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and so on, in stirring couplets than which Sir Walter never wrote finer and truer verses. But these gallops are gone by in Scotland. The taste of the age is for quieter and more certain sport. Harts are now only killed in the Scotch deer forests while watching for them at the earliest peep of dawn by the corner of a pass, and shooting the gallant beasts as they pass unsuspiciously by from their nocturnal wanderings; or by deer-stalking proper. Perhaps there is more excitement for the time and less hard work in the former method, when a keeper conducts you with lighted lantern over the first awkward bits of brae and moorland and through the burn that must be forded at only one spot, and that difficult to hit upon in the darkness. Then the light is put out, and amid the weird cries of awakening birds and beasts, and the gradual uplifting of the mists and saffron shootings forth of twilight from the shoulder of some mighty Ben, the sportsman waits with evcry nerve on the stretch for the huge-looming animals which may or may not,) return by his place of concealment. But deer-stalking proper is a fitter occupation for the man fond of wood-craft. It gives abundance of the hardest exercise, keeps every faculty of body and mind for a longer time on the strain, and prolongs the excitement often through many hours of pursuit and circumvention, until the long-coveted moment arrives when the sportsman, prone amid the heather, slowly pushes his rifle forward, imperceptibly raises his head inch by inch till he gets his eye on the bead, then draws the trigger, and either slays his quarry or has the mortification of seeing it spring off unharmed at a pace which in an hour will take it out of his own into his big neighbour the duke's marches. At such times, a man tastes the highest raptures to be derived from sport in Great Britain.
Several writers might be summoned to take the tiro afield in order to show him how to kill a stag- notably, Mr. Knox or Mr. St. John. But as every one in the least degree likely to take an interest in deerstalking knows by heart the celebrated stalk after the “Muckle Hart of Benmore," so inimitably told in the latter's “Highland Sports," one of the most distinguished of his followers in wild sports and love of animal and bird life, Mr. T. Colquhoun, shall recount an adventure of his while shooting in the Black Mount Forest, which is 21 miles long by 12 broad. It will illustrate what has just been said :
“The day was, perhaps, the most unpropitious for stalking which could possibly have been chosen. In the morning, the mist was rolling lazily along the sides of the mountains in dense masses, and it was evident there would be rain before the close of the day,
· The Moor and the Loch, 4th edit. (Blackwood), vol. i. p. 54.
It was enough to damp the heart of the most ardent deer-stalker, but I determined (having little time to spare) to abide by the forester's opinion. His answer was, that we would just do our best ; but if we were unsuccessful to-day, I must e'en wait for to-morrow.' With this determination we started for the forest, followed by an underkeeper with one of Lord Breadalbane's fine deer-hounds led in a leash. A slight breeze at first sprang up, and partially cleared away the mist from some of the lower hills. The quick eye of Robertson immediately discovered a deer lying down upon the ridge of one of them. His glass was instantly fixed. “There, sir, if you could manage that fellow, you would have one of the finest harts in the forest.' 'Well, suppose we go round by the back of the hill, and come down that hollow, we should be within fair distance from the rock.' 'If he'll only lie still and give us time enough.' This, however, the stag had determined not to do ; for when we came to the hollow, he had risen from his rocky couch and was immediately detected by Robertson quietly taking his breakfast among his hinds a considerable way below. The place was so open all round that it was impossible to get near him, and the mist soon afterwards came on so thick, that we only knew the deer were all round us by their incessant bellowing. The forester looked much disconcerted; for, in addition to the mist, a drizzling rain began to descend. We sat down behind a hillock, and I desired the underkeeper to produce the provision-basket. “If there was only a breeze !' said Robertson ; ' and I do believe it's coming, for the drops o’rain are much heavier,' and so it proved, for the mist again partially cleared. We hastened to take advantage of the change, and Robertson, ten yards in advance, mounting every knoll and searching every hollow with an eye that seemed to penetrate the very mist, suddenly threw himself upon the ground, and signalled us to do the same. A roar like that of a bull presently let us know the cause ; and on a little amphitheatre about five hundred yards off, his profile in full relief, stood as noble a stag as ever 'tossed his beamed frontlet to the sky. There he was, like knight of old, every now and then sounding his trumpet of defiance, and courting the battle and the strife ; nor did he challenge in vain, for while we were admiring his majestic attitude, another champion rushed upon him and a fierce encounter followed. We could distinctly hear the crashing of their horns, as they alternately drove each other to the extremity of the lists. “I wish the ball was through the heart o' one o' ye !' muttered the underkeeper. His wishes were soon to be realised ; for the younger knight, who seemed to have the advantage in courage and activity, at last fairly drovę his
adversary over the knoll and disappeared after him. Robertson now rushed forward, signalling me to follow, and, peeping cautiously over the scene of the contest, slunk back again, and crawled on hand and knee up a hollow to a hillock immediately beyond ;-I following his example. When we had gained this point, he took another wary survey, and whispered that the hinds were on the other side of the knoll within thirty yards. It was now a nervous time, but I could not help admiring the coolness of the forester. Without the least appearance of flurry, he had both eyes and ears open, and gave his directions with distinctness and precision. “That will do; there goes a hind, the whole will follow. Place your rifle on that stone, you'll get a famous chance about eighty yards.'—'He'll come at last,' he again whispered, as hind after hind slowly passed in review, when a roar was heard immediately below us. “As sure as I'm leevin', he's comin' on the very top ous. Hold the rifle this way, sir, and shoot him between the horns the moment his head comes over the knowe.' I had scarcely altered my position, when head, horns, and all, appeared in full view. Seeing us, in a moment he was out of sight at a bound, but, taking a direction round the base of the hillock, presented his broadside a beautiful cross-shot. I had plenty of time for deliberate aim, and the red knight of the hills lay low and bleeding."
This recital shows that a novice would have no chance of succeeding without the potent aid of a skilled forester. Even then, implicit obedience and the utmost deliberation in shooting are of the first importance. The least nervousness, hesitation, or stumbling may throw away the fruits of many hours' toilsome walking. The greatest caution is required in shifting currents of wind, and especially when the coveted stag is feeding in company with his everwatchful hinds.
Let us now suppose the game, which has cost so many pains, strapped on the grey pony and conducted to the lodge for the ladies to admire his antlers before he is hung up in the large airy deerlarder out on the open moor; the pleasant time has come when the tired stalker reviews his day's work in the Sanctum, hung round with horns and rifles. Or, perhaps he turns to his books to wile away an idle hour in his town house
When sylvan occupation's done,
We may anticipate his wish to know the best books on his favourite sport, only premising that books which profess to teach deer-stalking are most of them as useful as the manuals which would fain make a man a fly-fisher. Both these classes of books are useful for teaching the rudiments of the arts with which they are conversant, and serve to kindle and foster enthusiasm; but the hill-side and the trout-stream can alone make deer-stalkers and fly-fishers. Partly from appealing to a limited public, partly because those who could write a good treatise on deer-stalking do not care to do so, the manuals which a novice will find serviceable in his early essays may be counted on the fingers of one hand. As for “ The Book of Deer," the tiro had better consult it on the first of April. Scrope, the friend of our fathers, must still have the preëminence, and his book, “ The Art of Deerstalking," with illustrations by Sir E. Landseer, still commands a high price, and is likely to long remain the accredited guide to the sport of which it treats. But others than deer-stalkers may consult it with advantage, as it is interspersed with Scotch ballads and legends, and gives a good account of the geographical boundaries of the different celebrated forests. Another famous book, partly from its contents, partly from its authors-of reputed royal descent-John Sobieski and Charles Edward Stuart, is the “Lays of the Deer Forest.”? Criticism too often degrades them into plain Messrs. Allan, but without entering upon this genealogical controversy it may be useful to know that the first volume contains many characteristic ballads, breathing heather blossom and pine fragrance, while in the second are narratives, some of them of extreme interest. Mr. St. John, in his “Wild Sports of Scotland,” gives several excellent chapters on the sport, but in his “ Tour through Suderlandshire,"3 devotes all the second volume and a quarter of the first to field notes on deer-stalking and other Scotch sports. For practical directions, however, and sound common sense, the very best manual is also the latest, the “Handbook of Deer-stalking” (Blackwood, 1880), written by Alexander Macrae, with an introduction by Horatio Ross. Macrae dwells specially on the set of the wind, and if his writing is occasionally that of a man more accustomed to the rifle-stock than to the goose-quill, the exact and careful character of his directions disarms criticism. Every position of wind, and every locality in which deer are wont to be found, is considered with a fulness of detail which seems to an amateur exhaustive. It should form an invariable accompaniment of the stalker's luggage when he goes north. Mr. " Murray, 8vo. 1838. 2 Blackwood, 2 vols. 8vo. 1848.
3 Murray, 2 vols. 12mo. 1849.
Ross appends some hints gathered from his long experience which must enhance the value of this little book. Dogs he has not taken out deer-stalking for a quarter of a century at least, regarding them as worse than useless ;“the mischief which they do in a forest is quite heartrending.” Deer-driving he condemns absolutely as “a most cockney, unsportsmanlike proceeding.” What must chiefly commend his remarks to every lover of the noble animal of which he treats is his utter and proper abhorrence of taking chance shots or long shots, which too frequently send away a fine stag to die slowly in pain and misery. Reducing cruelty to its minimum is what alone renders field-sports legitimate in our eyes. The creatures of forest, fell, and stream, are given us for food so long, and so long only with a good man, as they can be mercifully and quickly killed. This caution is especially needed in these days of express rifles. Mr. Ross is an acknowledged master in the sport of deer-stalking, and it is with much gratitude to him for his merciful sentiments, the words of a true sportsman, that we, with a naturalist's love for the noble quarry of which he writes, end our notice of the deer forest with the closing words of his Introduction. Other sportsmen than deer-stalkers may well ponder his kindly advice. “I cannot accuse myself of having often wounded deer, because I make it a rule never to fire at deer beyond the range of 150 yards, and then only if I have a good steady view of the deer. However well men may shoot at a small mark on a target at a long distance, I venture to implore them to think of the misery and pain they may cause to poor deer for years by reckless shooting : and I beseech them to keep in mind, when getting near the end of their stalk, the words-one hundred and fifty
M. G. WATKINS.