Blaker Family of Sussex - Reminiscences



SHOOTING was a very favourite sport, and partridge shooting in former days was very delightful; it included all game at the time in season. It was almost a science and required a thorough knowledge of the habits of game, a liking for dogs and an appreciation of their intelligence and reasoning powers. It was a real treat to watch a single dog or a brace of pointers or setters; to see a brace "quarter" their ground, that is range it systematically in accordance with the direction of the wind, and not go over the same ground twice, so that they might get the first suspicion of scent; and then to see one dog stop suddenly, stand like a statue with head pointing in the direction of the game, and tail straight out, and if not quite certain, crouching close to the ground and moving along steadily till he was certain, and then "standing" while the other dog "backed," that is, stood and pointed, however far off he might be. When the gun was fired, both dogs dropped as if shot, and whichever dog was called came and fetched the game, the other remaining quite still till the signal to start was given. The dogs entered into the sport and thoroughly enjoyed it, and their intelligence in getting the game into the most favourable position for their master was very wonderful. Some dogs, if out with a man who missed a few times, would go home disgusted. I had a setter that would go along on the opposite side of a hedge to which I was, keeping always a few paces in front, and drive everything out on my side. The late Mr. R. Hanshar had one which, like many other high bred dogs, would not bring a woodcock or snipe, but if one of these birds fell in water or soft mud where Mr. Hanshar could not go, she would fetch it at once. It would be possible to multiply tales of the intelligence of dogs ad infinitum, but when one compares this intellectual sport with the modern custom of stationing men at the end of a ride or covert, and driving tame pheasants to them, when all the pleasure seems to consist in dexterity in using the gun and the amount of slaughter, it seems impossible to avoid feeling that the modern system will scarcely compare with the old.

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