Season 1879

This was the eighth year that I had paid rental for this moor, and this was the second year out of the eight that it would afford shooting for more than two guns.

I had a very fine stock of birds upon the ground. I had nursed the stock judiciously. I had not shot it down when recovering from disease, and at last the moor was full of birds, and for the next two or three years, until the scourge paid its next visit, we might shoot and hammer away at the birds, without detriment. Nothing that we could do in the way of shooting could possibly reduce the breeding stock below what it should be, until disease again reduced it.

I had relet the Rumsdale side, with 10,500 acres, for three years, at £300 per annum, leaving, say 13,500 acres to Dalnawillan shooting.

We laid ourselves out for a fine bag, and we had it.

I said to David, "Last season, shooting with Mr. Oliver, we made together over six hundred brace. Now, we have treble the birds we had to begin that season. If I go to work shooting steadily by myself, say seven hours a day for four days a week, can I take off 600 brace to my own gun and for once make a swagger bag?"—"Yes, you can," says David.—"Then I will do it," responded I; so it was arranged to shoot the moor in two parties, myself one party, and two guns in the other party; each party taking the beats fairly in turn.

The second party of two guns was made up of the three elder boys and a friend, shooting five days a week, weather permitting, taking their turns alternately, the men out, going after snipe and ducks and fishing.

I started with 42 brace on the 12th, and on the 14th 52½ brace, and continued to make good bags. On August 26, my fifty-eighth birthday, I came in with 50½ brace; it was the second time over the beat, and on September 15, in twenty-one days shooting, I numbered 617 brace, close upon an average of 30 brace a day besides sundries.

Generally through Scotland moors had not fairly recovered their full complement of birds, and I believe it was acknowledged that 617 brace was the best bag in Scotland made that season to one gun in the first five weeks shooting over dogs.

We had a fine time and a very enjoyable time, and up to the 16th of September, when we went south, we had taken off 1138 brace.

In October I returned with two other men to shoot under the kite, and we took off just 200 brace. When at Glenmarkie, I could do nothing with the kite, the birds rolled up before it and away for a couple of miles.

October shooting in Caithness and Sutherland over dogs under the kite when birds are plentiful, is very grand sport. It is the acme of point shooting.

In October the air is crisp and bracing, there is plenty of walking, and you are in the best condition, or you ought to be.

The kite is a large kite, much larger than the partridge kite used in England, and is flown very high, and so covers a large extent of ground. It is worked down wind in front of the gun, so the dog has to work down wind and on ticklish birds; therefore I need not say that it requires clever old experienced dogs. Many good August dogs cannot get into it.

Packs of six to twelve birds rarely sit well; they rise at sixty to one hundred yards, but the small lots and single birds sit fairly well, rising at twenty to thirty yards.

They rise in front like a wisp of lightning, hardly well up before they turn to the right or left and away behind you. They should be taken just on the turn. It is very difficult to get in a second barrel unless, as they turn and go past they are near enough for a skimming side shot.

Good driving shots have said to me that the man who can walk and kill October grouse under the kite, and kill them well, can kill anything.

October sport with the kite is very uncertain. There may be too much wind or too little, and in that month you sometimes get very bad weather and more snow than is pleasant, and then of course birds are very wild and unsettled.

Big bags cannot be made under the kite; an average of 15 brace per day to a gun is very good. I never managed to make 20 brace; twice I have made 19½, and could generally average 15.

There is an impression that the kite puts birds off the ground, and generally makes them wild; but I don't think so. Of course the beats are changed, and my impression is that it has no more effect than an eagle hovering and then going on.

Those who have kited and driven, tell me that driving disturbs and unsettles the birds far more than the kite.

Grouse 1338 brace.900 brace.
Sundries 155½   "     ——

A number of grouse were, in addition, killed by the keeper during the winter months.

The total to my own bag was 674 brace of grouse, and 48½ brace of sundries.