Season 1868

Of course, we let the grouse alone for this season, as well as in 1867. There were very few to let alone; but the disease was gone, and we comforted ourselves the best way we could with the low-ground shooting in October.

David Black had worked up the low ground well. When we first took the place there were very few partridges. The first season there was a covey of twenty-two birds close to the lodge. We let them alone, and they had multiplied, and in addition there were also a few odd pairs in other parts of the ground. We had shot none, and they had had three years jubilee and pretty good breeding seasons.

In these high, stormy countries, during heavy snows the poor things can get very little food, and naturally draw down into the stackyards for food and shelter, and, if not carefully looked after, get potted by the farmer, but are not of much good to him, as they are little better than skin and bone.

Black looked after them. I don't think that our former keeper troubled himself, or the stock would have got up quicker; and there was now a fine stock of all sorts of low-country game, pheasants excepted. Of course, by a fine stock I mean a fine stock for a wild stormy country.

We had a most enjoyable fortnight's shooting over dogs. In the twelve days we managed to make a mixed bag of 600 head—partridge, snipe, plover, brown hares, rabbits, &c.

The grouse we let alone, except a stray old cock now and again that had survived through the epidemic—very handsome to look at, but, like the monarch of the glen, very tough, and unsavoury on the table.

Of course, on that wild ground the covies of partridges were, looking at the extent of ground, few and far between.

The dogs hunted the small turnip fields and the ground round the edges of the oat stubbles, say, for a hundred yards about. It might be wooded burn sides, or deep feg or heather, and, perhaps, whins and broom. The birds took a lot of finding. Of course, we got other stuff, meanwhile, on the way; and the covey once found, and flushed again and again in neaps, brackens, heather, or what not, the dogs kept pegging them until the covey was pretty well cleared up. Sometimes a covey would utterly beat us by settling into heavy patches of gorse that the dogs would not face—at any rate, not work properly; and as to walking them up with a retriever, they would run about, but knew better than to flush.

After that very naturally we went down every October until the end of the lease, and the last season we had 190 brace of partridges alone.

When hunting near the moor edges we often got a few grouse that were down to the stubble; and in these delightful mixed bags over dogs, how a couple of brace of fine grouse were appreciated.

These mixed bags in the crisp October air, the walking, the variety of sport, though not the quantity, beat the August shooting for enjoyment of sport. You would not know what the dog's point might mean; it might in some ground be hare, snipe, partridge, or grouse. I have made doubles at hare and snipe. The hares were splendid. You may not believe it, but Fred made a double at hares that weighed 22lb. the brace.

One season I stopped over for an extra day by myself—it would be the 18th of October—on the rough ground, and made the following mixed bag over dogs:

  • 4 Grouse, stalked on the plough from behind the dykes.
  • 6 Partridges.
  • 2 Woodcock (very unusual).
  • 4 Snipe.
  • 9 Brown hares.
  • 2 Golden plover.
  • 1 Green plover.
  • 1 Rabbit.
  • 29 Head.

Grouse, when they get on the plough, are sometimes very stupid, in the above case I stalked the four birds, there were but four; I shot one on the ground, did not show myself, let the bird lie; the others then just fluttered up and flew fifty yards; and down within reach of the dyke, got another, then the other two again fluttered up and down again, that time I jumped up and showed myself and got the pair right and left as they rose.