance by the male members of the party. Beats near the lodge, if possible, should be chosen, and luncheon should, in my opinion, be the signal for the prudent sportswoman to retire.

When I turn from the grouse to the partridge I shall probably have a much larger public, for partridge shooting is, next to the rabbit, the most easily attainable form of sport. It varies in quality of course, but is always enjoyable, though it requires very much smaller expenditure than the grouse. Almost every girl that can use her gun, may hope to get a shot at partridges. The partridge is little inferior to the grouse, or perhaps I may say, it is only inferior in its surroundings. In its pursuit the wild romantic scenery of the moor, will be exchanged for the tamer but not less beautiful landscape of the manor. There are three ways of shooting partridges, the drive, walking up, and shooting over dogs. The first of these is only suitable for large estates, and is not therefore within the reach of many women. I well remember the first time I saw one. The friend to whom I owe most of my shooting, whom I will call Mrs. Robinson, had herself learned to use her gun in order to accompany her husband who was very fond of the sport, and when the management of the estates fell into her hands, she threw herself enthusiastically into the improvement of the shootings. Mrs. Robinson does not drive her estate, as she holds that walking up and shooting over dogs is more suitable for her ground. But she has a neighbour, Lord B., who does, and it was when I was staying with my old friend, that the latter asked us both over for a "drive."

I was all excitement at the prospect, novelty having ever a charm for me, though I was a little nervous too as to how I should acquit myself. My friend offered some earnest advice. "I have told Lord B. you are a capital shot, so do keep cool, and remember that the birds fly much faster than when you are shooting over dogs or walking, and, therefore, the allowance must be greater. In the first drive you will probably find yourself placed about twenty yards from a high hedge. Stay where you are placed, and watch the top of the hedge, and try to shoot the birds as they appear in sight over it. There are a good many red-legs on the estate, so you may expect plenty of single shots. If you should be near Colonel A. watch him, for he is one of the finest shots in England, both for style and results." It was with a decided feeling of nervousness that I found myself, as my friend had said, stationed about twenty yards or more behind a high and rather thick hedge. "You will get some really sporting shots here," said Colonel A. as he went on to his own station, which I saw was near to mine. As it happened he got the first birds. I saw his gun go up—quickly but without flurry—and he fired as it were all in one motion. Two birds were topping the hedge, and a brace of dead partridges dropped, killed neatly and instantaneously. Almost immediately afterwards I got my chance at a single bird. My performance was not so neat, for the bird went on, towered, and fell behind us. I need not go into a long history of the day's performance, suffice it to say I came away thoroughly delighted with partridge driving. The number, variety and sporting character of the shots, made it a most exciting day, and when at the close the slain totalled up to 123 brace, I felt that we had had a really fine shoot. It was not that I took actual pleasure in the numbers killed, but I had never before seen so many birds which afforded such sporting shots. I have been almost inclined since that experience to put partridge driving, for actual skill displayed, at the head of shooting.

As an illustration of shooting partridges by walking up, I may give an account of a day's shooting over some of Mrs. Robinson's best ground. Our party consisted of our hostess, Lord B. and his son, the rector of the parish and myself. To each of us was assigned a man and a dog, and in the dogs I took the greatest interest, as they had been bred and broken by my father and myself. But of these more anon. They were three good dogs, and one super-excellent one, named Dinah, a black retriever. There was also a brace of pointers, to save time on the turnips. Mrs. Robinson adopted the formation of beaters and guns recommended by Mr. Stuart Wortley in his delightful volume on the Partridge—which every shooter should read and re-read—that is, of a semicircle, with a gun in the centre and one on each flank. This is undoubtedly the best plan, for more, and I think better, shots are obtained than by walking in a straight line. In root crops we left the beaters, and let loose the pointers, which is a saving of time, and is far the most effectual. Two guns went with each dog and took the points in turn. The root crops finished, the pointers were called up and the beat resumed. Then we used to walk up the partridges on the various beats. The estate was well preserved, the keeper being both popular and efficient.

But I think perhaps the days I liked best were those on which my friend and I went out alone, with two steady pointers and my dear old Dinah, and picked up what birds we could. Of course it is difficult now to make large bags over dogs, even where birds are plentiful, as they do not lie to dogs in the shaven fields of modern times as they used to do in the days of stubble fields, nevertheless, we were generally able to pick up four or five brace in a morning, and a few rabbits. Hares were preserved for a pack of harriers, much affected by the farmers on the estate. Sometimes too, we would beat the hedgerows with a brace of good clumbers for rabbits, or stray pheasants, and once, in a little copse or spinney, we found, and I shot, a woodcock.

In turning to the subject of pheasants I have not a great deal to say, the opportunity of shooting them in these days coming but rarely to women. There are many reasons why a woman is out of place in big shoots, and as pheasants now are not often shot in any other way, it is not easy to get much practice at them. Nevertheless, there are one or two places on my father's property where, with a steady old setter, I can generally find a brace of pheasants or more. A pheasant flushed in a hedgerow, is no doubt sometimes an easy shot when you are in practice, but it is good for beginners, as is everything that gives you confidence in yourself. When you shoot your first pheasant and he comes down stone-dead, you feel you really are a sportswoman, and a new confidence which brings success in its train, springs up in your heart. In woods, of course, the birds give a greater trial of skill, as you must as a rule make longer shots, for they will be travelling much faster.

I seem to have said but little about pheasants which are after all the most important game, but the principles of shooting are the same in all cases, and with such pheasants as come in your way, you will be able to deal, if you read and put in practice the general precepts I have given, not forgetting to attend to the list of "Don'ts" to be found at the end.

We now come to rabbits, which are very important from one point of view, for the woman who can get nothing else can often get shots at "Bunny." There are so many ways you can get him. You may bolt him with ferrets, you may stalk him with a rabbit rifle or a gun, you may drive him out of covert with fox terriers or beagles, or you may make him the occasion of a big shoot of his own. There is one thing about the rabbit which is invaluable, he hardly ever offers you an easy shot, and very often he is one of the hardest animals in the world to hit. Rabbit shooting in company, unless that company be one of the most select, is decidedly dangerous, for more stray, careless and excited shots are made at rabbits than at any other form of sport. I am somewhat solitary in my sporting tastes, and much as I love the chasse aux lapins, I like it in solitude, or at all events with one trusted companion.

The form that I really prefer is that which in my younger days prevailed in Sussex, of bringing the rabbits out of their haunts with a small pack of rough beagles, the charming cry of these little hounds adding greatly to the pleasure of the day. About four couples are quite enough, and they should be well under control or you may find yourself toiling after your vanishing pack as they run the line of a hare, or even a fox. Beagles which are wanted for this kind of work should be kept strictly to rabbits and well exercised, so that they may be steady. Some preparation is desirable for a day of this kind, and in order to keep the rabbits above ground it is wise to run muzzled ferrets through the burrows a day or two before. The rabbits will then lie above ground. There is near my home a hill covered with patches of gorse, which we keep for this kind of shooting. We are very careful about our invited guns, as a careless shot easily mistakes a beagle for a rabbit. Indeed this sport requires great care and steadiness. But to my mind it is one of the most exciting and enjoyable of sports, the cry of the little hounds, the ringing shots, the dart of the little brown forms with their snowy patches of white down, the pleasure of success as the neatly-killed "bunny" turns over dead in his tracks, make up a most delightful whole for the enthusiastic gunner. The same kind of sport can be followed by spaniels, free-tongued dogs of any race being the best. Spaniels are better than any other dogs for working thick hedgerows, into which rabbits have been previously bolted by ferrets. Some people use terriers, but I only advise these when you have no other dogs handy. It is most difficult to keep terriers above ground. They should at any rate never be taken out in the spring, if you know of an earth in which a vixen fox may have lain up, or into coverts where foxes are.

If you wish to enjoy the pleasures of deer stalking on a small scale, take out a small rifle and stalk rabbits. You will find it a most entrancing sport, calling out all your knowledge of woodcraft, and teaching you much you did not know before. You will not shoot many rabbits, but those you do get will be well earned. Remember, however, that bullets from these rifles travel a long way, and that you should always know what is behind the rabbit when you shoot. By the time you can kill a rabbit fairly often, at from fifty to sixty yards with a bullet, you will be a good shot.

From a Painting by Miss Maud Earl.

Of other kinds of shooting it is not necessary that I should write much, for if you can shoot easily and well under the circumstances I have spoken of, you will be able to fire at anything with a fair and reasonable chance of hitting it. One form of shooting is both difficult and interesting, and that is catching wood pigeons on the return flight in the evening. Many a time have I waited an hour or more for a few shots, though often returning home empty-handed after all. But when successful, I have had the greatest possible pleasure in getting only one or two pigeons, which have been due to really creditable shooting.

Dogs and dog-breaking. This is a subject on which I can speak with enthusiasm, and with a certain amount of practical knowledge. Everyone knows that in these days landowners have to consider all ways possible of utilising their land, and of making money. Some years ago our home farm came back on our hands in a very poor state. Never very good land, the last tenant who had been insolvent for years, had not been able to afford to keep the stock required, much less to use artificial manures. My father and I decided to take it in hand ourselves, and to use it partly as a game farm and partly as ground on which to break our dogs. The cultivation of the farm was carried on in such a way as to form covert for all sorts of game, and I may say that by care and personal management, the farm is now one of the most profitable on the estate. We always had some good retrievers, and we decided to increase the size of our kennels, and to raise and break a certain number of retrievers and setters for the market. My father and I reckoned that there was now a real market for good thoroughly broken retrievers. I had seen enough of keepers and their ways with dogs, to feel sure that very few of them understood and cared for dogs, and I determined to see to the breaking process myself.

We have never shown, because we think the show bench and judging ring are not good for dogs which are really meant for business, but we use many of the leading prize strains. "Dinah," the best retriever I ever had, and a bitch which seems to have the power of transmitting her virtues to her descendants, is a black retriever of a well-known strain. She is a model of intelligence and a beautiful worker. She watches the birds fall, and is wonderfully good in marking the spot where they come to the ground. No bird ever escapes her, unless it goes to ground, as pheasants will sometimes, and you can call her up at any moment. I attribute her obedience and docility to the fact that she has been my constant companion, for retrievers cannot be too much with their owners, and the first thing in training is to make friends with the puppy, and get him thoroughly in hand before his field education begins. Nothing is more fatal than a headstrong disposition, which I am convinced is often the result of bad treatment. "In for a penny, in for a pound," seems to be the reflection of a retriever, when looking back at his raging master and evidently understanding that he will be beaten in any case, he goes off for an entrancing chase after a hare, thus perhaps spoiling half a day's sport for you. And vice once contracted is most difficult to eradicate, indeed it was my bitter experience on this point which led me to undertake the education of my retrievers myself.

As soon as I had attained to some skill in shooting, it was my custom to take my gun with me whenever I went out for a walk. Now, there is a small river which runs through our grounds, and at a part of its course feeds a number of ponds in which probably were fish stews in the time of the monks, who were our predecessors. There are one or two small islands on these ponds. One day I had out with me a new purchase, a good-looking black dog. He came to heel, and retrieved a rabbit I shot, fairly well. It so happened, however, that not far from the river an old cock pheasant got out of the hedgerow, and as it was late in the season and we had done covert shooting, this was a chance for me, so I fired and hit him. The bird, however, went on, towered and fell into one of the ponds. Directly I gave the word off went my dog, and I began to think I had got a treasure. He went straight for the water, plunged boldly in, and swam direct to the bird, but then to my horror, he went off to the island, and taking the pheasant ashore proceeded to eat it.

It was then and there that I determined to break my own dogs, and such success attended my first efforts that we have since done it on a large scale. "Dinah" was my first attempt. It so happened that a friend of ours who used to breed retrievers for show purposes, took me to see a wonderful litter of champion-bred puppies. There were eight, all black except one which had a white star on her chest. This last, the owner said, he was going to drown. "Oh! give it to me," I said, moved to pity for the little round sleek victim. "Well, if you will take it away now, you can have it." So I carried off "Dinah," and brought her up by hand. From very early years I was able to teach her obedience, and to fetch and carry, being greatly helped in her training, by her affection for me. She has always lived in the house, and consequently understands a great deal, and I had but little trouble with her. Her lessons in seeking for hidden bits of meat were a delight to her, but I was very careful never to allow her to chase. I believe if a dog once does this, it is most difficult to cure, and that the vice is always liable to break out again.

I break all the dogs to my own voice and whistle, being attended by a kennel boy who manipulates the check cords. As to punishment, I carry a small dog whip, the crack of which is generally sufficient. If a young persistent offender requires a blow, three stripes will be found enough, but my experience is that if I cannot break a dog without beating, he is beyond my powers. The great secret of breaking, however, is companionship, my retriever for the time being never leaves me, and I have the kennel dogs in my company as much as possible. Above all, I always take them out for a run, at least once every day.

The cardinal rules for retriever breaking are:

(a) To get the dog thoroughly obedient and under control.

(b) To make them perfect at the down charge before you attempt to shoot over them.

(c) To make friends of them.

(d) To check faults at once, and never pass them over.

(e) If a dog shows real vice to get rid of him.

(f) To be patient, and not confound a headstrong disposition with vice, for some dogs that are troublesome to break, turn out the best.

I believe in high feeding for sporting dogs, and hard work. The fewer dogs you have and the harder you work them in reason, the better. The kennel food of our dogs is really the same as that of a pack of hounds, viz.: good Scotch oatmeal, after it has been kept for a year, horseflesh or mutton—I dislike beef—with a certain proportion of cabbage boiled up with it. Once a week I give a raw bone to each dog. No biscuits, except as rewards.

As to the best kind of retriever, we have had of all kinds, and perhaps the best after "Dinah" herself, is a cross-bred between her and an Irish water spaniel. But we do not now keep cross-bred dogs, as they are no use after the first generation, though you may often get very good ones then. We now use curly and flat-coated blacks, bred from prize strains.

The grooming of sporting dogs, especially of setters and retrievers is most important, and cleanliness, assisted by a good disinfectant, will be found after all the chief element in kennel management.

I have not said anything about the breaking of pointers and setters, because there is nothing to add to General Hutchinson's system. Patience, kindness and perseverance will lead you to success, but the patience required is often great, for it is sometimes not till the third season that a dog is really at its best. On the other hand there is much pleasure in it and some profit, and as time goes on, it becomes much easier, for the young dogs not only inherit the capacities of their parents, but learn a great deal from them in the field, especially from their mothers.

Books. The general topics concerning shooting have been so ably dealt with in several recent books, that it may be well to give a short list of those likely to be of service to the beginner. I would especially recommend

The Art of Shooting, by C. Lancaster. The diagrams in this book are most valuable and practical, and there are many useful hints.

The Badminton Library, Shooting, 2 vols. The chapters dealing with Pheasant shooting are particularly good.

The Fur and Feather Series, The Partridge, a book as delightful to read as it is useful to study.

Hutchinson on Dog Breaking, a book which has never been approached, much less surpassed.

Daniel's Rural Sports, to be found in most country house libraries, a thoroughly useful and practical book from which many subsequent writers have borrowed. It deals of course with sport from an old-fashioned point of view, but is none the worse for that.

Tegetmeier's Pheasants, a first-rate standard work, by an expert.

Now let me give a few useful cautions to young shooters:

Don't point your gun at anything but the game you wish to shoot.

Don't risk a shot if you have doubts as to its safety.

Don't fire at birds when too near.

Don't try long gallery shots. It is cruel.

Don't fire at your birds, but in front of them. The exceptions to this, are birds coming direct to you or going away.

Don't potter in your aim, but aim and fire quickly.

Don't, if you can help it, shut either eye.

Don't wound. If you can't kill neatly, don't fire.

Don't fire at a pheasant's tail feathers, but try to intercept his head.

Don't climb over stiles with a loaded gun.

Don't keep your cartridges in the gun, except when actually waiting for game.

Don't talk when shooting, or if you must do so, let it be in a low voice.

Don't fire at fur going directly from or to you.

Don't talk about shooting except to sportsmen and sportswomen.

Don't stay out too long and get over-tired, or some or the foregoing warnings may be forgotten.