MR. COLQUHOUN ON HIGHLAND SPORTS.
ABOUT a year ago we noticed Mr. COLQUHOUN'S book, with appro- bation, for the practical knowledge of field-sports which it displayed, and the life-like sketches of scenery and sporting incidents by which its pages were varied and relieved, as well as for the racy informa- tion it conveyed respecting the habits and instincts of animals—if indeed a species of reason is not the proper phrase applied to the exercise of sagacity on matters quite foreign to a state of nature. The second edition of The 3foor and the Loch contains so many additions of various kinds, that it may claim more than a line of chronicle ; especially as it appears at a time when all, save luckless Senators, are preparing for the field, or are already in it.
The principal additions to the present volume are—a chapter on deer-stalking; a paper containing a suggestion for breeding goats to stalk, where the extent of the estate will not admit of keeping deer, (though we think some mountain-animals might be imported with more likelihood of success,) and articles on burn and river fishing. But, besides these additional subjects, the whole work has been revised and augmented ; many new anecdotes both of man and beast being inserted, and some from the author's last win- ter's experience. Here is an instance of
THE WARINESS OF THE GOLDEN-EYE.
Last winter I had a good opportunity of contrasting the artful and sus- picious nature of the golden-eye with that of the more confiding monition. When shooting wild-fowl on the banks of the Teitb, I discovered with my glass, a golden. eye feeding at the top of a long creek, and a couple of morillons at the bottom where it joined the river. As they were at some distance from each other, it was impossible to keep an eye upon both. So, knowing that if the golden-eye got a glimpse of me, he would not stay to take another, I was obliged to trust to the simplicity of the more social morillons. I got within a fair distance for my last run ; when the morillons. who had caught a transient glance at my manoeuvres, paid the compliment of giving me their undivided attention ; but, as they did not leave the ground, nor show any other sign of alarm, I was congratulating m3 self that all was safe. The moment, how- ever, that the golden-eye came up from the dive, he perceived that the morillons were resting on their oars, and instantly was on his guard. It was most curious to see the cunning and tact of the creature, which I had every advantage for observing, as I was well concealed. He kept cruising about,. with outstretched neck, peering first on one side of the creek, then on the other, always selecting the best points of sight to halt and make his observa- tions. Nor would he recommence his repast until the morillons had set him the example. And had I not known his usual precaution of making the firs. dive or two, after being scared, very short, he might even then have escaped.
Although Burn and River-shooting will have their charms for anglers, the most generally attractive portion of the book will be the chapter on Deer-Stalking ; because it tantalizes most sportsmen with an unattainable object. The stag bears a high name, and the art can rarely be practised, as it requires a forest to harbour the game and extensive wastes to pursue the sport effectively ; one or more foresters must attend to discover the deer, and, in one branch of it, followers be ready to drive them. Its practice also requires great skill with the rifle, a Red-Indian-like craft in concealing one- self whilst approaching the game, and cool self-possession when the animal is within range to take advantage of the opportunity ; most novices being so flurried at the first sight of the stag as to be deprived of the power of hitting him. But, either from the sport being deficient in variety, or because Mr. COLQUHOUN is animated by a charitable feeling towards his Southern readers, be seems to consider deer-stalking, after all, a not-to-be-envied pursuit. He dwells upon the helplessness of the sportsman, who is entirely in the hands of his attendants ; they as well as he are altogether dependent upon the weather; a false move or the mistaking of a signal mars every thing. It appears to us, too, that there is something " Indian Emperor" like in having the game found and driven about by other bipeds, as well as something skulking in lying perdue. The sportsman who by his own unas- sisted sagacity steals upon wild-fowl in despite of their wariness, may derive gratification from his own skill ; but there seems no balm to self-love in walking, crawling, or hiding at the bidding of another ; and if the big deer is missed after all, the feeling of failure is greater than with a flying or diving bird. The greater value of the game would be a strong point, if, like the backwoods- man or the Red Indian, you really procured it yourself: but the majority of gentlemen deer-stalkers seem to be mere implements for pulling a trigger. The foresters are the men who display the sagacity.
"In every other kind of shooting, the sportsman ought to trust to his own resources and foresight ; but in deer stalking, unless he has passed his life in the forest, and is thoroughly acquainted with every corrie, crag, and knoll, he had much better trust to those who are. Without this knowledge it is impossible for any one to tell how the wind will blow upon a given point : sometimes it may be north on one side of a hollow and south on the other ; and I have seen the mist moving slowly in one direction along the hill-side, and half an hour afterwards the very reverse, without any change in the wind. To account for this on the spur of the moment, would often puzzle the scientific; but the unlettered hill-man, who has only been taught by the rough experience of the crag and the blast, though unable to talk theoretically on the subject, yet, from constant and acute observation, will confidently predict the result, and, taking advantage of every shifting change, bring you within fair rifle-distance of the unsuspecting herd."
"In cornea and hollows it is quite impossible to know how the wind will blow upon a particular point, unless you have marked every change nf wind upon every point of the eorrie."
See again, for example, what a helpless body the new deer-stalker is-
" The quick sight of a skilful forester in first discovering deer will appear miraculous to a stranger to the sport ; and, unless quite bewildered, be cannot fail to admire the generalship which follows. The whole ground is as perfectly known to his guide as his own pleasure-grounds to himself: Every hollow, every knoll, is taken advantage of; every shifting turn of the wind, up the one or round the other, is surely predicted, until, to his own utter amazement, the panting Sassenach or Lowlander is told that he is within fair rifle-distance of a bevy of noble harts."
Deer-driving, on a large scale, seems to be little more than an- other kind of battue, though doubtless a more manly one, with some chance, it would appear, of being hit yourself. In a small way, driving requires some wind and muscle, and more than all, the motive power of enthusiasm.
"There is no sport which more calls into play the sportsman's pluck and en- durance of fatigue. He first climbs to the ridge of the hill, where he is at once seen by the hawk-eyed driver, who has taken his station near the foot, or on the opposite brow, and marked with his glass every herd at feed or rest on the face below. As soon as he has selected one, he attempts to drive it up the hill towards the sportsman, either by hallooing or showing himself; at the same time giving warning by the manner of his halloo which way they are likely to take. The sportsman must be thoroughly acquainted with all the passes, or have some person with him who is; and, running from one " snib" to another, in obedience to the signal below, catch sight of the horns of the herd, as with serpentine ascent they wind their wary way. From the zigzag manner in which they often come up, it is very difficult to make sure which pass will be the favoured one ; and I have been within a few hundred yards of the antlers when the prolonged shout from below has warned me that I had an almost per- pendicular shoulder of the hill to breast at my utmost speed before I could hope to obtain the much-desired shot. If the wind is at all high, so determined are the deer to face it, that, unless there are a great number of drivers, one herd after another may take the wrong direction; but if the day is favourable, with only a light breeze, a knowing driver or two will generally manage to send them up to the rifle.When the deer have selected their pass, should you be within fair distance, with both barrels cocked, beware of making the slightest motion, -ecially of the head, until you mean to fire. Even when perfectly in view, Sr you lie flat and do not move, the herd are almost sure to pass. One or two hinds generally take the lead. The fine old harts, if there are any in the herd, often come next ; but sometimes, if very fat and lazy, they lag in the rear. When the first few hinds have fairly passed, the rest are sure to follow, until their line is broken and their motions quickened by a double volley from the • 0 When stalking last September, in Glenartney forest, by the kind per- mission of the noble owner, I had as fine a chance as man could wish spoiled by the scarcely-audible whimper of a dog. I was placed in a most advantageous spot, within near distance of the pass. Presently an old hind came picking her stately steps, like a lady of the old school ushering her company to the dining- room. Next her came a careless two-year-old hart, looking very anxious to get forward, and perfectly regardless of danger. All was now safe—I felt sure. of my shot ; when, horror of horrors I a slight whimper was heard. The old hind listened, halted, and then turned short round upon the young hart, who instantly followed her example, and the whole herd ran helter-skelter down the hill. The unfortunate sound proceeded from one of the forester's two colleys, the only dogs Lord Willoughby allows in the forest : they are kept for the purpose of bringing to bay any deer badly wounded, and are never slipped upon other occasions. The marplot above alluded to is an old dog, and very good for the purpose : he had winded without seeing the deer—hence his =stake." Enthusiasm, necessary to enable the deer-stalker to undergo fa- tigue and use exertion, is indeed the grand requisite of a sports- man ; and who knows how much of this quality is daily ex- hibited in pursuit of some valueless bird or beast, which only required to be displayed in a higher sphere to be immortalized by poets or historians The exploit of C/ESAli in regarding his papers, when he had to take to the water in a warm climate, is universally panegyrized ; but what was that to the winter-exploit of Master COLQUBOUN to obtain a golden-eye? "My first attempts at shooting were in pursuit of wild-fowl, when quite a boy ; and I still consider it superior to any other sport. In these early days, however, I had no idea to what perfection a retriever might be trained : if the dog took the water well, and was close mouthed, I expected no more. AS I WAS always obliged to lead him by my side, he often spoiled my best chances, either by showing himself, or hampering me when crawling over difficult ground. I was at last so disgusted with these incumbrances, that I generally dispensed with their services, and trusted to my own resources to recover the killed and wounded. The consequence was, that the greater proportion of the latter always escaped; and unless the wind was favourable, not a few of the former were drifted away. On one occasion I was foolish enough to swim a hundred yards into the loch, in the middle of winter, after a golden-eye, and had some difficulty in regaining the land. I had watched it for some time, and at last succeeded in getting to the nearest point on the shore. The golden-eye, how- ever, was diving a long shot off, as these shy birds not unfrequently do : without once considering that the wind was blowing strong from the shore, I fired, and the bird dropped dead. To my great chagrin, it was blown rapidly out into the rough water. What was to be done ? Had it been able to make the slightest effort to escape, I could have allowed it ; but there it lay, still as a stone. So, throwing off my shooting-jacket and shoes, I plunged in, waded up to the neck, and struck out for my prey. By the time I reached the bird, it had floated fully a hundred yards ; but getting its leg between my teeth, I wheeled about for the land. My difficulties now began, for the waves were very high, and dashed right into my face. Several times during my slow progress I determined to leave the golden-eye to its fate; and as often braced myself up again, unwilling to have so cold a bath for nothing. At last I neared the shore, got into calm water, and, after sounding once or twice, struck ground, and reached terra firma with my prize, the leg of which I had nearly bitten through during my exertious. It was an intensely cold day about the end of December, with frequent snow-showers ; and bad the golden-eye not been the most valued of the diving race, I should never have made such a fool of myself. [ arrived at home quite benumbed, determining no more to act the part of a retriever."