While writing, oftentimes subplots pop up from unknown places (subconscious or the universe), and it stops me dead. From this moment, I must ferret out the details.
As previously stated in Part I, when writing TWINS, I delved into ancient guns, black powder, and how they were used, fired, cleaned, plus definitions (how they looked, their uses) on gun parts such as flash pan and flint. This attention helps to round out the plot or subplots. It makes the reader feel s/he is there, in the scene you wrote.
This series is to provide knowledge in the handling of guns during the 18th century, bird hunting, and what sort of bird dogs to use. It can also be used as a study of the written language during this time frame. It helps the author with authenticity.
So, here we are at the next set of instructions from a 1777 pamphlet to keep a gun in good shape, and how/when to shoot game. If you’ve missed the other installments, just scroll down to the previous blogs on this page. (I haven't that many.)
This blog will begin with “Of Wood-cock Shooting” and end with “Of Water-fowl and Fen-Shooting”. So very interesting.
Now, to continue… Oh, and don’t forget, this is verbatim from the book. I have not made any corrections to punctuation or spelling.
"The season for Cock-shooting, generally begins towards the latter end of November; they are birds of passage, and come over to us in flights in the night-time, about the full of the moon: the first flight, which is sometimes in October, is commonly very scanty; but they continue coming over, more or less, every moon, till February; consequently, it will generally be found they are in greater plenty towards the latter end of the winter; though this is no absolute rule... they remain with us generally till the middle or latter end of March.
See? You can insert a hunting party in your manuscript as a sure thing during the months of December and February. Any time before or after, a true sportsman reading your novel might get annoyed due to the scanty gathering of woodcocks in his neck of the woods. The last thing an author wants is a bad review simply because you’ve entered months wherein woodcocks may not be available for the hunt.
"Their haunts are chiefly in the springs and bogs, in woods and coppices; and in the beginning of the winter, before the leaves are well off, they prefer the out-parts of the woods.
"For springing them, we use spaniels, and a leash, or two brace, of the steady keen-nosed sort, are sufficient for two or three shooters... and, as in pheasant-shooting, it is necessary to keep as near the dogs as possible...
"A Woodcock is a very tender bird; and being a large mark, affords easy pretty shooting, where a person has got the art of shooting flying tolerable well; but it frequently occurs that the bird rises in a perpendicular line, which is the most difficult shot that is; in this case, an unexperienced sportsman will find it more adviseable to forbear firing... til the bird has arrived at the height of the perpendicular, and flies offward; but as a shot will be often lost by this delay, the good marksman should never wait it, except he judges the shot will be better.
In other words, aim your gun and fire.
"The Snipe, like the woodcock, is a bird of passage; they begin coming over to us about the middle or latter end of October, and remain with us pretty forward in the spring. They frequent, like the woodcock, the springs, bogs, and marshy places; but with this difference, that the cock seeks these in cover, and snipe in open clear parts, as fields and commons.
"Snipes afford as pretty sport to a good marksman, as any bird whatsoever; tho’ they are very quick fliers, yet are every tender, and will fall almost at the bare report of the gun.
Fodder for your next chapter - very tender, quick flying snipes. What more could an author want?
"The several disagreeable circumstances met with in wood-shooting, are in this sport avoided; and a person has here no other inconvenience, than a little wet and dirt, which may be easily guarded against by wearing boots.
"We spring snipes either with spaniels, or by making a flight sharp kind of noise, about the places where we know they haunt: they mostly fly directly against the wind (if there is any material air stirring), and a shot after them is the best and most sure: the slant and cross shots are rather difficult, as they are a small mark, and fly exceedingly quick.
"For practice in this, which is very nice, swallow-shooting may be used in summer to advantage.
"Of Water-fowl and Fen-Shooting.
"The haunts of the Water-fowl, as Geese, ducks, Widgeons, &c. are well known.
"In shooting them, we use the longest killing gun, and as large shot, as the No. 1 or 2.
"The proper dog is the rough, curled, water spaniel, of which the white sort are commonly the best; they should be under the strictest command; be ready at fetching any thing out of the water, without biteing it; and catching what is only wounded; should be used, on occasion, to creep quiet, and close behind the master's heel; of such, one or two will be sufficient for this sort of shooting.
"The fowl may either be shot swimming, or, which is better, taken on the wing; as in the water they are strongly guarded by the close lying of their wings and feathers; therefore, if a person is a good marksman, it will be always best to spring them first.
"The best place to throw the shot, if opportunity will allow, is under the wing, as that is by much the tenderest place; and the worse of all is the breast, as the feathers here lie extremely thick and close. This sport, though very good, where wild-fowl are plenty, is very little practised by gentlemen, owing to the several disagreeable circumstances attending it.
"The fen-shooting is but little followed by gentlemen sportsmen, any more than wild-fowl shooting. The haunts of the fen-birds are sufficiently known by their title.
"We use, in general, the No. 3 shot, which will serve as well for the bittern, and curlew, as the plover.
"One or two steady water or land spaniels may be used; and it will be always best to spring the birds before firing.
Here ends the third installment of The Art of English Shooting.
Next time, we’ll discuss:
Of various Upland Winter Shooting, and
Necessary Observations for the young Sportsman.
How cool is that?
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