16 SEPTEMBER 1905, Page 11

It is a particularly good year for Scotch venison, though

the supply from English parks has declined. But whole carcases of red deer can be bought for 4d. or 43d. per pound, and fallow bucks at 5d. per pound. Haunches, which formerly cost from 25s. to 30s., can be bought for from 7s. 6d. to 15s., and the fore-quarter of venison for sometimes as little as lid. per pound. Buck venison and stag venison—i.e., that of the fallow deer and the red deer—are in season in August and September. Some stage are shot in early October ; but the latter is rather late even for Scotland, for the stags are " roaring " then and beginning to be out of condition, while in English parks October is too late altogether. On the other hand, hind venison and doe venison are in season at Christmas and in January, as, by a curious natural provision, though the pairing season is early in the autumn, the hinds and does continue to lay on fat and to improve in condition when the stags are worthless. Hind-shooting in the snows of December is, therefore, not the wasteful destruction which some people infer it to be. The herds are reduced in forests which are overstocked, and excellent meat is also obtainable. It is highly probable that before long roe venison will come into the market in sufficient quantities for those who care to take a little trouble to obtain this addition to the table. On the Continent it is almost as common as hare is here, perhaps more so now that the Ground Game Act is passed, and hares have vanished where they once were plentiful. The afforesting of Scotland has led to a great increase in these little deer; but for some reason the venison is seldom, almost never, seen in London, and its appearance, well cooked, at a dinner, disguised under a French name, usually causes a pleasant surprise. Lately roe deer have very greatly increased in Dorsetahire, so much so that a principal item in the education of one of the local packs of foxhounds is the time spent in breaking them off the scent of deer ; otherwise they would hunt nothing else. They have even spread into some of their ancient haunts inside the border of Devon, on the Blackdown Hills- On at least one estate they are now shot when the covers are driven for pheasants, and in spite of that they increase rapidly. They damage young plantations, but in old woods and on fern- and gorse-covered hilltops and glens they do no harm whatever. In old woods they are a real addition to the game produced, even if the question of their introduction be limited to that aspect. The quality and flavour of the flesh of deer vary much according to the pastures on which it has fed. It is very necessary that it should be fat; and in this respect English park venison, fed often on rich pastures, is usually much better than Scotch. On the other hand, the fine sweet pasture of the mountains in early autumn is thought to give a flavour not otherwise obtainable, as it does to mountain mutton. Some parks combine both rich pasture and wild plants. Such is the famous park of Thoresby, in Sherwood Forest, where some six hundred fallow deer and a number of red deer graze on a domain of two thousand acres. This park produces venison of very exceptional quality and flavour, which is attributed to the quantity of wild thyme growing there. But it would_ be difficult to find better red deer venison than that of the. ancient park of Helmingham, in Suffolk, which, though on heavy loam, and in parts almost on clay, belongs to a district producing beef, poultry, and venison of a very special quality, though the mutton is quite the reverse, sheep flourishing much better on the light soils.

It is sometimes forgotten that in a vast area •of Europe, and much more of Northern Asia, venison is the normal food of the population, taking the place of beef and 'mutton further south. The flocks and herds of the Lapps, 'Samoyeds, and Ostiaks, practically of the whole of the original inhabitants of the frozen rim of all the Old World, are reindeer, and nothing but reindeer. In Lapland the tame herds outnumber the wild ones go as to make the proportion of the latter insignificant. Wild reindeer venison was once a great object of trading adventure from Norway, till the herds in the far North and on the islands were depleted. But the consumption of tame reindeer venison in the North is enormous all the way from Lapland to Kamchatka. The only form in which the reindeer meat finds its way to this country is in that of smoked reindeer tongues. The consumption of this delicacy is large in England ; but in Russia, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Siberia, where it forms one of the regular hors d'oeuvre which are consumed with neat brandy or other spirits before every entertainment, whether dinner or supper, the number of reindeer tongues eaten must amount to tens of thousands. Each tongue represents the con- sumption of a whole carcase of reindeer flesh elsewhere. In the New World, where these deer, under the name of caribou, are still more numerous than in the Old, they are the main food of the Northern Indians at certain seasons. But the herds have never been tamed, and the meat is merely Indians' food. There are two kinds of reindeer in North America, differing in habits or habitat, if not in form. The "Barren Lands" caribou correspond more nearly with the ordinary reindeer of Europe and Asia, while the woodland caribou, also found in Newfoundland, are probably more nearly allied in habits to the reindeer once found in Britain and in the Hercynian Forest in the days of Caesar.

In the United States, where deer have greatly increased in the public forests on the Atlantic Coast, and especially in the States of New York and Maine, " market hunting "—that is, killing deer for sale—accounts for some thousands of carcases every year, returns as to which are obtained from the railways. In Canada a great number are also killed, and the demand on each side of the border is keen. It is so short a time since the killing of deer for food was a normal occupation of the inhabi- tants that the demand for deer's flesh has not died out, any more than it had in England in the days of Robin Hood, with this difference, that in the New World every one until quite lately had the right to kill deer when and where he pleased, while in England all venison was nominally the property of the Crown since the days when William the Conqueror con- stituted himself the " single and mighty Nimrod " of the whole island. Very little venison other than the dried tongues of • the reindeer is . imported into this country, though some years ago a quantity of bad red deer flesh was placed on the market, nominally from Russia. It was by no means clear whence this came. It may have been the surplus of what Was shot in the Royal forests of the North-West provinces, where deer abound, as they do in the Royal forests ofGermany, where a battue of a hundred head is quite common. Or it may have been killed in Central Siberia, or even further east, and exported with other frozen game. It would be quite easy to import frozen springbuck from the Cape, were there any demand for it ; and the rapidly increasing red deer of New Zealand could be sent here with frozen mutton: But at present English taste prefers the mutton. Still, foreign countries have supplied us in a fresh state with a venison superior to the meat of any of the three indigenous deer of these islands. Ever since the late Lord Powersconrt first imported and estab- lished in his park in the Wicklow Monntains the sturdy little deer, of Japan they have steadily grown in favour. They have backs as broad as those of a sheep, and the venison is better than that of the stag, the buck, or the roebuck. The multiplication of these deer in our parks is one of the best results of modern acclimatisation.