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Full text of "Red deer. Natural history"

SIK GEO 



P UR . AND FEA THER SERIES 

edited by 
ALFRED E. T. WATSON 



RED DEER 



FUR AND FEATHER SERIES. 

EDITED BY ALFRED E. T. WATSON. 



THE PARTRIDGE. NATURAL HISTORY-*? the 

Rev. H. A. M ACHHERSON. Sf/OOT/ffG-'By A. J. STUART- 

WORTIEY. COO KER) '-By GEORGE SAINTSBURY. \Vith 

Illustrations by A. THORBURN, A. J. STL-ART-WORTLKV, 
and C. WHVMPER, and various Diagrams. Crown avo. jr. 

THF GROUSE. NATURAL HISTORY-*? the Rev. 

H. A. M.CPHKRSON. SHOOTING-Uy A. J. STUART- 

WOKTIEV. COOKERY-*)- GEORGE SAINTSBURY. With 

13 Illustralions by A. J. STOART-WORTWV and A. 1 HORBORN, 
* and various Diagrams. Crown 8vo. 5^. 

THE PHEASANT. NATURAL ff/STOKY-By the 

Rev. H. A. MAO-HKKSON. SHOOTlNG-Ky A. J. STUART- 

WORTLFV. COOKERY*)' ALEXANDER INNES SHAND. 

With 10 Illustrations by A. THORBURN and A. J. bTUART- 
.:id various Diagrams. Crown 8vo. 51. 

THE HARE. NATURAL HfSrORY-Ky the Rev. 

H A MACPHERSOX. SHOOTING-*y the Hon. GERALD 

-COURSING*? CHARLES RICHARDSON. 
HU.\T/.\Cr liy J. S. GIBBONS and G. H LONGMAN. 
COOKERY-*)- Col. KENNEY HERBERT. With 8 Illus- 
trations by G. D. GILES, A. THORBURN, and C. WHYMPER. 
Crown 8vo. 5*. 

THE RED DEER. NATURAL HISTORY.-*? the 
Rev. II. A. MAC I-MKK-..N. DERR -STALKING 9f 

CAMKKON Of LtXmEL.STAG-ffl/IfTIJfG-9yVlXOVKT 

EBKINGTON. roOAV.A' }'-By ALEXANUHR INNER SHAND. 

With 9 Illustrations by J. CHARLTON- and A. 1 HORBURN. 
Crown 8vo. 51. 

WILDFOWL. By the Hon. JOHN SCOTT-MONTAGU, 
M . V. &c. [/* preparation. 

LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO. 
London, New York, and Bombay. 



,- 




THE LAST STAG OF THE SEASON 



-RED DEER 

vv 

NATURAL HISTORY 
BY THE REV. H. A. MACPHERSON 

DEE R - S TALKING 
BY CAMERON OF LOCHIEL 

STAG- HUNTING 
BY VISCOUNT EBRINGTON 

COOKERY 
BY ALEXANDER INNES SHAND 




ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. CHARLTON AND A. THORBURN 

LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 

LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY 
1896 



All rights rescr-ccd 



SK 
30 1 

RH- 



PREFACE 



THE design of the Fur and Feather Series is 
to present monographs, as complete as they can 
possibly be made, on the various English birds 
and beasts which are generally included under 
the head of Game. 

Books on Natural History cover such a vast 
number of subjects that their writers necessarily 
find it impossible to deal with each in a really 
comprehensive manner : and it is not within 
the scope of such works exhaustively to discuss 
the animals described, in the light of objects of 
sport. Books on sport, again, seldom treat at 
length of the Natural History of the furred and 
feathered creatures which are shot or otherwise 
taken ; and, so far as the Editor is aware, in no 
book hitherto published on Natural History or 
Sport has information been given as to the best 
methods of turning the contents of the bag to 
account. 



PREFACE, 

F.ach volume of the present Series will, 
thrreforc, be devoted to a bird or beast, and 
will be divided into three parts. The Natural 
History of the variety will first be given ; it 
will then be considered from the point of view 
of sport ; and the writer of the third division 
will assume that the creature has been carried 
to the larder, and will proceed to discuss it gas- 
tronomically. The origin of the animals will 
be traced, their birth and breeding described, 
every known method of circumventing and 
killing them not omitting the methods em- 
ployed by the poacher will be explained with 
special regard to modern developments, and 
they will only be left when on the table in 
the most appetising forms which the delicate 
science of cookery has discovered. 

It is intended to make the illustrations a 
prominent feature in the Series. The pictures 
in the present volume are after drawings by Mr. 
John Oiarlton and Mr. Archibald Thorburn. 

ALFRCD K. T. WATSON. 



CONTENTS 



.\ATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

BY THE REV H. A. MACPHKKSUN 
CHAP. PAGE 

I. THE RED DEER'S HOME . ... 3 

II. THK RED DEER'S LIFE . . . . . . 26 

III. ECHOES OK THE ("HASH 45 

DEER-STALKING 

BY CAMFRO.V OF LOCHIKL 
I. IXTRODlTTlnN 65 

II. THE MANAGEMENT OK DEER FORESTS . . 77 

III. THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING . . . 131 

IV. DEER FORESTS: THEIR SOCIAL AND KCONOMJCAL 

ASPECTS ........ 169 

.^TAG-HUNTING 

BY THE VlSCOCNT EuRINGTON 

I. IN DAYS OK YORE ....... 197 

II. F.N FKANVK. ....... 208 

III. IN DE\I>N AND SUMKKM.I . . . . 215 



CHAK i'A<;i-: 

IV. Tin: OlA-K ....... 235 



\'. HOUNDS AM> HtiKsKs ...... 250 

VI. DK.KK ......... 268 

VII. No IKS TOR VISITORS ...... 281 

THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

JiV . \LK.\ANDKK I.NNES ShANl) 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

BY ' 

T. CHARLTON AND A. THORRUKN 
(Reproduced by the Su'an Electric Engraving Company} 

VIGNETTE Title-page 

THE LAST STAC OF THE SEASON . . Frontispiece 

MOON-LIGHTERS To face p. 20 

DRIVEN OFF THE HILL . . ,,28 

GETTING ON THE DEER >> J 48 

LOST .. 160 

RATHER A HANDFUL ,,210 

S\VAM OUT. THE WHOLE 1'ACK AT HIS IlKl.I.- ,, 243 

KILLED AFTER RUNNING THROUGH TWELVE 

DIFFERENT PARISHES .... ,, 248 



4 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



out by the tide from the holes in which they have lain 
embedded for ages. 

The peat bogs of Scotland, especially of the 
Western Highlands, tell the same story. Even the 
gravel beds of our inland valleys often yield fragments 
of red deer antlers, sometimes at a great depth below 
the present surface. These remains are seldom quite 
perfect. Those found in the rubbish heaps of Roman 
settlements usually bear evidence of having been sawn 
asunder by workmen, whose task it was to manufacture 
spear-handles and other utensils from stag-horn. But 
the fine development of most of the remains shows 
that our modern stags fall far short of the standard of 
heads carried by the stags which cropped our hill- 
sides when the aurochs fought with rival bulls on the 
fells of Westmorland, and wolves found a safe retreat 
among the limestone caves of Furness. Originally, 
the red deer roamed at will from the north to the 
south of Britain. The weald of Kent was no less the 
haunt of well-furnished hinds than the waste lands of 
Lancashire, or the more distant solitudes of central 
Scotland. But the interests of the great barons in- 
duced them to obtain authority from the Crown to 
enclose their favourite chase in many instances ; with 
the result that a large number of the best coverts for 
deer became secluded as private property. This re- 



THE RED DEER'S HO.}fE 



mark applies to England almost entirely. I have no 
special information as to Ireland. The subject of 
Irish red deer has been dealt with by several writers 
of Irish nationality, including Archdeacon Rowan, 
whose ' Lake Lore ' contains a chapter on the red 
deer of the Killarney Mountains. Mr. R. J. Ussher 
contributed to the ' Zoologist ' a paper entitled ' Notes 
on Irish Red Deer,' from which some useful informa- 
tion may be gleaned ('Zool.,' 1882, pp. 81-84). 
Thompson's ' Natural History of Ireland ' should also 
be consulted. Our English red deer have received 
ample justice at the hands of Dr. Collyns and Richard 
Jefferies, but only as regards that stronghold of the 
race which exists among the Devonian woodlands. 
St. John and other Scottish sportsmen have done 
ample justice to our grand Highland deer ; but, 
curiously enough, no one except the writer himself has 
attempted to depict the life of the stag upon the face 
of the mist-wrapped hills of the English Lake district. 
This fact may well serve as an excuse for including 
in the present volume a description of the pictur- 
esque region in the midst of which the red deer, 
which once roamed from the shores of the North Sea 
to the red sandstone cliffs that break the swell of the 
Irish Channel, have for many years past found their 
only northern sanctuary. The forest of Martindale is 



6 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

situated in the very heart of the Lake district. It is 
bounded on the north by the long winding reaches of 
Ulleswater Lake. I laweswater, a lonely loch, abound- 
ing in charr and gwyniad, bars a way of escape to the 
eastward, unless an outlying deer makes for Shap 
Fell. High Street, across which the Roman sappers 
engineered a military road, is a favourite haunt of the 
red deer ; but they do not roam over to Windermere 
or Potterdale under ordinary circumstances. Indeed, 
the deer are most partial to the centre of Martindale, 
which includes the valleys of Boarsdale, Bannerdale, 
Rampsgill, and Fusedale. The nature of the rock 
causes it to splinter at sharp angles, hence the crags 
of the district frequently assume an irregular and 
jagged outline, which adds variety to the scenery. In 
the present day it is usual to reach Martindale by 
driving from Pooley Bridge along the Westmorland 
side of the lake. It is also easy to row across from 
the Cumberland side in a small boat. But even a 
century ago the stretch of hills, each divided by a 
deep gully from its next neighbour, which ex- 
tended from Shap to Patterdale, must have filled the 
mind of a casual stranger with a sense of loneliness 
and isolation, due for the most part to the weird 
gloom with which the dark precipices that rise above 
the four dales just mentioned are certainly invested. 



THE RED DEER'S HOME 



I never "visit Bannerdale myself without glancing up- 
wards at the deserted eyrie of the sea eagles which once 
filled a shelf of precipice, lying in a sort of shadow, 
not far below the summit of Buck Crag. It was 
between 1793 and 1809 that old Edward Sisson, the 
wildfowler, shot the female off her nest. He cut off 
the foot as a token of what he had done. One of the 
claws was missing, showing that iron traps were 
already used to destroy our Lakeland eagles. Sisson 
carved a claw out of a piece of wood, and coloured it 
to match the real claws. The eyrie from which this 
bird was shot was the last used in Lakeland. At 
least so old folks say. They also relate that the eyrie 
contained two eggs at the time of Sisson's achievement. 
The screes at the foot of that eyrie are redolent still 
of the 'foil of the Sweet Mart,' a sadly persecuted 
animal. How it is that the ' Mart ' has not been 
exterminated long since I hardly know. I suppose 
that it must be explained by the fact that the marten- 
cat frequently runs to ground in crags which are 
too lofty and precipitous to afford a footing to the 
most adventuresome of fell-side hounds. There were 
' Foumarts ' too in Martindale, and that within the re- 
collection of men who are even now but middle-aged. 
But if you care to learn for yourself when the true 
wild cat couched beside the stag upon the heather of 



S NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

Martindale, you must wend your way (not to the 
Chapelry of Martindale, but) to the mother church of 
this parish. There arrived, you may trace for yourself 
the written evidence of the old-fashioned church- 
wardens, who treated the children to ' scholar's ale ' 
at the expense of the parish, and disbursed many 
small sums for the heads of raven, badger or brock, 
as well as for the scalps of genuine wild cats. A 
great resort of Felis catus was this same lonely region 
of Martindale. 

Now, alas ! the skirl of the grey cat no longer 
breaks the stillness of the uplands when the damp 
out of the wet ground is rising in clouds of white 
vapour from the bottom of Fusedale. Hushed for 
ever is the eagle's scream of war and rivalry in Banner- 
dale, wild as the head of the valley looks, hemmed in 
as it is with ramparts of dizzy precipice. But if you 
linger beside the farmhouse at Dalehead, of which 
more anon, you will probably recognise the long- 
drawn, mournful wail of the brown buzzard, or else 
the harsh croak of the vigilant raven will break upon 
your ear, reminding you that a haunch of waste 
venison would no more come amiss to his hungry 
paunch than a gamey specimen of Herdwick mutton. 
It is in the centre of these remote mountains, re- 
moved a breathing space from electric bells and 



THE RED DEEFS HOME 



shrieking engines and all other forms of modern 
Philistinism, that the old English stag finds a free 
lodging, cropping the pastures of his native wilds 
without a thought of fences or barriers of any kind 
For Squire Hasell, the popular representative of one 
of the best and most sporting families in the North of 
England, does not surround his forest with artificial 
bounds. The deer are absolutely unshackled and 
wander as freely as any Highland deer, feeding where 
they will and sleeping as they list. The sanctuary of 
Martindale is the hill known locally as the ' Nab.' 
It is not marked upon all the maps, but it lies 
between Rampsgill and Bannerdale. If you look up 
the valley of Martindale, just after you leave the old 
church (where they used to hang the heads of ravens 
on the ancient yew tree), you will see the steep slopes 
of Rampsgill lying to your left. Bannerdale occupies 
the right corner of the dale. The rounded hill which 
stands out against the skyline between Rampsgill and 
Bannerdale is the ' Nab.' There is plenty of good 
feeding for deer on the 'Nab.' Of course its sides 
are seamed with crags ; but it includes fine grassy 
slopes, varied with bracken, which add a rust-red 
hue to the landscape when the leaves have begun to 
assume the varied hues which we look for at the fall 
of the year. 



io NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



The stags consort with their fellows, and the hinds 
feed together to a large extent ; so that, when crossing 
the fells, one almost expects to see a full-grown stag 
accompanied by one or more younger animals of his 
own sex. Small parties of hinds are often to be seen 
clustering together in sheltered places or out on the 
tops of the mountains. The sexes mix together to a 
certain extent at all seasons, with the exception of 
course of any particular stag which happens to have 
found some fat pasture which reconciles him to the 
loneliness of an anchorite life Broadly speaking 
each herd of deer chooses its particular grazing ground 
according to the season of the year. 

The fells near Bampton and Shap are only visited 
irregularly. The approach of winter impels many of 
the older deer to cross over from the ' Nab ' to Place 
Fell, because the locality last named affords a supply 
of sound heather which stands the deer in good stead 
in severe weather. The murrain which used to 
ravage more southern forests in Norman days appears 
to be now unknown in Westmorland. The spring of 
the year however makes some gaps in the ranks of 
the deer; for it is when the primrose flowers, and 
the ' Gowk ' sends its challenge echoing through the 
dales, that the privations of the winter season begin 
to tell upon the exhausted frames of the weaker 



THE RED DEEFS HOME 



members -Qf the herd. In old days these individuals 
would no doubt have fallen an easy prey to the packs 
of wolves which once infested our English forests. 
Indeed it seems not unlikely that some at least of 
the stags which perished in the sands of Morecambe 
Bay were driven out into the open parts of the 
estuary when pursued by wolves, which were once 
extremely numerous in Furness. In feudal days our 
Lakeland deer were hunted alike by clergy and laity. 
A number of lawsuits originated in hunting disputes, 
which naturally roused keen feeling on both sides. 
The law no doubt often adjusted the differences of 
neighbours in a friendly fashion. Thus, when a 
decision was given in the King's Court at West- 
minster between Alan de Muleton and his wife Alicia, 
plaintiffs, and Lambert de Muleton and his wife 
Amabilis, concerning the moiety of the manors of 
Egremunt, Aspatric, Caudebek, and Brathwayt, a 
clause was inserted expressly stipulating that if a deer 
should be roused on the lands of Lambert and 
Amabilis, their huntsmen and hounds should have the 
right to follow and take the quarry in the land of 
Alan and Alicia, without hindrance, as well as the 
converse. The deer in those days were fenced in 
by hunting 'hays.' The fences were repaired by the 
smaller tenants in obedience to the request of the 



12 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



lord of the manor. The tenants in some places were 
bound to assemble at the 'Stable-stand,' ready to 
drive, or shoot, or course deer at the order of their 
superior. It should be understood that 'haiae' or 
' hays ' were not in any sense peculiar to the north of 
England. They crop up in many places. To take a 
single reference, the Domesday Survey of Gloucester- 
shire : ' In several instances we find mention of 
"haiae" these were enclosures in the woods fenced 
round with strong hedges into which the beasts of the 
chase were driven, the entrance being then closed by 
hurdles. The building and repair of the lord's deer- 
hedge was one of the ordinary incidents of tenants' 
service ; the word being used for all kinds of game.' ' 
In this connection it may be worth while to recall a 
passage which the Rev. J. Wilson has suggested I 
should print here. It is not devoid of humour, and 
it shows that the employment of nets in taking deer 
was understood in this country. 'One Sir Henry 
Colt, of Neither Hall in Essex, much in favour with 
K. Henry the eighth for his merry conceits, suddenly 
took his leave of him late at night, promising to wait 
on his Grace early the next morning. Hence he 
hastened to Waltham Abbey, being informed by his 

1 An Analysis of the Domesday Smi>ey of Gloucestershire 
By Rev. C. Taylor. 



THE RED DEER'S HOME 13 



setters that, the Monks thereof would return in the 
night from Cheshunt Nunnery, where they had secretly 
quartered themselves. Sir Henry pitcht a Buckstall 
(wherewith he used to take Deer in the Forest) in the 
narrowest place of the Marsh where they were to passe 
over, leaving some of his Confederates to manage the 
same. The monks coming out of the Nunnery, 
hearing a great noise made behind them, and sus- 
pecting to be discovered, put out the light they had 
with them, whose feet without eyes could finde the 
way home in so used a pathe. Making more hast 
than good speed they ran themselves all into the 
net. The next morning Sir H. Colt brought and 
presented them to King Henry, who had often seen 
sweeter but never fatter venison.' 1 Fuller tells this 
story when discussing the morals of the monasteries 
destroyed by Henry VIII., in 1536-9. But to return 
to the subject of the Martindale deer, there can be no 
doubt that the pleasure of following the hunted stag 
was shared by the whole country-side, even in our 
own day. 

I have listened with eager attention to the gossip 
of old-fashioned folk, who loved to recall the good 
cheer which ' t'auld squire Hasell ' used to dispense 
to the country-side at Dalehead. The merits of 

1 Fuller's Church History of Britain, p. 317, edition 1655. 



14 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



the pasty provided for the occasion were indisputable, 
nor was there any stint of good liquor to slake the 
thirst of those who assisted in driving a stag from the 
hill to the lower ground. The house at Dalehead 
was a large ' banqueting room, hung round with the 
heads of stags killed in the chase, on the adjoining hills.' 
Wordsworth himself tells us that the room in ques- 
tion was ' fitted up in the sportsman's style, with a 
cupboard for bottles and glasses, with strong chairs 
and a dining table ; and ornamented with the horns 
of the stags caught at these hunts for a succession of 
years, the length of the last race each had being re- 
corded under his spreading antlers.' 

The name of Martindale seems to be a corrup- 
tion of Markendale, for the latter word occurs in 
Saxton's map of 1576. I admit that John Mamvood 
refers to the district as Martendale as early as 1598, 
but he was probably incorrect. Hutchinson wrote 
only a century ago, 'Mr. Hazell of Delmain is 
possessed of the Chace of Markendale, which borders 
on the lake (Ulleswater), and includes most of the 
heights which lie on the eastern side. The lands of 
his manse being of customary tenure are attended 
with this badge of servility, the tenants are bound to 
attend their Lord's hunt within this chase once a 
year, which is called in their court roll a Boon Hunt. 



THE RED DEER'S HOME 15 



On this occasion they have each their district 
allotted on the boundaries of the chase, where they 
are stationed to prevent the stag flying beyond the 
liberty.' 

Clarke tells us, in his ' Survey of the Lakes,' that 
Martindale was a separate and independent manor 
until Queen Elizabeth granted it to the Earl of Sussex 
as parcel of the barony of Barton, reserving to herself 
and her successors accommodation for her pad when 
she came to hunt there. 

Under this tenure it was bought by Sir Christopher 
Musgrave, along with the rest of the barony of Barton. 
The manor consisted of small tenants, whose place 
has long since been filled up by large farmers. 
Clarke describes the old state of tenure as a person 
familiar with the district : ' The forest lands are 
held on the common forest tenure, the tenants having 
what grass they can take with the scythe. They 
likewise covenant not to drive the lord's deer out of 
it at any time of the year. In summer, however, the 
deer seldom come there, they being mostly red deer 
which always frequent the tops of the mountains in 
that season. Whenever the lord goes to hunt the 
stag, the bailiff summons all the tenants before sun- 
set the preceding night, to attend to their strones 
or stations. These stations are at two places, viz. 



1 6 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



Bampkin (=Rampsgill) and Bannerdale, where the 
doer chiefly lye, and where the tenants stand with 
their dogs, to prevent the deer escaping to the 
mountains. This service, which they are to render 
once a year, is called a Boon Day, and for this every 
tenant has his dinner and a quart of ale. It is also a 
custom here that the person who first seizes the 
hunted deer shall have the head for his trouble. It is 
remarkable that the first buck taken here was seized 
by a woman ; she, for the sake of his head, laid hold 
on him as he stood at bay on a dunghill, threw 
him down, and getting upon his head, held him 
fast. The late Mr. Hassel frequently called upon 
the tenants for this service.' 

The head of the Hasell family used to give away 
two or three hinds every year to the poor of Martin- 
dale. The custom fell into abeyance at last in con- 
sequence of a succession of severe winters which re- 
duced the stock of deer to little more than a hundred 
head. There are no poor folk now in Martindale. 
The necessity of finding remunerative employment 
has compelled the population of the glens to migrate 
into the larger towns, leaving the stern hillsides to 
hardy shepherds and their flocks of small but tooth- 
some Herdwick sheep. I have referred, in the ' Fauna 
of Lakeland,' to several other deer preserves in the 



THE RED DEEFS HOME 17 



North country. The most famous of these was 
Inglewood. This forest belonged to the Crown, and 
included a large portion of the Eden Valley. West- 
ward it stretched away towards the marshes of the 
Solway, which have often engulfed fine stags in their 
fatal quicksands. It was on the edge of this forest 
that the monks of Holme Cultram Abbey felled the 
timber required for the purposes of their large estab- 
lishment. The monks were required to guard the 
safety and convenience of the royal quarry. These 
animals frequently quitted the glades of the oak 
woods to ravage the standing crops in the vicinity. 

It was as a compensation for the damage caused 
by roving deer that Edward III. bestowed certain 
privileges of grazing upon the inhabitants of towns 
like Penrith, which chanced to be situated in prox- 
imity to the forest. The same monarch found it 
difficult to protect his deer from the incursions of 
Scottish noblemen who proved apt in extending the 
royal grants with more freedom than probably pleased 
the English foresters. The exploit of ' Hartshorn 
Tree ' illustrates the splendid endurance of a West- 
morland stag. This animal was found in Whinfell 
Park where the osprey used to nest, and was coursed 
by a single hound. The stag took a northerly 
course, and crossed the Esk and the smaller tributary 

c 



1 8 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



of the Saark, making for Red Kirk in Dumfriesshire. 
The stag turned homewards from that point, and 
again ran all along the wooded banks of the Eden 
until it reached the outside of Brougham Castle. 
The poor animal found strength to clear the park 
palings, but expired upon alighting within the en- 
closure. The noble hound which had made all the 
running alone was too worn out to clear the palings 
in his stride. He leapt, but fell backwards, and died 
upon the outside of the palings. This stirring inci- 
dent occurred in 1333 or 1334, when Edward Baliol 
was staying in Westmorland as the guest of the 
Lord Robert Clifford. The antlers of the stag which 
showed sport so worthy of a Scottish sovereign were 
nailed up upon the trunk of a fine oak which 
grew close to the spot where the stag died. There 
they remained until the year 1648, when one of the 
antlers was 'broken down by some of the army.' 
The tree itself, which had so long been known as 
' Hartshorn Tree,' succumbed to the ravages of time 
in the seventeenth century, but the fame of the extraor- 
dinary feat of stag and hound has been handed down 
to successive generations in the simple distich : 
' Hercules kill'd Hart a-greese, 
And Hart a-greese kill'd Hercules.' 



THE RED DEER'S HOME 19 

Inglewood Forest long remained a royal chase. 
As such it received incidental notice in various 
public documents. Thus it is mentioned among 
divers woods, lands, and tenements ' where in his 
Ma tie hath a right and title which is by some persons 
of late controverted,' in a Treasury warrant issued 
from Whitehall on July 21, 1668. Even after the 
accession of the Prince of Orange, ' The Town and 
Manor of Penreth and the Forest of Inglewood were 
held of her Pr'sent Majesty the Queen Dowager as 
Lord thereof.' William II. soon granted the manor of 
Inglewood to the Duke of Portland, who sold it to 
the Duke of Devonshire in 1737. I have failed to 
ascertain the precise date at which this historical 
chase ceased to afford a sanctuary to the red deer. 
My friend Chancellor Ferguson writes that ' Edward 
Hasell, who owned Dalemain from 1794 to 1825, 
inherited the family sporting tastes, and with his 
hounds assisted at two occasions which may be 
called historical the capture of the last stag on 
Whinfell, and the capture of the last stag in Ingle- 
wood Forest, when these two famous and ancient 
chases were disforested. The Dalemain hounds 
continued to find stags in Martindale, where the 
Countess of Lonsdale, in the glories of a carriage and 
four and outriders, would not infrequently be seen 

c 2 



20 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



gracing the meet' ('The Cumberland Foxhounds,' 
pp. 8-9). 

The Duke of Wharton used to hunt in Martin- 
dale, driving to the meet in a coach and six, 
preceded by a running footman dressed in white. 
The stags of Martindale must often have wandered 
across the western fells to Ennerdale, where another 
herd long existed. The shepherds used to say that 
old stags sometimes ejected sheep from the Pillar 
Stone by forking them over the side. It was on the 
south side of Ennerdale Lake that the deer used to 
harbour chiefly, on what is called ' The Side,' a spot 
which was then thickly wooded. The depredations 
which the Ennerdale deer wrought in the crops of 
the farmers at Gillerthwaite at the top of the lake, 
and also on Mireside Farm on the east side, were so 
great that it became necessary to set old scythes and 
pitchforks in the gaps and open places in the fences 
to keep them out of the crops. The Side Wood 
joined Coupland (also an ancient forest), and ran up 
to Wasdale Fell, also called Wastall, which in 1671 
was ' a large forest or wast ground replenished with Red 
Deer.' Scawfell was the home of a few deer in the last 
century. One of these animals was chased into Wast- 
water Lake, in which it was drowned. The Martindale 
deer alone have escaped the fate of extermination meted 



THE RED DEER'S HOME 



out to the Ted deer of the Wordsworth country. It 
was from Martindale, too, that Gowbarrow Park was 
supplied with the ancestors of the existing herd. 
The Gowbarrow deer, like those of Muncaster, roam 
at will over a wild moorland, but their range is 
limited by fencing. Yet they are as truly wild 
animals as the deer in any Scottish forest which 
happens to be enclosed. They are not, I think, as 
free from the taint of tame blood as the deer on the 
other side of the lake ; because tame stags have been 
introduced to Gowbarrow on several occasions. The 
Martindale deer have never received any infusion 
of any foreign strain. This is remarkable, because 
most of the English forests which existed in the last 
two centuries did from time to time supply a home 
to strange deer. Even in our own time, tame park- 
fed stags were carried to the remote island forest 
of Rum, with a view of improving the heads of the 
Hebridean stags. In the same way draughts of 
continental deer found their way occasionally into 
the royal forests south of the Tweed. The Duke of 
Buckingham was invited to furnish a draught of the 
Whaddon deer for Windsor Forest this was in 1685. 
He replied to the agent who approached him in the 
following words : ' I cannot bring my mind down low 
enough to think of selling red deer, but if you believe 



22 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

that his Majesty would take it kindly of me, I will 
present him with ten brace of the best that I have.' 
Three years later the Prince of Orange fetched over 
one hundred and eight red deer for Windsor from 
Germany. The animals were shipped in a vessel 
called the ' Dorothy,' and landed at the Ship 
Brewhouse Wharfe. The expense of shipping the 
deer in question amounted to 1177. 4^. 6d. 

The Martindale deer had no change of blood, so 
far as I can discover, until thirteen or fourteen years 
ago, when Mr. Hasell sent his deerkeeper to obtain 
half a dozen calves from a well-known forest on the 
Scottish mainland. One stag calf and five hinds were 
selected. These animals were taken up in August, 
and sent over to Mr. Hasell's park of Dalemain, 
near Penrith. There the young deer wintered. In 
the following June they were conveyed to Martin- 
dale and allowed to shift for themselves. But in 
consideration of these deer having been fed in a 
park the previous winter, Jackson prevailed upon 
Mr. Hasell to cart some hay from Dalemain to 
Martindale to assist the animals in severe weather. 
The custom thus established has been continued 
with good results. It must, however, be understood 
that only a limited number of even the younger 
animals partake of the temporary assistance thus 



THE RED DEER'S HOME 



extended to them. Mr. R. Lydekker has suggested 
that the Westmorland deer are not truly wild, 
because a few of their number receive a little hay in 
winter. But he is quite mistaken. The deer of 
Scottish forests often receive similar aid in hard 
times, but no one calls them tame deer on that 
account. It was always usual to feed the red deer 
in the royal forests of England. The cost of sup- 
plying hay to large herds, such as that of Windsor 
Forest, was often very considerable. Thus in 1691, 
the hay required for the deer at Windsor Forest cost 
6o/., in addition to 1,7507. expended in feeding the 
deer in Windsor New Park. 

Our public records abound in interesting notes 
about both red and fallow deer. The six head of 
deer introduced to Martindale did remarkably well. 
Some of the hinds took the stag when two years and 
-a half old, dropping their calves in the following 
summer. They soon mingled freely with the 
English hinds. As for the young stag, he became 
the owner of a seraglio in due course ; indeed he 
was a master stag when I had the honour of making 
his acquaintance for the first time. He was not of 
quite the same colour as the Martindale stags, 
but turned out a heavy, well- furnished animal, with 
a nice head. He succumbed to the hardships of 



24 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

the terrible winter of 1893-4, being found dead in 
an out of the way spot, not far from Patterdale. 

I had almost forgotten to mention that the 
Martindale stags occasionally swim the breadth of 
Ulleswater Lake in order to join the hinds in Gow- 
barrow Park. Stags have also been found to cross 
from Gowbarrow to the shores of Martindale, but this 
is an unusual event. Jackson recollects one par- 
ticular stag which was very determined to remain in 
Martindale, whither it had escaped from Gowbarrow. 
But its wandering propensities may be accounted for 
by the fact that it was a strange animal, which had 
been taken to Gowbarrow for the sake of new blood. 
It was eventually captured in the lake, and towed 
ashore by a boat's crew. This circumstance reminds 
me of a description of a royal hunt, in which the 
quarry sought to escape from his enemy by ' soiling,' 
or in other words by taking to the water. The. 
details given are so graphic that I venture to repro- 
duce them here. 'Aug. 17. Between Ten and 
Eleven in the Morning, their Majesties, together with 
his Royal Highness the Duke, and their Royal 
Highnesses the Princesses, came to New Park by 
Richmond, from Hampton Court, and diverted them- 
selves with hunting a Stag, which ran from Eleven to 
One, when he took to the great Pond, and defended 



THE RED DEER'S HOME 25 



himself for., about half an Hour, when being kill'd, 
and brought out by the Help of a Boat, the 
Huntsmen sounded the French Horns. The Skin 
was taken off, and the Carcass given to the Dogs. 
His Majesty, the Duke, and the Princess Royal 
hunted on Horseback ; her Majesty and the Princess 
Amelia hunted in a Four-wheel'd Chaise ; and the 
Princess Carolina in a Two-wheel'd Chaise ; and the 
Princesses Mary and Louisa were in a Coach. Several 
of the Nobility attended, and among them Sir Robert 
Wai pole, clothed in green, as Ranger. When the 
Diversion was over, their Majesties, the Duke, and 
the Princesses, refreshed themselves on the Spot with 
a Cold Collation (as did the nobility at some Distance 
of Time after), and soon after Two in the after- 
noon return'd for Hampton Court.' ' 

1 The Monthly Chronicle, 1728, vol. i. p. 180. 



26 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



CHAPTER II 
THE RED DEER'S LIFE 

THE habits of most wild quadrupeds are liable to 
be largely modified by local circumstances. The red 
deer conforms to the general rule. The immense 
forests of Germany, some of which abound in deer, 
are as dissimilar as possible from many of the stony 
wildernesses in which most of our Scottish stags take 
their pleasure. There is a weird, uncanny feeling 
about the pet corries of our Highland deer. You 
may tramp through the midst of them for miles, 
without observing any more stirring sign of life than 
tin- whirr of a startled grouse or the hasty scamper 
of a blue hare. Only here and there, but always at 
pretty long intervals, does a green brae crop up, as 
though to redeem the landscape from the reproach of 
absolute sterility. The ground is often too bare to 
feed hardy black-faced wedders to a profit. Now, 
one may feel half bewildered in the mazy depths of 
a forest in Germany ; but the deep woods afford us 



THE RED DEER'S LIFE 27 

assurances~~of animal life in the tracks of roes, of 
boar, and other wild creatures, not to mention the 
steady drilling of the pied woodpecker, or the noisy 
clamour of some party of jays engaged in the con- 
genial task of mobbing an unlucky grey shrike that 
has strayed into their domain. We must recollect 
that deer, even in Scotland, live under very various 
conditions. Some animals pass much of their exist- 
ence in the midst of sheltered woods. Others spend 
their entire life under the open sky, with no protec- 
tion from the burning rays of the August sun but 
such as they find in the beds of tall bracken, screened 
from the driving hail and winter rain only by low 
stone walls or natural barriers of rock. It must, then, 
be allowed that no one is likely to lay down hard and 
fast canons as to the traits of deer, without risking 
unfavourable criticism. Broadly speaking, heavy and 
long continued falls of snow usually induce deer to 
leave high, exposed plateaux ; for the lower grounds 
afford much greater comfort under such unfavourable 
circumstances. Even full-grown stags have been 
found to perish in deep snow drifts in the north of 
Scotland. It is not surprising, therefore, that many 
deer should endeavour to secure winter quarters on 
the slopes of mountains, which are less exposed than 
the tops of the hills which they are so partial to in the 



28 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



summer. All the same, deer are wonderfully hardy 
animals, and can often shift for themselves under the 
most unfavourable circumstances. Our Martindale 
deer, for instance, do not really seem to suffer from a 
low temperature if adequate supplies of food are forth- 
coming. They contrive to scrape the snow away 
with their fore-feet even when a really heavy fall has 
taken place. Especially happy are they, if, in such 
a predicament, they can obtain access to a bed of 
nettles ; for they are partial to the roots of that plant. 
In this connection it should always be borne in mind 
that the condition of deer is largely governed by the 
character of the food supply which they command. 
One of the chief reasons for the remarkable develop- 
ment of heads on the Continent is to be found in 
the 'Browse' which forest deer enjoy. Blasius states 
that in Germany the dietary of the stag varies season- 
ally. In spring beech mast and acorns are eaten. 
In winter the bark of trees, lichens and moss, all 
go to make up the bill of fare. Certain species of 
fungi are found in the stomachs of deer. Young 
shoots are rarely neglected. 

In the case of a forest like Martindale, where there 
is no other wood than stunted hazel or wind-twisted 
thorns and alder, the deer are forced to subsist 
throughout the year on an admixture of short sweet 



THE RED DEEFS LIFE 29 



grass and strong wiry bents, besides heather where 
they can get it. When Martindale was cropped with 
extensive fields of oats, the deer used to break bounds, 
and often inflicted considerable injury on the ripening 
grain before it was carried. At the present time the 
stags roam in winter in search of fields of turnips, 
repeating their incursions night after night, in spite 
of careful watching. Jackson tells me that in winter 
he often spends several successive nights in herding 
truant stags and driving them back to the hill. He 
knows the likeliest directions in which to search with 
success for the wandering animals ; but it would more 
than tax his ability to keep the creatures within bounds 
were it not that his labours are admirably seconded 
by a trained sheep dog. This animal was broken to 
deer when only eight months old, and has proved as 
staunch as any mortal man could desire. Indeed, he 
has been known to pick up a stag in the neighbour- 
hood of Shap Fell, and to drive it back to Howtown, 
keeping it at bay until the keeper had followed the 
course on foot. Jackson himself is wise in deer-craft, 
all of a local kind, it is true, but none the less service- 
able. He is the third of his strain in the service of 
the Hasell family ; both his father (who died at a 
great age) and his grand-uncle having adopted the 
same vocation in life. He began to assist his father 



30 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

in driving deer when only eleven years old. It is not 
therefore surprising that he should be an enthusiast on 
the subject of deerstalking. 

The Martindale herd, which forms the subject of 
his charge, numbers about two hundred and fifty head 
at the present time. Of these, about sixty or seventy 
head are stags, the remainder being hinds and their 
followers. Jackson tells me that the herd was never 
more numerous in his time than prior to the severe 
winter of 1893-94. He estimated the number of 
animals then at about three hundred head ; but about 
fifty succumbed to the hardships of that terrible winter. 

Mr. Hasell only shoots six or seven stags every 
year. Of recent years one or two hinds have been 
shot in winter, but this is a departure from the usage 
of former days. The Martindale stags run up to about 
twenty-two stone weight ; but a stag of eighteen or 
nineteen stone is reckoned a fine animal. The weight 
of stags is vastly different at the end of the rutting 
season. A spent animal may not weigh more than 
ten or eleven stone, though a few months earlier his 
carcase would have pulled down seventeen or eigh- 
teen stone. 

The young of the red deer is calved in early 
summer, under ordinary circumstances. A few for- 
ward hinds drop their offspring during the last days 



THE RED DEER'S LIFE 31 

of May, but June is the calving month par excellence, 
A few late hinds delay parturition until the early days 
of July. It is possible that these hinds failed to con- 
ceive when first served, and were served again at the 
end of the rutting season. 

Twin calves are generally considered very unusual, 
but they are reported to occur nearly every year in 
Martindale, though only in single instances. They 
have been known to occur on Dartmoor. It is very 
pretty to see the solicitude which a hind displays for 
the safety of her little one. With us in Lakeland the 
hind drops her young in an open place, in heather, 
rushes, bracken, or simply on the green sward. She 
exhibits great reluctance to wander far from her calf 
when strangers are near. The male calf, or ' Hirsch- 
kalb ' as the Germans say, follows its dam until the 
arrival of autumn. If the hind joins the harem of 
a master stag, her ' Hirschkalb ' is generally driven 
away by the old stag, and thus weaned from its dam. 
The case of a female calf, or ' Wildkalb,' is different. 
The stag allows his consorts to be accompanied by 
hind calves. Consequently these latter often attend 
and suck their female parent for upwards of twelve 
months. The advent of the rut, or ' Brunftzeit ' as 
it is called in Germany, is the chief fact in the life 
of the stag. Jackson assures me that even young 



32 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

animals feel the desire to reproduce their kind. The 
acquisition of a harem is therefore a question of 
strength and determination. A two-year-old stag is 
capable of begetting stock, but of course would not 
be tolerated in the neighbourhood of a master stag. 
Even the full-grown stags are often severely gored by 
their rivals, the neck and sides being the chief points 
assailed. It is not unusual for stags to fight so long 
and obstinately that eventually the weaker animal 
succumbs to his injuries. The hinds submit to the 
overtures of the conqueror, and take no part in the 
affray of their lord and master. At the opening 
of the rutting time the necks of the stags swell, and 
their voices become hoarse. 

The precise date at which rutting begins cannot 
be defined in an arbitrary way. Blasius considers 
that the veteran stags separate their consorts at 
the end of August. In Martindale, the hinds are 
accustomed to take the stag from about the 2oth 
of October to the beginning of December. This 
is perhaps later than the prevailing experience, but 
it is impossible to generalise safely. Bell says that 
the red-deer hind goes with young eight months 
and a few days. Jackson has told me, on different 
occasions, that seven months is the period of 
gestation ; but he is no doubt mistaken as to this. 



THE RED DEER'S LIFE 33 

The breeding stags at first roar only occasionally, 
but as time elapses the discordant ' belling ' of the 
lovesick brutes becomes more and more persistent, 
especially on cold, clear nights. The strength of a 
stag can be surmised from the peculiar volume of his 
bellowing. The deeper and more raucous the sound 
produced, the more powerful is the stag likely to be. 
When the master stags are spent, they give place to 
some of their younger rivals. When the rutting 
duties cease, the winter coat begins to form. The 
antlers are sometimes shed in February. A Highland 
stag has been known to drop his horns in December, 
but such an event is rare. The Martindale deer 
seldom cast their antlers until the arrival of April, 
and some immature animals carry them until May. 
Hinds cast their winter hair from the month of May 
onwards, but an animal which happens to be in poor 
condition not rarely carries the old coat until the 
month of August. On July 9, 1896, I saw four hinds 
in Bannerdale, which had lost all the light pelage of 
winter. Another hind was nearly clean of the grey 
hair, but the sixth still retained the drab hair of winter 
almost unchanged. Hinds do not breed annually, 
as a rule, but there is no hard and fast law as to this 
among our Lakeland deer. Of course, emparked deer 
may act very differently from their wild brethren ; for 

D 



34 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



the supply of food has a direct influence upon the 
powers of the reproductive system of the red-deer 
hind. Deer, by the way, are very fond of nibbling the 
remains of shed antlers. 

An excellent instance of this is mentioned in a 
letter which Mr. A. Williamson contributed to Harvie 
Brown and Buckley's ' Fauna of the Outer Hebrides.' 
Referring to the deer of the Lews, Mr. Williamson 
reported, ' I noticed one very striking peculiarity, their 
immense craving for bones and old deer's horns. 
My predecessor shot an old horse a few days before he 
left in May, about two miles from the Lodge. When 
I arrived in August the deer were coming nightly to 
chew the bones, and all the latter had disappeared 
before I left in November of the same year. I have 
often, when lying watching a herd, seen the hinds 
chewing the horns of a stag lying on the ground, and 
that this was a common practice was shown by the 
marks of their teeth upon the horns of almost even 7 
stag I killed late in the season.' Mr. Harvie Brown 
remarks that the greater appetite displayed by the deer 
of the Long Island for bones and cast horns may be 
accounted for by the almost total absence of bone- 
producing elements in the geology of the Hebrides. 
The fact that hinds are fond of cast antlers is not 
in any sense peculiar to the Hebrides, though it may 



THE RED DEEPS LIFE 35 



have become more decidedly pronounced there than 
elsewhere. I fancy that the deer of the Long Island 
have always suffered from an inadequate supply of 
natural phosphates. The barren nature of the soil 
can hardly fail to strike anyone who crosses the 
interior of any of the Outer Hebrides. To my mind, 
it is grossly unfair that the rocky isles of Western 
Scotland, where mineral wealth is absent, and the 
excessive cost of carriage renders industrial efforts 
useless, should be forced to contribute to local rates 
and national taxation in the same proportion as the 
rich commercial districts of Southern Scotland. No 
Edinburgh lawyer would like to have to contribute a 
third of his income to the State before he could 
claim a penny for his own use ; and yet that is the 
treatment meted out to many of us Highland lairds. 
The practical result is to set a positive premium on 
absenteeism, and to prohibit most capitalists from 
investing in Highland property. 

The deer of the Long Island are reported to have 
finer heads than formerly, having generally more 
points than mainland deer. Martin tells us, in his 
' Description of the Western Islands of Scotland,' 
that the Lews deer of his day were forced to feed on 
sea-ware during severe weather. Such an event, 
however, was probably then as now of rare occurrence. 

D 2 



36 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



The fact that the stags of the old Hebridean race 
have well-shaped, symmetrical heads is the more 
surprising when we reflect upon the in-and-in 
breeding which must have been the rule rather than 
the exception in the olden days. Of course stags 
often travel long distances when dissatisfied with their 
feeding ground, or when desirous to mate with fresh 
hinds. I have known Skye stags to wander many miles 
from their accustomed haunts in quest of stray hinds, 
in pursuit of which they sometimes voluntarily swam 
across arms of the sea, and landed on lonely islets. 
Among the mainland forests this trait must tend to 
secure a general supply of vigorous mates for breeding 
hinds, except so far as modern deer-fences and other 
enclosures restrict the journeys of rambling stags. 
When the fence of an enclosed deer-forest becomes 
shattered by the storms that sweep over the sides of 
the mountains in winter, the desire of the wild stags 
to escape for a time from the limited bounds of their 
usual hill almost invariably results in some of the 
herd making good their escape, in spite of the watch- 
fulness of gillies, and of any shepherds whose assist- 
ance may be temporarily called in. Yet the extreme 
caution of wild deer does not hinder them from 
becoming tame and confiding pets, provided that they 
are reared in confinement from an early age. It is 



THE RED DEER'S LIFE 37 



very charming to see a young Scotch stag canter up 
to the windows of a lodge, to beg for an offering of 
oatcake. 

Hinds are more docile pets than stags. It is true 
that even hinds can and will defend themselves 
on occasion, especially against dogs, by rapid strokes 
of their forelegs. Stags are apt to become formidable, 
especially when the rutting season approaches ; for 
the pugnacious instinct developed by their sexual 
desires often prompts them to attack strangers, even 
when entirely unprovoked. If a young stag develops 
a tendency to attack people, he should be sent to the 
hill, or disposed of in some other way. A tame stag 
is rather unsafe even on the hill, for he may take it 
into his head to patrol a particular beat, and threaten 
to charge any passer-by. Deer are commonly kept 
on the same ground as black-faced wedders, and the 
shepherd who tried to cross a pass guarded by a 
jealous stag would run a considerable risk of being 
gored. Occasionally the pranks of a tame stag 
assume a comic aspect. Some years ago, when self- 
seeking demagogues had stirred up much agitation in 
the West Highlands, and the crofters expended their 
eloquence in denouncing proprietors and factors at 
the public meetings of a league which busybodies 
in Glasgow thought fit to subsidise on Irish lines, it 



38 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



happened that a fine young stag belonging to a 
neighbour of mine paid an unexpected visit to a 
Land League meeting. When the proceedings of the 
league terminated for the evening, and the people 
wished to leave the building in which the League 
had met, they were dismayed to find the exit 
barred by a gentleman wearing a pair of horns. 
The stag had wandered into a district in which 
he was unknown, and as the outline of his head 
was only indistinctly seen in the gloom of a winter's 
night, the conspirators, minded of the unholy work 
in which they had so recently been engaged, not 
unnaturally concluded that the Evil One himself 
had arrived to claim his own. Many readers will 
recall the professional experience of Dr. Collyns, who 
was called upon to attend upon a frightened fisher- 
man. This worthy, it will be remembered, happened 
to cast his net in the river Barle, not knowing that a 
hunted stag had ensconced himself in a deep hole 
under cover of the roots of an overhanging elder-tree. 
The deer became entangled in the net, and dragged 
the fisherman across the stream in its endeavour to 
escape. The man was so frightened that he returned 
home, and sent for the doctor. To his physician he 
solemnly confided how he had been dragged right 
across the river a horrible experience indeed and 



THE RED DEER'S LIFE 39 



he concluded his tale with a fearful sigh, ' It was the 
devil, zur ; I do know it ; I seed his cloven foot ! ' 

The romance of the red deer loses much of its 
intrinsic charm when a herd of deer is cribbed within 
the barriers of a park. The carriage of the wild stag, 
as he halts on a spur of hill to gaze for a moment at 
an intruder before cantering after his companions as 
they troop down a rocky slope in single file, is noble 
and inspiring. Deer have their favourite tracks among 
the hills, and cross the stone walls of the Lake hills 
at particular points by preference. It is delightful to 
see a small herd daintily picking their way across the 
course of some small beck among the uplands. But 
even park deer retain much of the easy grace of 
the wild animals. Especially is this applicable to the 
calves of the red deer when they are strong enough to 
race after their dams across extensive paddocks. Con- 
finement under artificial conditions affords special 
opportunities for the naturalist to study the growth of 
deer. Mr. Samuel Carter contributed an interesting 
paper to the ' Zoologist ' of 1887, on the growth of 
antlers in the red deer, as based upon his observa- 
tion of tame examples. This gentleman bred eleven 
calves in six years, one of which turned out a particu- 
larly fine animal. This animal carried nine points 
in his third year. Mr. Carter came to the conclusion 



40 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



that the development of antler is more the result of 
feeding than anything else. He thought that many 
of the stags which Exmoor sportsmen believed to be 
seven years old were in reality only three or four 
years old, the rapid growth of the horns being 
attributed to the fact that ' in that country they get 
such good browse in the large covers of scrub-oak 
and other trees.' Mr. Carter found that his tame 
and well-fed hinds bred every year after reaching 
maturity. Such fecundity is, I believe, exceptional ; 
at any rate the Westmorland hinds do not, as a rule, 
calve annually, though they not unfrequently do so. 
Mr. J. A. Houblon has recorded that a single hind, 
living with her own descendants alone, produced 
offspring nearly every year between 1877 and 1887, 
in Hatfield Broad Oak forest. Although this out- 
lying hind must apparently have paired with her own 
progeny, no signs of degeneration appeared in the 
heads of the stags, some of which carried ten points 
when five years old. The Martindale stags not infre- 
quently carry nine or ten points. Formerly a Royal 
stag was almost unheard of among the dales. The 
late Sir R. Musgrave of Edenhall shot the first 
'Royal' obtained in Martindale within living 

O 

memory. Two other ' Royals ' have been procured 
in Martindale more recently. It is not my intention 



THE RED DEER'S LIFE 41 



to repeat a<_length the opinions of others on the sub- 
ject of the development of the antlers of the red 
deer. Whole volumes have been devoted to illus- 
trating the splendid growth or peculiar monstrosities 
which have been found in the collections of heads 
preserved in some of the German castles. 
Dombrowski's work, ' Die Geweihbildung der 
europaischen Hirscharten,' illustrates some rare 
deformities, and has the merit of being less expensive 
than most works of the kind. The plates are 
coloured and well executed. Still more important is 
A. B. Meyer's work upon the heads of deer, 'Die 
Hirschgeweih-Sammlung im Schlosse zu Moritzburg,' 
of which the first edition appeared in 1883, followed 
by a second in 1887. Many excellent remarks on 
antlers are to be referred to in Collyns' book, ' The 
Chase of the Red Deer.' Richard JefFeries never did 
a better piece of work than when he wrote a short 
volume on Exmoor ' Red Deer ' ; but he had no pre- 
tensions to write with authority upon such a difficult 
subject as heads. Collyns, on the other hand, wrote 
from ripe, and indeed life-long, acquaintance with the 
subject. A new edition of his work, which is scarce 
and dear, would be welcomed by sportsmen, if edited 
wisely. His explanation of the development of the 
antler, in its various stages, supplies a want which is 



42 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

not satisfied by such a well-known textbook as Bell's 
'British Quadrupeds.' The 'Field' has published 
many articles of first-rate importance concerning red 
deer and their heads. Mr. Allan Gordon Cameron 
in particular furnished a fine series of essays on this 
subject in 'The Field ' of 1891. In the course of 
these, he pointed out that ' the process of growth has 
sometimes been confused with the vital maintenance 
of the developed antler. The vitality of the antler 
does not, however, depend upon the surface nutrients, 
which disappear, but upon the internal circulation, 
which remains. Anyone who takes the trouble to 
saw a cross section of the beam from the burnished 
and hardened antler of a freshly killed adult Septem- 
ber stag will prove two things to his own entire satis- 
faction : (i) that the blood circulates freely through 
the antlers at this season of their complete develop- 
ment, when their power as effective fighting weapons 
is absolutely in request ; (2) that at the same time 
the porous interior within the solid periphery 
occupies not less than four-fifths of the total diameter 
of the beam. The blood continues to flow between 
the pedicle and the antler till close on the time of 
shedding ; and newly shed antlers often show blood 
at the base, emitting an offensive smell if gnawed 
or broken so as to expose the spongy interior.' A 



THE RED DESK'S LIFE 43 



peculiarity-of the Islay Forest, about which Mr. 
Cameron specially writes, is the habitual recurrence 
of 'cromie heads' (Gaelic: cromagach, 'crooked'). 
' There is no question of organic injury, no apparent 
reference to ancestral legacies, no reason to suppose 
that in-breeding produces effects in one island or 
district which it does not produce in another. 
" Cromie " antlers slope backwards, very much after 
one type, and are often of great beauty.' It is hardly 
necessary to remind the public that the colour of red 
deer varies not only with the summer and winter 
coat for that is obvious but also with particular 
districts. The Scotch stag which has been referred 
to as introduced to Martindale was of a greyer 
colour than the Lakeland stags. Mr. Carter remarks 
that this variation is not confined to the coat but 
also applies to the irides. ' Some are much lighter 
coloured than others, and have an eye with a straw- 
coloured iris ; others have a dark brown eye, and the 
red of the bodies and the browns and grey about the 
face, neck, and legs much darker in tone. So far as 
my experience goes, I am of opinion that the dark 
deer belong to the Highlands and Islands of Scot- 
land, and the light-eyed deer of a lighter and more 
mealy colour, belong to the parks and lowlands, being 
also larger and partaking more of the character of the 



44 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

continental deer.' ('Zoologist,' 1887, p. 324.) Red 
deer vary little in the direction of leucotism or albinism 
in a wild state, while pied varieties appear to be 
unknown even on the Continent. But white and 
cream-coloured stags, and hinds also, are well known 
to occur in parks in England as well as in Germany. 
No white deer have ever been known to occur in 
Martindale ; but Gowbarrow Park, anciently called 
' Wethermlake,' on the opposite side of Ulleswater, 
boasts of such a distinction. Mr. Henry Howard of 
Greystoke Castle wrote to me four years ago, to 
inform me that ' The white stag came (to Gowbarrow) 
from Mr. Petre or Lord Petre, who used to keep 
staghounds. I believe the breed originally came 
from Germany. He lived a long time at Gowbarrow, 
and was killed eventually when very old (between 
1860 and 1870), by the other stags setting on him 
and killing him. There are still several white deer, 
descendants of his, left at Gowbarrow.' Pure white 
red deer have been turned out on one or two 
Scottish forests ; but they are seldom met with 
outside English parks. No doubt their peculiar 
appearance exposes them to dangers from which 
other deer are shielded by their protective coloura- 
tion. 



ECHOES OF 7'HE CHASE 45 



CHAPTER III 

ECHOES OF THE CHASE 

THE sculptured stones of ancient Scotland are elo- 
quent witnesses to the early history of our forefathers. 
The carvings which have survived the vicissitudes 
of centuries are crude in form, as well as simple in 
the ideas which they serve to embody. None the 
less vividly do they portray for us the stormy days 
amidst which the Celt held his own against many 
odds, and ruled the shores and hillsides of his native 
country. The numerous hunting scenes, in par- 
ticular, possess a certain fascination for men who 
sympathise with the hardships and perils of the chase. 
Full of vigour were the brawny spearsmen of those 
days, as bold in spearing the monarch of the glen as 
in fighting for the sacred cause of hearth and home. 
The spear was often replaced by the flight of a well- 
poised arrow ; but whatever weapon served the 
necessity of the hour, the hunter's success depended 



46 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



largely upon the assistance of the powerful hounds 
whose strength and courage were relied upon to 
serve their master in the moment of need, as when 
a wounded hart stood at bay with head lowered in 
proud defiance of the horse and his rider. Whether 
the Celts excavated pitfalls, into which deer could be 
driven with the assistance of hounds, is a point upon 
which I am unable at present to pronounce a positive 
opinion. Certainly the use of pitfalls is common to 
many uncivilised nations ; nor is it among savages 
alone that we find evidence that pitfalls are in 
favour for hunting purposes. The Chinese and the 
Japanese both make frequent use of covered pits to 
capture wild animals. The modern Japanese are 
adept at capturing deer, which they do in more ways 
than one. For example, a light is sometimes em- 
ployed to attract deer within shot. In this case the 
hunters betake themselves to the mountains in the 
evening, carrying a peculiar kind of torch. This 
consists of a long bamboo, which bears a sort of wire 
cage, filled with resin and fine chips of wood. When 
this is lighted in a forest glade, any deer that happen 
to be in the vicinity gather round the mysterious light 
and are shot by the ambushed Japanese. 

A similar device is to build a rude hut, in a line 
with which a dried bamboo is planted in the ground. 



ECHOES OF THE CHASE 47 

The bamboo is smeared with wax or resin, and serves 
the purpose of a torch or beacon. 

The unsophisticated deer are attracted to the spot 
by the blaze of light, only to be shot down by the 
party ensconced within the hut. When pitfalls are 
employed, the hunters take care to excavate the soil 
to such a depth that the deer cannot leap out of 
the hole. The pitfall is carefully covered over with 
slender bamboos and grasses. The male deer are 
attracted to the vicinity of the pits intended for their 
destruction by means of a call, which is made from 
the skin of an unborn fawn. This instrument is re- 
quired to enable the hunter to imitate the call of the 
female deer. When the wild stags hear the cry of 
the other sex they hasten in search of their consorts. 
It is while seeking for their mates that they usually 
drop into the pitfalls. The Chinese frequently shoot 
deer ; but the quarry more often than not is marked 
down in cover. Nets are then placed around the 
thickets, and drivers accompanied by dogs proceed to 
drive the deer into the nets. Mr. F. W T . Styan, F.Z.S., 
tells me that the Chinese attach great value to the 
velvet of the stag of Kopsch's deer, which inhabits 
certain hills which lie to the south of the Yangtze 
valley. The velvet is in request for so-called medicinal 
purposes. Accordingly, the natives organise large 



48 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

drives, with the aid of numerous beaters, who frighten 
the deer out of the small gulleys, and endeavour to 
force them to face the guns which are posted wher- 
ever the animals are expected to pass. The ancient 
Greeks seem to have depended largely upon 
the assistance of nets in obtaining most kinds of 
game. The Rev. W. Houghton has drawn attention 
to the fact that the Greek hunters, in the time of 
Xenophon, anticipated a stag-hunt by setting a 
number of traps in the covers which were expected 
to supply a stag. The engine in question resembled 
the devices used in Africa, India, and even Central 
Asia, for taking ostriches and deer by the feet. ' It 
consisted of a circular crown of yew twigs, twisted 
strongly together. In this were fixed several spikes 
of tough yew-wood and iron alternately, the latter 
being the larger ; these spikes probably radiated 
towards the centre of the circle, but we have no ac- 
curate information on this point. We are not told what 
was the ordinary diameter of these circular crowns of 
yew- wood, but I apprehend it was about two feet. The 
spikes were equidistant, and so arranged that they 
permitted the foot of the animal to pass between 
them and then closed upon the leg. To the peri- 
phery of the " Podostrabe " (or crown of yew) a strong 
noose or eye of twisted hemp was firmly attached. 



ECHOES OF THE QHASE 49 



to which again was fastened a rope of the same 
material, bearing at its other end a clog of oak timber 
perhaps 22 inches long, and 4 inches broad, with the 
bark still adhering to it. Such was the fashion of 
this instrument, and it was set as follows : a round 
hole was dug in the ground, about i| ft. deep, 
equal in diameter at the top to the crown of the 
" Podostrabe,"and gradually narrowing below ; another 
hole was made for the clog, and a channel for the 
rope. The circular part of the snare was then placed 
in the round hole, and the clog and rope in their 
respective places, and all was covered over with 
leaves and earth.' When a stag, trotting through his 
favourite pass, put one of his feet into the snare, his 
struggles to ge't away soon liberated the trap from the 
earth. The unfortunate animal was therefore obliged 
to drag the log of wood after him. His efforts to 
escape from the staghounds were thus cruelly handi- 
capped. Whether the Celt employed any such 
primitive strategy in the chase of our Highland deer 
is unknown to me. Messrs. Buckley and Harvie 
Brown tell us that deer were driven into enclosures 
in Sutherlandshire, and the custom may have been 
recognised in other districts : ' On the top of the 
Little Ben Griam is still to be seen the remains of 
an old stone dyke, and one wonders what could be 



SO NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



the use of such a thing in such an apparently useless 
place for one ; this is all that is left of what once was 
a deer-trap. The deer were driven up the hill be- 
tween the two dykes, which are very wide apart at the 
entrance, and then gradually contracted, ending in a 
regular cul de sac ; and there being no escape, unless 
it were over a precipice, the unfortunate animals were 
then slaughtered. Mr. Houston tells us that there is a 
very similar trap in the Dunrobin Forest on the rocky 
hill south of Cor Eshach ; nor, do we believe, are 
these the only two in the country.' ('A Fauna of 
Sutherland and Caithness,' p. 88.) 

The ancient manner of preparing the venison was 
the same in Ireland and Western Scotland. The 
poem of Fingal, attributed to Ossian, alludes to the 
disposal of the carcases of hunted deer. ' It was on 
Cromla's shaggy side that 1 )orglas placed the deer : 
the early fortune of the chace, before the heroes 
left the hill. A hundred youths collect the heath ; 
ten heroes blow the fire ; three hundred chuse 
the polish'd stones. The feast is smoaking wide.' 
James Macpherson explains that the feast was pro- 
vided for in the following way : 'A pit lined with 
smooth stones was made ; and near it stood a heap of 
smooth flat stones of the flint kind. The stones as 
well as the pit were properly heated with heath. Then 



ECHOES OF THE CHASE 51 



they laid seme venison in the bottom, and a stratum 
of the stones above it ; and thus they did alternately 
till the pit was full. The whole was covered with 
heath to confine the steam. Whether this is probable 
I cannot say ; but some pits are shewn, which the 
vulgar say, were used in that manner.' My relative 
Dr. John Macpherson of Sleat, in his ' Critical 
Dissertations on the Ancient Caledonians,' endorses 
with his own authority the note just quoted from 
Ossian as perfectly correct. He was considered a 
skilled Celtic antiquary. He also refers in the 
following words to the banquets of the Hebridean 
chiefs : ' The whole tribe filled the Chieftain's hall. 
The trunks of trees covered with moss were laid in 
the order of a table from one end of the hall to the 
other. Whole deer and beeves were roasted and laid 
before them on rough boards or hurdles of rods wove 
together. Their pipers played while they sat at table, 
and silence was observed by all.' He says, too, that 
in the reign of Robert Bruce, a party of Scots invaded 
the North-east of England, performing a feat of 
extraordinary prowess, after which the Scots withdrew 
to their own country. ' Some of the English, either 
to gratify curiosity, or in expectation of booty, took 
a view of the Scottish camp, and found there three 
hundred bags made of raw deer-skins, with the hair 



52 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



on them, and all these full of water and flesh, for the 
use of the men. The bags were contrived so as to 
answer the design of kettles. They found likewise a 
thousand wooden spits, with meat on them, ready to 
be roasted.' 

' In many parts of Ireland,' writes Mr. R. J. 
Ussher, ' large patches of blackened soil may be 
seen turned up by the plough or spade. These were 
ancient cooking-places, and the charcoal that ac- 
cumulated there has imparted its colour to the soil. 
Such spots are termed, in Irish, " the roasting of the 
deer." The venison was no doubt baked in pits lined 
with heated stones, as the cracked and burned slabs of 
sandstone testify, in the same manner as is in use 
among the natives of Australia and other countries.' 
('Zool.' 1882, p. 83.) 

Some interesting particulars concerning the High- 
land drives for deer are to be gleaned from the MS. 
of Colonel James Farquharson of Invercauld. The 
vassals of the chief were bound to give personal 
attendance on the superior, with eight followers from 
each davoch of land, with their dogs and hounds, at 
all his huntings within the bounds of Mar, ' and sail 
caus big and put up our lonckartis for the hunting, 
and sail make and put furthe tinchellis at the samen, 
according to use and wont.' From early times the 



ECHOES OF THE CHASE 53 



wilds of Braemar and Glen Dee had been the resoit 
of the Scottish sovereigns for purposes of sport, and 
the great gatherings of the Earl of Mar were on quite 
a regal scale. John Taylor, the Water Poet, was 
present at one of these great huntings, in the year 
1618. From him we learn that the Lonquhards, 
which the vassals of the Earl were bound to erect at 
huntings, were temporary cottages (no doubt made of 
branches of trees or turf), intended to accommodate 
those engaged in the sport. The company numbered 
from fourteen to fifteen hundred men and horses. 

'The manner of the hunting,' says Taylor, 'is 
this : five or six hundred men doe rise early in the 
morning, and they doe disperse themselves divers 
wayes, and seven, eight, or ten miles compasse, they 
doe bring or chase in the deer in many heards (two, 
three, or four hundred in a heard) to such or such a 
place as the noblemen shall appoint them : then when 
day is come, the lords and gentlemen of their 
companies doe ride or goe to the said places, some- 
times wading up to the middles through bournes and 
rivers ; and then they being come to the place doe 
lie down on the ground till those foresaide scouts, 
which are called the Tinckhell, doe bring down the 
deer ; but as the proverb says of a bad cooke, so 
these Tinckhell men doe lick their own fingers ; 



54 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



for besides their bowes and arrows which they carry 
with them, wee can heare now and then a harquebuse 
or a musquet goe off, which doe seldom discharge in 
vaine ; then after we had stayed about three hours or 
thereabouts, we might perceive the deer appeare on 
the hills round about us (their heads making a shew 
like a wood), which being followed close by the 
Tinckhell, are chased down into the valley where we 
lay ; then all the valley on each side being way-laid 
with a hundred couple of strong Irish grey-hounds, 
they are let loose as occasion serves upon the heard 
of deere, that with dogs, gunnes, arrows, durks, and 
daggers, in the space of two hours, fourscore fat deere 
were slaine, which after we disposed of some one 
way and some another, twenty or thirty miles, and 
more than enough left for us to make merry withall 
at our rendevouze. Being come to our lodgings, there 
was such a baking, boyling, resting and stewing, as 
if Cook Ruffian had been there to have scalded the 
Devil in his feathers.' 

Traditions of lawless forays among the mountains 
still survive in many remote districts of the Highlands. 
Thus old folks say that the wild stags and hinds of 
Glenartney Forest used to roam at pleasure between 
their favourite sanctuary and Arbruchel hill. There 
was no fence to restrict their liberty, so the deer 



ECHOES OF THE CHASE 55 

crossed the- burn which formed the march without 
restraint. Once, so runs the tale, a herd of these 
wild creatures trooped down to a glen near Comrie. 
A heavy fall of snow covered the ground and 
provender was difficult to find on the high grounds. 
During the course of the night the unexpected 
visitors made free with the stacks of a farmer in the 
glen, retiring to their snow-bound retreat among the 
hills before the arrival of daylight revealed the havoc 
which had been wrought in the steading. When the 
farmer discovered the loss which he had suffered, he 
blamed his sons for their supposed carelessness in 
allowing the stirks to pull down the corn. The sons 
disarmed his wrath by showing him the stirks securely 
tied up in the byres. A search soon explained the 
mystery ; for the deer had left indisputable proofs of 
their nocturnal frolics in the snow. The state of the 
weather rendered it likely that the deer would repeat 
their adventure the following evening. A trap was 
therefore laid for the peccant quadrupeds. Some 
loose sheaves of grain were thrown upon the snow at 
one of the entrances to a byre, which was furnished 
with a door at each end. Ropes were attached to 
both the doors in such a way that they could be 
closed at will by the party of watchers. The evening 
came, and the frost was very severe. A good many 



56 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

hours seemed to pass without any unusual circum- 
stance. At last the welcome sound of the deer 
approaching was heard. One of the party peeped 
cautiously out of ambush. There sure enough were 
the dark forms of three or four deer crossing the 
snow. The animals sniffed cautiously round, and 
soon began to nibble at the grain. They seemed 
scared at finding the byre open, but gathered courage 
on discovering that the passage through was clear. 
When all the grain which lay on the snow outside 
the byre had been consumed, the animals followed 
the train of straw which led them into the byre. 
As soon as the unlucky animals had crossed the 
threshold, both doors were hastily closed. The cap- 
tives passed the remainder of the night in fruitless 
attempts to escape from their prison. When daylight 
returned the fate of the poor wanderers was soon 
settled, though unfortunately not in a way which 
sportsmen could countenance. 

The methods employed by poachers varied in differ- 
ent places. One of the commonest plans was for a 
couple of men to go to the hills with their guns, intend- 
ing to take up their position on the line which deer 
would be likely to follow when returning from feeding 
on the lower slopes of the hill. Two hours or so after 
the gunners left home a boy would be dispatched, to 



ECHOES OF THE CHASE 57 



walk along a" certain part of the hill, in order that he 
might quietly drive the deer back to the hill, guiding 
them to the vicinity of the ambuscade. 

Our good Scotch folk seem to have always had 
a hankering after English venison a failing which 
frequently induced them to take liberties when they 
happened to cross the Border. For example, in 
1285, Robert de Brus, Lord of Annandale, and John 
de Seytone, his knight, were indicted before the 
justices itinerant on pleas of the Forest of Cumber- 
land ; the charge formulated against them being 
that, when hunting in Inglewood, they had taken a 
doe and a red deer ' priket ' in excess of their 
allowance. Again, in 1353, Edward III., at the 
request of his cousin Edward de Baliol, granted 
pardon to the nobles and others who had hunted 
with him on various occasions in Inglewood forest, 
and had slain fourteen stags, two bucks, eleven 
hinds, and sixteen red-deer calves in summer, and 
sixteen hinds, fifteen red-deer calves, twenty-one 
bucks and does, and seventeen fawns, in winter ; 
these facts being attested by indenture between the 
King and William Lengleys, chief forester of 
Inglewood. Just two years later, on the 3rd of 
December, 1355, we find Edward III. again granting 
pardon to the same parties, who on this occasion 



58 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

had killed nineteen harts, fourteen hinds, seventeen 
calves, two bucks, four 'sourells,' thirteen does, a 
' priket,' and two fawns. Even in the days of Queen 
Elizabeth, the Scottish nobles gave trouble of a 
similar description. It had been an ancient custom of 
the borderers to send to the Warden of the Middle 
March, ' to desire leave that they might come into the 
borders of England, and hunt with their greyhounds 
for deere, towards the end of summer, which was never 
denied them. But towards the end of Sir John Foster's 
gouvernment, when he grew very old and weake, they 
took boldnesse upon them, and without leave-asking 
would come into England, and hunt at their pleasure, 
and stay their owne time ; and when they were a 
hunting their servants would come with cartes and 
cutt' down as much wood as everyone thought 
would serve his turne, and carry it away to their 
houses in Scotland.' This abuse of courtesy was 
sharply rebuked by one Sir Robert Carey, who ap- 
pears to have succeeded to the inefficient Sir John 
Foster. Carey gave the bold strangers formal notice 
that he was ' no way willing to hinder them of 
their accustomed sportes to hunt in England as they 
had ever done, but withall I would not by my 
default dishonour the Queene and myselfe to give 
them more liberty than was fitting : I prayed him 



ECHOES OF THE CHASE 59 

therefore toxlet them know, that if they would, 
according to the antient custome, send to mee for 
leave, they should have all the contentment I could 
give them ; if otherwise they would continue their 
wonted course, I would do my best to hinder them.' 
Finding them defiant, Carey adopted strong measures. 
He sent out a party of troops, who surprised the 
hunting gallants in the midst of a fresh foray. The 
military ' broke all the carts of the trespassers, and 
carried a dozen of the principal raiders to the Castle 
of Witherington,' where Carey was quartered. He- 
detained the Scots two or three days, and then sent 
them home, having exacted a promise that they 
would not hunt again in England without formal 
permission. The pledge was honourably kept, and 
Carey often hunted with them for two or three days 
together, 'and so wee continued good neighbours 
ever after.' But James I. took considerable umbrage 
at the treatment meted out to his subjects in 
fact he made a formal complaint to Queen Eliza- 
beth. ' The Queene and Council liked very well 
of what I had done ; but to give the king some 
satisfaction to content him, my two officers,' says 
Carey, ' were commanded to the Bishop of Durham's, 
there to remaine prisoners during her Majesties 
pleasure. Within a fortnight I had them out againe, 



60 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 



and there was no more of this businesse.' King 
James himself seems to have had a penchant for 
English deer. I find that a warrant was issued on 
his application in 1593, for the delivery of deer to 
persons to be appointed by Robert Bowes, Esq., 
the Queen's ambassador with the said king, in order 
to the storing of some ground of the king in 
Scotland viz. for Marwood Park, ten ; Marwood- 
hag Park, ten ; Little Park, called Wollhouse, five ; 
West Park, and Langley pertaining to Raby, ten ; 
Brancepath Park, the east and west park, thirty- 
five. But the English had always a certain amount 
of difficulty in preserving the deer in their own 
parks, far away from lawless Scots. Especially was 
it so in the time of the Civil War. The Royal 
forests suffered as much as the parks of private 
gentlemen. Thus, in July, 1642, we find that 
Francis Beard, an under-keeper, made an affidavit, 
that he had seen Richard Barnard and others hunt- 
ing deer in Windsor Forest. In November the 
same year, John Saunders, deputy-keeper under Sir 
Thomas Manwaringe, made an affidavit that one 
Hercules Trew had presumed to kill a stag in Old 
Windsor Park. In April, 1643, Thomas Shemonds, 
another keeper, made an affidavit that John Moore 
and others had coursed the deer in the Great Park 



ECHOES OF THE CHASE 61 

at Windsor with greyhounds. Similar outrages were 
committed in different parts of the country. For ex- 
ample, certain disorderly persons broke into Somers- 
ham Park, where they killed the deer belonging to 
the Earl of Suffolk. The House of Lords issued 
an order that the sheriff of the county should arrest 
the offenders. They ought to have been summarily 
apprehended, and committed to prison ; but the 
sheriff showed the white feather. He reported to the 
peers that he sent his officers to the house at Old 
Hurst where the delinquents were supposed to be, 
but the representatives of the law were refused 
admittance. ' The offenders are desperate men, and 
cannot be apprehended without raising the power of 
the county.' Fresh directions were therefore sought 
as to the course to pursue. Perhaps it would be 
wearisome to pursue the subject further. In peaceful 
times plenty of pleasant sport was found in the great 
parks of southern Britain. In this connection I may 
refer to an epitaph in Hault Hucknall church, 
near Chesterfield : ' In Memory of Robert Hackett, 
Keeper of Hardwick Park, who departed this life 
Deer, ye 21, Anno Dom. 1703. 

Long had he chased 

The red and fallow deer, 
But Death's cold dart 

At last has fixed him here. ' 



62 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER 

A more ambitious effort found a place in the 
church of St. Nicholas, Nottingham, to the credit of 
a once famous poacher : 

Here lies a marksman, who, with art and skill, 

When young and strong, fat bucks and does did kill. 

Now conquered by grim death (go reader tell it) 

He's now took leave of powder, gun, and pellet ; 

A fatal dart, which in the dark did fly, 

Has laid him down among the dead to lie. 

If any want to know the poor slave's name, 

Tis Old Tom Booth, ne'er ask from whence he came. 

He's hither sent ; and surely such another 

Ne'er issued from the belly of a mother. 

This epitaph was composed some time before the 
hero's death, and so delighted was he with it, tliat 
he had it graven upon a stone in anticipation of his 
own demise. He died in 1752, in his seventy-fifth 
year. 



DEER-STALKING 

BY 

CAMERON OF LOCHIEL 



CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTION 

' I HAVE had the happiness of being a deer-stalker 
for more than half a century.' 

These were the words used by the late Horatio 
Ross, the most famous gentleman athlete and all- 
round sportsman whom the present century has pro- 
duced. The occasion was his examination by the 
Select Committee of the House of Commons on the 
Game Laws (1872-73), of which I was myself a 
member, our chairman being the late Mr. Ward Hunt. 
The reply made by Mr. Ross to the opening question 
of our chairman sounds simple, and to an ordinary 
reader of the Blue Book would no doubt be passed 
over as nothing more than the usual perfunctory reply 
to a series of questions addressed to persons who give 
evidence before a select committee. To those who 
were present and in sympathy with the veteran 
sportsman, there was something more than mere 
words. This happened twenty-five years ago, and 

F 



06 DEER-STALKING 

the scene is as fresh in my memory as if it had 
occurred last year. The kindling eye, the beam of 
happiness with which his face glowed as if during 
those few seconds while he was speaking there passed 
before his mental vision many an episode of forest- 
life, of sporting adventure in strath and glen, in the 
wild and varied scenery to be found in the districts 
from Reay in the north-west to Invermark in the 
south-east, where he had been in the habit of enjoying 
his favourite pursuit confirmed me at all events in 
the opinion, which I have always held, that deer- 
stalking is the king of wild sports. 

As this estimation of deer-stalking may not be 
shared by sportsmen generally, a comparison between 
its merits and those of other sports pursued in this 
country may serve to justify the opinion which I 
have expressed, and may perhaps prove interesting 
to the reader. 

Without attempting anything like a classification 
of the various kinds of sport which are to be found in 
the British Isles, it will be admitted that four stand 
out pre-eminent. These are deer-stalking, grouse- 
shooting, salmon-fishing, and fox-hunting. Each of 
these has its respective advocates, who will enthusi- 
astically proclaim the superiority of their favourite 
amusement. I have myself at various times enjoyed 



INTRODUCTION 67 



them all, -and do still when I get the chance, 
though I do not claim to be a ' professor ' in any one 
of them. To arrive at a fair conclusion on their 
respective merits, it would appear advisable to 
enumerate certain tests by which to try each of them 
separately, and then see which gives the best general 
result. 

Take as the first test the degree of pleasure 
derived from success. Judged solely from this point 
of view, grouse-shooting is nowhere. Given good 
weather (of which more hereafter), your keeper will 
generally tell you what the bag is likely to be ; and the 
capabilities of your party as to shooting being also 
known, it follows that the result is pretty well ascer- 
tained beforehand, and the pleasure of a successful 
shoot can hardly be as great as if it were uncertain or 
unexpected. In salmon-fishing and fox-hunting there 
is always more or less luck and uncertainty, and this 
enhances the satisfaction derived from a ' real good 
day.' In salmon-fishing success, of course, depends 
on the number of fish you kill and on their weight. 
Thus the pleasure of a good day is not momentary 
like the killing of a fine stag, but is spread as it were 
over the whole day, recurring each time that a fish 
is landed. I doubt whether the aggregate amount 
of pleasure derived from capturing ten or a dozen 

F 2 



68 DEER-STALKING 



salmon is equal to the supreme happiness of stand- 
ing over a splendid royal which has been the object 
of your ambition to secure not only during that 
particular day but perhaps for weeks previously. 
Fishermen will hardly dispute that on a good day, 
when fish are really taking, you pull them out of the 
water as a matter of course, and your chief thought 
is how to land each quickly so as to be ready for 
another. In fishing too (I allude to it in a whisper) 
there is occasionally a spirit of let us call it rivalry 
which can hardly be said to yield the highest form of 
pleasure. Be this as it may, I cannot believe that 
the enjoyment derived from the landing of any 
number of salmon can equal in intensity that which 
the deer-stalker experiences when, after hours of con- 
tinuous excitement and toil, he is at last rewarded 
with a well-deserved success. 

It is somewhat difficult to apply this test to fox- 
hunting, but I think it will be admitted by those who 
love both sports that a ride home in the dark, on a 
Highland pony under the circumstances just de- 
scribed, is accompanied with pleasanter feelings and 
less sense of discomfort than the return on a tired 
hunter after the best run of the season. 

But, it may be urged by the advocates of the 
superiority of other sports, if the pleasure of success- 



INTRODUCTION 69 

ful deer-stalking be so great, the disappointment of 
an unsuccessful day must be correspondently greater. 
It is fair, therefore, to take this as the next test. 
Here salmon-fishing, as grouse-shooting in the 
previous test, may be put out of court. No one will 
deny that an absolutely blank day's fishing is a dis- 
appointment unmitigated by any other circumstances 
attendant on the sport. The fisherman has been en- 
gaged in monotonous exertion all day long, and 
experiences the sensation of having wasted his time 
as completely as if he had been using a pair of dumb- 
bells. To the grouse-shooter the disappointment is 
also severe, since, as has been already shown, he had 
reason to expect better results, and he is probably com- 
pelled to admit that the cause of failure is preventable. 
The fox-hunter, on the other hand, though the hounds 
may not have killed their fox, or even given a good 
run, though foxes are scarce, and scent bad, may 
have thoroughly enjoyed himself. He has had at 
any rate pleasant companionship ; he may have tried, 
and been pleased with, a new horse ; while in spring, 
when the days are long and the weather generally 
fine (though bad for scent), there is no reason why- 
he should not have thoroughly appreciated the mere 
ride. 

But for the deer-stalker, if he is not driven home 



70 DEER-STALKING 



by mist or has tailored his stag, there is a pleasure to 
be derived from the most disappointing day with 
which no other sport that I am acquainted with can 
compare. The incident of weather as a test will be 
dealt with presently, and ' missing ' a stag involves a 
question of skill, an element common to every form 
of sport, and which cannot be taken into account in 
the competition which is now under discussion. 

The deer-stalker, according to my own experience, 
starts in the morning always in a cheerful frame of 
mind. His cares and troubles, if he has any, are left 
at home. He anticipates a delightful day whether he 
has luck or not, and he is rarely disappointed. He 
gets plenty of the most healthy kind of exercise, 
in the purest of atmospheres, among the grandest 
scenery to be found in Britain. Unless stalking in a 
bad forest or on sheep ground, he spies deer, and 
from that moment till the shot is fired which is to 
decide whether he is to go home a happy man or the 
reverse, his attention is so absorbed that hours fly like 
minutes and minutes like seconds. Watching a herd 
of deer, sometimes for hours, is often sufficient en- 
joyment for those who love to observe the habits and 
note the instincts of wild animals. Then there are the 
difficulties with which the deer-stalker has to contend 
before getting within shot of the deer : the exciting 



INTRODUCTION 71 

moment when the sudden appearance of a hind or a 
sheep, or change of wind, threatens to upset his most 
carefully considered strategy and spoil his stalk ; then 
the last crawl to some particular boulder or heathery 
knoll within shot of which the big stag is grazing, or 
the more easy approach to an overhanging precipitous 
rock where he may lie down in comfort and ' wait for 
him to rise,' and, lastly, when he does rise, the 
thrilling moment before the shot is fired. ' To be or 
not to be ! ' Can any man who has gone through 
such scenes and experiences say that even an un- 
successful day in a deer forest is not a thing worth 
living for ? 

Let us now take weather as an element in the 
consideration of the problem. As regards the com- 
fort or discomfort of pursuing any particular form of 
sport in bad weather, there is not much to choose. 
The grouse-shooter, perhaps, experiences most incon- 
venience in this respect. He requires to use his gun, 
or at any rate be ready to use it, frequently, and in 
rainy weather he cannot protect himself as efficiently as 
the stalker, the fisherman, or the hunter. There are 
also minor troubles in regard to his ammunition, injury 
to the game, and so forth. But as regards the practical 
effect on the sport itself, I think that, judged by the 
test of weather, deer-stalking more than holds its 



7 2 DEER-STALKING 

own. Bad weather has, of course, a different signifi- 
cance in dealing with different forms of sport. Rain 
and mist are its most objectionable forms for stalking 
and shooting, frost, of course, for hunting, and bright 
sun for fishing. Now, my own experience, and I 
believe that of most deer-stalkers, is that more deer 
are killed on a wet, stormy day than when the sun is 
shining and there is not a breath of air. Naturally, 
this does not apply to days when the rain is accom- 
panied by thick mist and you cannot use your glass. 
Nor does it apply to forests where deer are very 
scarce, still less to stalking on sheep-ground when 
the glass is hardly ever in its case. But once find 
your deer on a wet day, and you make a much better 
job of it than you would do in very fine weather. 
Deer are neither so restless nor so much on the 
alert. I remember once, when staying with a friend 
who owns one of the best forests in Scotland, refusing 
to go out on a day when it was raining 'cats and 
dogs ' and blowing half a gale. There was a young 
relative of my host staying in the house, a very keen 
sportsman, whom I knew would be sent out if I 
declined, so I let him have the chance. He accord- 
ingly started, and came home, having killed in fair 
stalking six stags, one of them with a magnificent 
head, and fired off seventeen cartridges. The next 



INTRODUCTION 73 

day was everf -worse. I again declined. My young 
friend took my place, and got two more. 

Allowing that a thick mist makes stalking impos- 
sible, the same applies to grouse-shooting in both its 
forms, while it certainly cannot be said that a wet 
windy day is favourable to that pursuit. Nor can it 
be alleged that the number of hopelessly misty days 
during the stalking season is equal to the number of 
days of actual frost when hounds do not attempt 
to go out, and the fox-hunter's stud of horses are 
kept idle in their stalls. As regards fishing, how 
often does it happen that a high rent is paid for a bit 
of first-class water, for a month say, and the unfor- 
tunate lessee at the end of it returns home without 
having killed one fish, or perhaps even wetted his 
line if the drought has been continuous ! 

Yet another test that of sociability. Here fox- 
hunting stands out pre-eminent no other sport can 
touch it grouse-shooting comes next, and stalking 
and fishing nowhere. But as a set-off against this 
advantage the following point must be scored on the 
other side. Fox-hunting is the only one of the four 
sports under discussion in which the individual plays 
absolutely no part at all. Unless he is a master of 
hounds and hunts them himself, he has no share in 
the business -would that this was always realised ! 



74 



DEER-STALKING 



and whether he is well or badly mounted, whether in 
good form or not indeed, whether he comes out or 
stays at home makes no difference in the result of the 
day. His pleasure and an intense pleasure it is 
consists in seeing hounds work and in endeavouring 
to be with them so as to lose as little as possible of 
that enjoyment ; but if the fox is killed or run to 
ground after a burst of twenty-five minutes over the 
finest part of Leicestershire, it is not owing to his own 
skill or science the credit rests first with the hounds, 
and next with the servants of the hunt. 

Some of my readers may think that the matter 
of ' costs ' should be taken into account in giving 
judgment, and may consider that if this were done 
it would tell heavily against the deer-stalker. I hold 
that cost does not concern the issue which is here 
raised. But even if it were otherwise, deer-stalking 
would not suffer by comparison as much as is com- 
monly supposed. You may enjoy the sport for a rent 
of any amount from 2,5oo/. down to 2507., the latter 
on sheep-ground of course. A fancy price is, no doubt, 
given for certain places with special advantages in no 
way connected with sport ; but the above is a fail- 
range, and is not very different from the range of cost 
in the case of the others. But no true comparison 
can be made as regards cost. In the case of deer 



tNTR OD UC TION 7 5 



and grouse^ou allow for entertaining your friends, 
which is rarely done by the fox-hunter and not to 
so great an extent by the fisherman. Besides, I 
am dealing with the respective merits of four kinds of 
sport, and it is possible to appreciate the whole four 
at your friend's expense without any outlay of your 
own. 

If the above analysis of the respective advantages 
of each of the forms of sport to which the attention 
of readers of this chapter has been directed be at all 
correct, no difficulty will be found in assigning to each 
' points of merit.' Judged by this method, it will be 
found that deer-stalking wins easily. Perhaps on the 
whole fox-hunting comes next, while the remaining 
two maybe bracketted as 'equal.' I do not for a 
moment expect that the devotees of fishing, grouse- 
shooting, or hunting will admit the superiority of any 
other rival. Indeed, if they were to do so they would 
not obtain my sympathy. Enthusiasm in sport is as 
necessary for its successful prosecution as it is desir- 
able, and this may be said of all other undertakings 
in which we wish to excel. Such enthusiasm is not 
likely to be lessened by attempts on the part of those 
whose affections are elsewhere bestowed to justify 
themselves by mere argument. If a debating society 
were to select for the subject of discussion ' Which is 



76 DEER-STALKING 

the finest sport to be found in Great Britain ? ' the 
debate might be carried on for a week, and at the end 
of it probably every member of the society would be 
found to hold exactly the same views as when it 
began. (Perhaps the same may be said of other 
subjects of discussion held in various sorts of de- 
bating societies.) I do not, therefore, expect, nor 
do I wish, to convert any of my readers. I hardly 
hope to instil into the minds of ardent fox-hunters 
or keen fishermen the love of deer-stalking which I 
myself feel. But I do ask them to admit that in the 
foregoing pages the advocacy of my favourite pursuit 
is conducted with fairness that it is proper for who- 
ever undertakes to write on any branch of sport to 
show that he is enthusiastic on his subject, and that 
however great may be the differences of opinion on 
the relative merits of the hill, the moor, the river and 
the field, all true sportsmen should unite in maintain- 
ing the distinction between what is unworthy or 
effeminate, low or demoralising, and that which con- 
duces to health and manliness, to vigour of body, to 
generosity and unselfishness. 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 77 



CHAPTER II 

THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 

A MORE perfect system of intercourse between the 
Highlands and the southern parts of Great Britain, 
together with frequent discussions, from its social 
aspect, of the propriety of preserving deer for pur- 
poses of sport, have familiarised almost everyone 
with the expression, so that the question ' What is a 
deer forest ? ' is now seldom asked by persons of an 
inquiring turn of mind. It is generally understood 
that the definition is misleading, inasmuch as there 
need not be, and seldom are, any trees within the 
area of pastureland set apart for the use of deer. At 
the same time the fact that these areas should be 
known by the name of Forests serves to confirm the 
opinion, if confirmation be necessary, that vast 
regions of the Highlands were in former times 
covered with indigenous forests of the various species 
of trees, whose descendants, in sadly diminished 
numbers, are found at the present day scattered 



78 DEER-STALKING 



among the valleys and on the hillsides of most of 
our northern counties. 

There is, perhaps, a greater difficulty in answering 
the question, ' What was a deer forest ? ' In former 
times, so far as can be gathered from old writers on 
the state of the Highlands, and from modern authors 
who have studied these old writers, the condition of 
the country differed very greatly at different times. 
First, we have the old forest laws, which, though not 
quite so barbarous -as those which prevailed in 
England during the dynasty of her Norman kings, 
were yet of a severe and stringent character. In 
these early periods of history there existed certain 
royal forests set apart for the diversion of kings and 
nobles, while there were others, consisting of lands 
not belonging to the sovereign, but to great barons, 
to whom a sole right of forestry was granted, which 
right of forestry often conferred a right of servitude 
in his favour, that extended in some instances over 
lands belonging to other proprietors. It will be easily 
understood that such a system was not conducive to 
peace or good relations between the baron and his 
neighbours, and that retaliation, feuds, and bloodshed 
were its necessary accompaniments. It was found 
necessary to put an end to this state of matters ; 
the neighbouring proprietors obtained gradually 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 79 



charters or^ grants of forestry over their own estates, 
and as the numbers of these charters increased, the 
few remaining rights of the great barons over the 
lands of their neighbours fell into desuetude and were 
no longer exercised. It is a singular circumstance, 
that while these alien rights in deer have long ago 
been extinguished, those over salmon still exist. 
There are now many persons enjoying the right by 
royal charter of salmon fishing in rivers, both banks of 
which belong to a different owner, or perhaps to two 
different owners. The explanation probably lies in 
the fact that in the one case the land was required for 
other purposes besides deer and wild animals, while 
salmon form the only valuable property to be obtained 
from rivers. 

It seems tolerably certain that, owing to the strict 
preservation of deer in these large tracts of country, 
stragglers from the vast herds which roamed over 
them made their way to other places where, though 
not so secure of protection, they found abundance of 
food. Indeed, it is a question whether they did not 
fare, in summer at any rate, even better than in the 
royal forests. At the time we are speaking of there 
were very few sheep in the Highlands. Cattle formed 
th e almost entire stock of the country. It has been 
calculated that not more than a tenth of the available 



8o DEER-STALKING 

pasture of the hills was consumed by the stock which 
grazed there in summer. Certain favourite spots 
known as ' sheilings ' were no doubt eaten down 
pretty bare, but the highest hills, where the sweetest 
grass grows among rugged rocks and boulders, were 
probably left untouched by any four-footed animal 
except deer and mountain hares from one end of the 
year to the other. From this point of view it may 
almost be affirmed that, in the days of which we are 
speaking, the whole of the northern part of Scotland 
might be described as one vast deer forest, though 
of course the numbers of deer, except in the case of 
preserved districts, were small in comparison to what 
is now found even in the most recently formed, and 
therefore the worst stocked, of existing forests. 

Towards the end of the last and at the beginning 
of the present century what may be described as a 
revolution took place in the economy of the High- 
lands by the introduction of sheep-farming on a scale, 
and under conditions of management, such as had 
never previously prevailed or been even thought possi- 
ble. Under this system many existing deer forests 
were stocked with sheep, and as the lands which then 
carried black cattle, with a few goats and small sheep, 
received similar treatment, and no longer presented to 
those deer that were in the habit of frequenting them 



THE '^MANAGEMENT OF k \DEER FORESTS 81 

the attraction of ' clean ' ground, the numbers of these 
must have afso diminished ; so that it is probable there 
were in the northern parts of Scotland, at the period 
of which I am speaking, fewer red deer than there 
are at present, or than there had been in former 
times. 

The process of re-clearing some of these sheep 
walks, and the formation of fresh deer forests, began 
about twenty or thirty years later. The causes which 
led to these operations are not so easy to determine as 
they are in the clearances of the present day, or those 
within the last twenty years. A newly developed 
taste for sport may have had a good deal to do with 
it ; the invention, though then in its infancy, of steam 
engines as a propelling power by sea and land no 
doubt lessened the difficulties of locomotion, and 
afforded to enthusiastic sportsmen opportunities which 
had never before occurred of visiting the Highlands, 
making themselves acquainted with its romantic 
scenery, now so familiar to tourists, with its natural 
history and its resources from the point of view of 
a sportsman. It is a curious fact, and may seem 
incredible to many who observe the 'craze' for 
shooting which is found among the youth of the 
present day, that at the beginning of this century it 
was not always thought ' good form ' for an owner of 

G 



82 DEER. STALKING 

a deer forest, holding a high social position, to go out 
stalking himself. The old Lord Lovat, grandfather 
of the present peer, told me a long time ago what 
struck me then as so curious that I have never forgot- 
ten it. He said that when he succeeded to his estate, 
his guardian, whose name I forget, expressed the hope 
that he would not so far derogate from his position as 
to think of going into the forest to shoot deer himself. 
Such a practice, he said, was neither dignified nor 
customary. A forester was kept for the purpose, and 
it was his duty to supply the house with venison. 
Lord Lovat, of course, paid no attention to the formal 
though friendly advice of his guardian, and the crack 
of his rifle was periodically heard in Glen Strathfarrnr 
for the next fifty years. There were few better shots, 
and there was no finer sportsman than the old Lord. 
I asked him whether the suggestion made by his 
guardian had any real foundation, and if he was sure 
it did not originate in some ideas peculiar to that 
worthy gentleman. He said ' no,' he believed the 
views held by his guardian, though not perhaps 
universal, were largely shared by others, and were 
certainly prevalent in his own district. 

It is also probable that the writings of Sir Walter 
.Scott had something to do with stimulating a desire 
to visit the scenes described in some of his works, 



THE MAXAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 83 



though it can hardly be supposed that the stag hunt 
as portrayed in the ' Lady of the Lake ' seduced 
many votaries of that sport to exchange the heaths 
round Ascot or the green pastures of the Harrow 
country for the steep sides of Ben Ledi or the wild 
fastnesses of the Trossachs. If literature had any 
effect in this direction, foremost among the publi- 
cations of the day must be placed that delightful book 
on deer-stalking by Scrope. Allusion to this work will 
be made in a subsequent part of the present chapter, 
From about the year 1860 to 1874 a lull took place 
in the process of clearing ground for deer. During 
that period sheep-farming was highly profitable, while 
the ground on which this industry could be less suc- 
cessfully prosecuted from considerations of climate 
had been already converted into deer forests. The 
close of the Franco-German war, and the adoption of 
a mono-metallic currency on the Continent, together 
with increasing importation of wool, reduced the 
profits of sheep-farming. The ' big ' men from the 
Cheviots and Dumfriesshire, who had made their 
' pile ' during the American Civil War and succeeding 
years, threw up their farms, and there was no one tc 
take their place. The owners of these farms had thus 
no option but to take them into their own hands, which 
required a large capital, or, if they got the opportunity, 



84 DEER-STALKING 



to convert them into deer forests. The latter course 
was largely adopted, and has been continued, though 
of course diminishing as the available area diminished, 
up to the present time. It may safely be affirmed 
that almost the whole of the land in the Highlands 
suitable for deer (by which is meant land where sheep 
cannot be made to pay) is now cleared, and it is a 
subject for regret that there are signs of a disposition 
to convert good grouse moors into bad deer forests. 
In such cases the rules which ought to govern the 
formation of a forest are violated either through igno 
ranee or obstinacy, and the result must be disappoint- 
ment, loss, and vexation. I propose to deal with the 
social aspect of this question in a subsequent chapter. 
Here we are considering it from a sporting as well as 
a financial point of view. 

There are certain conditions in the creation of a 
deer forest which are necessary and unmistakable. 
Even if these conditions be observed, success is not 
always to be obtained. Some unforeseen change in 
the management of a neighbouring estate, a wrong 
boundary to the newly formed forest, an erroneous 
estimate of therelative attractions of theground to stags 
or hinds, and other local peculiarities, may interfere 
with the success of the operation ; but failure, where 
knowledge exists and is given effect to, and when 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 85 



advantage is- taken of the experience acquired by 
others, is rare. 

Thus, no one ought to think of making a deer 
forest on ground which is completely surrounded by 
sheep. To begin with, the amount of fencing would 
be enormous ; without fencing the sheep would crowd 
in on every side, and it would then be useless for 
your purpose. Nor is it easy to see how such ground 
is to be stocked, or if at length it were to be stocked 
with deer, how long the process would last. 

It is essential to make sure that there is good 
wintering ground belonging to your proposed forest, 
otherwise you will never get the best heads or the 
heaviest bodies, while if you trust to your neighbour 
to winter your deer, you ought to be sure of him. If 
of a jealous disposition, he may give trouble, forgetting 
that though wintering is all-important, still the growth 
and well-doing of a stag depend to some extent on 
his condition at the beginning of winter, and that the 
migration of a certain proportion of the deer that 
wintered with him to the newly made forest in the 
early summer relieves his own ground, and thus im- 
proves its capabilities to keep them all in good con- 
dition in winter. 

Hut supposing a case where the above may not 
apply, or where your neighbour will not see it in that 



S6 DEER-STALKING 

light, or is a jealous sportsman, he may cause much 
annoyance either by the drastic method of running 
up a deer fence all along your march, or by walking a 
man up and down throughout the stalking season. 

If possible, it is very desirable in forming a new 
forest to be reasonably assured that it will not develop 
into a 'hind ' forest. This assurance is, however, not 
always to be obtained, and one 'is very apt to be 
deceived. Deer are curious beasts : the ground 
which one fancies must prove attractive to stags some- 
times becomes a favourite resort of hinds, and is thus 
useful for stalking only towards the end of the season. 

A striking instance of the extreme difficulty of 
ascertaining with certainty whether a tract of ground 
which it is proposed to clear for deer will prove to be 
the resort of stags or hinds, occurred in a case of my 
own some years ago. A large tract of land, occupied 
by one of the large farmers from the south to whom 
allusion has been made, fell out of lease. I had no 
option but to let it as a forest to a neighbour, and it 
was so let. It carried a stock of about 8,000 sheep, 
and consisted of four very large corries on the one 
side, with the face of a long glen on the other the 
ridge of the latter, which formed the head of the 
corries, having an altitude of nearly 3,000 feet above 
sea-level. A more perfect place for the formation of 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 87 



a forest couhd not be found anywhere. In the neigh- 
bourhood, but not quite contiguous, a range of hills 
with a south exposure had been cleared for deer 
about ten years previously, and was then fairly well 
stocked with stags as well as hinds. But the main 
ridge was not nearly so high as on the other ground, 
and a sheep fence ran along its whole length. Nor is 
there a single big corrie on the whole ground. It was 
an experiment, making a forest but as it only carried 
some 3,000 sheep and lay very convenient to my own 
residence, I thought it worth trying, and the result 
has proved a success so far. But what would happen 
if this other ground was to be cleared ? It appeared to 
be almost certain that its large extent, its magnificent 
corries, its greater elevation and richer pasture must 
attract every stag, and that the older forest would be 
denuded of everything but hinds during summer and 
autumn. This was my own opinion, as well as that of 
all my foresters, and of those of my friends whose 
judgment was likely to be sound. The result proved 
that we were all wrong. The new ground seduced 
none of my stags. At first it looked as if the antici- 
pated effect of the operation was going to be the 
exact reverse of what was predicted, and that while 
there were more stags than before on the older and 
smaller forest, hinds were about to take possession of 



88 DEER-STALKING 

the high green slopes and deep corries which we all 
thought more suitable for their lords and masters. 
But after a few years, and under the careful and wise 
treatment to which it was subjected, the advantages of 
the ground were discovered and appreciated by stags, 
and it was here that the famous twenty-pointer of 
1893 was killed. Nor has this desirable result been 
accompanied by any corresponding deterioration in 
the forest which is retained in my own hands. But 
it is none the less puzzling. 

There are, of course, numerous minor points which 
should receive consideration in determining whether 
ground proposed to be afforested would prove suitable 
for the purpose. Thus, if you get a high flat corrie 
full of springs, nothing can be better, unless at the 
bottom of the corrie you find a large flat moss 
growing plenty of the spring bent or cotton grass 
the earliest and most useful of all the grasses. This 
is best of all, and such a moss will hold deer at all 
times of the year. Deer are very fond of old natural 
birch wood, even though trees may be gnarled and 
decayed and few in number. The grass is generally 
very sweet under them, and stags especially love to 
have something to play with and rub their horns 
against. Such situations, moreover, are generally well 
sheltered. 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 



Patches "of old strong heather are also very useful 
both for shelter and as food during severe snowstorms, 
but these are not likely to be found on ground grazed 
by sheep unless it has been in the proprietor's own 
hands. Much of the close growing heather on 
rounded rolling hills is entirely unsuitable for deer, 
and, as I have indicated in a former part of this 
chapter, I have no patience with those who spoil a 
good grouse moor in order to boast that they are 
owners of a deer forest. Besides, in such a case the 
grouse must be exterminated as far as can be done, or 
stalking will be impossible. You cannot destroy the 
grouse on your own moor, whether by encouraging 
vermin or killing all the hens, or by simply not 
shooting them, which is perhaps the most effective 
method, without injury to your neighbours. Now, 
good fellowship, and a perfect understanding between 
neighbours, is desirable in all forms of sport. Where 
deer are concerned it is almost essential. It will be 
seen in a subsequent chapter of this book that per- 
sonally I go so far as to urge that some sacrifices 
should be made in order to secure a friendly feeling 
between brother sportsmen, and that these should be 
extended even to neighbours who are neither deer- 
stalkers nor grouse-shooters, but who have other 
interests in connection with the occupation of land. 



90 DEER-STALKING 



Having given the above indications of how a deer 
forest may be most advantageously formed, let us 
proceed to consider its management. Here I find 
myself confronted with a difficulty, which the indul- 
gence of the readers of these pages must help me to 
overcome. The subject is not a new one. It has 
been dealt with by rect-nt writers possessing both 
ability and experience. Among others may be men- 
tioned, besides Scrope, whose work can perhaps hardly 
be termed recent, Mr. Malcolm of Invergarry, and Mr. 
( irimble. But the completest and most exhaustive 
treatise on deer and deer forests is that written for 
the Badminton Library by my dear friend the late 
Lord Lovat. My difficulty, therefore, in following 
so competent an authority lies in the obligation to 
avoid repetition of what has been so well written 
on the one hand, and yet not to pass over matters 
which are essential, if the attempt be made at all to 
present to my readers a full and faithful description 
of all that pertains to sport in connection with red 
deer. 

Now, as regards the proper management of deer 
forests, let us consider first 'How not to do it.' 
When I was a boy my favourite book out of all that 
were to be found in the school library was ' Scrope.' 
Fascinated by his graphic description of the glories 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 91 



of pursuing-the red deer in the wilds of Atholl Forest, 
and knowing that in all probability, when I grew up to 
manhood, I should have the opportunity of enjoying 
the sport for which even at that early age my heart 
yearned, I pored over the pages of my favourite 
author, and of all the various descriptions of forest life 
and of stalking with which they teemed, better than 
the legends, the poetry, or the anecdotes, I loved to 
read and re-read Chapters VII. and IX. of that work. 
Both of these chapters give an account of a deer 
drive in (Hen Tilt ; and so well is it told, so thrilling 
was the interest which I felt in the adventures of 
Tortoise and Lightfoot, as well as in the splendid 
performances of Tarff, Derig and Shuloch, that at 
this day, and with the experience acquired during 
many years of managing forests, I can hardly bring 
myself to criticise the proceedings which I then 
looked upon not only as quite proper but almost 
sublime. 

The drive described in Chapter VII. probably 
embraced a very large tract of country, perhaps half 
of the whole forest of Atholl. The rifles seemed to 
have been posted, not only in front but on the flanks 
of the drive, as well as with the advancing line of 
beaters. One of the latter party (Scrope himself) 
did some business on his own account, wounding the 



92 DEER-S TA I. KING 



' muckle hart of Braemar ' and then slipping a lurcher 
after him. This operation was however hardly 
successful, for instead of the dog chasing the deer it 
was the other way on, and through the telescope the 
gallant Tarff was descried being chased ' all ow'r the 
moss ' by the infuriated stag so the ' ferocious ' Derig 
was also loosed. The dogs, however, again got the 
worst of it, and after breaking bay away they go right 
up the steeps of Ben-y-venie, and we hear of them 
no more till the end of the day. A little later Tortoise 
wounds a fine beast, black from rolling in the bog. 
There seems to have been no lack of dogs on this 
occasion, for Shuloch is immediately slipped after 
the wounded deer and they disappear down Glen 
Mark. Immediately afterwards the main herd cross 
the Tilt, and the rifles open fire. As soon as the 
deer are out of range, lurchers are slipped at the herd, 
and a fine description is given of the performances of 
Douglas, Percy, and Croime, of the bringing to bay of 
two more noble harts, and of their death amid the 
picturesque surroundings of the Tilt. 

This is all very interesting and very magnificent, 
mats ce n'est pas la guerre. No forest could stand 
such treatment for long. Besides the ordinary dis- 
turbance caused by moving deer against their will 
and then opening fire on them from places of con- 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 93 



cealment, ijj the account of the two drives in Scrope 
they were apparently fired at from all sides. When 
the sportsman had done with them, dogs were slipped 
after the herd, who probably thought they had seen 
the last of their tormentors and were free to push on 
to some more hospitable country. Thus, besides the 
shooting and the shouting, the tainted air and the 
suspicious dots on the skyline, this immense herd, 
comprising, perhaps, half the deer in the forest of 
Atholl, had finally to escape as best they could from 
the attack of the savage dogs, while from every glen 
in that part of the forest resounded the deep bay of 
one or other of their relentless foes. 

The scenes here described no doubt filled the 
lords and ladies who were the guests of the Duke of 
Atholl with delight and admiration, but one would 
like to see the expression on the countenance of the 
present owner of the forest, and to hear his remarks, 
were a suggestion made to him that a similar per- 
formance should be enacted for the entertainment of 
his friends. 

At the present day ' driving ' is rarely resorted to. 
Even in the large forests where the practice formerly 
prevailed, it has now been generally abandoned. In 
Atholl, of which I have just been speaking, the 
forest is never driven more than once in the season, 



94 DEER-STALKING 



and not even then unless the wind be from a favour- 
able quarter. In the forest of Mar they seldom 
drive large tracts of country, but deer are frequently 
moved, which, of course, does no injury to the 
ground, the operation extending only to a very limited 
area. The practice has also been abandoned in the 
Black Mount, and with good reason in this case, for 
the result of constant driving about twenty years ago 
injured the forest to such an extent that many years 
elapsed before it recovered from the effects of it. 

Driving in forests of less extensive acreage was 
never practised largely, though there are some excep- 
tions. In Mamore the late Mr. Thistlethwayte used 
to drive a good deal, but his whole ground was en- 
closed by a six-foot fence, so it really did not much 
matter what tricks were played on it. When Glen 
Strathfarrar was occupied by Mr. Winans, driving was 
almost the only method pursued ; but the whole pro- 
ceedings under that regime were peculiar, and, as far 
as sportsmen are concerned, it would be well if the 
incident of Mr. Winans's tenancy could be blotted 
out of the annals of Highland sport. In common 
justice, however, to that gentleman's memory, it 
should be remembered that no inconsiderable part 
of his large fortune was left in the district, distributed 
among the various classes of the community. 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 95 



However much we may condemn ' hashing ' a deer 
forest, as in the case described by Scrope, or even 
perpetually harassing the ground, as was done at the 
Black Mount, there is no reason to think that, pro- 
vided you have a very large tract of ground to deal 
with, that the wind is in the proper quarter, and that 
the operations are conducted quietly and methodically, 
any harm would be done to the forest by driving it say 
once, or at most twice in the season. 

There are few more beautiful sights than a herd 
of stags moving up a hillside or over a skyline, and 
no more exciting moment than that when they 
approach the point where a decision must be made 
by their leaders as to the course which it is deemed 
safest to take. Such a point there must be in every 
deer drive. It may be on a ridge or at the bottom 
of a glen, in the middle of the burn running out of a 
come, or on the shoulder dividing one corrie from 
another. But some freedom must be, and, according 
to the mode of driving now generally adopted, always 
is, left to the herd which it is your object to bring to 
the passes where the rifles lie in ambush. It is, of 
course, impossible to force deer to go the way that 
is wished, as was done in the brave old days when a 
' Tinchell ' was organised for some royal visitor, and 
the drive occupied two months, drivers being counted 



96 DEER-STALKING 

by the thousand, and game of all sorts in corre- 
sponding numbers. A hunt on such a scale is now 
out of the question, and those who wish to amuse 
their guests with a deer drive must make the best of 
the means at their disposal. 

Enjoying some such freedom of action, deer in a 
modern drive seem to be given a better chance for 
their lives than is the case in stalking, or even in the 
pursuit of any other wild animal so far as I know. 
Therein consists more than half the pleasure and the 
whole of the excitement of the sport. Anyone, even 
he who has never before witnessed a drive, can see it 
for himself and understand the .situation. He ob- 
serves the herd come over the skyline, a forest of 
horns ; they do not dwell there long, but descend the 
slope, stopping perhaps for a while on the shoulder 
between two corries. Our imaginary sportsman may 
be posted within a rifle shot of the burn at the bottom, 
or some way up the brae face on the side of the glen 
opposite to where the herd are now standing, with 
their heads turning in every direction. It matters 
not where he is stationed, the question he is en- 
gaged in putting to himself is ' Will they or will they 
not ? ' come within shot of him. He may continue 
putting this question for a long time. Those who 
have been engaged in moving the deer are perhaps 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 97 

miles away^-the latter have had a steep climb on the 
other side before they reached the top, they are in no 
hurry now, and they purpose looking well before they 
leap. The turning point, so far as our friend is con- 
cerned, may be on this very shoulder, or it may not 
have come yet. But come it must sooner or later, 
and it is this uncertajnty which prolongs the excite- 
ment, and when all goes right, adds intensely to the 
pleasure of a successful ' right and left.' Now sup- 
pose the herd, having at length made up their minds, 
or, like some politicians, had this function performed 
for them by their leaders, briskly descend the hill in 
the very direction desired by our friend, who we will 
imagine is stationed half-way up the opposite slope, 
the turning point is still not reached. But it must 
come when they reach the burn. The excitement 
increases as the deer draw nearer. If a true sports- 
man, and not jealous, he will say to himself,.' I may not 
get a shot, these deer may cross the burn and come 
up on this side in a slanting direction. In that case 
the next gun will get the shooting. Well, never mind, 
it can't be helped, and I have at any rate got a good 
view of the sport whatever may happen.' So he waits 
on, confident that, should they cross, though he may 
not be the favoured sportsman, the deer he sees 
cantering straight towards the line of guns must come 

H 



98 DEER-STALKING 



within range of two at least, if not three of the party, 
pleased for the sake of his host that the drive is going 
to be a success, determined if needs be to rest 
satisfied with the enjoyment which he has already 
derived from scenes of forest life which have been 
opened to him, and resolved not to spoil the pleasure 
of whoever may be on this day the favourite of 
fortune by impatient references to his own ill luck, 
or ill-timed after-dinner grumbling. 

In such a position as I have imagined in three out 
of four cases all goes well. The herd cross the burn 
and go right through the line of guns. But some- 
times, from a single act of carelessness or from an 
unforeseen accident, and often for no accountable 
reason, at this last supreme moment the drive is a 
failure. The herd of deer come down to the burn, 
but do not cross it. They stand on the brink, and 
again seem to take counsel. They look long and 
steadily in front of them and then ominous sign ! 
turn their heads and look upwards, the way they have 
just come, for a short time ; next they turn their heads 
half round and gaze steadily over their right or left 
shoulder. You pull out your glass to try to find out 
what they are staring at, but you see nothing, nor do 
the deer that is the worst part of it. Then perhaps 
one or two begin to pick up the sweet grass on the 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 99 



bank of the burn while the rest turn round and round, 
the leaders of the herd still staring in the same direc- 
tion, though their bodies may for the sake of comfort 
have changed position. All of a sudden, in the 
twinkling of an eye, without any apparent reason, 
up go all their heads together, each deer looking in 
the direction he happened to be facing, in another 
second the leaders trot off in the direction in which 
they were so earnestly gazing ; ' that trot becomes a 
gallop soon,' and there is an end of the drive and 
a bitter disappointment to everyone engaged in it. 
The herd will probably be met by one or two of the 
drivers, but no power on earth will now turn them. 
They have chosen their road and intend to stick 
to it. 

The drivers are, of course, so far apart when a 
large tract of country is gathered that deer may, if 
they like, break out at any moment of the day's 
proceedings. I have imagined their doing so at the 
last possible moment. But it is for this reason that 
drives should be conducted with the utmost quietness. 

The notion which it seems to me should, if pos- 
sible, be impressed on the deer, is that in the course 
of his morning's feed or his mid-day siesta, he sees a 
man whom he takes for a shepherd, walking carelessly 
along the skyline. Joined by his comrades he strolls 

H 3 



DEER-STALKING 



off into the next corrie, where he finds some more 
friends who have been similarly disturbed. They 
join forces and, with the wind well in their noses, go 
up a steepish hill to a pass which leads over the ridge 
into another glen. They look up at the skyline and, 
seeing no one, proceed on their way. The forester 
knows that the deer would not at any rate go over 
this ridge, he wishes to make them take the pass, and 
if he placed men about all the tops indiscriminately 
he would only frighten the deer and prevent the 
development of the notion that they are not being 
driven, and that the figures moving on the skyline 
are only ' casuals ' shepherds or tourists. In this way 
by great quietness, free use of the watch and strict 
obedience to orders, the foresters continue to make 
the deer believe that they are moving of their own 
accord, or at most only getting out of the way of a 
few accidental intruders upon their solitudes. 

By the exercise of caution and punctuality on 
the part of the men, who are told off to show them- 
selves in various places, the deer are pushed or coaxed 
rather than driven to the passes on the burn-side, 
shoulder or top of the hill where the guns are posted, 
and here we may take leave of them. Driving deer 
forms so essential a part of and is so intimately 
connected with the management of a forest, that the 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FOKESTS 101 



subject has-been treated in this chapter rather than in 
a subsequent one which is devoted to the practice of 
stalking. 

Let us now turn to the strict question of managing 
a deer forest. What is its proper treatment if the 
owner is anxious to preserve and improve the stock 
which it carries ? First, as regards preservation. It 
goes without saying, and is well understood by all 
those who have ever had anything to do with deer, or 
indeed with any kind of game, that the ground must 
not be overshot, that a proper number of stags, such 
as experience has shown the place will stand, ought 
to. be killed annually, and no more. Nothing need 
therefore here be said on this point, except that the 
quality of the stags killed should be looked to as well 
as the number. Personally, I think it is a mistaken 
practice, though one which is followed by many from 
an honest, sportsmanlike feeling, not to fire at a stag 
unless he is a good one. Others, on less defensible 
grounds, think a great deal too much of the weights, 
and are afraid of spoiling the average by killing a beast 
of thirteen or fourteen stone. When a chance of 
getting one of this kind is deliberately and voluntarily 
neglected by the 'gentleman,' his conduct should not 
certainly be called in question by the owner of the 
ground, but it is not wise to give strict orders to the 



102 DEER-STALKING 

forester not to allow anyone to shoot at a stag under 
fifteen stone, as is sometimes done. I am of opinion 
that such a proceeding is distinctly injurious to the 
ground, and J am quite certain that it is hardly fair 
towards those friends who perhaps seldom get an 
opportunity of bringing down a stag of any kind. 
In a large herd of stags it is often extremely difficult to 
' get at ' the best deer, but in such cases it is seldom 
you have not the choice of seven or eight of those 
nearest to the point beyond which it is impossible 
to crawl, and if the whoje herd consists of ' trash ' it 
is perhaps because it has been the practice for many 
years to shoot all the growing stags with good but 
not fully developed horns. In some forests, and 
notably in the Reay, long tenanted by the Duke of 
Westminster, it has been the practice to encourage 
the shooting of old inferior stags, and to spare for 
a certain number of years those with good growing 
heads. The result has been excellent. It is not, 
however, always easy to distinguish an old deer that 
is ' going back' 5 from a young stag. The horns on the 
latter are often furnished with points that look what 
is termed ' rotten,' because they seem so ; but this 
appearance is deceptive, and as often as not denotes 
youth, not age ; the rotten look of the points being 
really the blood in the horn, indicating vitality and 



THE \MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 103 

immaturity. We find in works on red deer many 
tests given by which to distinguish an old from a 
young stag, but I believe most of these are fallacious. 
Smoothness or roughness of horn certainly has no- 
thing to do with the age of the animal ; it depends 
partly on the nature of the ground where the animal 
has been living. If he frequents a wood he rubs his 
horn smooth against trees ; but independently of this 
it is the nature of some stags to have rougher horns 
than others, and the discrepancy is also induced by 
the differences between certain soils and pastures. 
According to my own experience, two tests alone 
are infallible, but unfortunately these can only be 
applied after the animal is in your larder. The skin 
of a young stag comes off much more easily than that 
of an old one, and the distance between the skull and 
the coronet of the horn is much greater. But in a 
general way it may be said that short sharp points 
indicate age, more especially if the presence of smooth 
excrescences on one or both horns can be detected, 
these latter being the remains of additional points 
carried by the stag when in his prime. 

But, after all, if the rule laid down by the owner 
of a forest is that inferior stags may be shot when 
better beasts cannot be obtained, it is certain some 
of these will be old deer ' going back.' I remember 



104 DEER-STALKING 



it used to cause many a laugh among my friends who 
visited Achnacarry habitually, when some new hand 
came in from the hill in the middle of dinner, and 
said very gravely that he was afraid he had killed 
rather a small beast, but that the stalker had begged 
him to tell me that it was well out of the way, as it 
was an ' old deer that was going back.' This familiar 
and oft-used explanation was supposed by the 'old 
hands ' to contain more of the elements of consolation 
than of natural history, and was provocative of mirth 
rather than credence. 

Hardly less important for the well-being of a 
deer forest than the number and quality of the stags 
killed during the season, is the question of when 
the season itself ought to end. There is no close 
time for deer fixed by statute, and the determina- 
tion of how late stalking should be allowed in the 
case of stags must be left to the judgment of the 
owner of the forest. This is somewhat unfortunate. 
It leaves the responsibility of deciding on a subject 
which affects others besides the individual immediately 
concerned. Thus, supposing one man allows no stag 
to be shot after October 10, but the owner of a neigh- 
bouring forest continues to stalk up to the 2oth, it is 
clear that, having in view the roving propensities of 
stags at that period, some of the best deer which fre- 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 105 

t 

quented the ground where the close time began on the 
earlier date, and that might have been secured by its 
owner or his friends, are very likely destined to fall to 
some rifle in the forest where the later date is adopted. 
It is true that the quietness produced by a cessation 
of shooting may to some extent counteract the effects 
of a difference in the date when stalking is at an end ; 
but that a sense of injustice is often felt, no one will, 
I think, be disposed to deny. 

Still more blameworthy is the practice which too 
often prevails on sheep ground where ' deer are oc- 
casionally found.' The sporting rights on such places 
are at the present day let for no inconsiderable rent, 
and proximity to a regular forest increases the value 
of the shooting. Unfortunately, it is seldom found 
that the owner of the sheep ground makes provision 
in the agreement that the tenant shall not kill stags 
after a certain day, and the latter frequently goes on 
blazing away at every stag that comes within reach of 
his rifle long after the venison is quite unfit for food. 
If remonstrated with, he replies that unless he shoots 
stags after others have stopped, he cannot 'get his 
number,' as during the earlier part of the season hardly 
any stags are to be seen on his ground. This is no 
answer at all ; for if his assertion is correct, it simply 
follows that the ground is worth very little, and the 



io6 DEER-STALKING 



tenant ought not to have paid so much rent for it. 
There are of course exceptions, but in most cases of 
sheep-ground stalking the deer found there are bred 
in the neighbouring forest, are preserved, and may be 
fed in winter by its owner ; and, seeing that there are 
rarely any watchers on the sheep-ground, and that it 
is disturbed on almost every day of the year by shep- 
herds, it is evident that, were it not for the adjoining 
forest, 'getting his number' would be a difficult matter 
even if our sportsman remained on the ground from 
August i to the end of November. The owner of 
the sheep-ground should also remember that he gets 
two rents for it one from the farmer, and another 
from the shooting tenant. Under these circumstances 
it does not seem unfair to ask him to do what, by 
the way, is my own practice \'v/.. fix a date, as nearly 
as possible identical with that which is prevalent in 
the district, after which stags must not be killed ; and, 
having done this, he is no doubt entitled to ask as 
high a rent as he thinks he can get. 

The quality of the stags in a forest may be im- 
proved both as regards heads and bodies by a change 
of blood. This can be effected either by importing 
from a park two or three stags in the spring when 
their horns are shed, and they are more easily trans- 
ported placing them in an enclosure during summer, 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 107 

and turning them out among the hinds in October ; or 
by introducing hinds, carefully marking them in the 
ear to prevent their being accidentally shot. The 
former plan is, however, the best, and the result desired 
is of course more rapidly attained. Where possible, 
the stags may be confined in a large park or field, and 
a number of wild hinds placed with them ; these may 
be turned out just before calving, and others put in 
to take their place : or if the park be large enough 
and of a suitable character, they may be allowed to 
drop their calves there for two seasons, and then 
turned out with the calf of one year and the year-old 
of the previous season at their foot. This will save 
the trouble of driving wild hinds into the paddock 
each successive year. There is a prejudice among 
many owners of forests against introducing park or 
foreign deer into the Highlands, but it exists only 
with those who have not tried it. So far as I know, 
the results obtained when a fair trial has been allowed 
have been quite satisfactory. 

A subject connected with the management of a 
deer forest, which has frequently been discussed 
from different points of view, is as to the proper 
proportion of hinds to stags which should be killed 
in a season. There can surely be little doubt that it 
is impossible to lay down one inflexible law where 



io8 DEER-STALKING 

conditions vary so greatly as is the case here. If the 
whole country had been afforested for many years, 
and no change from sheep to deer or -vice versa had 
taken place, it would be easy to determine the 
relative proportion of stags and hinds which ought to 
be shot ; but where new forests are being formed, each 
case must be judged according to the circumstances 
which prevail. It has been already observed that 
these new forests get stocked sometimes with a large 
proportion of stags, sometimes with a numerical 
superiority of hinds. If the latter, then it is clear 
these hinds must come from the adjoining forests, 
which are thus proportionately depleted, and few 
need then be killed until the process comes to a 
natural end. The theory here put forward is 
obviously sound, and I have myself tested it in 
practice. The average number of hinds which have 
been killed on the ground here (cleared and sheep 
ground) during the last thirty years has not exceeded 
half that of stags. We have no reason to suspect 
any poaching beyond an occasional deer on the sea 
coast in winter and yet there is no overcrowding of 
hinds, and the part of the ground which was always 
forest has, if anything, fewer of them than when I 
first came, and on none of it are there too many. In 
the older and larger forests which are not affected by 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 109 

recent clearances, stag for hind should be the rule ; 
but this again must be varied according to which sex 
predominates. Thus in what is called a ' stag ' forest 
three stags to two hinds, or even less, is often found 
sufficient ; and in a ' hind ' forest, unless severely 
thinned, stags will be crowded out more and more, 
and the sport will be poor and disappointing. -When 
a limited or moderate number of hinds have to be 
killed, those should be selected which are yeld, but 
if a larger slaughter must take place this is not 
possible. The necessity of killing hinds with calves 
at foot is unfortunate, both on account of the poor 
little calf that can hardly be expected to pull through 
the winter without the protection of its mother, and 
also because the venison of a milch hind is of course 
inferior in quality. This cannot be helped, and it 
should be remembered that there are throughout 
the land plenty of poor people with large families to 
whom even a milch hind would prove a most accep- 
able present. On no account should a deer of any 
kind be ever left on the hill. If the tenant of a forest 
cannot afford the trifling expense of keeping a pony 
or two to carry away the venison, he ought not to 
take a forest at all. If he is the owner, he ought to be 
ashamed of himself. So far as I am aware the 
practice does not now prevail in either quarter. 



DEER-STALKING 



A discussion which found a place in the columns 
of the ' Field ' about two years ago, shows that some 
difference of opinion exists as to whether the ' heads ' 
of the present day are or are not superior to those 
that were obtained in former times. On this 
question there is probably no better living authority 
than the Earl of Tankerville. I remember its forming 
the subject of conversation among a party that was 
staying at Chillingham a few years ago, and our host, 
in order to prove his contention that heads were 
stronger and better in his younger days than they are 
now, showed us one of a stag which he had shot in Ard- 
verikie Forest when it was tenated by the Marquis of 
Abercorn. It was, if I remember rightly, a ten-pointer, 
but for size, weight of horn, and symmetry, it would 
be hard to beat it. Lord Tankerville told us that at 
the time when it was got this head was by no means 
considered one of the very best, though he did not 
deny that even then it was not surpassed by many. 

The assertion that the heads of the present day 
have deteriorated is of course difficult to prove. I 
myself am inclined to believe in its correctness sub- 
ject to this qualification : an understanding should be 
come to by the disputants on the number to be 
selected for comparison. It makes the whole differ- 
ence whether we are dealing with the half-dozen best 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS in 

heads of~the season or with half a hundred. If the 
latter be the number adopted, it will be difficult to 
maintain that the heads of fifty years ago would stand 
comparison with those of the present day, seeing that 
the number of stags killed now is far in excess of what 
was formerly obtained in a season. It stands to 
reason that, the larger the number of specimen heads 
which are taken, the more unfavourably must the test 
operate on the period when the total number from 
which they are selected is relatively small. 

At the present day it is calculated that about 
4,000 stags are killed annually. Fifty years ago, owing 
to various causes besides the smaller number of deer 
forests then in existence, it is probable that not more 
than one stag was shot for every six at the present 
time. Now if fifty stags' heads be taken for pur- 
poses of comparison, that number will form about 
one-thirteenth of the total killed in 1845, and only 
one-eightieth of the bag of 1895. 

But if ten or a dozen be the number adopted, 
there are reasons for supposing that the heads of former 
times were the best. If they were not, and this as has 
been said is difficult to prove, they ought to have been. 
It has been already mentioned that land which is now 
cleared was then in a large measure utilised as sheep- 
walks. This land was, for the most part, remote, 



DEER-STALKING 



inaccessible, and rarely trod by any but the most 
enterprising deer-stalker. Such solitudes, abounding 
in high deep corries where the sweet ' natural grasses ' 
(as they are called somewhat inconsequently by 
shepherds) are found, were frequented by stags some- 
times singly, more often in pairs or three together who 
seemed to prefer their own society to that of the herd. 
These were mostly old deer, and of course among 
them were some of the best, as well as some of the 
very worst heads in the district. These cunning old 
fellows frequented the same favourite hills year 
after year, until killed by someone possessing the 
nominal though rarely exercised right of shooting 
over them, and who hearing of a ' terrible big stag ' 
in such and such a corrie, determined to brave 
the discomforts of sleeping in a shepherd's hut they 
were huts in those days and to become the envied 
owner of such a grand trophy. Those who have 
successfully pursued this branch of the science of 
deer-stalking among the highest and wildest of hills, 
with the odds far more in favour of the deer than is 
the case in a forest, will agree with me that its 
pleasures are unequalled by any other form of sport. 

But the difficulty first of finding a single stag 
in such a vast tract of country, and then of getting 
within shot of him, when large numbers of sheep 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 113 



probably ajt that time of year, one to every two acres 
are grazing on the hills, not as deer graze in compact 
herds, but scattered evenly over the ground, renders 
the position of the wanderer a pretty safe one. Not so 
when he goes a-wooing. It is then that such a stag gene- 
rally meets his doom ; but notwithstanding this danger, 
his chance of getting through the autumn untouched 
or not fired at was better than if he had selected for 
his haunts places more frequented by deer- stalkers. 

The question will present itself to many of the 
readers of this chapter How is it that such a stag as 
is here described remains for the whole summer on 
ground which must be constantly disturbed by dogs 
and shepherds ? As a matter of fact, such high corries 
as those referred to are seldom visited by shepherds, 
when once the final gatherings for clipping are over, 
until about September 20. At that period the whole 
country is in a state of movement, caused by 
gatherings for the autumn markets. These are 
followed by further disturbances when the lambs are 
collected to be sent off to the low ground for the 
winter. But between July 20 and September 20, or 
about those dates, these high hills are left tolerably 
quiet, except certain places where lambs are herded 
to make them acquainted with their future home. 

Of course a shepherd must look round his sheep 

i 



1 1 4 DEER-STALKING 



occasionally, but there are strong reasons for believing 
that deer who frequent sheep-ground are not greatly 
scared by the intermittent appearance of the shepherd 
and his dog. Indeed, I have been told that they 
actually recognise the man, and when the latter comes 
in sight, a stag will only move off to the next corrie 
in a slow majestic manner and be back again next 
day. Be that as it may, there is no doubt whatever 
that when deer see their danger they are less alarmed 
than when they suspect it, or when it comes upon 
them suddenly. I have myself shot grouse over dogs 
for half an hour with deer looking on and apparently 
enjoying the sport within half a mile. Of course they 
move off eventually, but they do so in a very different 
way, and go a very much shorter distance, than they 
would if the cause of disturbance had been the head 
of a man appearing on a knoll a hundred yards off 
followed by the crack of his rifle. 

It seems therefore a fair conclusion to arrive 
at, that many of these sheep-walks were a kind of 
sanctuary for deer ; that they were only used as such 
by a few stags, as there would not be enough grass for 
many ; that certain of these stags, for reasons which 
we cannot fathom, preferred solitude to the com- 
panionship of the herd ; that they were not much dis- 
turbed by shepherds until the time when they naturally 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 115 



became restless and would move off of their own 
accord ; that in the days we are speaking of such 
stags were seldom pursued by sportsmen ; and, lastly, 
that when they were successfully stalked, some of 
their heads proved exceptionally fine, from their 
having been allowed time to arrive at maturity. 

Some remarks as to feeding deer artificially in 
winter seem not inappropriate in dealing with their 
preservation in forests. 

The practice is resorted to in some deer forests, 
not in others, and there is a twofold reason for it. 
You may either feed your deer to keep them alive, or 
to improve their condition and add weight to their 
horn. 

In certain forests, especially those which are 
situated in the Grampians that is, the succession of 
Estates which are under deer, on the east side of the 
Highland Railway from Dalwhinnie to Grantown 
feeding would appear to be a necessity ; at any rate, 
provision must be made for feeding, and I suppose 
that a winter rarely occurs when it is not advisable to 
' help ' the deer to some extent. It will be observed, 
in looking at a map of Scotland which shows all the 
deer forests, that a sharp and easily noted division 
exists between the east and the west. The Highland 
Railway marks pretty nearly where this division lies, 

I 2 



u6 DEER-STALKING 



Ben Alder and Coignafearn perhaps being the only 
doubtful cases. Roughly speaking, therefore, feeding 
is resorted to in the East Coast forests as a matter 
of necessity, while expediency governs the decision 
arrived at by owners of West Coast forests where 
the snow does not lie so deep or last so long. 

Occasionally, as in the winter of 1894-95, it 
becomes necessary to feed deer even in the least 
exposed places down to the very seashore on the West 
Coast, but the necessity for doing so rarely occurs, and 
there were to my own knowledge some forests where 
the deer got no artificial food during the extreme 
rigours of the winter mentioned. 

Some owners of forests, on the other hand, make 
it a practice to feed their deer, not because it is 
necessary in order to keep them alive, but to improve 
them, and thus obtain better bodies and stronger 
heads. Others, again, while admitting that good 
results do follow the adoption of feeding as a system, 
reject it on account of the expense, or because they 
find a difficulty in conveying the food to those places 
where it would be most usefully consumed. If feed- 
ing stuff be laid down on ground which is mostly 
frequented by hinds you cannot expect to improve 
the condition of your stags, as these may not get a 
share of what is provided, while, if they are mixed 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 117 

it is impossible to drive away the one without at the 
same time depriving the other of what you intend for 
his consumption and benefit. 

There can be no doubt that, where the owner of 
a forest chooses to go to the expense, and has the 
means of laying down food in suitable places, those 
deer that get it must gain in weight both of body and 
horn during the following season. Spring is the 
ticklish time of year for all animals in the Highlands. 
If deer are very much reduced during the winter, 
they are bound to suffer when the grass begins to 
grow. If they are in good order they proceed to lay 
on flesh at once, and thus gain the full advantage of 
the summer grazing. It is in spring that those cold 
east winds prevail, often accompanied by hot sun in 
the daytime, which parch the ground and give it a 
white desert-like appearance. A well-wintered stag 
must be better able to stand this particularly trying 
period of the year than one which has only just been 
able to pull through the cold north-westerly blasts 
of wind bringing sleet, snow, or rain, which may not 
improbably have formed with little interruption the 
weather of the past four months. 

As regards the kind of food which it is proper to 
provide, hay is far and away the best where it can 
be procured, and when it can be transported to the 



ii8 DEER-STALKING 



desired locality. It is filling as well as nourishing, 
easily found by the deer, and greedily eaten. There 
is also no danger of losing any of it in soft snow, 
though it is apt to be spoilt by rain. But there are 
few forests where much bulky stuff can be conveyed to 
the proper feeding places during deep snow when it 
is mostly required, and fewer still when this can be 
done without heavy expense. Beans and Indian corn 
mixed form a nourishing and comparatively cheap 
diet ; but I am given to understand that locust beans 
are more commonly given than any other feeding 
stuff, and no doubt they possess a sweet taste which 
proves attractive to most animals. Indian corn is of 
course the cheapest form in which artificial food can 
be given. 

I have heard of three objections to the practice of 
feeding deer in winter, i. That it undermines their 
constitutions. 2. That if they get into the habit of 
being fed they always expect it and do not take the 
same trouble to provide for themselves as they would 
otherwise do. 3. That the stronger beasts get all the 
food which is laid down, while the weak deer, for 
whose benefit the practice is mainly adopted, get 
very little. 

In regard to the first two objections, it is very 
likely that the deer which have been artificially fed 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 119 



during one winter may look for a continuance of the 
practice in the following year. In ail probability, 
except in the case of a change of management in the 
forest, the supply of winter food is in fact continued, 
but if not it is hardly to be supposed that its discon- 
tinuance would so demoralise the recipients of this to 
them unnatural form of nourishment as to bring into 
temporary disuse the instincts for foraging for them- 
selves with which nature has provided them. 

Nor is there any reason to fear injury to their 
constitutions. After all, the amount of extra feeding 
which each stag gets must be very small just enough 
to keep him in good heart and no more. If highly 
fed for a succession of winters, such a change would 
take place in their constitution that the wild red deer 
of the Highlands would probably be no longer recog- 
nisable, and would certainly starve if left for a single 
winter to their ow r n resources. 

The third objection has some force, but it applies 
to the feeding of all animals, and is not sufficient to 
justify a discontinuance of the system of helping deer 
to get through the winter if such is thought in other 
respects desirable. 

One important provision for the maintenance of 
a proper stock of deer of tJie right sort in a forest is 
the formation of a sanctuary. The term, of course, 



DEER-STA L KING 



explains itself, though the explanation is not always 
justified by procedure. 

When I was quite a beginner at the business I 
thought a sanctuary was a necessary appendage to 
every deer forest, and accordingly dignified by that 
name a small corner of the ground much favoured by 
stags on account of its rough heather and thick 
natural wood. 

Now whenever the weather was unsuitable for 
stalking, and the question was asked in a house party, 
more distinguished by youth than by judgment or 
experience, ' What shall we do to-day ? ' the answer as 
frequently as not was ' Let us drive the sanctuary.' 
This was of course reducing the whole thing to an 
absurdity, but the absurdity was in the high-sounding 
appellation, not in the frequent disturbance of this 
particular bit of ground which was so small in extent 
not a tenth part of an adjacent area with similar 
features that it did not matter what was done on it. 
The place was very handy to the house ; you could 
do it after lunch, and take any ladies who did not 
mind sitting on damp heather to see the sport. They 
could either ride or row in a boat, or go one way and 
come back the other, and in short it was very good 
fun. We are older and wiser now, but alas ! do we 
have the same fun ? In a former chapter I ventured 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 121 



to criticise- the proceedings in the Atholl forest in the 
days of Scrope. I wonder whether Tortoise, in the 
happy hunting grounds to the enjoyment of which 
he is, we may hope, admitted knows that I too have 
sinned against the very rules which I have laid down 
as the canons of true deer forestry ; that in the days 
of my youth I have gone out to the very middle of the 
forest with a couple of pure-bred deerhounds, accom- 
panied by anyone of either sex who had sufficiently 
good wind, a supple figure, and active limbs, and 
coursed, yes, actually coursed, a cold stag generally 
unsuccessfully sometimes bringing him to bay, very 
rarely pulling him down. Let us draw a veil over 
these days of long ago with their joyous frivolities. 
Ah me ! where are the good comrades of those 
times ? 

To return to the matter of sanctuaries. I believe 
most deer forests are furnished with a place of safety 
where no rifle is ever allowed to be fired at any rate 
until the latter part of the season and to which deer 
know that they can resort and be at peace when 
moved from other parls of the ground. 

I am inclined to think, though I know the opinion 
is not shared by many experienced foresters, that 
sanctuaries are just a little overdone. Of course, it 
is not suggested that they are injurious to a forest. 



122 DEEX.STALMXG 

If the whole place was sanctuary it would be all the 
better, as far as collecting deer is concerned ; but 
what is the use of collecting deer if you are not to 
shoot them ? 

Now, in judging of where sanctuaries are beneficial 
to the ground and yet do not interfere with legitimate 
sport, we need not take into account the largest 
forests, such as Mar, Atholl, Black Mount, the Reay. 
and one or two others. Here such an institution pos- 
sesses all the advantages of protection to deer, and 
there are no attendant drawbacks in connection with 
their pursuit. The forest being so large, you can form 
your sanctuary wherever it is found most convenient, 
either in the centre or on the side where there is 
danger from a doubtful neighbour or an objectionable 
wind. There is plenty of ground left on which to stalk, 
and, above all, if the sanctuary should happen to be 
disturbed from any cause intentional or accidental, 
you don't lose your deer ; they still remain on the 
ground, some are shot (or shot at), and the rest go 
back to their old home. 

In a small forest these conditions are not to be 
found. A sanctuary in such a place is always getting 
in the way. You have often to go round it to get on 
to your beat. It draws all the best stags, and you dare 
not move it for fear of the deer leaving the ground 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 125 

and going on to that of your neighbour. Nothing is 
more tantalising than to peep over the ridge which 
bounds the sacred spot and to find it crawling with 
good deer, while on the ground you have been stalk- 
ing there is nothing to be seen but ' trash.' 

Worst of all, when the rutting season begins many 
of these good stags that have l>een so carefully nursed 
the sanctuary ////</ the forest far behind them, 
and get shot by others who have had no share in 
preserving them. Xor does it help to keep up the 
stock of deer to any great extent. After the season 
is over and the wandering stags return home, that 
particular part of the forest is no quieter than the rot : 
indeed, the latter having been eaten less bare may 
prove the most attractive during the winter months. 

There remains the case of a medium-sized forest. 
Here it is impossible to lay down any rule which is 
equally applicable to all forests coming under that 
category. Some may have corries so situated that 
eem to be marked out for the purpose of pro- 
viding a place of safety for deer when disturbed or 
moved from the surrounding hills. The prevailing 
direction of the wind will of necessity form no incon- 
siderable element in selecting the spot which is most 
suitable for the purpose. 1 >eer as a rule move up 
wind, and if they are not pleased with the ground 



1 24 DEER-STALKING 



traversed will often go a long way before they settle. 
It is obvious that a well-chosen and properly managed 
sanctuary must please them, and if it lies in the 
direction they are taking, deer are certain to remain 
there when it is reached. It is said that deer will go 
down wind towards a place where they know they are 
safe. They may do this occasionally, but very rarely, 
I am inclined to think, when alarmed by a shot or 
the sudden appearance of an enemy. 

When moving of their own accord they must 
sometimes travel on a side or down wind, otherwise, 
with a continuance say of a westerly wind for three 
weeks, most of our deer would be found on the shores 
of the Atlantic. 

A medium-sized forest may be so constituted 
that a sanctuary cannot be conveniently formed. For 
instance, a long glen, both sides of which are under 
deer, does not afford the protection and isolation 
required for the purpose. Disturbance on the oppo- 
site side of the glen from that portion of the ground 
selected as a place of security must occasionally take 
place. A couple of shots fired there, and the sight of 
a herd of deer running away in a state of alarm, would 
soon clear a sanctuary thus situated. The ground 
chosen with this object in view should be as compact 
as possible. A large round hill, with corries on three 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 125 

of its sides, forms an ideal place for a sanctuary 
Even if only two of these corries can be spared it 
would do well enough. Then, if by any accident deer 
are disturbed in one of them, they are very likely to 
move into the next and remain there. 

Wherever the sanctuary may be, it is desirable 
that some part of it should be protected from what- 
ever wind may prevail. One corrie of unusually large 
proportions may suffice if the burn which drains it 
has a twist or curve during its course, or if there 
happens to be a rock or spur on one of its sides so as 
to form a sort of false corrie affording shelter when 
the wind blows straight up the corrie. Without this, 
though the ground may be perfectly sheltered as long 
as the wind blows from three quarters, it will be too 
much exposed towards the remaining ' airt,' and deer 
will probably move off. If the exposed side is to the 
north, a cold north wind is pretty sure to send 
every beast over the top for shelter, while, if facing 
south, the driving rain which often accompanies a 
south-west wind will bring about the same result. 
The ground should therefore, if possible, be provided 
with shelter from wind coming from these two 
points of the compass. 

Sometimes even in the largest forests good stags 
get congregated in such vast herds in these places of 



126 DEER-STALKING 



refuge that the rest of the ground is almost denuded, 
and such a state of affairs is very trying to the sports- 
man. In these circumstances, it becomes necessary 
to ' move ' them. The operation should be per- 
formed by the head forester, who should choose a day 
when the wind is favourable and take care that no 
one is out on the ground likely to be occupied by 
the broken-up herd. It is almost unnecessary to add 
that on no account must they be fired at. 

The consideration of this branch of deer forestry 
leads us to another detail connected with our subject, 
namely, the proper distribution of ' beats ' in a forest. 
Intermingled with this is the respective responsibility 
of the men in charge of the different beats in other 
words, whether it is best to have one head forester 
under whose orders all the other stalkers must be, or 
to give to each stalker a beat of his own and make 
him responsible only to his employer. As a rule, 
but certainly subject to exceptions, the latter plan 
would appear to be the most satisfactory. 

If each stalker be responsible to and under the 
orders of the head forester, he has distinctly to serve 
two masters, the head forester and their common 
employer. This is, no doubt, the case in game pre- 
serving, but the difference between pheasant-shooting 
and deer-stalking, as regards control and indeed in 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 127 

every respect, is so obvious that it is unnecessary 
to enlarge upon it. Independent beats and separate 
responsibility induce a spirit of emulation among the 
stalkers, the effect of which is to correct many faults 
which a different system is apt to produce. Take one 
instance of this. Suppose you have a stalker who 
thinks the chief end of life is to give his ' gentleman ' 
a ' chance,' and having accomplished this goes con- 
tentedly home with a feeling of duty performed and 
without any twinge of conscience as to what kind of 
a chance it was, or whether a long shot fired perhaps 
in the dusk was likely to be equally satisfactory to 
the gentleman out on that beat next day, or for the 
interest generally of the ground under his charge. Is 
it likely that the man in charge of a beat, who is 
anxious to make at the end of the season a good 
record of stags killed on his ground, would encourage 
random shooting at long range in the dusk ? Assur- 
edly not, but on the other hand if he refrains too 
much from giving shots it is of course impossible to 
produce as good a record as he would otherwise do. 
On the whole, it seems tolerably certain that a man 
in a position of responsibility will work his ground 
fairly and properly, just as his employer would wish 
it to be worked, so as to give sport to his friends 
without injury to the forest. 



128 DEER-STALKING 

I have said that there are exceptions to the system 
which is here advocated, but it is not easy to name 
them. Each owner of a forest must be the best 
judge of what is required in his own case. I can only 
generalise and state what is in my judgment best if 
circumstances allow of the adoption of the plan 
recommended. But one exception, before leaving this 
part of the subject, may perhaps be mentioned, and 
it will probably suggest others to the readers of this 
paper. When only two men are required, and where 
one of them has to live in an out-of-the-way place, 
perhaps in a bad house without a croft attached and 
to which there is no road, or when the keeper has to 
lodge and board with a shepherd, in such a case you 
cannot get the class of man who is fitted to take on 
his shoulders the full responsibility of working his 
beat. It is better that he should receive orders from 
the head forester, for he is really more of a watcher 
than anything else, though often quite as good a stalker 
as his superior. Indeed, all Highlanders in that 
position of life seem to be born stalkers. 

To return to the subject of ' Beats ' themselves. 
There are two ways of managing a forest in this 
respect. One way is to divide it into very large beats 
and send one rifle out on each beat, leaving it to the 
judgment of the stalker to determine according to 



THE MANAGEMENT OF DEER FORESTS 129 

wind, or to what was done there on the previous day, 
or to other circumstances, how the ground should be 
worked. The other way is to subdivide a beat into 
two, three, or four portions, giving to each sub- 
division its fair turn, but not allowing except in the 
case of following a wounded deer, and not always 
then the party that is out on one of these sub-beats 
to encroach on another during that day. Which 
of these two methods should be adopted depends 
absolutely and entirely on the nature of the ground. 
It would be as absurd and impossible to deal with 
the whole ground that is under one man's charge 
as one beat in the forest here, as it would be to 
take the opposite course in a forest like that of 
Glen Feshie. Of course where a beat is subdivided 
no part of the ground is disturbed on two consecu- 
tive days. Thus if there are three subdivisions, 
each of these is worked twice in the week, on the 
supposition that the wind and weather are suitable 
for stalking. 

I cannot conclude this chapter without a word 
of warning against surrounding a forest with a deer 
fence. This practice is very rarely adopted, so the 
word protest need not be employed. A forest thus 
treated is ruined for certain. It is only a question 
of time. No fresh blood can be introduced, and the 

K 



130 DEER-STALKING 



heads and bodies get smaller and smaller until they 
reach the size of island deer, whose diminutive pro- 
portions are evidently the result of the natural 
operation of the laws which apply to in-and-in 
breeding. 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 131 



CHAPTER III 

THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 

ANYONE who undertakes to write an essay on the 
practice of deer-stalking must be prepared to encounter 
some amount of criticism from a double standpoint. 
He will either be censured for giving too elementary 
a character to his treatise, or else for furnishing his 
readers with facts and information with which they 
are already acquainted, and with giving advice which 
is not required. In other words, the writer should 
begin by asking himself this question : For whom is 
this essay, or article, or treatise intended ? Am I going 
to write for the beginner, for the man who has never 
been out stalking who knows absolutely nothing 
about it, and who wants to learn how the thing ought 
to be done ; or should I address myself to the 
experienced sportsman who has, or thinks he has, 
nothing to learn, but who might like to while away a 
spare half-hour by taking up the volume of ' Fur and 
Feather ' which treats of his favourite sport ? Now I 

K 2 



1 32 DEER-STALKING 



have seriously asked myself this question, and have 
come to the conclusion that, in spite of the proverbial 
difficulty in pleasing everybody, it will be best in this 
case to adopt what I hope will prove a happy medium 
giving some information that may be useful to 
beginners, though not needed by many of my readers, 
and offering a few hints which may not be unacceptable 
even to veterans of many a season's campaign. 

The elementary requirements of deer-stalking 
' what shall we eat, what shall we drink, and where- 
withal shall we be clothed ' and armed ? are to be 
found treated of in various books which have been 
written at different times, and not a season passes 
without the appearance of a contribution to one or 
other of the sporting papers or magazines relating to 
these requirements, and containing, generally in an 
amusing enough form, some simple rules which the 
budding deer-stalker would do well to follow. 

But my chief reason for passing lightly over these 
aspects of my subject is, because the beginner will 
learn all that he requires to learn, in order to make a 
start, from the stalker who accompanies him, far better 
than he could from anything which he may acquire 
from a perusal of these pages. 

Such matters, except perhaps the 'arming' of 
our sportsman, may be called the 'trivialities' of deer- 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 133 



stalking. Interesting some of them are, no doubt, 
and their discussion may properly and pleasantly form 
a feature in the chat of the smoking-room ; but solemn 
admonitions as to what is best to eat for breakfast 
or to take out for lunch, appear to be somewhat 
unnecessary, as is also a lecture on early rising ; a 
description of the number and kind of pockets 
your tailor should put into your shooting-jacket, a 
disquisition on the respective merits of boots or 
brogues, and on the different kinds of ' tackets ' 
which may be applied to their soles all these seem 
to be out of place, and indeed ridiculous, in such 
a treatise as this purports to be. 

Eating and drinking is a matter between the man 
and his digestion. No other person has any right to 
interfere. What suits one stomach does not suit 
another. Thus, personally I am a very bad hand at 
breakfast, and when that breakfast is served at an 
early hour am no hand at all at it. But on the hill 
I used to get ravenous at lunch, and the thin biscuit 
which suited some of my friends would not have 
done for me. These used, of course, to eat a hearty 
breakfast, but they were no harder on the hill than I 
was, nor less knocked up after an exceptionally long 
day. 

Then again, as regards clothes. One often reads 



134 DEER-STALKING 



in books or articles professing to give minute 
directions on such subjects, that the deer-stalker 
should endeavour to wear a suit of a colour resem- 
bling the particular ground on which he intends going. 
This is all very well if you are sure that the whole 
day will be spent in one place. But this rarely 
occurs. In pursuit of deer, it is often necessary to 
leave the granite ridges of a hill, and descend to the 
black peat bogs which are to be found at its base. 
What then becomes of the beautiful light-grey tweed 
in which you had encased your manly form, with the 
idea of producing the nearest approach to harmony 
with the colour of the primitive rocks or the ptarmigan, 
among which you intended passing the day ? Take 
the following instance, which is surely not uncommon. 
A corrie clothed with the short sweet herbage which 
makes its appearance green as a lawn, while at the 
bottom of the corrie lie boulders of every size and 
shape, rolled down from the top in some convulsion 
of nature, or by the slower process of disintegration 
during countless ages. Beyond this, again, moss and 
heather. Now suppose a party of stags is spied from 
the ridge, and lying, as is often the case in the day- 
time not in the corrie, but on the moss at the 
bottom let us say within half a mile of the ridge, 
and in full view of the whole ground by which they 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 135 

must be^approached. Well, the stalkers begin their 
descent, they must keep as close as possible together, 
moving inch by inch with eyes fixed on the deer, and 
especially on those whose heads are turned upwards, 
if lying down ; stopping whenever a feeding stag 
raises his head, or a recumbent one 'looks on the 
alert.' The 'gentleman ' clothed in a suit of Lovat 
mixture, and conscious that its colour perfectly 
harmonises with the verdure of the corrie down which 
he is crawling, rejoices that he (or his valet) had the 
forethought to make that particular selection when he 
dressed in the morning. But presently he finds him- 
self among the grey stones at the bottom. Here 
crawling is not so pleasant. Instead of the recum- 
bent position and easy slide down a soft velvetty 
and comparatively dry turf, he finds himself on his 
hands and knees, crawling on sharp stones and 
endeavouring to avoid the pain of contact by a 
series of short jumps, or perhaps saving his knees at 
the expense of his hands, and showing a good deal 
too much of that part of his person which in the 
previous part of his adventure was more favourably 
situated. Now he regrets the Lovat mixture, and 
would fain have worn that other suit of grey and 
white check, which, being new and smart, was re- 
served for a picnic with the ladies on an off day. 



136 DEER-STALKING 



However, the zone of rock is not very wide, and he 
presently reaches the black peat beyond. Here he 
is probably safe from the deer he is after, as, if 
not covered in the case I am supposing, and at the 
distance given, it is hardly likely that he can approach 
much nearer, though the largest part of the half-mile 
was intended to be from the bottom of the steep part 
of the corrie to where the deer are lying. But he 
may still require to crawl in order to escape observa- 
tion from some other beast that is now in view. 
Here he wishes for a further change of costume to 
suit the dark ground on which he is lying, and longs 
for the heather mixture which adorned his person the 
day before when he was shooting grouse. Not being 
a circus- rider possessed of three sets of clothes which 
can be stripped off one after the other, he has to be 
satisfied with the garments in which he originally 
started, and in all probability these are good enough 
for the purpose. The fact is that for stalking any 
neutral coloured or check tweed will suffice ; but for 
those who are very particular as to the invisibility of 
their dress I would suggest wearing jacket and waist- 
coat of one pattern, and knickerbockers of another. 
However well chosen in order to suit the ground 
your clothing may be, it must, more or less, form a 
spot on the background. It is obvious that by 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 137 



dressing-yourself in the manner suggested, the spot, 
as observed from any given distance, will be half the 
size of that caused by wearing a suit of ' dittos.' In 
other words, the figure of a man dressed in clothes 
all of one design is visible at twice the distance that 
he might be ' picked up ' by deer if he had a coat and 
waistcoat of a different pattern from that of his nether 
garments. 

A more serious matter, no doubt, is that of the 
rifle with which a deer-stalker should be armed. 
But on this subject opinions differ widely, and it 
would not be easy, without alluding by name to 
makers of various rifles, to go thoroughly into the 
subject. This hardly comes within the scope of my 
present purpose, nor indeed do I feel competent to 
undertake the task. Some kind of what is called an 
' Express ' rifle with a flat trajectory, carrying a light 
elongated bullet with a heavy charge of powder behind 
it, fulfils all the conditions which seem to be indis- 
pensable. Probably a -450 bore is the most convenient. 
If much larger in the gauge you get too heavy a weapon, 
especially when following a wounded deer uphill on a 
hot day, and the bullet makes an unnecessarily large 
wound. On the other hand, a rifle with too small a 
bore is naturally not so effective in stopping a stag as 
one of larger dimensions. 



138 DEER-STALKING 

But the great thing is to get a rifle made by a 
good maker, to try it well before going out, and when 
out to hold it straight. 

As regards the bullet, it should, if intended to go 
up quickly, be hollowed out more or less. A hollow 
bullet is objectionable. It splinters in the body of 
the deer like a shell, and makes a mess of the venison. 
A tapered form is the best that is, one with a small 
cavity which should be filled with plaster of Paris, but 
on no account with copper. Hammerless weapons 
are of more advantage in the case of rifles than of 
guns. I venture to say that there will be no deer- 
stalker who reads these pages who cannot remember 
some occasion when he had to pull his rifle out of its 
cover in a hurry and found the hammers catch in the 
moleskin or canvas material of which it was made. 
Accidents, too, have occurred when the rifle has 
been thrust into its case carelessly without taking the 
precaution of putting on the stops, the catching above 
alluded to bringing the hammer from half to full cock. 

Let us now deal with stalking in its more serious 
aspects. To find in the first place, then to circumvent, 
and lastly to get within shot of an animal so shy and 
wary as a red deer in its wild state, endowed as he is 
with powers of sight, scent, and hearing to a degree 
rarely equalled and never excelled by any other 






THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 139 



species, requires both the aptitude which is almost an 
instinct, and knowledge which can be only acquired 
by long practice. Hence it is beyond question that 
it is not advisable for the ' gentleman ' to attempt to 
do his own stalking. There is no reason why the 
owner of the forest, if it pleases him to do so, should 
not go out alone, though then I suspect that in such 
cases the only change from the orthodox method is, 
that the man who carries the rifle is called a gillie, 
and walks behind instead of in front of his ' gentle- 
man.' I have tried stalking for myself, and in spite 
of knowing my own ground thoroughly and having 
specially good eyesight, experience leads me to prefer 
the usual method. I am not ashamed to confess 
that I like the presence of my stalker for the sake of 
his company. To spend the whole day on the hill, to 
witness the various incidents of the sport or the 
phenomena of nature without anyone to share the 
interest involved in all that goes on, deprives me ot 
half the enjoyment. True you have the gillie, but 
he is probably young and shy, and cannot be got to 
talk, while his conversation would likely not be 
interesting. Your stalker, on the other hand, is often 
more amusing than a professional dining-out wit, 
while his descriptions of the performances of the last 
few days since you saw him cannot fail, even though 



i 4 o DEER-STALKING 

not told in racy language or interspersed with anec- 
dotes, to command the attention of his employer. 

Then I used to find that, when stalking for myself, 
I lost too much time. It is impossible for any amateur 
to make good his ground as easily or as quickly as 
one who by long practice has acquired the necessary 
confidence in himself. When you have found deer 
and made up your mind how they are to be approached, 
the chief point which should occupy the stalker's 
attention is to take his marks that is, to make a note 
of any prominent features of the ground which he has 
to traverse, and the nearer such marks are to the place 
where the deer are lying, the more important do they 
become. Now in most cases the appearance of these 
marks, which are generally stones, is very different 
when you get close to them from what was presented 
to you when looking at them through the glass ; and 
if, as is often necessary, you crawl up to them from the 
other side, they are simply unrecognisable. In such 
a position the amateur is helpless. He gets no 
consolation from the gillie, as he was too proud to 
confide in him when he first spied the deer. The 
forester knows exactly when to come down on to his 
marks, and to hit off the exact spot where it is safe to 
leave the ridge and seek the shelter of the ' knobby ' 
or boulder stone from which he expects to get the 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 141 



shot. I -will not do the amateur the injustice to say 
that he is likely to make a mess of it, but my own 
experience in stalking is that on such occasions there 
is a good deal of time lost in walking along the ridge 
or crawling up and down in search of the said boulder, 
accompanied by mental ejaculations respecting the 
ultimate fate of this inanimate object which it is not 
here necessary to repeat. 

A minor evil which I used to find when stalking 
myself, was a sense of discomfort caused by the 
strained position of the neck when walking uphill, as 
you are obliged to be constantly on the look-out 
on opening fresh ground, when at any moment a hind 
and calf, or a small stag, might jump up and spoil the 
stalk. 

These considerations apply to the owner of a 
forest attempting to dispense with the services of a 
stalker. It will be readily understood that, in the 
case of a guest, the practice is quite inadmissible. 
There is no objection to anyone, owner or guest, 
doing for himself the last few yards of the stalk. If 
he can be trusted, it is far better and safer that he 
should do so. If he cannot be trusted, it is wiser and 
safer to leave it to the professional. 

The consideration which is paramount in deer- 
stalking operations is the direction of the wind, 



1 4 2 DEER-STALKING 



and the first question asked by the sportsman who 
is to go on the hill on any given morning is ' How 
is the wind ? ' No matter where his beat is situated, 
it may be far or near, he has to study the clouds, 
or ascertain otherwise from which point operations 
should begin. It is needless to observe that, as a 
rule, the party should proceed to that end of their 
beat which is to leeward and work up wind. Of course 
in each individual stalk this is an absolute rule, and 
admits of no exception, though for the last few hundred 
yards a side wind will do, and is indeed often unavoid- 
able. Dealing with the beat, however, rather than 
the stalk, there are important variations depending on 
the position of the forest in respect to marches, and 
special circumstances affecting each beat. 

Suppose the ground to be worked consists of one 
side of a long glen, containing three or four large 
corries separated by shoulders and ascending with a 
gradually steepening gradient to a ridge of 2,000 or 
2,500 feet above sea-level. For the sake of sim- 
plifying the illustration, we will say the glen runs east 
and west, and the wind is from the west. It might 
be thought natural that the stalking party should 
begin at the east end. But let us see what the effect 
of this would be. They disturb the first corrie, and 
move the deer over the shoulder into the next one. 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 143 

This may -be full of deer, or it may contain none. If 
the former, it is more than likely that the two lots 
those that it originally contained and the new comers, 
whose sudden arrival must cause a certain commotion 
will move on to the third corrie. If the second 
corrie is empty, those that have been moved into it 
may remain there or they may go on still further up 
wind. Our party follows them over the shoulder till 
a view is obtained of the whole or most of the corrie. 
If deer are spied, it will probably be necessary to go 
to the top of the ridge in order to get at them by 
crawling down the burn, or to take advantage of what- 
ever irregularities the ground may afford. It will be 
hardly possible to get a chance by going through the 
corrie, as the top of the shoulder will be in full view 
of its leeward side, where the herd, if they have 
remained there at all, are likely to be found. If 
nothing is espied from the shoulder, the stalkers must 
in any case ascend the ridge to get a proper view of 
the third corrie. They have now cleared half the 
ground of deer and driven them all towards the west 
or farthest end of the beat ; and at the end of the day, 
unless the sport has been very successful, or for some 
other special reason it is brought to an abrupt con- 
clusion, there will not be a stag left in the whole of that 
beat. Now it is not to be supposed that the tactics 



i 4 4 DEER-STALKING 



described above would be adopted if the west end of 
this beat marched with a neighbouring forest. Why, 
therefore, should such a course be followed even when 
there is little chance of the owner of the forest losing 
the deer altogether ? 

The proper way of proceeding in the case I have 
imagined is to begin with the west corrie. You, of 
course, clear that and send any deer which may be 
on it off the ground, but they won't disturb you for 
the rest of the day. If you have luck and get a stag, 
then it may be proper to get hold of the ridge and 
make for the farthest or east corrie, leaving the 
middle of your beat untouched. In that case the 
deer disturbed in the east end may move on to the 
ground where no one has been, or at worst go as far 
as the corrie where you got the stag in the morning ; 
and in this way the beat will not be left absolutely 
empty of deer. To the objection that the course 
suggested would involve a lot of walking, my answer 
is that it would seem to be so on paper, but it is not 
so in reality. There are, of course, exceptions, but 
as a rule walking on a ridge such as is here imagined 
is not only easy, but the distances from the top of one 
corrie to the top of another are often surprisingly 
short. They spread out like a fan, the handle repre- 
senting the top of the corrie, which unlike the fan is 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 145 

concave jnstead of flat. There is thus an enormous 
amount both of walking and climbing to be done 
when dealing with these formations among the hills, 
while on the ridge there is nothing to speak of. As 
regards the climb from shoulder to ridge, that must 
be faced in whichever of the two ways the ground is 
worked. 

It is, of course, impossible to give illustrations 
of the proper manner in which all kinds of ground 
should be worked. Local knowledge and expe- 
rience must decide what is best. But local expe- 
rience may occasionally err and become tainted 
with prejudice or by jealousy. I cannot help think- 
ing that the wind is sometimes blamed when the 
fault really lies in an exaggerated fear on the part 
of the owner or his forester lest the neighbour may 
benefit by sending friends out in the forest when ' she 
is in the wrong airt.' Great caution in this respect is 
of course praiseworthy, but I have a suspicion that it 
is sometimes overdone, and at any rate I have many a 
time felt for the sorrows of friends who have come to 
me from other forests with woeful tales of ' wind all 
wrong the whole time I was at such and such a place ' 
' never had my rifle out of its case ' ' hope the 
wind is not equally bad with you,' &c. It was always 
a pleasure to be able to assure him that, be the wind 

L 



I 4 6 DEER-STALKING 

what it might, we would try to get him a shot 
somehow. 

On the other hand, the friend when he goes out 
should endeavour to think of others besides himself 
and his own sport, and should not try to bully or cajole 
the stalker into allowing him to spoil the chances of 
the man who was to go out next day. Almost the 
only scoldings I have ever had to give my servants 
were for allowing themselves to be persuaded by the 
' gentleman ' into doing what they knew was wrong. 
The youngest of these men has been in my service 
twenty-five years, and they are all well trained by this 
time if a story is true (which I greatly doubt) that 
was told me with great glee by a friend who had tried 
his best to get the stalker to allow him to go after a 
good beast which they had spied on ground off his beat. 
The man replied that it was as much as his life was 
worth. ' You mean as much as your place was worth,' 
said my friend. ' Not at all,' he rejoined, ' I well 
believe Lochiel would shoot me if I were to take you 
on to that hill, as he intends stalking there himself 
to-morrow.' I was not conscious of deserving a 
character so ferocious, but I did not soon hear the 
last of the incident. 

Much more ground is got over in a day at the 
present time than was the case formerly, owing to the 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 147 



numerous bridle-paths which have been constructed, 
and which enable the sportsman to ride with ease up 
to the tops of hills to attain which cost him formerly 
a long and weary climb. This advantage may to 
some extent and in some instances be neutralised by 
a departure from the habit of early rising, which is 
not of course so necessary with the altered conditions 
of locomotion, and also, where deer are more plen- 
tiful than they used to be, by the less time occupied 
in searching the ground and in the course of the 
day going over a much larger area. These paths if 
judiciously planned are of great benefit, and may be 
appreciated even by those who scorn ' luxurious ease ' 
as affording the means of bringing home your stag 
the same night, which might not be easy without them. 

Deer ought never to be left out all night on the 
hill when it is possible to get the carcase home. It is 
idle to say that the venison does not suffer. Perhaps 
when the atmosphere is very dry without frost not 
much harm is done, but a wet night or a white frost 
is fatal to a haunch which is to be sent to a friend, 
while it won't keep more than a day or two even in 
your own larder. 

Before leaving the subject of wind it may be 
interesting to remark that, while the keen sense of 
scent possessed by red deer sorely handicaps the 

L 2 



148 DEER-STALKING 

stalker in his attempt to approach a stag, yet the latter 
occasionally also suffers from the same cause. It 
must have happened to most of those of my readers 
who have enjoyed the sport which we are discussing 
to scent deer themselves. I have not infrequently 
got a shot unexpectedly when coming suddenly on 
fresh ground by observing the attitude of the dog that 
is trotting by my side or being led by the gillie behind. 
He will put up his head and sniff the air in an 
unmistakable way. Then the rifle may be pulled 
out of its case, and everything got ready for a snap 
shot should a stag jump up in front of the party of 
stalkers out of some hole in the bog where he was 
quite concealed from view. As mentioned above, it is 
not always the dog that puts you on the alert. The 
smell of deer, especially at the end of the season, is 
so strong that their presence can be detected by the 
unaided and limited sense of smell possessed by the 
owner of the dog. 

The mention of this leads to the consideration of 
what is a very important branch of the science of 
deer-stalking, Ought dogs to be used in a forest at all ? 
if so, What is the best kind of dog ? If not, How are 
you to get a wounded deer ? My answer to the latter 
question is that on favourable ground you might expect 
to get two out of three, while on unfavourable ground, 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 149 



where the hills are steep, the corries small, or where 
woods abound, hardly any would be recovered. A stag 
shot in the body may lie down, and if the nature of the 
ground will allow of his being watched, the stalker may 
see where he goes ; and then it '^generally easy enough 
to get up to and finish him. Even this is not always 
possible. Over and over again I have known a stag 
cross the burn below where he was fired at and lie 
down on the face of the hill exactly opposite to where 
we remained watching him, the distance in a straight 
line between pursuer and pursued being so short that 
the movements of the latter could be observed with 
the naked eye. On these occasions the moment 
we tried to get out of the place the beast saw us 
and was up and off and soon out of sight, having a 
good start of perhaps half an hour before we could 
get to the top of the opposite ridge. On these 
occasions either the dog was left some way behind, or 
there were special reasons why it was injudicious to 
slip him. 

But if a stag, instead of being shot through the 
body, has merely a broken leg, he is not nearly so 
ready to lie down, but tries to keep with the herd, 
which often accommodate their pace to that of their 
wounded comrade. Even if a solitary stag, it is diffi- 
cult to see how he is to be stopped without a dog. 



ISO DEER-STALKING 

The fastest runner in Scotland cannot catch him the 
ground soon takes him out of sight he seeks some 
well-known shelter, or else goes straight on end, 
regardless of the disturbance to other deer, and 
ignoring the arrangements of beats or of marches. 
To follow him on foot, as you catch a glimpse of him 
from one skyline to another, would be the height of 
folly. The place would be spoilt for stalking for some 
days to come, and the end after all would not be at- 
tained. And yet ! The only valid objection that is 
raised against the use of dogs in a forest is that it 
causes such disturbance to the ground ! Why, a dog 
that had never seen a deer, borrowed for the day from 
the neighbouring shepherd, would soon put a three- 
legged stag, if alone, into the nearest burn and enable 
you to do something to secure him, so whatever dis- 
turbance there might be would be confined to quite 
a limited extent of ground. 

It will be seen that I have no hesitation how to 
answer the question, Should dogs be used in a forest ? 
Let us therefore consider what is the best kind of dog 
for the purpose. First, as regards deerhounds. No 
one has a greater admiration for this magnificent breed 
than I have. I used to employ them for stalking 
purposes during many years, and they added a charm 
to the enjoyment of that form of sport which it would 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 151 



be ungrateful to deny. The beauty, gentleness, 
strength and speed of pure-bred deerhounds make 
them not only delightful companions, but trusty allies 
on the hill, where the power of scent is not required. 
Strongly biassed as I have always been in favour of 
these magnificent dogs, truth compels me to admit 
that for the pursuit of wounded deer they are not 
the most suitable. They are so high-couraged that 
it is impossible to submit them to any course of train- 
ing, while it is not in their nature to put their nose 
to the ground. Thus it was always necessary to take 
out two dogs, viz. a deerhound to slip at the wounded 
stag, and a tracker of some kind to follow on a leash. 
The former would generally pull down his quarry and 
then return to his master ; occasionally he would lie 
down beside the dead stag and remain for some time, 
but in a wood or in a burn with steep banks, this, of 
course, did not help matters, as it was impossible to 
find either dog or deer. A few, very few, could be got 
to stand bay till the stalking party, guided by the 
deep note of the hound, came to the place and relieved 
him from further responsibility. So that first there 
was the chance of the dog seizing the deer by the 
throat and killing him ; next, in case the latter was 
strong enough and able to find some deep burn or 
overhanging rock so loved by artists who attempt 



1 52 DEER-STALKING 



to portray these exciting scenes, there was the chance 
of the dog breaking bay as soon as he found that it 
was not possible to get his enemy by the throat ; and, 
"lastly, there was the chance, not confined to deer- 
hounds, of the stalkers failing to find the stag of to 
hear the far-off challenge of the hound. 

Another difficulty which has to be faced if deer- 
hounds are employed lies in the impossibility of 
training them to the work. This also applies, but in a 
less degree, to any kind of dog intended to be slipped 
not run on a string. A good keeper will break a 
brace of young pointers or setters so perfectly before the 
1 2th of August that they only require a shot or two 
to be fired over them to render their performance on 
the moor equal to that of seasoned dogs. This cannot 
be done with deerhounds. It is only practice in the 
stalking season that gives these dogs an opportunity 
of learning the business, and showing of what stuff 
they are made. While their education therefore is 
going on, many a good stag may be lost. There is 
no use training them on wounded hinds during 
winter. These have no horns, and the hound never 
gets the chance of a ' bay.' 

Another objection to using deerhounds lies in 
the necessity, before alluded to, of taking out two 
dogs, one for tracking, instead of only one. I often 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 153 



found deerhounds given to whine when in presence 
of deer, but that is a minor fault. 

On the whole, and without going into the relative 
merits of other breeds of dogs, such as retrievers, 
lurchers, or even terriers, many of which are excel- 
lent trackers, I have come to the conclusion that 
nothing beats a collie for general use on the hill. 
He is possessed of instinct, one may almost call it 
sense, in a higher degree than any other breed, and he 
is more tractable he will run by sight or by scent, 
loose or on a cord he will keep close to his master, 
requiring no gillie to lead him he can be taught to 
lie down, and will even learn to crawl when necessary, 
at any rate his motions are those of an animal who 
knows that he is trying to approach his prey un- 
observed. But the chief merit in a collie over all 
other dogs for following a wounded deer consists in 
his wonderful faculty for distinguishing between the 
track of a wounded and that of a cold stag. This 
gift comes only by practice, and perfection in this 
respect must not be expected in a dog under three 
or four years old. As speed is an essential quality, 
and this begins to fail after a dog is six or seven 
years of age, it will be seen that the life of a collie at 
his best is but short. 

I have had in my possession (or rather, my stalkers 



154 DEER-STALKING 

have had) some extraordinarily ' wise ' collies, and I 
cannot here refrain from giving one instance of the 
sagacity of a small yellow bitch called Lassie, whose 
progeny I am glad to say are still flourishing in 
the glen, though none of them have as yet equalled 
the fame of their ancestress. 

I was out at the far-off end of the forest, and, 

getting a shot at a stag almost in the gloaming, 

wounded it in the forearm. The deer had not seen 

me, and as only one shot had been fired and it was 

nearly dusk, they were not much alarmed. They ran 

straight down the hill about 150 yards, crossed the 

burn, ran about the same distance up the other side, 

and then stopped, turned round and stared back at 

us. The distance across was quite short, the banks 

of the burn being steep, and we were just able to 

distinguish the wounded deer, having observed him 

limping behind the others before they came to a 

standstill. What were we to do ? It was impossible to 

move the deer would have picked us up at once 

and been off. There was no time to follow them, and 

there was a dense fir wood with high heather only 

half a mile away. ' Shall I slip Lassie ? ' said the 

stalker. ' Surely not at a herd of deer ! ' I exclaimed ; 

' she will probably go after a calf or something and 

disturb the whole forest.' ' Well, as you think right,' 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 155 

he replied, ' but I have great confidence in the bitch, 
and besides she will soon overtake the herd, and 
the lame one is likely to be the last, and therefore 
the first which Lassie will come up to.' This last 
argument decided me. ' Let her go,' I whispered, and 
off she went. So quick were her movements, that 
the herd had not started when she was close upon 
them. Then they broke up into two lots, and off 
they went at a great pace. Would Lassie take the 
lot in which was our wounded stag ? No ! she goes 
after the others, and our hearts sink within us. But 
only for an instant quick as thought she finds out 
that our stag is not in front of her, so she gallops 
back to where they were standing, takes up the track 
of the other parcel, and away she goes again in hot 
pursuit. She gets close to them a real fast dog will 
always beat a deer up hill they again split up, the 
wounded stag and one other going to the right, the 
remainder straight on up the hill. 'We are done 
this time,' I exclaimed, as the bitch went as hard as 
she could after the herd. The words were hardly out 
of my mouth when she again turned back, took up 
the track of our wounded beast, came up with him, 
turned him down to the burn, and in less than a 
minute afterwards we had him with a shot through 
his head. This was a splendid performance. 



156 DEER-STALKING 



As a rule, and unless your dog is exceptionally 
good, it is not advisable to slip him until the wounded 
beast has separated from his companions ; even then 
it may save trouble if you allow the dog to follow the 
track on the cord for a bit. He may be loosed when 
a ridge is reached, or some spot which commands a 
wide view. This is the more to be recommended, as 
slipping the dog often means that the slipper must 
prepare for a run as well, and if the former gets a long 
start up hill it may be difficult to follow him, for the 
dog gets over the ridge long before the panting gillie 
is half-way up, and when there he may not know 
which way to go. 

It is sometimes difficult to know where a stag is 
hit. When a bone is broken the beast of course 
shows it. If hit in the body he generally sickens and 
lies down. If touched at the base of the horn, the 
back of the skull, or the top of the shoulder, he often 
drops to the shot but gets up, shakes himself, and is 
off as strong as ever. It is not wise to take for granted, 
because you see blood, that a deer is badly wounded. 
A flesh wound in the shoulder or haunch often causes 
an amount of bleeding that leads the inexperienced 
sportsman to believe the wound is severe, and to 
insist on the dog being loosed. The wary forester 
ought to resist any such invitation, if he is careful of 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 157 



his employer's interests. It ought not to be difficult 
in such a dilemma to judge of the nature of the 
wound. There is first the observation of the stalker 
when the shot is fired, as to the effect upon the deer ; 
then comes the position in which the stag was when 
hit ; lastly, his movements afterwards. If the wound 
be only a skiff, no difference is observed in the carriage 
of the animal from that of his companions. He does 
not sicken or poke his head forwards, or show any of 
the symptoms of being shot in the body. His head 
is carried as erect, his action is as free as if nothing 
had happened, and the only observable difference 
between his conduct and that of the herd is a strong 
and not unnatural inclination to put as long a distance 
as possible between himself and his pursuers. In 
other words, a slightly wounded stag often leads, a 
badly wounded stag always follows the rest. 

Sometimes, however, it is more difficult to determine 
where a stag is hit. I would give a good deal to be 
able to ascertain in what part of the body I wounded 
a stag, a few years ago, that I never found. The story 
is remarkable, so I will tell it just as it happened. I 
fired at a stag standing on the ridge of a ' knowe ' and 
surrounded by other deer. It was a long way from 
home, and getting late in the day. We heard the 
thud of the bullet, and I made no doubt we should 



1 58 DEER-STA LKING 

realise our beast on going over the hillock on which 
he was standing. On reaching the spot he was not to 
be seen anywhere, so we at once took a spy at the rest 
of the herd, who had by this time got well up the 
opposite hill. Our friend was not among them, but 
we soon discovered him half-way between us and 
them. He was looking very unhappy, his head was 
stretched out, and he seemed to pay no attention to 
anything, but walked very slowly and dejectedly after 
his companions. So bad did he appear, that my 
stalker wanted to slip the dog at once, but I would 
not allow this, as it seemed as if the other deer would 
soon be out of sight, and we could follow the wounded 
one with greater safety. However, they did not 
seem to be much frightened, and he went walking 
slowly on, until at last, to my intense disgust, they got 
together and stood on the ridge, some of them actually 
beginning to feed. I thought it was all up, and pre- 
pared to go home, as it was not Lassie that was out 
with me that day, but a young brindled collie, very 
strong and very fast, but not fit to be slipped at a 
parcel of deer a quarter of a mile off. Just as we 
were preparing to leave, the deer suddenly threw up 
their heads, looked about them for a minute, and then 
galloped off down to a burn running at an angle to 
the main stream, which they crossed, [went over the 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 159 

other ridge, and were out of sight in five minutes. 
Now was our time, for the wounded stag was left 
alone in front of us. He never attempted to follow 
after the rest, but walked slowly forward in the direc- 
tion in which he had been going. As soon as he was 
out of sight I sent the stalker after him with the dog, 
and knowing that the latter getting so close at the start 
must turn him down hill to the burn, walked in that 
direction with the intention of finishing him as soon 
as he was brought to bay. Unfortunately, I did not 
guess that the first part of the operation would be so 
soon over, and I had not quite got within shot of the 
burn, when the deer appearedjon the skyline, a little 
to the right of where he had disappeared from view, 
and came best pace down the bank followed by the 
collie twenty yards behind. No sign of any wound 
now ! He galloped with long, firm strides, and head 
erect just as well as any other stag in the forest. It 
was simply amazing to see him move at such a pace ; 
but as he had a long way to go before reaching the rough 
fir and heather which skirts the shore of the loch, I 
still hoped we should get him, especially as his course 
would take him within fifty yards of a big boulder, 
where the gillie and deer pony were always left when 
we were out on that beat. There was, however, 
nothing for it but to run as hard as we could after 



160 DEER-STALKING 



them. The glen from that point to the loch is about 
five miles, and the gillie was stationed two miles from 
where we started. When we arrived at the boulder 
and asked eagerly whether the chase had swept by, 
we were informed that the deer and dog had passed 
about twenty minutes before our arrival, the stag going 
as hard and fresh as ever, and the dog still twenty 
yard behind. Onwards we went too, though certainly 
neither as fast nor as fresh as before. We easily 
followed the tracks till within half a mile of the loch 
where the wood begins. Here the deer must have 
plunged into the thicket, like his kinsman in the 
' Lady of the Lake,' and was lost in its deep recesses. 
The dog was heard to bay him somewhere near the 
shore ; but it was pitch dark when we arrived at the 
pier, and we only learnt this from the lad who met us 
there. The dog went straight home during the night. 
As one of the most remarkable illustrations of 
the proverb that ' misfortunes never come alone ' 
that I ever experienced, I may be permitted to give 
the conclusion of this adventure. The point at 
which we touched the loch is about ten miles from 
the Castle, and we always use a steam launch to 
take us home from that beat. On the occasion 
referred to no launch was there, but only the small 
boat belonging to her, and we were informed by the 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 161 



lad in charge that the steamer had broken down 
and could not come to the usual place. So we had 
to make the best of it and row all the way in the 
small boat. It was blowing pretty fresh, but not 
really hard, and the direction was favourable. But 
alas ! the oars were old and only suited for paddling 
from the launch to the shore. One of them broke 
in two before we had been five minutes on board, 
and we were left drifting about at the wrong end of 
our lake. After much difficulty we succeeded in 
paddling across to the other side, using one oar and 
the seat of the boat, there being no road on the side 
on which we embarked. I then started on a ten-mile 
walk, on a roughish track, in a pitch-dark night, 
through thick woods the whole way. Tired as I was, 
it was with a sense of no small relief that on reaching 
a keeper's house, within three miles of home, I 
got hold of an old pony and still older saddle, and, 
having mounted, thought to reach the Castle comfort- 
ably if not triumphantly. Vanity of vanities ! Scarce 
half a mile of the remainder of the journey was 
accomplished when my pony shied at a sheep that 
started from the roadside, swerved, and down I came 
saddle and all. The girths had given way ! My back 
was so bruised that I could not remount, though I 
had little inclination for that mode of progression 

M 



1 62 DEER-STALKING 



after such an experience, so I limped as best I could 
for the remainder of the distance, and reached home 
at midnight. 

A few days after this chapter of accidents I hap- 
pened to read an account of some anti-deer forest 
meeting, when deer-stalking was described as being 
at the present day an effeminate kind of sport ; no 
exertion was required, no adventures were to be 
met with ; it was altogether different from what 
it used to be, and consisted in sitting in an arm- 
chair and having half-tame deer driven past. I 
wished the gentleman who made those remarks had 
been seated on my old white pony, when the sheep 
started him, instead of myself. After such a day he 
would have found mother earth a very uncomfortable 
armchair. 

I hardly like to close this chapter without 
giving a few hints and suggestions on the actual 
shooting of deer, though it should be clearly under- 
stood that they are entirely the results of my own 
experience, that it is not intended to dogmatise or 
lay down absolute rules which must necessarily be 
followed, and that the remarks which are here made 
must be taken for what they are worth, and no 
more. 

Often have I known a man come from the hill 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 163 

with a woe-begone countenance and the admission 
that he had missed two good chances. And yet.' 
he would add, ' I tried a shot before starting, and 
hit a bottle at a hundred yards." That is just it. 
Shooting at a bottle is very different from shooting 
at a stag. If everyone who can hit a mark even a 
foot square at a hundred yards was equally successful 
at deer there would be no missing in the forest, for 
those who could not accomplish that feat would pro- 
bably not attempt stalking. 

Coolness is the great desideratum in firing at a 
stag. This quality is generally supposed to be ac- 
quired by practice. It is not always so. I have 
known men, who never were and never will be even 
fair shots, and who are so fond of the sport that they go 
on year after year with very varying success. On 
the other hand, two of the steadiest shots that ever 
came to this forest were men who began to stalk 
comparatively late in life, and who never got any 
practice at deer in other phi 

For my own part, I am no believer in practising 
with a rifle at a mark after your weapon has been 
well tried. It may do no harm, but it certainly does 
no good. If coolness is the quality most required, 
what can the young shooter learn by blazing away at 
a bottle? We have all heard of stag fever, but who 

M 2 



164 DEER-STALKING 

has ever heard of bottle fever? (except in a sense 
outside the scope of this work). Snapping caps, or 
unloaded cartridges, is much better practice than 
firing at a mark. One great fault in shooting at deer 
is the notion that, when you have taken careful aim, 
all you have to do is to pull the trigger. But there 
are different ways of pulling the trigger. There is no 
use talking of a gentle gradual pull or squeeze, in the 
language of the army musketry instructor. The pull 
of the weapon used in the army is very different from 
that of a sporting rifle. And yet there should be no 
jerk. I found the safest corrective against this fault 
was to try to get hold of the idea, and when got 
hold of to retain it, that the operation of firing was 
not concluded when the trigger was pulled, and that 
the eye should be kept fixed on the foresight until 
time is allowed for the crack of the bullet to reach the 
ear. This is done in an instinctive way when firing 
at a long range say 150 yards ; why should it not be 
done when the object is half that distance ? As a 
matter of fact, the closer the deer is the greater is the 
tendency to jerk the trigger. Now nothing teaches 
the beginner to keep his eyes open and pull without 
the objectionable jerk better than practising with 
blank cartridge. If he must fire ball at something, 
and cannot get the chance of hinds in winter, let him 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 165 

go to spme safe place on a hill and fire at stones from 
every kind of position. 

One rule in shooting deer is so well known that it 
is hardly necessary to mention it. The rifle should 
never rest on a rock or hard substance. If it does, the 
jar will send the bullet far over the object aimed at. 
But this applies, in a less degree, when the elbows 
are resting on a hard substance, as the jar, though 
diminished in force, still communicates itself through 
the arms to the rifle. It is generally easy to get a bit 
of soft turf to place under the rifle, or a pocket-hand- 
kerchief stuffed into your cap will do as well. 

On no account should a running shot be taken 
from a rest, or from any position except from the 
shoulder, standing if possible. Even the ordinary 
elbow-on-knee position is not admissible. The arms 
must be free to follow the deer, or it is a miss in nine 
cases out of ten. 

With regard to running shots, the fuss that is 
made about them has often surprised me. How con- 
stantly it happens that a sportsman returning from the 
hill on being asked by his host ' What luck ? ' replies 
' None at all ' ! ' What, did you not get a shot ? ' 
' Only a running one ; no chance at all.' Now there 
are running shots and running shots. To my mind 
a stag cantering broadside at seventy yards is far 



1 66 DEER-STALKING 

easier to hit than one which is lying down where the 
shooter is in a cramped position ; and I cannot help 
thinking that better results would follow if stalkers 
would have greater confidence in themselves, and not 
sacrifice time and run many other risks, such as a 
change of wind, the arrival of other deer, and 
accidents of all kinds, in order to make sure of a pot- 
shot. 

Here is an example. Suppose you find yourself 
within sixty yards of a stag that is lying down, not 
above him, but on flattish ground, with a small hollow 
intervening. His head is turned towards you or side- 
ways. With the greatest difficulty you are able to 
bring your eyes to the level of the mound in front in 
order to see him. To show more than the peak of 
your cap is impossible ; to get the rifle on the mound 
out of the question what is to be done? If the 
stag is a real good one, it may be well to wait for him 
to get up, then take the opportunity of getting the rifle 
over the ridge when his head is turned away, and fire 
as soon as he presents a broadside shot. Even then 
he may move off, tail on, and a fresh stalk may be 
unavoidable. But if only a moderate beast, and it is 
early in the day, by waiting you may lose the best 
part of it and after all not get a shot. Under 
these circumstances I should have no hesitation what 



THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 167 

to do. v Crawl back a yard or two till you can just 
see the deer when on your legs, and not quite at your 
full height. Put the rifle to your shoulder and raise 
yourself slowly till you get the bead on him. Now 
he will either stare at you long enough to get a sitting 
shot, or he will jump up and stand for two or three 
seconds, in which case you ought to make sure of 
him, or, what is most likely, the stag will bolt off at 
once. He may give you a running broadside, and 
if so his fate should be sealed, or he may gallop 
straight away end on. Now you must shoot at his 
neck. This sounds a poor chance, but considei 
that first of all the ground is, in the case supposed, 
fairly level otherwise the stalker might get above 
him and there would be no difficulty in obtaining 
a shot ; next, that a stag runs with head erect, and 
that the target presented is not after all a very bad 
one. If hit anywhere from the top of the skull to the 
top of the shoulder he will drop, and, if only stunned, 
by running in quickly you can get so near as to finish 
him to a certainty with the second barrel. If the 
bullet misses him altogether, the whistle of it close 
past his head may not improbably turn him, and a 
broadside shot with the second barrel may bring him 
down. If he continues on his course, it is advisable 
to exercise some self-restraint and not fire again, as he 



1 68 DEER-STALKING 



is by that time rather too far off for a neck shot and 
you run the risk of haunching him. 

Two other suggestions may appropriately close 
these remarks. Do not fire very long shots. The 
effect is likely to be that you wound the deer, and still 
more likely that you miss him. In either case the 
stalker will come home happier if he had not fired a 
shot. Lastly, when a stag drops to the shot instan- 
taneously, he is probably hit on the top of the neck or 
shoulder and only stunned. It is then advisable to 
shove in another cartridge and get up to him with the 
least possible delay. As soon as he moves, sit down, 
taking a rest off your knees ; keep quite cool, and 
fire as soon as a good chance is offered. If the 
ground be steep and the distance reasonable, it may 
be well to make ready from the place where you 
originally got the shot rather than risk an uncom- 
fortable position for the gain of only a few yards. 
But all these matters must be determined by con- 
siderations which must be dealt with on the spot, and 
can only be discussed in a general way in a treatise 
on stalking. 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 169 



CHAPTER IV 

DEER FORESTS : THEIR SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL 
ASPECTS 

Ix view of the long and heated controversy which 
has raged between the advocates and opponents of 
the system of converting large areas of pasture land 
into deer forests, it seems not only proper but almost 
essential that in a treatise like the present one some 
reference should be made to the preservation of deer 
from an economical aspect. To deal comprehen- 
sively with this branch of the subject, bringing out all 
that has ever been said for and against the system, 
analysing the evidence and going minutely into facts 
and figures, would alone fill a volume of the 'Fur 
and Feather ' series, and is here out of the question. 

I propose, in the following pages, to deal briefly 
with first, the origin of the attacks made on deer 
forests, and the various quarters whence such attacks 
have proceeded ; secondly, the judgment pronounced 
on them after hearing evidence on both sides by 



170 DEER- STALKING 



responsible members of Royal Commissions or 
Parliamentary Committees ; and, thirdly, the possi- 
bility of remedying the grievances of any class of the 
community which may still exist as against owners 
and occupiers of forests. 

It is no use denying that there has prevailed 
for very many years a pojnilar feeling, based largely 
on sentiment, hostile to the enlargement of the area 
devoted to deer, if not to their preservation even on 
ground where they have been established from a 
remote antiquity. An idea was entertained, which is 
not lightly to be contemned, that in a thickly popu- 
lated country it was not desirable to restrict the land 
which was available for the production of beef and 
mutton in order to turn it into a game preserve ; 
while there were vague notions floating about that 
whole regions had been depopulated in order to 
secure their undisturbed occupation by wild animals. 

Thus, whenever any practical objection to deer 
forests was started by any class of persons whose 
interests were involved, these had no difficulty in 
obtaining a share of popular support by no means 
commensurate with the importance of those interests 
or the numerical strength of their representatives. 

The first to take the field against deer and deer 
forests were the large sheep-farmers. That they had 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 171 



grievances is beyond doubt. I am personally only 
too well aware of the fact, as at the time I incurred a 
considerable amount of unpopularity (unjustly as I 
thought then and still think) from having, as was 
alleged, taken up a hostile attitude on the question 
towards a large and at that time an influential section 
of the constituency which I represented in Parlia- 
ment. 

Well do I remember the year 1880, when I nearly 
lost my seat. I had to go about the country making 
speeches on Afghanistan and Zululand, defending 
the policy of the Government, and expressing views 
which perhaps I have since seen reason to modify 
while all the time I felt it was not so much the aggres- 
sive attitude of my political chiefs in far-away regions 
that provoked a certain hostility towards myself, as 
the aggressive attitude which I was supposed to have 
assumed on the subject of deer forests. And yet I 
was completely misunderstood. That sheep-farmers 
had reason to complain of injury inflicted on them 
arising out of the proximity and development of deer 
forests no one, myself least of all, could deny. The 
question was, whether if one class of the community 
made less profit in the business in which they were 
engaged, owing to the existence of a new and in a 
way competitive industry in the same district, it was 



172 DEER-STALKING 



proper or expedient to put an end to the latter for the 
benefit of the former by legislative enactment. In a 
free country, and especially in a country where free 
trade is established, such a proposition would appear 
to be inadmissible. If it could be entertained for a 
moment, a much stronger case has since arisen, where 
the principle might, on grounds of national as well as 
private interests, be more appropriately applied. At 
the present time, owing to the low price of corn, more 
and more arable land is being converted into pasture, 
with the result that agricultural labour is less required, 
and those who used to earn a living in connection 
with the raising of crops are being gradually driven 
into the towns ; and thus our rural population is 
steadily decreasing. A comparison of the two cases 
is striking. In the first you have the grazing of deer 
substituted for the grazing of sheep ; in the latter, 
the grazing of sheep or cattle for the raising of crops. 
So far the similarity holds good. But it goes no 
further. Whether we regard the number of those 
whose interests are adversely affected, or the impor- 
tance of those interests from a national point of view 
as regards the well-being of a large portion of our 
population, or in respect of our food supplies, it 
seems placed beyond the region of doubt that if it is 
desirable to interfere by special legislation with the 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 173 



free development of industries, as these may spring 

\ 
up in consequence of new trade requirements or 

economic changes, at least we should begin by 
attacking the greater and more serious evil. And 
yet no one so far has proposed to pass a law to 
compel farmers to plough their land or even to 
abstain from continuing the process of converting 
arable into pasture. 

In the days of which I am now speaking there 
were besides those which still remain, with which I 
will deal presently two main grievances on the part 
of farmers against owners of deer forests. The first 
was what will be easily imagined viz. the incursion 
of deer from adjoining forests on to the sheep grazings. 
It was alleged that much of the sweet grass on the 
tops of the hills was consumed by deer in summer, and 
that they also poached on the lower grounds in winter, 
to the detriment of the legitimate stock. That such 
was the case on certain farms I kno\v for a fact ; but I 
hardly think that at any time the evil extended over a 
large area, and at the present day it must be still further 
limited, seeing that most of those farms which proved 
so attractive to deer have been handed over for their 
legitimate use, so that they can no longer be said 
to ' poach.' It must also be remembered that it was 
always in the power of the shepherd, when going his 



1 74 DEER- S TA LK1NG 



rounds, to clear every deer off his hirsel without much 
effort. 

The other objection (it can hardly be called a 
grievance) made by farmers to the increased number 
of deer forests could not be gainsaid. It will be 
understood' easily enough that the high summer graz- 
ings which were- best adapted to hold stags of good 
equality and in large numbers during the shooting 
season were not, as a rule, suited for a breeding stock 
of sheep. They constituted what is technically known 
as ' wedder ' ground. Now, this ground used to be 
stocked by lambs bred sometimes by the same farmer, 
often by other farmers who occupied lands more fitted 
for breeding ewes. In such cases the latter found a 
ready market perhaps close at hand for his wedder 
lambs. But when these high-lying gra/ings were con- 
verted into deer forests the man who used to supply 
the wedder lambs lost his market, and for some years 
there was a difficulty in finding a new one. 

But these matters, regulated by economical laws, 
never fail to right themselves. It was absurd to sup- 
pose that if a man took the trouble to breed so dainty an 
article of consumption as a sheep of the mountain black- 
faced breed, he would not be able to find a customer. 
The farmer lost one customer, but he soon found another 
and a better. The consumer of mutton has now dis- 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 175 



covered two facts (may not our overmuch-abused deer 
forests gtt some of the credit ?) first, that it is not 
necessary to keep black-faced sheep till they are four 
years old, but that they can be 'forced' just as well 
as the larger and heavier breeds and killed at eighteen 
months old ; secondly, that when thus treated they 
are as far superior to a Lincoln or Leicester year-old 
hogg as a well-fed ox is to an aged cow. My readers 
must not, however, misunderstand me. I do not for 
a moment pretend that young black-faced mutton is 
in respect of colour or flavour or gravy as good as 
old : but I do maintain that it is better than young 
mutton of the coarser breeds, and has proved to be 
popular from its not being necessary to hang the meat 
so long before using it an important consideration 
in many a household. 

The next attack on the system of deer forests was 
made on behalf of small tenants, or ' crofters ' as they 
are called in the Highlands. Those will be dealt with 
when we come to consider as I now propose to do 
the reports of the various public bodies which have 
been appointed to investigate the subject. 

Allusion has already been made at the beginning of 
these chapters to the Select Committee of the House 
of Commons in 1872-73 on the Game Laws. This 
Committee was composed of twenty-one members, 



176 DEER-STALKING 



selected, as usual, from both political parties, and 
containing among their number gentlemen, some Con- 
servative and some Liberal, who were specially inter- 
ested in agriculture, and supposed to be more or 
less opposed to the practice of game-preserving. 

Some of the witnesses showed extreme hostility 
towards deer forests, and in their eagerness to de- 
nounce everything connected with these institutions 
considerably overshot the mark, damaging instead of 
furthering their cause, as the following amusing inci- 
dent will show. 

I was examining one of these witnesses who had 
been urging the well-worn but now disproved argu- 
ment, that the substitution of deer for sheep limited to 
an appreciable extent the food supply of the nation. 
Thinking I had him in a corner, I asked whether he 
would not admit that, at all events, venison was whole- 
some food, whether he would deny that it was con- 
sumed by some one or other, often by those who 
otherwise never tasted meat all the year round, and 
how the fact of its being given away instead of sold to 
the butcher made any difference so far as his theory 
was concerned ? Mistaking, inadvertently or otherwise, 
the point of my question, the witness replied that sheep- 
farmers were also generous in this respect. ' What ! ' 
I rejoined, ' do you mean to say that sheep-farmers 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 177 

give away as many legs of mutton as shooting tenants 
do haunches of venison ? ' ' Certainly I do,' replied 
the undaunted witness. I don't think I pursued the 
subject any further. 

Another episode in connection with this Committee 
in which I also came off second best may amuse my 
readers. A well-known member of it, who repre- 
sented a constituency in East Anglia, asked me one 
day in the lobby of the House of Commons to ex- 
plain to him the process by which a new forest was 
made, as he had not quite understood it as given by 
one of the witnesses. I told him it was very simple 
that all you had to do was to remove the sheep, and 
if there were any existing deer forests in the district, 
by careful nursing, the ground would get stocked in a 
few years from outside. 'Oh, I see,' he said. ' It is 
as if I took a farm in Norfolk and, instead of buying 
cattle and sheep, simply opened my gates and collared 
those of my neighbours.' I told him the cases were 
quite different that the sheep and cattle to which he 
referred were private property, while deer were ferce 
nature?, and belonged to no one in particular. ' I 
quite understand all about that,' he rejoined ; ' but is 
it not a fact that practically deer are the property of 
the man on whose ground they are found to this 
extent, that he and no one else has a right to shoot 

N 



178 DEER-STALKING 



them?' I replied that was so. 'Then,' he went on, 
' it seems to me that the man who forms a new forest 
does actually, by a certain process, attract deer from 
his neighbour's ground to his own, and thus becomes 
the owner dc facto of animals which were the day 
before the property of that neighbour.' I could only 
answer him by saying that the practice was universally, 
recognised as legitimate, though no doubt sometimes 
annoying, and that I had never heard of any grievance 
being made of it. 

The result of this inquiry by a Select Committee 
was a report, unanimously agreed to, completely exone- 
rating deer forests from the charges brought against 
them. It narrates that these charges were twofold : 
first, that deer forests ' tended to the depopulation of 
the country ; ' secondly, ' that by the displacement of 
sheep to make way for deer they have diminished the 
food supply and raised the price of meat to the con- 
sumer.' The report goes on to say: ' Your Committee 
are of opinion that the evidence does not bear out 
either of these charges.' 

To those who may have the patience to wade 
through the evidence on this subject which was 
brought before the Committee the result cannot he 
surprising. No feebler case was ever submitted to a 
tribunal of intelligent men. It broke down at every 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 179 

point, and some of the allegations were so monstrous 
in their absurdity that it is difficult to believe that 
they were seriously entertained by those who made 
them. An instance of this has been already quoted, 
but here are some others. One witness gravely in- 
formed the Committee that the substitution of deer 
for sheep in certain districts of Scotland had the effect 
of raising the price of mutton to the extent of $d. or 
4(f. a Ib. It was shown to him during the course of 
his examination that this could not be the case, see- 
ing that the source of supply from these converted 
sheep-farms was infinitesimal compared with that 
derived from the rest of Great Britain and from 
foreign countries ; but it never seemed to occur to this 
gentleman, who was himself a large sheep-farmer, that 
if he believed in his own story he was the last person 
who ought to have complained of a process which 
added 50 per cent, to his profits. 

Another witness declared that he spent as a sheep- 
farmer, in wages and other ways, ten times as much 
money as a shooting tenant would do ; while a third 
wanted to credit a farm, not with the value of the wool 
as taken from the sheep's back, but with the finished 
article in the shape of cloth ; and, as regards the 
carcase, he was not content with the price paid by the 
feeder to the farmer, but insisted on taking as the 

N 2 



i8o DEER STALKING 

basis of his calculation what was paid by the butcher 
to the man who fattened the sheep in the South on 
cake and turnips. 

The next public inquiry on the subject of deer 
forests was that by the Royal Commission (Highlands 
and Islands) in 1883, under the chairmanship of Lord 
Napier and Ettrick. I was also a member of this 
Commission. It was a fairly constituted body. Two 
of our number were owners of deer forests : OIK- was 
a member of Parliament who had strong views on the 
popular or anti-deer forest side of the question. Our 
chairman had a perfectly open mind, with a disposi- 
tion, natural to one who had been mixed up all his 
life with public affairs, towards yielding somewhat 
to public sentiment, so far as that could be done 
without injury to the public interest. The other two 
were Highlanders pure and simple, devoted to their 
country, proud of its traditions, interested in its past 
history and future welfare, and at least as familiar with 
its language as any other two gentlemen of equal 
position and culture. 

The inquiry was, of course, not limited to deer 
forests, but the subject was continually cropping up 
during the course of our proceedings, and, recognising 
its importance, we decided to devote a special chapter 
in our report to its discussion. Here, again, as in the 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 181 



case of the Parliamentary committee, the report was 
unanimous, and signed by the whole of the Com- 
missioners. 

On this occasion an important change took place 
in the attack on deer forests. The investigation 
undertaken by the Royal Commission was one which 
affected crofters, and it was this class and their friends 
who now took up the attitude assumed by sheep- 
farmers in the inquiry by the Select Committee above 
referred to. Greater difficulty was consequently ex- 
perienced in sifting the evidence. The sheep-farmers 
examined by the Committee were a highly intelligent 
body of men, and certainly quite able to take care 
of themselves under cross-examination. Their case 
was so feeble that it collapsed, but they made the 
most they could of it. With the crofter witnesses it 
was different. These, from their imperfect acquaint- 
ance with the elementary rules of political economy, 
their want of knowledge on matters affecting Highland 
interests beyond those in their own immediate dis- 
tricts, their ignorance of the English language an 
interpreter being frequently employed and their dis- 
inclination to discuss the subject generally, made our 
task laborious, and had we not been assisted by those 
who, though not crofters themselves, claimed to repre 
sent them to some extent unsatisfactory. 



i$2 DEER-STALKING 

For instance, a crofter complained of the destruc- 
tion of his crops by deer. He wanted, naturally 
enough, to be protected somehow or other against this 
injury. Perhaps, when asked, he could not suggest a 
remedy, but said that was not his business, but was 
the duty of the Commissioners. Or, he did propose 
a remedy, and when it was pointed out to him that 
this might bring about results in places where no 
grievances existed which he had not anticipated, he 
did not seem to understand why this should make any 
difference. 

Again, another crofter, who wanted an out-run in 
the summer for his young cattle, and seeing a fine- 
looking bit of grazing just opposite to his window which 
was not occupied as he looked at the matter for 
any profitable purpose, asked to get it detached from 
the forest of which it formed a part, and added to his 
own holding. He could not be made to see the diffi- 
culties which stood in the way of carrying out what to 
him appeared a very simple affair. All this was very 
natural, and it is impossible to blame these witnesses 
for taking a limited and personal view of the situation ; 
but it laid on the Royal Commission a larger respon- 
sibility than was the lot of those who composed the 
select Parliamentary committee. 

The Commissioners in their report on this branch 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 183 

of the inquiry narrate the 'principal objections against 
deer forests ' as follows : 

1. That they have been created to a great extent 
by the eviction or removal of the inhabitants, and have 
been the cause of depopulation. 

2. That land now cleared for deer might be made 
available for profitable occupation by crofters. 

3. That it might, at all events, be occupied by 
sheep-farmers, and that a great loss of mutton and 
wool to the nation might thus be avoided. 

4. That in some places where deer forests are con- 
tiguous to arable land in the occupation of crofters 
damage is done to the crops of the latter by the deer. 

5. That deer deteriorate the pasture. 

6. That the temporary employment of gillies and 
others in connection with deer forests has a demoral- 
ising effect. 

On these six points it is here unnecessary to refer 
to the report, except as to the first three. No. 4 is 
admitted. Measures should, of course, be adopted to 
protect crops against the incursions of deer. The vast 
majority of deer forests are not situated where there 
are any crops to destroy. Game of all kinds, including 
roe, hares, rabbits, grouse, blackgame, and pheasants, 
are more or less injurious to crops ; but it is not sug- 
gested that, because a Norfolk farmer has his corn 



1 84 DEER-STALKING 



eaten by rabbits or trampled on by pheasants, a 
Devonshire landowner should be prohibited from 
preserving the latter or from forming a rabbit forest 
(i.e. warren). 

No. 5 is a matter of opinion which has no bearing 
on the question, and No. 6 is nonsense. 

As regards the other three points, it is only here 
possible to give the pith of what the Commissioners say 
by means of a short extract, but the whole chapter on 
' Deer Forests and Game ' is well worth reading. 

They say, in respect of the first objection, that they 
only found during the course of the inquiry ' one clearly 
established case in evidence of the removal of crofters 
for the purpose of adding to an already existing forest.' 

On the second point the report continues that ' it 
may be fairly stated that by far the larger portion of 
land devoted to deer is to be found at such altitudes, 
and consists so much of rock, heather, and moor as 
to be unsuitable for crofters, except as sheilings or 
summer grazings.' 

Thirdly, they lay it down as ' abundantly evident 
that in view of the sheep in the United Kingdom 
amounting to 27^ millions besides all the beef grown 
at home, and all the beef and mutton imported, both 
dead and alive, from abroad, the loss to the com- 
munity is not only insignificant, but almost inappreci- 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 185 



able.' They make a similar statement, which it is not 
necessary to quote, as regards wool. 

Thus this second inquiry ended with a report, 
signed by all the members of the Commission, as 
completely exonerating deer forests from the charges 
brought against them as did that of the Select 
Committee of 1872 -73. 

It is right, however, to say that the Royal Com- 
mission did make a suggestion, in deference, it will be 
suspected, to public opinion rather than from any 
hope that a practical way could be found by which to 
carry it out. They proposed, but in very guarded, not 
to say hesitating terms, that the appropriation of land 
for the purposes of a deer forest might be limited to 
an altitude not less than 1,000 feet above sea level 
on the east side of Scotland, and on the western sea- 
board to a lower level than 1,000 feet. They do not 
say how much lower it should be in the latter case, 
while, in order to guard against practical difficulties 
which might arise, the Commissioners present as an 
alternative scheme the inspection by a Government 
officer, with a view to ascertain its adaptability for 
other uses, of all land which it is proposed to 
convert into a deer forest. 

Taken together, it is impossible to conceive a 
more thorough or exhaustive inquiry than that under- 



1 86 DEER-STALKING 

taken by the Select Committee and the Royal Com- 
mission into the subject under consideration. No 
class of the community who had any grievance, real 
or sentimental, against deer forests was denied a 
hearing, and in the case of the Napier Commission, 
it may be added, a sympathetic hearing ; yet, after 
all was said and done, no member of either body 
could be found bold enough to say that the com- 
plaints made, whether on public or private grounds, 
were of a nature to justify interference on the part 
of the Legislature with the purpose for which owners 
of land in the Highlands deemed it best, under 
the economical conditions now prevailing, to appro- 
priate the hill gra/ing on their estates. 

A third Commission was appointed in 1892, but 
it arrived practically at the same result as the 
previous ones. In all three cases there has been 
no dissentient voice, no minority report. Surely 
the question as to the propriety of interfering with 
deer forests by legislative action may be now allowed 
to rest. 

I haveabstainedin this chapter, for obvious reasons, 
from dealing closely with the various arguments lor 
or against deer forests which have at different times 
been put forward. Those who wish to pursue the 
subject will find plenty of matter in the shape of 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 187 



Blue- Book literature if they will consult the ponderous 
volumes of evidence appended to the reports to 
which I have drawn attention. 

It will not be thought unbecoming, before closing 
this chapter, to point out in what respect the existing 
system still works disadvantageous^ to classes of the 
community which are not directly concerned in the 
preservation or pursuit of deer, and to make a few 
suggestions as to the way in which some causes of 
difference and sources of injury may be removed or 
mitigated. 

It may be said at once that tenants, whether 
large or small, of grazings in the vicinity of forests are 
in reality the only class who are affected. I must 
decline to recognise tourists as having anything to say 
in the matter. These have no permanent interest in 
the Highlands. They come for fresh air and scenery, 
of which they can get plenty without injury to anyone. 
Ninety-nine out of every hundred of these persons 
are quite satisfied to ascend mountains the most 
beautiful and fascinating of which happen not to be 
in deer forests, where they can do no harm. The 
tourist who goes out of his way to spoil the enjoy- 
ment of someone else because he thinks he has got 
the right to do so must be a very surly sort of fellow. 
Fortunately the specimen is rare. 



1 88 DEER-STALKING 



Now, a sheep-farmer in the vicinity of deer forests 
has two difficulties to contend with, neither of which, 
in my opinion, need exist. 

The first is the depredation committed among his 
lambs by foxes where these are not destroyed by the 
owner or tenant of the forest. In some forests foxes 
are regularly trapped, shot, or ' dug out ' in the spring, 
just as is practised on ordinary shootings or farms. 
In a few cases there exists an objection to waging war 
against them, based on insufficient grounds, if not on 
imperfect knowledge. In the great majority there is 
no wish on the part of the owner of the forest to pre- 
serve vermin of any kind ; but his people take little or 
no trouble about it, knowing that their employer has 
no real interest in the matter ; while they are well 
aware that watching a den all night on the top of a 
hill in the month of March, or even as late as April, 
when a bitter north-east wind is blowing, is hardly as 
comfortable a situation as their own fireside followed 
by bed. 

Now, there is little use killing foxes on sheep-ground 
if there exists close by a sanctuary where they can 
bring up their young in safety, from which they 
issue ' on the prowl ' every night when game is scarce 
in the larder, or when they wish to vary the menu with 
a hind-quarter of lamb. The damage done to lambs 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 189 

by foxes where these are numerous is very great. 
Last year (1895) we had here a regular invasion of these 
four-footed robbers ; not only did they carry off 
lambs, but before these were dropped one ancient 
miscreant killed a Cheviot ewe heavy in lamb on every 
alternate day for three weeks. The brute was too 
cunning to look at a trap, nor would he take poisoned 
bait. There was nothing for it but to organise a 
drive, placing the keepers on passes, and using shep- 
herds as beaters. We got him on the second attempt, 
and a rare specimen he was, measuring five feet from 
the tip of his nose to the end of his brush, and with 
teeth more like those of a wolf than a fox. Serious as 
the consequences were to me, they would have been 
far worse in the case of an ordinary farmer, who would 
not have had the means of organising the drive by 
which the end of his depredations was brought about. 
It is held by some owners of forests that it is 
desirable to encourage foxes in order to keep down 
the stock of grouse, these birds being a source of 
annoyance to the deer-stalker. But, besides this 
being a somewhat selfish view to take, it is based on 
an imperfect knowledge of natural history. Foxes do, 
of course, prey on grouse among other animals, winged 
or four-footed, but the proper way to reduce the 
number of grouse is to let them alone, and to preserve 



1 90 DEEK-S TA L KING 

eagles. A pair of peregrine falcons will kill more 
grouse than any number of foxes. 

It is also supposed that killing foxes causes a 
great disturbance in the forest. This, too, is an error ; 
at least, in my own experience, such disturbance has 
no effect whatever in scaring the deer. Operations 
are all over long before the stalking season begins. 
There need be no noise beyond the firing of a shot 
or the indistinct yelp of a terrier at the bottom of a 
deep cairn of rocks, and, if there was, it would not 
prevent deer from returning to the place the next day 
if so inclined. 

Under these circumstances, and seeing that it is a 
very sore subject with farmers, it would be well if 
those owners or lessees of forests who object to the 
destruction of foxes would reconsider the subject, 
and if those who are free from prejudice would make 
inquiry and see whether their servants do really use 
their best endeavours to clear the ground of animals 
so destructive to the property of their neighbours. 

Theonly other serious difficulty between the sports- 
man and sheep-farmer is when sheep belonging to 
the latter stray into the forest and are not allowed 
to be fetched back. It would be unreasonable to ex- 
pect the tenant of a deer forest to allow shepherds and 
dogs to go through the ground collecting sheep during 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 191 

the actual stalking season, though I not only commit 
this extravagance myself without much injury, but 
have persuaded most of my shooting tenants to allow 
it to be done once in the season on a convenient day 
and with proper precautions. Still, this could hardly 
be expected where the neighbour is a farmer on 
an adjacent estate, and where strange shepherds are 
employed to gather the sheep. 

Hut it so happens that the time of year when a 
gathering is most required by the farmers is just whrn 
it does the least injury to the forest. Twice in the 
year is quite enough to ask for the first at the 
beginning of June, long before the stalking begins. 
when the lambs should be marked, and again as soon 
as the last stag has been shot, so that they may be 
sent off to the low country in good time. for wintering. 
Then -that is, the middle of October any old sluvp 
would come in which had been missed at the gather- 
ing on the farm itself, and would be still in good 
marketable condition, while the earlier operation in 
June would also serve for the clipping which takes 
place very soon after. 

In bringing these remarks on deer-stalking to a 
conclusion, I feel that an apology is perhaps due to 
my readers for the introduction, especially in the 
present chapter, of so much of the personal element 



192 DEER-STALKING 

My excuse for this rests on the fact that the share taken 
by myself in the controversy which has raged on the 
subject has been so prominent. When I first entered 
public life I came to the conclusion that there existed 
a strong public opinion, based on an imperfect 
knowledge of the facts, distinctly hostile to the 
institution of deer forests ; that unless someone took 
up the matter seriously and energetically, with a view 
to bring out facts and see that they were arranged in 
a shape which would be authoritative and easy of 
reference, the feeling above referred to might increase 
in intensity, while the opponents of the system, see- 
ing there was practically no defence, might carry the 
outworks with a rush, and the owners of a valuable 
property would suddenly find themselves in a position 
of possessing .the land indeed, but no longer having 
the power to devote it to any profitable use. 

For many years I laboured in the hope, which 
success has now justified, that by affording to those 
interested in the subject the means of knowing the 
true state of matters, and by correcting many false 
impressions which had hitherto prevailed, I was doing 
good service to every class and every interest in the 
Highlands. This work entailed, as will be easily 
understood, a certain amount of unpopularity, and 
perhaps has met with scant recognition on the part of 



SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 193 

those primarily interested in the maintenance of deer 
forests. As regards the first it will be admitted that 
many a cause far more important than this has, not 
without opposition far more bitter than any that I 
have encountered, been brought to a triumphant 
issue. 

As regards the other, I have only to say that, if I 
have done any service to the owners and lessees of 
deer forests, the recognition which I should like best 
is that they should give careful consideration to the sug- 
gestions thrown out in a former part of this chapter ; 
that they should endeavour to conduct their own 
sport with as little inconvenience as possible to their 
neighbours ; and that they should try to secure not 
only amicable relations, but friendly intercourse and 
hearty co-operation between all the different classes 
which compose the population of the Highlands. 

If, as I believe, the above may prove to be one 
result of these imperfect chapters on deer-stalking, it 
will add very largely to the pleasure which I have 
derived from writing these pages on the subject of the 
sport I love so well. 



STAG- HUNTING 



BY 



THE VISCOUNT EBRINGTON 



CHAPTER I 

IN DAYS OF YORE 

THE chase of the wild red deer, as practised in 
Devon and Somerset, is the only survival in England 
of a sport which was followed in earlier days in most 
countries in Europe, and which still has many devotee:; 
on the Continent. Books have been written on the 
subject from 1275 to this present time, and it is 
possible from them and from contemporary pictures 
to trace its development on both sides of the Channel 
for more than six hundred years. 

Originally no doubt deer were hunted for food 
as much as for the pleasure of chasing them, so we 
find that for a considerable period nets and bows and 
arrows played as prominent a part in the chase as 
hounds. But these methods led to indiscriminate 
slaughter, and breeding hinds with young deer of 
both sexes were of necessity the most frequent 
victims of such attacks ; the superior cunning of the 
old stags and hinds the very animals whose death 



1 98 STAG-HUNTING 

was most desired enabling them to escape. So in 
the fourteenth century at any rate, if not before, men 
began to recognise that if they would hunt or capture 
the best stag, rather than the first who should present 
himself, it was indispensable that he should be 
'harboured,' i.e. that his whereabouts should be 
ascertained beforehand, and this so exactly that he 
should be roused with certainty and without loss of 
time. Of the arts and mysteries of woodcraft where- 
by this should be accomplished, and the stag 
subsequently hunted secundum artem, the fullest and 
most complete description is found in the writings 
of Gaston, third Count de Foix, who died in 1394 
with eight hundred couple of hounds in his kennels. 

He was a mighty hunter, and his book seems for 
centuries to have been the standard work on sport. 
Though rare now and almost forgotten, it was the 
basis of the earliest practical treatise on hunting in 
our language, the ' Mayster of the Game,' published 
at the end of the fourteenth century, and is quoted 
wholesale by Jacques du Fouilloux, a French author 
who wrote in 1561 : whose book in its turn achieved 
such celebrity that it was translated into English, 
German, and Italian, and became the real, though 
unacknowledged, parent of nearly every other volume 
that has been written on the subject since. 



IN DAYS OF YORE I99 

' Phoebus,' to use the name by which the Comte 
de Poix is most frequently mentioned and quoted, 
opens with an explicit declaration that the chase 
is the exercise by which we may best keep clear of 
the seven deadly sins, nothing being more opposed 
to idleness and indolence than the exciting life of the 
sportsman : and as he that shuns the seven deadly 
sins will be saved, the advantages of sport, combining 
enjoyment in this world with eternal happiness in the 
next, are more than obvious. 

Jacques du Fouilloux, nearly two hundred years 
later, puts sport on a less lofty pedestal ; he has 
come to the same conclusion as Solomon, that all 
things which are under the sun are but idle vanity. 
' Wherefore, Sire ' (he is dedicating his book to the 
boy King Charles IX.) ' methinks that the best 
knowledge which we can learn (after the fear of God) 
is to keep us and each man his neighbour in cheerful- 
ness by the practice of honourable pastimes, among 
which I have found none nobler or more to be 
commended than the art of venery.' To develop this 
knowledge then, especially among the rising genera- 
tion, he gives,- partly from his own observation, partly 
by quotation from that noble hunter the Count of 
Foix, very full and exact instructions on every form 
of hunting. First comes a disquisition on hounds ; 



STAG-HUNTING 



then elaborate instructions about harbouring, a chapter 
being devoted to each of the six signs, experience 
wherein may assure the harbourer that the stag which 
he recommends to the master is, indeed, a full-grown 
and ' warrantable ' deer. All that is said on this sub- 
ject is as true and correct now as it was then. Wood- 
craft changes as little as the habits of animals ; but 
the method of hunting them is a different matter, 
and that has altered not a little. 

Stag-hunting in the middle ages was a stately and 
solemn affair : ' rude and furious cries,' though per- 
mitted in boar-hunting, were forbidden as derogatory 
to that science of venery in which men then took 
their degrees. Even His Sacred Majesty Louis XV. 
had to hunt first hares, then roe, and then fallow deer 
for five years before he was allowed to hunt a stag ; 
so we find very precise instructions in the old books 
as to the sounds and holloas appropriate to every 
incident. I)u Fouilloux even gives quaint directions 
as to the place which is suitable for the meet, and 
what should there be done. A pretty and well-shaded 
spot should be selected, near a spring or stream ; 
thither should the butler bring three good horses (no 
more and no less) laden with fluids, and the cook 
should follow him with cold meats to grace the cloth 
which has been laid on the turf. So shall the king or 



IN DAYS OF YORE 



great lord, with his companions, refresh themselves : 

i 
and if there is an attractive lady within reach, she 

should be brought thither likewise, to help pass the 
time till the harbourers return and make their report. 
This heard, the great personage will decide which of 
the stags he will hunt, and will inform the favoured 
harbourer accordingly ; 'then will all the harbourers go 
and drink,' for as the author sorrowfully remarks in 
the next chapter, ' nowadays they take more delight 
in the bottle than in their duty.' 

The stag selected was not roused either by tufters 
or by the pack, but by the harbouiers with their 
lymers, which seem to have been sleuth hounds, or 
what the Americans call ' smell dogs,' trained to hunt 
in a leash, without speaking. The preliminaries 
having been settled, and relays of hounds posted 
at likely spots, the field with the pack in couples 
followed the harbourer to the place where he 
had broken off branches high and low to mark 
where the stag had entered the cover in which 
he had lain down for the day. There the 
'piqueurs,' who survive in the yeomen prickers of 
Her Majesty's Buckhounds, were to dismount and 
examine the slot, so as to grasp its characteristics, and 
know if later they changed deer. This done, they 
should go to points where they might best see the 



STAG-HUNTING 



stag break, while the harbourers, with their lymers iu 
leash, hunted his line up to his bed. 1 The pack was 
on no account to follow at a less distance than sixty 
paces, nor to be uncoupled till the harbourer had got 
the stag fairly on his legs ; as soon, however, as the 
pack had settled on the scent, the lymers were handed 
over to assistants, the harbourers mounted their horses, 
and followed the pack, keeping down wind, ready to 
give their help at a check. 

Du Fouilloux, in a passage that might have been 
written by the master of any fashionable pack to-day, 
complains that the modern field hunt to ride instead 
of riding to hunt, and do not give the hounds a fair 
chance : ' riding among them, crossing and scatter- 
ing them, so that they can neither run nor hunt.' The 
more orthodox practice seems to have been that the 
sportsmen should separate, making for points where 
they might view the hunted deer. So at least one 
may infer from the directions given to a previous 
generation in the ' Craft of Hontyng : ' 2 ' How,' asks 

1 The procedure was similar even with foxhounds in this 
country till nearly the middle of the last century. See Daniel's 
Rural Sporls, i. 130. 

2 ' The Veneryof Mayster John Gifford and William Twety 
that were with King Edwarde the Seconde.' I am indebted 
for much information on these points to articles that appeared 
in Macmillarfs Magazine in April 1894, December 1895, an( ^ 
February 1896. 



IN DAYS OF YORE 203 



the author, ' shall we blow when we have seen the 
hart ? ' I shall blow after one mote two motes : and 
if mine hounds come not hastily to me as I would, I 
shall blow four motes for to hasten them to me, and 
to warn the gentles that the hart is seen.' 

The horn, it must be remembered, played a very 
important part in mediaeval, as it does still in modern 
French, hunting. Everyone who called himself a 
sportsman carried one, whether skilled in its use or 
not, and no one was reckoned to know his venery un- 
less he could blow the sounds appropriate to each and 
every incident of the chase. And the practice of riding 
to different points, so that someone should command 
the pack whichever way they went, was a wise one, 
seeing that much of the hunting was done in wooded 
country, guiltless of rides, but containing plenty of 
hinds and young deer, ' rascal ' to use the old technical 
term, on which hounds might change. 

But whether through the interference of the field 
or the cunning of the stag, no chase could be 
expected to gd on long without a check ; and if this 
check was serious, the pack, or the greater part of 
it, would be coupled up again, while the prickers 
unravelled the difficulty with their lymers and a few 
steady old hounds. In case the stag joined a herd, or 
resorted to doubling or other shifts, whether on land or 



204 STAG-HUNTING 



in the water, to shake off the pack, the prickers were 
recommended to carry with them a handful of boughs 
to throw down wherever they viewed the quarry, so 
that the baffled hounds might be taken with certainty 
to the spot where he was last known to have passed. 
If a bad check occurred between noon and three 
o'clock and the hounds were winded, the course 
advised was to mark the place where they last had the 
line, and go to the nearest village to refresh them with 
bread and water; or if there was no village at hand, 
the huntsman was to wait under a tree till the heat 
was passed, blowing his horn at intervals to summon 
the harbourers and other assistance. Then, when it 
was three o'clock they could go back to their mark and 
try to fresh find the stag, the harbourer taking the 
lead with his lymer, who might now be allowed and 
encouraged to speak on the line. 

A chase conducted on these principles, even with 
a pack of fifty couples divided into three or more 
relays, must generally have lasted some time ; but, as 
a rule, then as now, it ended in the water, the last 
refuge of a beaten deer. Nor is it possible to improve 
on the directions for this difficulty given by Du 
Fouilloux, wherein he advises that if there are three 
men with the hounds, one should get forward for a 
view while the others go one on each bank the men 



IN DAYS OF YORE 205 

riding near the water, that they may see the stag if 
he is lying in it, but keeping their hounds at a little 
distance on the landward side, that they may the 
better catch the line if the deer has left the stream ; 
for when he first comes out all dripping the scent 
will naturally be weak. 

A chase sometimes lasted over two days, and full 
directions are given as to the best way of recovering 
a deer who has been given up for want of daylight or 
other reason over-night. But the old author natu- 
rally dwells at greater length on the successful ending 
of the run, and prescribes with characteristic exactness 
how the stag should be dealt with when at last he is 
brought to bay. And here one is struck by the stress 
laid on the fierceness of the stag's last fight for life, 
and the dangerous character ascribed to the wounds 
inflicted by his horns, which at the rutting season 
were supposed to be poisonous. Du Fouilloux pro- 
fesses to know so many instances of fatal accidents 
that he only quotes one, and there was a proverb, 
' After the boar the leech, after the hart the bier.' 

I suppose that the old hounds were often nearly 
as much exhausted as their quarry by the time they 
got up to him, and probably in many cases they only 
succeeded in doing so because the stag was leg 
weary and had waited till he became stiff ; whereas 



206 STAG-HUNTING 



the pace of the modern foxhound fairly wears deer 
down, and brings them to a standstill, unable to do 
much more in the way of either running or fighting. 
Be that as it may, the first directions given sound 
strange ; namely, that if the stag is in deep water, the 
pack should be called off, coupled up and kept out 
of the way till the deer lands again, or comes near 
enough to the bank to be stabbed, or till a boat can 
be procured ; the alternative being for the huntsman 
to strip and swim out, hanger in hand, and give the 
stag his death-blow in the water. This Du Fouilloux 
says he has done several times himself, and that before 
many men who can witness if he He ; if the stag 
stands to bay on dry land the pricker may steal up 
behind on foot and kill him, or if the deer breaks bay 
gallop up beside him and so use his sword. 

The old sporting prints lately republished in the 
first numbers of the ' Badminton Magazine ' illustrate 
many of the incidents. A woodcut by Hans Burg- 
maier, 1473-1531, shows the stag just roused by the 
harbourer and his lymer, the pack, which are smaller 
hounds of a different breed, being about to take up 
the running. Other pictures, somewhat later in date, 
show stags being killed both in water and on land, 
the field, some of whom have ladies riding pillion 
behind them, carrying and using spears. One picture 



IN DAYS OF YORE 207 

by Tempesta, 1555-1630, certainly justifies Du Fouil- 
loux's complaint about the behaviour of the horsemen, 
two cavaliers being therein depicted riding lance in 
hand, regardless of hounds, to spear a stag who is 
galloping through shallow water with the pack at his 
haunches. The deer being killed, he was broken up 
with elaborate rites, different portions being reserved 
for the king, the grand veneur, the chief pricker, and 
the harbourer ; the hounds and the lymers were 
separately blooded ; the slot or fore-foot, then as now, 
was the trophy of the chase, and Du Fouilloux gives 
a picture in which it is being offered on bended knee 
to a great personage. The skin was the property of 
the man who had done the most towards the killing 
of the deer. 

\Yhat shall he have that killed the deer ? 
His leather skin and horns to wear. 

As You Like It, iv. 2. 

And though in the West Country the whole deer is 
now the master's to dispose of, yet the skin in 
practice nearly always falls to the huntsman's share, 
the master retaining only the head ; and a good many 
people grudge him that. 



208 STAG-HUNTING 



CHAPTER II 

IN FRANCE 

THE preceding pages will have given some idea of 
what stag-hunting was in the Middle Ages. It is plain 
that its votaries in those days trusted more to the 
woodcraft of the harbourers and the prickers, and to 
the special training of the lymers, than they did to 
the science of the man who acted as huntsman, or 
to the nose, pace, and condition of his pack. And 
though of course there is less pedantry and formality 
about it now, yet stag-hunting in modern France, 
differing therein from ours, appears to be conducted 
on the same principles in the nineteenth as it was in 
the fourteenth century. And this continuity of practice 
must be my excuse for giving here some account of 
the sport as it exists at the present day across the 
Channel, instead of proceeding at once to describe 
that which is more familiar, if only by name, to 
English sportsmen. 

Wheresoever a few men of our blood are gathered 



IN FRANCE 209 



together, whether in China, India, Australia, or South 
Africa, there there will soon be a racecourse, to be 
followed ere long, unless the nature of the country 
forbids, by a pack of hounds of some kind. We are 
apt to flatter ourselves that we alone of the nations of 
the earth are sportsmen, and that foreigners, with the 
possible exception of the Austrians, neither know nor 
care anything about hunting. It will be news there- 
fore to many, that there are over three hundred packs 
of hounds in France, nearly as many as in England 
and Wales, of which twenty- two hunt wild stags 
exclusively, while another thirty-eight hunt both stags 
and other game, such as wolf, boar, and roe. There 
are thus sixty packs to our one kept in France, more 
or less for stag-hunting. Their country is forest to a 
large extent, so the harbourer does his work with a 
lymer ; the hounds used are mostly crossbreds, 
founded on the Saintonge or Poitou breeds, though in 
some packs there is a strong contingent of foxhounds. 
The number of hounds taken out is moderate, and the 
system of posting relays all over the place, which was 
carried to excess in the royal hunts of the eighteenth 
century, has fallen into disrepute, though still prac- 
.tised within moderate limits ; the young unentered 
hounds being led about by an active man on foot, to 
be uncoupled and shown their game at the finish, 



STAG-HUNTING 



while a few veterans, who have lost their pace but 
can still do good service in a difficulty, are put in 
charge of a mounted man (relai volant}, who is ex- 
pected to bring them up fresh at the right moment. 

I am not sure that either of these functionaries 
is much to be envied. The man on foot, dragged 
hither and thither by three or four couple of excited 
puppies, all desirous of joining the chase which they 
hear in the distance, and constantly in their eagerness 
getting mixed up with the leash and each other's 
couples, cannot have quite a happy time, especially as 
he has a big horn that goes twice round his body to 
carry besides his whip. And though the Comte de 
Canteleu says that the duties of a relai volant are 
nothing when you are used to them, yet four couple 
of hounds tied to you and to each other appear 
rather a handful to convey at speed over rough ground, 
even on the handiest horse. If the stag is alone, the 
French draw with the pack, otherwise they use tufters, 
who do not always go on for the rest of the chase 
as they almost invariably do with us. The pack is 
usually kept at hand in couples, though the hounds 
of some kennels are so well under control that the 
couples can be dispensed with. French hounds, 
perhaps because they are less high-couraged than 
ours, certainly seem to be amenable to stricter 




RATHER A HANDFUL 



IN FRANCE 211 



discipline, and also to have better noses. They are 
expected to be, and in fact when properly entered 
are, staunch from change, and will not only carry the 
line of their hunted deer through the crossing scents 
of a herd of others, but will discriminate between his 
scent and that of a fresh deer ; will refuse to acknow- 
ledge the latter if they cross it in a cast ; and will 
even turn aside from any deer but the right one who 
may jump up before them. 

Just as no deer is the exact duplicate of any other 
in size and shape, so I suppose each differs a little in 
scent from all his fellows ; and of course the scent of 
a heated, and still more of a beaten, animal differs 
from that of a fresh one : but this sagacity is remark- 
able. The Comte le Conteulx de Canteleu, to whose 
book 1 1 am indebted for my information about French 
hunting, makes it clear, however, that trusty hounds 
can be depended on to mark the difference in 
these ways between a fresh and a hunted stag long 
before the latter is getting beaten ; and he is emphatic 
in his recommendations to trust the hounds and let 
them run on if the good ones still stick to the line, 
even though the whole field declare that they have 
changed on to a hind or some other game. 

In support of this he gives an incident from his 

1 .~\ fan ue! de Venerie Franfaise. Hachette, 1890. 

p 2 



STAG-HUNTING 



own experience, which I cannot forbear quoting in 
full : 

' I remember once, when hunting a boar with a 
very steady pack of bloodhounds, that I reached a 
piece of open ground in time to see a stag break 
cover in front of them. I would not have them 
stopped ; I hurried on to the next wood, and got to 
the other side of it only to see the stag break again 
and cross a little river, and then a field, the hounds 
still following and hunting keenly, even the best of 
them. Naturally I began to feel uneasy ; pushing on 
briskly to a certain crossing-place a mile and a half on, 
I saw my boar pass it, followed at a hundred yards 
distance by the same stag. When the latter saw me 
he turned on one side ; the hounds came up, and 
without doubting an instant went on upon their boar, 
whose line had simply been covered by the stag's.' 

Hounds so trustworthy as this must be very 
good ; yet, good as they seem to be, and freely as they 
are trusted, an efficient pack is in France only reckoned 
half the battle. Emergencies and difficulties are sure 
to arise which all the woodcraft of the men will be 
needed to surmount, especially if the hunted deer 
join others. For then the best hounds often refuse 
to have anything more to do with the chase, and if 
none but young hounds are carrying the line there 
is little chance of forcing the stag to leave his com- 



IN FRANCE 



213 



panipns, or of hitting the right and not a wrong line 
when he separates from them. 

Accurate knowledge of the slot of the stag 
to be hunted, acquired if possible before he is 
roused by prickers and sportsmen capable of utilis- 
ing it, is therefore insisted upon as being as neces- 
sary as good hounds to those who would chase a 
stag to his death. And curiously enough, though in 
the great forests of France the deer must see less 
of mankind than they do with us, it is remarked 
that they constantly seek refuge among the habita- 
tions of men when they feel that their end is near. 
If the last stand is made in water, the hounds 
generally drown their quarry ; no longer need the 
hardy sportsmen swim out, sword in hand, to give 
the death blow ; but if the deer stands to bay on 
land, they either shoot him or hamstring him with 
the hunting sword, similar to a bandsman's, which 
the huntsman and whips carry. This is another remi- 
niscence of the days when men went to the chase 
armed as for war, and there are many others about 
the final ceremonies. The deer is skinned, tne head 
being left attached to the hide, and the best of the 
joints are removed ; the skin is then spread over what 
is left of the carcase, a pricker stands astride of it and 
holds the head upright, while the hounds are brought 
up ; they are shown the dead deer, and stopped once 



214 STAG-HUNTING 

or twice from breaking him up to make them obedient. 
Then the skin is whipped off, and they are allowed 
to enjoy their portion while the horns blow the ap- 
propriate melody. 

The horn still plays an important part in foreign 
hunting ; all men belonging to the establishment, even 
those on foot, carry horns, the list of authorised sounds 
being nearly as long as that in our Cavalry Drill-Book ; 
and though a great brass instrument that goes twice 
round your body must be an awkward thing to fall 
on, yet in a wooded country I have no doubt that 
when intelligently used it is exceedingly useful. The 
French horn appears in the sporting pictures in the 
hall at Longleat, and when the seventh Sir Thomas 
Acland kept the staghounds (1784-1794), according 
to Dr. Collyns, 1 he used to furnish some of the 
servants with French horns. ' These men were 
stationed at different spots round the covert, and gave 
notice that a warrantable deer had been viewed away 
by playing a particular tune upon the instruments.' 
Mr. Collier, writing in the ' Badminton Magazine ' for 
January, 1896, says the French horn was likewise 
used in South Devon, and that if a man sounded the 
wrong call at the wrong time, he was made to taste 
the whip at the end of the day. 

1 Chase of the Wild Red Deer, p. 85. 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 215 



CHAPTER III 

IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 

THE stag-hunting of which we have records in the 
West-country does not seem to have ever had very 
much in common with that which I have attempted 
to describe in the previous chapters. Probably the 
civil war took all restraints off poaching, and dispersed ' 
many a pack of hounds : moreover, after the confisca- 
tions that followed, the landed gentry could not afford 
to keep up hunting establishments on the scale that 
prevailed in France. Hunting, besides, is a much 
simpler affair in open country than it is in forests, 

1 The Windsor pack, however, was kept up. See White- 
locke's Memorials for 1649 : ' August 22nd. I sent out my 
keepers into Windsor Forest to harbour a stag to be hunted to- 
morrow morning : but I persuaded Colonel Ludlow that it would 
be hard to shew him any sport, the best stags being all destroyed, 
but he was very earnest to have some sport, and I thought not 
fit to deny him. August 23rd. My keepers did harbour a stag. 
Colonel Ludlow, Mr. Oldesworth, and other gentlemen met me 
by daybreak. It was a young stag, but very lusty and in good 
case. The first ring which the stag had led the Gallants was 
above twenty miles.' 






216 STAG-HUNTING 



and deer are apt, when their strongholds lie far apart, 
to make points for distant covers in a way that renders 
the task of a second horseman difficult enough, and 
would reduce that of a dismounted whip in charge 
of a relay of hounds to an impossibility. 

Moreover, wild animals except deer were extermi- 
nated in England long since, so the woodcraft which 
has been fostered abroad by the survival of the boar and 
the wolf has not had in this country the same chance 
of justifying its existence and making itself useful. 

It is recorded ' that King Francis I. and Sir 
Thomas Fitzwilliam, after a long discussion of the 
English and French methods of harbouring and 
hunting deer, agreed to differ as to the merits of the 
two systems. This looks as if there had been some 
recognised distinctions in the practice of the two 
countries, though of these there is no trace in the old 
English works on the subject. One of the joint 
authors of the first sporting book in our language was 
a Frenchman, and little is said in it about stag-hunting. 
Its successors, from the ' Mayster of the Game,' written 
for Edmund Langley, fifth son of Edward III., till Dr. 
Collyns published the ' Chase of the Wild Red Deer,' 
in 1860, are all practically translations from the 
French ; and I cannot ascertain that there was any dif- 

1 Calendar of State Papers, Henry VIII., vol. i., No. 1160. 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 217 



ference between stag- hunting on Exmoor a hundred 
years ago and now, except that the hounds were slower, 
and the country wilder and more open. 

The boundaries of the latter are not quite as 
wide as they were, but they have not changed much. 
They may now be said to be the coast on the north, 
and the Devon and Somerset Railway on the south, 
while the roads from Watchet to Wiveliscombe, and 
from Lynton to Barnstaple, enclose it approximately 
on the east and west ; roughly, a parallelogram 
twenty-five miles by fifteen. 

There are few parishes within this area through 
which hounds do not run every year, and the whole 
of it can be, and is, hunted from the kennels at 
Exford. There are besides two outlying districts 
frequented by the deer, the Quantock Hills between 
Taunton and the sea, and the Stoodleigh country 
between Dulverton station and Tiverton. 

There are deep woods on the cliffs that overhang 
the Bristol Channel, and in most of the valleys that 
run down to it. Behind these there is in most places 
a strip of cultivation, and beyond that a belt of moor- 
land, varying in width from three to ten miles, run- 
ning without a check from the westward boundary 
to Dunkerry Beacon, and on from the latter with some 
intervals of enclosed land to Treborough. South of 



218 STAG-HUNTING 



this moorland there are more woods, and the country 
is for the most part enclosed ; but the ridge between 
the Danesbrook and the railway (Anstey and Holland 
Commons), that between the Exe and the Barle (Wins- 
ford Hill), and Haddon Hill further to the south-east, 
are great expanses of heather, and it is across the wide 
tracts of open ground that the runs are best. 

The chief strongholds of the deer are the Horner 
and Porlock covers, near the centre of the coast line ; 
Haddon, ten miles south of Dunkerry Beacon ; Badg- 
worthy, seven miles westward ; and the woods on 
the Barle and Exe between the two places last named. 
There are also deer in the south-west corner, in the 
Bray and Bratton covers, besides small herds and 
single deer at Slowley, Cutcombe and other places. 

Though Exmoor is strictly only a parish formed out 
of the old Crown forest in the centre of the moorland, 
the name is applied indiscriminately to all the open 
ground ; and indeed none but a native with consider- 
able local knowledge can tell exactly where the boun- 
daries of Exmoor run, the features of the country being 
almost identical on either side of the line. It is, how- 
ever, a singular fact that though there is heather all 
round, there is hardly any in Exmoor parish, its place 
being taken by rough grass. Trees are conspicuous 
by their absence. 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 219 



Perhaps, too, there is rather more wet ground on 
the forest than on its surroundings. But both the extent 
and bogginess of the wet ground are apt to be exagge- 
rated by strangers. 

The Quantocks are a ridge covered with gorse and 
heather, running northward from near Taunton to 
the channel at St. Audries ; they are only about eight 
miles long, very narrow, and intersected by deep 
combes, which are nearly all thickly wooded. I do 
not think it is possible to get bogged there, and this, 
coupled with the fact that the deer nearly always run 
the same way, renders the hunting on the Quantocks 
very popular with the neighbouring townspeople. 

The Stoodleigh country has miles of cover along 
the Exe Valley and its tributaries, and the land around 
is all enclosed and very strongly fenced ; there were 
deer there as long ago as there are any records of the 
pack, but for many years prior to 1855 they had prac- 
tically disappeared ; since that date, however, a small 
herd has grown up, which has little if any connection 
with any other. 

The late Mr. Esdaile of Cothelestone claimed, no 
doubt with justice, to have turned out the first stag on 
the Quantocks. Very likely there had been wild red 
deer on those hills in former days, as there were at 
Bagshot, but there is no record of their ever having 



220 STAG-HUNTING 

been hunted by the old North Devon Stag Hounds, 
so they were probably extinct a century ago. In 
1 86 1, however, against the better judgment of Lord 
Taunton, Mr. Bisset commenced the formation of a 
Quantock herd by turning out both purchased deer and 
others captured on Exmoor. This herd, though it has 
no connection with those in the home country, has in- 
creased and multiplied to a somewhat alarming extent, 
and is now much too big for its very limited district. 

With this exception, the country now hunted over 
is much the same as it was a hunded years ago. Before 
that there were wild deer in many parts of Devonshire. 
L,ord Graves, on handing over the mastership of the 
North Devon Stag Hounds to the first Earl Fortescue 
in 1812, wrote, ' The present Duke of Bedford (the 6th) 
told me that his great-grandfather (Wriothesley, 2nd 
Duke, b. 1680, d. 1711) when he resided atTavistock 
kept the staghounds. The principal haunt of the 
deer then was in Holt Chase, in the coverts on the 
banks of the Tavy, Tamar, Teign, Dart, and Torr 
rivers, on the side of Dartmoor. When run they 
often went to sea in Torbay.' 

There is a tradition also that Squire Arscott, of 
Tetcott, near Holsworthy, kept staghounds as well as 
foxhounds, and there is a gruesome story of his whip 
having been eaten by the hounds one night when he 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 



went incautiously in his shirt to stop a fight in the 
kennel. Coming back to Exmoor, we learn from 
Mr. Rawle's book ' that there were forest officers there 
in Saxon times, and the early Norman kings seem to 
have hunted over it occasionally, when it was a Royal 
forest of some 80,000 acres, in which roebuck as well as 
red deer flourished. Hugh Pollard, Queen Elizabeth's 
ranger, kept staghounds at Simonsbath in 1598, and 
his successors probably did the same, the great land- 
owners of the district not taking up the task till 1740, 
when Mr. Dyke became master ; he was followed by 
his kinsman, the first Sir Thomas Acland, and from 
that time the record is unbroken. 

The old pack of hounds, bred expressly for stag- 
hunting, of which I shall speak presently, was sold 
out of the country in 1825, and for the next thirty 
years the sport had a very precarious existence, six 
masters and a committee following each other in quick 
succession. At last, in 1855, when things were at a 
very low ebb, the late Mr. Fenwick-Bisset came into 
the country and took the hounds. What he accom- 
plished by unbounded patience and much liberality, 
coupled with unlimited capacity for taking pains, is 
most readily shown by comparing his first season with 
his last. In 1855 only four deer were killed in twenty- 
1 Annals of Exmoor Forest. Truslove & Hanson, 1893. 



STAG-HUNTING 



five days' hunting: in 1 880-81 the hounds were out on 
ninety-four days, and the deer killed were seventy-five. 

The present writer succeeded Mr. Bisset, and re- 
tained the command for six seasons. The Rev. John 
Russell saw his last stag killed during my mastership, 
having been entered to the sport by my great-grand- 
father seventy years before. I believe Mr. Stucley 
Lucas and Sir Frederick Knight are the only men 
still alive who hunted with the old pack. Till quite 
recently the latter was a first-rate performer across the 
moor, and dearly loved a gallop. One day he turned 
away from the hounds because the pack was not laid 
on a young stag who had broken for the open ground, 
his property. Whyte Melville was present, and 
hearing his reason remarked, ' If I would only ride 
over my own land I should have to do my hunting in 
a flower-pot.' 

In 1887 Mr. C. H. Basset became master, also for 
six seasons ; his wife was the heiress and descendant 
of the Colonel Basset, of Watermouth, who had hunted 
the country for seventeen years a century before. Mr. 
Basset's knowledge of hounds and of kennel manage- 
ment raised the pack to a higher standard of good 
looks than they had ever attained to previously ; 
and their work in the field was quite equal to their 
appearance in kennel. 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 



On Mr. Basset's resignation in 1893, Colonel 
Hornby, who had acted under Lord Coventry as vice- 
master of the Royal pack, took the hounds, but gave 
them up again in 1895, h* 5 place being then filled by 
Mr. R. A. Sanders, who is intimately connected with 
the country through his marriage with Miss Halliday, 
of Glenthorne. He has shown excellent sport in his 
first season and everything augurs well for his success, 
though he has been severely handicapped, as was 
Colonel Hornby in 1894, by the death of Andrew 
Miles, who had for nearly five and twenty years acted 
as harbourer. 

There is no one connected with a stag-hunting 
establishment whose duties are more important, or on 
whom more depends, than the harbourer. It is his 
task to ascertain by woodcraft the whereabouts of a 
deer, suitable for the day's sport, so accurately that 
the animal may be roused without difficulty or delay, 
and yet so cautiously that he may not be conscious 
that he is being tracked and observed. All which 
is easier said than done. 

Du Fouilloux enumerates six distinct signs with 
which the harbourer should be familiar, namely : the 
slot, the gait, the entries, the breakages, the fraying, 
and the fewmet. 

The last are the droppings of the deer, and the old 



224 STAG-HUNTING 



author explains at length, adding illustrations, how 
they vary at certain seasons, and in deer of different 
ages. As he admits at the same time that they are not 
a sign on which reliance can be placed except in the 
summer months, and not a great deal of reliance 
then, it is curious that so much importance was 
attached to them : but the harbourer was expected to 
bring back a specimen with him in the bell of his 
horn, which was presented before anything was 
done for the inspection and approval of the king or 
master of the hunt. There is a quaint picture of this 
ceremony. The king is sitting by himself at table 
in a fur gown : a gentleman booted, spurred, and 
accoutred with sword and horn, displays the precious 
offering on bended knee. Behind him stands the 
harbourer with his lymer, grinning all over his face as 
he explains where and how he had found the fewmet, 
while the courtiers with uplifted hands are evidently 
saying, ' Now is not that a dainty dish to set before 
the king ? ' 

The Comte de Canteleu gives little value to this 
sign, except as a possible indication that there is a 
good stag somewhere in the district ; and I expect 
that is about all it is useful for. 

The ' fraying stock ' is any tree against which the 
stags have frayed or rubbed their horns to rid them 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 225 

of the velvet. By the height of the marks an opinion 
can often be formed as to the character of the head 
and the size of the deer. If the fraying is against a 
big tree, it is a certain sign of a big stag, though stags 
also fray against small trees ; the sign is universal, of 
course, only during the few days that the velvet is 
peeling, but in the fir forests of France the stags often 
fray the whole year round, and with us they do so at 
the approach of the rutting season. Thorn trees are 
frequently selected, and isolated firs and pines ; this 
used to be a great trouble to the late Lord Lovelace, 
whose choicest trees, being carefully placed apart from 
others, were very apt to suffer. 

The ' breakages ' need little description ; they are 
the dead boughs, twigs, ferns, and the like, broken 
and bent by a stag as he passes through a wood ; and 
their position will often show his height, strength, and 
size. 

The ' entries ' are similar traces left by a stag's 
horns : if they are high up and wide apart they speak 
for themselves as to the character of the head that 
made them. 

Something is to be learned also from the feeding 
of the deer. If the bark of a tree or the ivy growing 
on it is gnawed up and down, it is the work of a hind : 
but if the bites are across the trunk they are a stag's. 

Q 



226 STA G- HUN TING 



As a rule, hinds feed more greedily, and stags, espe- 
cially the old ones, more daintily ; but Miles used to 
say that the common theory that a stag took but one 
bite out of a turnip before he threw it over his head, 
while the hind took several, could not be depended 
on ; and that the only trustworthy distinction between 
the feeding of the sexes was the passion of the stags 
for the young ash-shoots on a newly-made fence. 

The ' gait ' and the ' slot,' however, are worth all 
the other signs put together, and it is on these that 
the good harbourer should rely. The main difference 
between the sexes is that the slot or footprint of a stag 
is rounder and wider at the heel, and has blunt toes, 
while a hind has pointed toes, and a long slot with 
narrow heels. A stag's dew claws point outward, and 
are large in proportion to his own size, while a hind's 
are small, turn inward, and point straight down. 

A stag crosses his legs right and left in walking, 
while with a hind the prints of the hind foot will be 
in a direct line with those of the fore foot, unless she 
is heavy in calf ; and it is curious, seeing how careful 
Nature is to protect animals in that condition, that 
they should in anything resemble the male at that 
period. The extra weight on the legs is no doubt the 
reason, and at calving time the stags are defenceless 
too, having shed their horns. 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 227 



The stag moves with more confidence than the 
hind, so his paces are regular. The hind moves 
femininely and distrustfully : sometimes she will put 
her hind feet down in front of the spot from which she 
has just lifted her fore ones, sometimes on the same 
spot, sometimes behind it. A yeld or barren hind 
moves nearly like a young stag, but her sex will from 
time to time betray itself in the irregularity of her 
paces, even if the marks of her small and down- 
pointed dew claws cannot be detected. Moreover, 
though a young stag may open the toes of his fore 
slots in walking, yet those of his hind feet will always 
be closed : while with hinds all the toes are always a 
little open. A big stag, on the other hand, keeps all 
his toes closed, and if there is decided difference in 
the size of the hind and fore slots, that is one certain 
sign of an old stag ; others are, closeness of the dew 
claws to the heel, a slight trailing of the toes of the 
hind foot, and the placing of it on the ground well 
behind the imprint of the fore foot. Yet another sign 
of an old stag, not mentioned by the French writers but 
pointed out to me by Miles, and reckoned infallible 
by him, is unevenness in the length of the claws of 
the hind foot. 

None know better than those who have studied 
woodcraft, however slightly, that there are no hard 

Q2 



228 STAG-HUNTING 



and fast rules in it, but centuries of observation and 
experience have shown that the signs mentioned can 
generally be depended on. Though of course they 
vary somewhat according to circumstances and soil in 
each case, everyone who calls himself a harbourer 
should be well acquainted with them, and should trust 
to them rather than to pothouse reports, or the 
chance of being able to watch a stag into cover when 
he comes off his feed. 

To do his work properly a harbourer should be on 
his ground the afternoon before hunting, and should 
look round a bit then. Next morning he should be 
abroad very early. In France he invariably has a lymer 
with him, who may be one of the pack, but has always 
been specially trained for this work. With us, having 
long distances to traverse he generally rides. Such 
hounds as the Comte de Canteleu describes would be 
very useful, but there is no tradition even of their 
existence in our country. Miles used to declare that 
his old mare could wind a deer, and would let him 
know by her manner when she did, and I believe it ; 
but I never heard of his trying to hunt a line with her. 

With or without a lymer the procedure is similar ; 
the harbourer makes his casts round the outside of 
a cover or chain of covers till he hits a line, or finds a 
fresh slot pointing towards it. In either case he will 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 229 



follow the line till he satisfies himself whether it is 
that of a warrantable deer, and has ascertained 
whither, if warrantable, he has gone. He will then 
make it good round the wood the deer has entered, 
and if the cover be a very large one, will try to cut 
him off at some path or crossing place, so as to narrow 
the area within which the huntsman should draw. 
This requires to be done very carefully, or the deer 
may be moved. Special attention should also be given 
to the point at which the deer entered the cover, and 
a cast made round behind it, as often after going 
a few steps in, a stag will back it on his foil, and be 
off elsewhere. These feigned entries, as the French 
style them, have caused many a blank day, especially 
where there is no cover fence, and the heather grows 
right up to the edge of the coppice. 

Harbouring as above described sounds a tolerably 
simple matter, but the weather may have been very 
dry or very wet, in either case rendering slotting very 
difficult ; or something may have moved the stag after 
he had settled himself, or he may have been restless 
for some reason. They are always on the move when 
the rutting season is approaching, and accurate 
harbouring is then very difficult, though I remember 
poor Miles doing ' a very clever bit of work under those 

1 October 10, 1881. 



230 STAG-HUNTING 



circumstances. His stag had gone up and down the 
whole chain of woods between Hole Bridge and Chilly 
Bridge, crossing and recrossing the Exe, but Miles 
never failed to hit his line. At last the beast set his 
head for the great covers in Haddon, and as slotting 
him across the lane into Swine's Cleave was an easy 
matter, and the scent was still fresh, we found him in 
five minutes. But the harbourer had been on his 
tiv.eks for nearly as many hours, and had followed 
them more than as many miles. 

The regular fee for the successful harbouring of a 
stag is i/., and when the work is honestly done it is 
well earned. In France, in small establishments, the 
same man sometimes doubles the parts of harbourer 
and huntsman. This must be very hard work indeed, 
though the knowledge acquired in one capaeity would 
be of great service in the other ; for the harbourer's 
acquaintance with the deer, their ways and habits, the 
paths they take through the various covers, and 
especially the places at which they cross the valleys, 
enables him to be of great assistance to the huntsman 
in the chase as well as during the preliminary tufting. 

' Tufting ' is the term applied to the process of 
drawing for a deer, and ' tufters ' are the hounds used 
for the purpose. It is rarely possible or desirable to 
draw with the pack as in fox-hunting. Where there is 



AV ItRVOX .IN/> SOMEKSKT 231 



onu deer there are generally more, and if all the 
hounds were thrown into cover at once there would 
he risk of their dividing all over the place, and running 
every deer but the right one, who would probably lie 
fast till his enemies were hunting hinds and young 
things elsewhere, and would then sneak quietly away. 

A few hounds only are, therefore, selected for the 
purpose of finding the deer ; usually four or five couple, 
but the number varies according to circumstances. A 
the tufters have nearly always to run on with the pack 
afterwards, strong hounds that will draw and throw 
their tongues are needed, but any hounds that answer 
to these requirements may be taken. The tufters are 
not hounds sui generis at all, and in the course of the 
season nearly every old hound is likely to have a turn 
at it, as on some days especially if the deer are 
together in the open it may be desirable to choose 
hounds of great speed as being more likely to divide 
the deer. Four couple are usually enough for stag- 
hunting, and hounds in their first season should not 
be employed, though occasionally it answers to give 
a puppy who is afraid of the crowd this chance of 
settling quietly on the scent in cover. 

Unless theharbourer is very sure where the stag is 
lying, he leads the huntsman to where the stag entered 
the cover as he came off his feed, the master 



232 STAG-HUNTING 



meanwhile taking up any position from which he can 
see best what happens, and the whip going to one of 
the points where the stag is likely to show himself, 
or to the side of the valley opposite the huntsman. 

In ordinary weather hounds will generally be able 
to pick out the drag, and hunt the stag to his bed, but 
in such heat as sometimes prevails in August, and 
even in September, scent may not lie long enough for 
them to do this, and then the task of drawing the 
great woods all in full leaf, hour after hour, under a 
harvest sun is no enviable one for either huntsman 
or hounds ; nor are things much better in heavy 
rain. 

The French say that our hounds have very poor 
noses, but I remember at least two l instances when 
hounds hunted up to and found stags who must have 
gone in from feed fully six hours before ; and curi- 
ously enough on both occasions there had been 
heavy rain falling all the time, enough one would 
have supposed to wash all scent away. 

A great assistance when the tufters cannot hunt 
the drag is the fact that stags, like most animals, have 
their favourite spots in almost every cover ; and suc- 
cessive deer will be found in successive seasons 
among the same rocks, or in the same hollow, just 
1 October 5, 1885, and August 13, 1886. 



IN DEVON AND SOMERSET 233 

f. 

as successive woodcocks resort year after year to the 
same spring. 

The worst thing that can happen in tufting is to 
rouse a hind or male deer before you find your stag ; 
however quickly the tufters may be stopped there the 
fresh scent will remain to distract them. It is bad 
enough when your stag pushes up another deer soon 
after he has been roused himself. That difficulty you 
may get over by putting your hounds on the 
heel of the fresh deer, or by trying them again on the 
original line, but many a day has been marred by 
the former event, even though a second lot of tufters 
may be drawn to replace the first. Old stags will lie 
very close, and if found only by a single hound will 
even stand at bay and refuse to stir. I do not think 
they are often drawn over, but they are sometimes. 
Mr. Bisset relates how on one occasion ' that wonder- 
ful old hound, Joe Elackmore ' the harbourer hit a 
stag's slot and hunted him to his bed in a cover the 
hounds had drawn blank. One ! occasion I remember 
particularly when we found a stag in a very open 
cover, the Allotments, at 5.30 P.M., having already 
run through it twice, and drawn it once before without 
moving him. 

I have known many a good run that did not begin 
1 August 21, 1885. 



234 STAG-HUNTING 



till three o'clock and after ; but there is always a risk, 
if you do not find till late, of losing your deer for 
lack of daylight to kill him. So, as a rule, if the stag 
harboured cannot be found in two or three hours, it 
is better to look elsewhere ; the man is more likely to 
be mistaken than the hounds. The greatest draw- 
back to stag-hunting is the long time that frequently 
elapses before the right animal can be found, and the 
further delay that not uncommonly ensues before the 
pack can be laid on. 

Horace Walpole, writing on January 31, 1750, 
says of Lord Sandwich : ' He goes once or twice a 
week to hunt with the Duke ' (of Cumberland), ' and 
as the latter has taken a turn of gaming, Sandwich, to 
make his court and fortune carries a box and dice 
in his pocket ; and so they throw a main, whenever 
the hounds are at a fault, upon every green hill, and 
under every green tree : ' and it is related, I believe 
truly, of some sportsmen of the last generation, who 
were as fond of whist as they were of hunting, 
that they might occasionally, when the tufting was 
tedious, be seen enjoying a quiet rubber in a con- 
venient spot, with a sentry on duty to warn them 
when it was time to take the field. Luncheon and 
love-making are the modern substitutes, especially 
luncheon. 



7HE CHASE 235 



CHAPTER IV 

THE CHASE 

IT is difficult to write anything fresh about the chase 
of the red deer. Actual runs are recorded week after 
week in the sporting papers; imaginary ones have 
been described, and well described, by Dr. Collyns, 
Whyte Melville, and others. 

As soon as the tufters have got their deer away, 
they should be stopped that the pack may be laid on. 
A number of amateur assistants are a great nuisance 
to those engaged in tufting, but the help of a few who 
understand the business is most valuable, and this is 
readily given by the sporting farmers. At one time 
the huntsman nearly always came back to where the 
pack was kennelled, to report to the master, and to 
take his orders as to laying on ; this often gave many 
extra miles of travelling to the already hard-worked 
tufters, and also led to much waste of time. Of late 
years it has been the practice for the master or hunts- 
man, whichever is on the side where the tufters have 



236 STAG-HUNTING 



been stopped, to signal to the other if all is right to 
bring the pack on. A quarter of an hour or more is 
frequently saved in this way, and many a deer has 
been killed in consequence who would have escaped 
had he had a longer start. 

Opinion is a good deal divided as to the expedi- 
ency of giving a deer law. It is a complete delusion 
to suppose that our ancestors deliberately did so. As 
a rule they did, no doubt ; but that was only because 
they could not help it, for the big woods had then fewer 
paths in them, and it was more difficult to get about. 
There is abundant evidence that when they had a 
chance to lay on close to a stag they took care to do 
so ; Mr. Bisset's diary shows that his practice was the 
same. 

If you give a light deer a long start, it will in- 
fallibly be a long time before you catch him, if indeed 
you ever do so at all ; the best chance with such is 
that, thinking he has distanced his pursuers, he may lie 
down and get stiff : and then if you fresh find him and 
also have daylight you will probably kill him. If you 
give a heavy stag a long start the chase will no doubt 
occupy more time than if you do not ; but one of two 
things is likely to happen : either the deer will lie down 
in the first bit of cover or water he comes to, and will 
wait there till the pack fresh finds him, after which he 



THE CHASE 237 



will Ijardly keep out of view and be killed very quickly ; 
or he will make use of his opportunities to push up 
hinds and young deer, 1 and will escape altogether. A 
fat stag cannot gallop any better than a fat horse, and 
nothing that anybody can do will enable him to live 
long before hounds in racing condition. I have seen 
excellent runs with deer of all ages on whom the 
pack had been laid hardly out of view ; indeed, the 
leading hounds went away actually in view on the 
stag who gave the extraordinary run of September 22, 
1883, from Culbone Stables to Castle Hill, and he 
weighed fourteen stone dressed and clean. So many 
cases occur when he cannot help giving the deer a 
long start, that the master in my judgment should be 
very cautious of rejecting the limited number of 
chances which he gets of laying on the pack quickly. 
An exception may and should be made provided the 
weather is not too hot if a heavy stag breaks over a 
good line of country with no chance of turning up 
a fresh deer for a considerable distance ; but only 
then if the stag be a heavy one. The hounds want 
every advantage that can be given them with light 
galloping deer or with hinds. 

1 The deer thus disturbed sometimes resent the intrusion. 
I saw a stag thus interfered with turn and fight the hunted deer, 
and they continued fighting till the hounds ran right up to 
them. 



238 STAG-HUNTING 

Hinds, I believe, are occasionally hunted in 
Thuringia, where there is a pack of great Russian- 
bred hounds which accounts for thirty to forty stags 
in the year ; but never in France. There is no 
reference to hind-hunting in the old books, and 
though the fallow doe was, according to the ' Craft of 
Hontyng,' a beast of chase, the hind is not mentioned 
therein as a beast of venery, or otherwise. Hinds, 
however, have been hunted on Exmoor for a century 
at any rate. Those who only contrast the stag's formi- 
dable antlers with the defenceless head of his mate 
may say, ' Poor is the triumph o'er the timid hind,' 
but that sentiment will not be echoed by anyone 
who has had practical experience of a winter's hind- 
hunting, and who has learned thereby how strong 
they run and how difficult they are to kill. The 
weather on the moor between the ist of November 
and the ist of March is often very trying and incle- 
ment ; there is not usually much frost, but nearly 
always there is a great deal of rain. In almost any 
weather, however, the wild land carries a scent. At 
first the hinds will perhaps run round and round in a 
most exasperating way, and many days are marred by 
the hounds changing on to fresh deer when their 
hunted one is more than half beaten ; nevertheless 
the sport is often first-rate. Especially is this the 



THE CHASE 



case after Christmas, as by that time the calves are 

/ 

able to take care of themselves, and a mother when 
pressed by the hounds will leave her offspring and go 
straight away, instead of ringing round to the place 
where she hid the little one under a bush in the 
morning. 

A deer, whether stag or hind, who has enough con- 
fidence in its powers to let the hounds come nearly 
up to it two or three times in the first hour, almost 
always runs strong ; deer do not try to get clear away 
from the pack till they begin to fear their pursuers 
may overtake them. But if hounds catch a view of a 
deer after he or she has been running really fast for 
an hour and a half to two hours, that deer, barring 
accidents, will not get far away from them again. 

I do not think the scent deteriorates when a deer 
is sinking, as the scent of a fox does ; it alters un- 
doubtedly in a way that draws the old hounds to the 
front, but the change does not lessen the pace at 
which they can run the line. Strong and sweet as is 
the scent of the deer, it is much better on some days 
than on others. The Comte de Canteleu remarks 
that in the rutting season the scent of the stag is 
absolutely distasteful to the lymers, and that it is like- 
wise affected by the shedding of the horns. This, if 
it be the case, is another instance of the way in which 



240 STA G- HUN TING 

Nature protects animals when they are from any 
reason less able to protect themselves ; but as we 
hardly ever hunt stags at the time they are hornless, 
our experience throws little light on that question. 
I have often seen hounds run very hard after stags 
had begun rutting, and that even in unfavourable 
weather. But it is difficult on any day to declare 
beforehand that the weather, however unpleasant, is 
unfavourable for the chase of the wild red deer : for 
hounds will run when, literally, one can hardly sit on 
a horse. Du Fouilloux propounds a theory that the 
stag has a repugnance to a northerly or southerly 
wind, 'in such sort that he will never runne into it 
but takes it in his tayle,' to quote Turberville's trans- 
lation. Lord Graves also roundly asserts that deer 
always go down wind : but so far as my experience 
goes they care little or nothing for wind, and whether 
the wind blow towards it, from it, or across it, will 
make their point. It is next to impossible to turn a 
deer from his (or her) point if his mind be made up. 
It is easy very easy, alas ! to divert a deer from a 
good line to a bad one, but the contrary is very 
difficult, even if you know the right way to set 
about it. 

It is of little or no use to ride at a deer and crack 
your whip, but by galloping parallel to him, between 



THE CHASE 



241 



him and the cover, and edging gradually away from 
him toward what you wish him to avoid, you may get 
his head in the right direction. Deer have their runs 
just like hares, and their own pet places for crossing 
valleys and streams : the latter hardly ever change. 
It is said that almost every deer roused in that part of 
the New Forest still passes Rufus' stone the place 
where the Red King waited for his shot ; but the 
line of country crossed between the favourite resorts 
varies a little nearly every year, and in certain seasons 
many runs will end in a fashion which in another 
season is quite exceptional. 

Thus in 1885 eleven stags out of twenty-seven 
were taken on dry land and only four in the sea, while 
in 1886 thirteen days out of twenty-eight ended on 
the beach ; on three others the deer were killed close 
to the sea, and only four stags were killed on dry 
land. 

The waters of the Bristol Channel are a common 
resort of deer when hard pressed. I have never 
heard of the deer taking to the sea except when 
hunted, yet all the same they know where and how 
to get down the cliffs, which are quite precipitous in 
many places ; but a man can always scramble down 
where the deer have gone, and it is very seldom that 
the deer fail to get safely to the bottom, though 

R 



STAG-HUNTING 



occasionally when hounds are very close to them they 
make a mistake and fall or jump over heights which 
are fatal. I can only recall three such occurrences 
now, and in two out of the three some of the hounds 
shared the fate of the stag. A most disastrous day- 
was August 1 8, 1884, when a stag after a good run 
went down through the woods to Glenthorne. Some 
of the leading hounds caught a view of him near the 
house, and raced him across the lawn. There was a 
path to the sea close by, but in his panic the stag 
jumped over the cliff, a sheer drop of sixty to eighty 
feet, and five hounds followed him. The fall on to 
the stony beach killed the stag and one hound on 
the spot ; two of the others broke their legs and 
had to be killed where they lay, but the other two, 
strange to say, recovered ; one of them remained 
crippled, but the other was hunting again before the 
end of October. 

A somewhat similar incident occurred on another 
occasion, September 23, 1881, but then no hounds were 
hurt. The third was on a very wild tempestuous day, 
January 6, 1882. It was impossible to hunt on the moor 
at the advertised fixture, so the hounds were taken to 
disturb a distant cover, the farmers about which were 
complaining. From that they ran what was reported 
to be a hind to the cliffs near Bossington Point, 



THE CHASE 243 

when the hind proved to be a one horned stag who 
was facing the hounds at bay near where the steep 
grassy slopes are merged in the cliff proper. There 
were only three of us there and two went down to 
try to get the hounds away, but they heeded neither 
horn nor voice in the tearing wind, and foot by foot 
they drove the stag back, nearer and nearer to the 
edge, till at last he turned and went over ; two hounds 
followed, and neither they nor the stag were ever heard 
of again. 

Almost at the same place, earlier in the same 
season, there had been a different scene. The stag 
had got safely down and swam out, the whole pack 
at his heels. It was a glorious day September 14, 
1 88 1 the same on which Iroquois won the St. 
Leger. The sea was quite calm, and the race that 
ensued between the stag, the hounds, and two boats, 
one from the shore and one from a brig in the offing 
that tried to capture him, was nearly as exciting as 
that at Doncaster ; the hounds dropped back by 
degrees, except Credulous, who stuck to the stag the 
whole time, fully half an hour, and was brought back 
in the boat with him. 

The great majority of the runs end in the water, 
whether it is that of the Channel or of one of the 
many streams which intersect the county. And it is a 

R 2 



244 STAG-HUNTING 

beautiful sight to see a stag standing at bay in one of 
the latter. Contrary to the received opinion, he keeps 
his head up, only lowering it if he wishes to use his 
antlers. If the stream happens to be in flood and 
the stag chooses his position so that he can stand 
while the hounds must swim, it is not easy to take 
him. Sometimes a rope is needed, but usually it 
can be managed without even that assistance ; 
two men who understand how to do it can hold 
almost any stag, and then the poor beast is quickly put 
out of his pain. It would be very inhuman to let 
the hounds kill him, though in many instances they 
could and would do so unassisted. If the pack get 
a deer into deep water where he must swim they 
will drown him, and they will even do that some- 
times in the sea, though unless much exhausted a 
stag (or hind) can generally swim faster than any 
hound ; for deer swim very well, whether in salt water 
or fresh, and will ' keep the sea ' } for over an hour 
if it is calm, and for more than half that time even if 
it is rough. There are stories of their crossing to 
the coast of Wales, and as the distance is only twelve 
or fourteen miles it would not be impossible, sup- 

1 Du Fouilloux says he has known of deer driven to sea by 
hounds being taken thirty miles out by fishermen ! Pliny 
credits stags with swimming thirty leagues. 



THE CHASE 245 



poking the deer just caught the ebb tide on one side, 
and the flowing tide on the other. There is no 
doubt that red deer have been seen occasionally in 
Glamorganshire, and it is not easy to account for 
their presence there in any other way, unless they 
had been dropped overboard by some coasting craft 
which had made a capture on the way up Channel, 
and feared trouble if they took the animal into port. 
There is a case on record of a hind picked up by 
a passing collier being claimed at the port of entry 
by the Receiver of Wrecks, who very handsomely re- 
turned her to Mr. Bisset. 

But the incidents of the chase are many and 
various. The Comte de Canteleu's saying that stags 
nearly always make for the abodes of men when they 
are sinking has already been quoted. I should not 
go as far as this, but wild deer in their extremity do 
get into as curious places as carted ones, and have 
been taken before now in greenhouses, in bar par- 
lours, in bedrooms, and on the roofs of houses ; one 
even went through Sir Thomas Acland's house at 
Holnicote, entering by an open door, and going out 
through a closed window. 

The cunning of a red deer is only equalled by 
its endurance, and its endurance by its cunning. They 
will often go a mile and more in the water without 



246 STAG-HUNTING 



touching either bank ; as a rule they avoid going 
under bridges, but exceptions to this are not rare ; an 
old deer is too clever to go far up stream if the 
water is heavy, but young ones will do so, and, of 
course, tire themselves out in the effort. They com- 
pletely baffle the hounds sometimes, even when 
quite exhausted, by sinking themselves entirely ex- 
cept their heads under water ; they give off no scent 
then, and the hounds are so busy with their noses 
that they constantly fail to see what is very obvious 
to those witn them. There is another dodge which 
has saved many a deer, and which may deceive 
even the cleverest huntsman, especially as deer 
seldom attempt it unless they are a good bit ahead 
of hounds. Sometimes then they will enter a stream, 
go up a little way in the water ; land, and go up a 
bit further along the bank ; then re-enter the stream 
and go down it to some point far below that at which 
they had originally come to the water. 

The huntsman watching his hounds will see they 
carry the scent into the water with their heads up 
stream, and will cast them upward ; presently he will 
hit the line where the deer had gone out on the bank, 
which will confirm him in believing his deer to be 
above him, and he will go on casting up accordingly, 
getting further astray every yard that he goes ; and 



THE CHASE 247 



twenty minutes lost in a long and fruitless cast will add 
a great deal more than twenty minutes to the rest of the 
run after the true line has been tardily recovered. 

There are some very late finishes on record with 
the modern Devon and Somerset, as there were with 
their predecessors. Mr. Bisset killed his first stag by 
candlelight at 7.50 P.M. on September 28, 1855, after 
a chase of over seven hours, the pack having been laid 
on quite close to the deer at 12.50. We gave up a 
stag about the same hour on September 10, 1883, being 
then twenty miles from the kennels. We found the 
same stag again on October 10 ; he ran the same line 
almost field for field, but that time we killed him. 
On this day a well-known local doctor visited a lady 
in an interesting condition on his way to the meet, 
promising to call in again presently ; this he had an 
opportunity of doing early in the course of the run, 
but finding his services were not yet indispensable, he 
went on and saw the stag killed, returning to his 
patient in time to bring a fine boy into the world. It is 
said that his father once did all this, and gave surgical 
assistance to a cow as well, in the course of a day's 
hunting. On September 29, 1884, we tried, though in 
vain, till 8.45 to kill a young stag found nearly five 
hours before ; but the run of September 22, 1871, was 
the most remarkable all round, for on that day hounds 



248 STAG-HUNTING 



killed at 8.30 after running through twelve different 
parishes for over five hours during the first part of the 
time at a great pace. Besides the hunt servants only 
six saw the finish : of the six, three were farmers, all 
mounted on ponies by Old Port ; and of the three, 
two Messrs. Bawden and Westcott of Hawkridge 
had ridden the whole chase bare-backed and in their 
shirt-sleeves ; the former with nothing but a hemp 
halter for bridle. 

Such an incident speaks volumes for the sporting 
instincts of the farmers who are the backbone of our 
stag-hunting. No class enjoys it more, and no class 
does more to promote its prosperity. 

The chase of the wild red deer has a very strong 
hold on the people of the country round Exmoor. 
Of course the hundreds of tourists and sportsmen 
whom it attracts bring money into the district ; and 
nobody is blind to the advantages of that. But 
the deer do a good deal of damage, and though 
there is a damage fund, which gets larger every 
year, the men who benefit most by the sport are 
very often not identical with those who do most for 
it. There is no mistake, however, about the feeling of 
the people of the country ; all classes, from the land- 
lord to the labourer, take a keen interest in the hunt- 
ing. Everyone on the road, as the hounds go home, 



THE CHASE 249 

inquires anxiously about the day's doings, and the 
huntsman is sure of congratulation or sympathy as 
the case may be when he answers the inevitable 
question, ' Hav' ee killed ? ' which is addressed to him 
from every house and cottage that he passes. 



250 S TA G- HUNT ING 



CHAPTER V 

HOUNDS AND HORSES 

FROM the deer that are hunted to the hounds that 
hunt them is an easy transition. 

In old times the Non.h Devon pack was composed 
of ' staghounds,' bred according to a local receipt 
given in these words by Lord Graves in the letter 
previously mentioned : 

' First cross. Put a thoroughbred heavy staghound 
dog to some large thoroughbred foxhound bitches 
. . . this is not yet the breed required. 

' Second cross. Put the bitches, the product of 
the first cross, when 15 months old, to a thoroughbred 
staghound dog, and to some thoroughbred heavy 
staghound bitches put those dogs the product of the 
first cross that are the most promising. The product 
of this last cross is the sort required. 

' After a few years, should a cross be required from 
another kennel, which is very necessary, cross with a 
sharp staghound. but by no means with a foxhound. 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 251 

I By following these rules our pack has acquired its 
excellence. Indeed, there are no other thoroughbred 
staghounds in the kingdom, the other kennels being 
tainted with foxhound blood.' 

It will be observed that Lord Graves, with a 
master's pride, speaks of the hounds thus crossbred as 
thoroughbred, and a good proportion of the pack were 
home-bred on these lines ; but two old hound lists of 
1812 and 1820 at Castle Hill show that several recruits 
were also obtained from outside, drafts being recorded 
therein from the King's kennel, from the Oaks (Lord 
Derby's) ' never worth anything/ from Lord Ailes- 
bury's, Mr. Wellesley Poole's, Lord Fitzwilliam's and 
others. 

The royal pack, of course, hunted deer, and had 
only lately given up hunting wild ones. Lord Derby's, 
I believe, were staghounds too, as were probably Lord 
Ailesbury's, but Lord Fitzwilliam tells me that his 
ancestor's pack were foxhounds and nothing else, so I 
fear Lord Graves's favourites were rather a mixed lot. 

His Majesty's Brusher heads the first list, and 
though ' very old ' and only ' supposed to be thorough- 
bred,' he was the one hound used as a stallion in 1811, 
and had twelve and a half couple of whelps to his 
credit at walk the June following. 

I wonder if he was as good and as fond of venison 



252 STAG-HUNTING 

as a namesake, by Belvoir Brusher out of Warwickshire 
Audible, who did much service between 1882 and 
1886, being sent in the latter year to France to be 
used at the stud there. 

What the ' thoroughbred heavy staghound,' who 
was the foundation of the pack, may have been like, 
must now be very much a matter of conjecture. ' Stone- 
henge ' } says : ' The old English true staghound, 
which is now nearly if not quite extinct, resembles the 
bloodhound, but has a lighter cross, probably with the 
greyhound, and therefore somewhat approaches to the 
modern lurcher in formation of body, with the head of 
a southern hound. . . . Like the bloodhound, and 
the old southern hound, this dog has the peculiarity 
of keeping to the hunted deer. . . . There is some 
difficulty, however, in getting at a true description of 
the old staghound.' 

Ur. Collyns, writing in 1860, gives the following 
description of the old North Devon pack, with which 
he had often hunted as a young man : ' In height they 
were about twenty-six to twenty-eight inches, colour 
generally hare pied, yellow, yellow and white, or 
badger pied, with long ears, deep muzzles, large 
throats, and deep chests. In tongue they were perfect, 
. . . even when running at speed.' 

1 The Dog, p. 53. Edition of 1872. 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 253 

'A picture is added from which they appear to have 
had, beside 'the bloodhound-like heads and deep 
throats,' shortish necks and somewhat heavy shoulders, 
with hind quarters rather light for the rest of their 
body. They do not look like going fast, yet they 
must have been able to travel, for they killed their 
deer on a fair proportion of days ; and in November, 
1816, accounted for five hinds on five consecutive 
hunting days, no mean performance : again, on Au- 
gust 26, 1815, they killed in two hours and a half a 
fine stag which they found under Charles, and ran by 
Bray Cross and Simonsbath to Horner Green. 1 Lord 
Graves, however, warns the new master, never, if it can 
possibly be avoided, to hunt a young male deer, lest the 
severity of the chase should disable hounds and horses 
for a fortnight ; and that is sufficient proof that the old 
pack, whether from want of pace or from imperfect 
condition, or both, could not go on running for two 
or three hours at the high speed necessary to bring 
' a light galloping deer ' satisfactorily to hand. Yet 
they had some first-rate sport. The moorland was 
nearly all unenclosed then, deer crossed the country 
in all directions more freely than they do now, and 

1 The present pack covered nearly the same distance, over 
much the same line of country, on October 3, 1888, in an hour 
and forty minutes. 



254 STA G- HUNTING 



' the longest chase ever remembered,' from Horner to 
Satterleigh, nineteen miles as the crow flies, was accom- 
plished in a little over five hours on October 8, 1815 : 
and they killed a hind on April 15, 1817, not far from 
the same place, after running her for seven hours and 
five minutes. This was eclipsed, however, in point of 
time on August 22, 1815, when they laid on about 10.30 
not far from Dulverton, and took their stag in the Chan- 
nel about 7.30 with Chorister on his back ; and again 
on October 5, 1819, when the pack was laid on at 
10.30, and taken off without blood at 7 P.M. 

Their admiring chronicler, endorsed as we have 
seen by ' Stonehenge,' claims for the old pack that, 
like the French hounds, they would not hunt change, 
but would stick to the line of their own deer, though 
intermixed with that of others. 

The Master's private diary, however, casts doubt on 
this e.g. August u, 1812 : 'Laid a couple of steady 
hounds on a fine slot of a stag, but they crossed to the 
scent of the hind and went off with her.' April 18, 1815, 
' We went through Mr. Brickdale's coverts and were 
about to kill her, when a herd of nine deer crossed the 
pack and we of course lost the hind,' while a passage in 
the 'Chase of the Wild Red Deer' shows that they had 
their share of graver faults, for it is there told how 
on October 18, 1789, Sir Thomas Acland drew the 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 255 



Shrllets with the pack, and the hounds ran sheep, 
killing several ; whereon ' His Honour ' in his wrath 
desired the huntsman to hang the whole of them and 
then himself. Other masters since, beginning with 
Sir Thomas's successor, have had to contend against 
the same vice, the scratch pack especially, which he 
was compelled by an outbreak of rabies to form in 
1879, giving Mr. Bisset much trouble. It may be 
that there is some affinity between the scent of the 
moor sheep and that of the deer ; certain it is that the 
young hounds want very careful breaking against this 
propensity. I was never presented with a bill for un- 
lawful mutton, and I have not heard of any of my 
successors receiving one either, but any relaxation of 
watchfulness would quickly bring disaster. 

The old pack disappeared in 1825, and with them 
the old blood ; their successors have always been 
foxhounds. The standard is 24^ inches, and they 
come unentered from all parts of the country, 
seldom more than two couple in a year from the 
same pack. Uniformity of size, however, is secured by 
the great height insisted on ; and this, coupled with 
their long unrounded ears, gives the rjack a character 
of its own. Mr. Basset also got them very ' sorty ' in 
general appearance. Lord Graves in 1812 pronounced 
foxhounds ' from their nature altogether unqualified 



256 STAG-HUNTING 



to beat or try the water,' and the Comte le Couteulx 
de Canteleu, though freely admitting the value of our 
blood as a cross, finds little to praise in foxhounds but 
their courage and constitution, and does not recom- 
mend them except for boar-hunting, on account of 
their inferior noses, their proneness to change, and 
their tendency to run mute. 

There is no doubt that many of thQ Devon and 
Somerset are mute, or nearly so ; it has been sug- 
gested that the heat of the weather at the time of year 
when they are entered has something to do with this, 
and it may be so. But sometimes, when the scent 
suits, nearly every hound will speak, while on another 
day, though they run as well and as hard, nearly 
every hound will be silent. We shall never know 
much about scent, or why hounds hunting a deer 
run in file, while in every other chase they carry 
a head, till we get a hound that can talk and ex- 
plain it. 

Our hounds will hunt a deer truly through the 
intervening scent on the same path of a fox or hare, 
but it must be admitted that they cannot be depended 
on to carry the scent of a hunted stag through the lines 
of fresh ones ; and there are few who, if they catch a 
view of a deer, will not be after it whatever it be. Ex- 
perience has proved, however, that they will ' beat and 



HOUNDS AA'D 



try the water ' as wall as can l>e desired ; indeed, there 
is no better otterhound than a broken-down stag- 
hound, and their noses are good enough, as has been 
mentioned previously, to enable them to hunt a deer to 
his bed hours and hours after he has gone thither from 
his feed ; while their courage, drive, and pace enable 
them to do more work, and to kill more deer, than any 
pack that preceded them. 

People sometimes ask why we prefer such tall 
hounds, and why we are not content with a pack of 
ordinary stature. It is probable enough that twenty- 
three- to twenty-four-inch hounds would do the work 
as well ; but nobody ever parts with hounds of that 
si/e unless there is something wrong with them, and 
the extra inch is a distinct advantage in long heather ; 
the big ones can stride over it. where little ones would 
be always jumping. In the water, too, the height is a 
help ; not only because they can wade where shorter- 
legged hounds would have to swim, but also because 
they can more easily scramble out of the flooded 
streams in winter ; the size and weight must also be 
in their favour when tackling a stag at bay. However 
this may be, the 24^-inch standard practically limits the 
pack to dog hounds, and in the last twenty years there 
has been but one lady in the kennel Restless, by the 
late Lord Portsmouth's Reveller from B.V. Remnant. 



258 STAG-HUNTING 



Though quite as tall as her fellows, she was always 
known as the little bitch, and was a great favourite 
with the huntsman, as she was a good tufter, could go 
the pace, and threw her tongue besides. Curiously, 
however, she did not care to go up to a deer, and was 
once seen baying at a calf not much bigger than 
herself. 

Most hounds would have pulled the calf down, and 
eaten there and then as much venison as they could ; 
even a full-grown stag has little chance against the 
pack : I have seen one rolled over like a fox in the 
middle of a grass field ; and another time, when a stag 
had taken refuge in an outhouse, the doorway of 
which he nearly filled with his horns, the hounds 
went boldly up to him and pulled him out by the 
head and ears. Only a single one was slightly hurt, 
indeed, it is wonderful how few hounds are injured 
by the stags ; there are instances of three or four 
being wounded by one deer, but Mr, Bisset never lost 
a hound from this cause through all his long master- 
ship. His successors have not all been so fortunate, 
but the hounds who are killed on the spot or die of 
their wounds are very few. The horses of the field 
cause many more casualties than the horns of the 
stags. 

Reference has been made to the old idea that 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 259 

woands from a stag's horn were nearly always fatal, 
but I am not aware of any reason for believing it. 
I know the boar is looked on by Ceylon sportsmen as 
far more dangerous to approach when at bay than the 
sambhur ; and as far as my experience goes hounds 
are less likely to suffer from the after effects of horn 
wounds than deer are from bites. A great twenty - 
live-inch hound makes a terrible hole with his teeth, 
and I am sure it is misplaced humanity to let a deer 
go, whatever its age or sex, if it has been the least 
mauled. I remember the hounds once running up a 
yearling hind in the stag-hunting season. We saved 
her apparently unhurt, and I gave her to a friend. 
Unluckily, she had not quite escaped, and there was 
one deep bite in her thigh. My friend made a pet of 
her, turned her out with his fallow deer, and took 
every care of her, but the bite never healed, and she 
had eventually to be destroyed. 

But although the stags do not do much to shorten 
the lives of their pursuers, yet a staghound's career 
is not a long one. The season generally lasts fully 
eight months. The work is very hard, and the water 
hunting in winter very trying. Lord Graves said the 
pack should never run after the end of October, ' you 
otherwise lose your best hounds by the chill of the 
water, which occasions violent convulsions, and ter- 

s 2 



260 STAG-HUNTING 

minates the life of the poor animal almost immedi- 
ately. The only remedy on this occasion is frequent 
and profuse bleeding ; ' and Dr. Collyns endorses this, 
though he would allow hunting up to Christmas if the 
weather be mild. 

The theory may be sound, but in practice the 
hinds have to be killed, and the hounds must hunt 
whenever the weather permits for eight months 
in the year to do it. Only once in the last forty 
years has the number of deer killed in the season ex- 
ceeded the number of days' hunting ; and in that 
year the deer were extraordinarily plentiful : the 
present average is about eighty days' hunting and 
sixty deer. Two or three times in most seasons, a 
brace of deer may be fairly killed in one day, but 
unless the pack has divided, this very seldom occurs 
in hind-hunting. 

In 1867 not a stag escaped of all on which the 
hounds were laid ; in 1880 eight stags were killed in 
eight consecutive days ; while in 1886 the pack did 
not lose a stag for the season, and fourteen were 
accounted for in succession on the last fourteen days 
of stag-hunting. 

These, however, were exceptional performances ; 
and the huntsman not unfrequently has to come 
home without blood, though he may have worked 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 261 



himself, his hounds, and his horses almost to a 
standstill. 

The hunt servants rarely change, and the names 
of two at least will always be associated with the 
sport, Joe Faulkner in old, and Arthur Heal in 
modern, times. The former died over fifty years ago, 
but he seems to have had a marvellous aptitude for 
the chase. His temper was abominable and unre- 
strained : an old man at Castle Hill, of which he was 
a native, told me that if things went wrong in the field 
' he would damn all the gentlemen except Lord 
Fortescue ; ' and he was very fond of the bottle. Con- 
sequently he was continually being dismissed, and as 
regularly was found indispensable and taken back 
again, at one time as huntsman, at another as whip. 
Arthur Heal was his complete opposite in habits and 
language, though when it came to the sport they would 
have been on common ground ; nobody quite knows 
how old Arthur was when he ceased to be huntsman, 
but it was extraordinary how to the last he retained 
his quickness and dash, which he could combine on 
occasion with infinite patience, and always with 
great sagacity and knowledge. 

Except for a few weeks, the pack has never had 
more than one whipper-in ; there would often be 
occupation for three or four, when there are many 



262 STAG-HUNTING 



deer on foot, but as that number would be impossible, 
successive masters have contented themselves with 
one. And though among the sporting farmers there are 
not a few who understand the work thoroughly, and are 
always ready to help if they are out, the whip has 
plenty to do : a quick man with a good eye is indis- 
pensable ; the more so as outside assistance cannot 
be depended on in hind-hunting, and there are no 
piqueurs in charge of spare hounds, as in France, who 
can go on with the huntsman if the whip be on the 
wrong side of a valley, or otherwise thrown out. At 
one or two fixtures the pack is sometimes divided, 
part being kennelled at one place and part at another, 
so that one lot may be within reach wherever the deer 
breaks, but we have never adopted the French system 
of relais volants, though I s"aw our present hunts- 
man with such a team once. It was when he had 
just been taken from the stables to fill the whip's 
place in the middle of the season. He did not know 
the hounds, and the hounds did not know him, but 
he was full of zeal, and he proved himself a man of 
resource. 

We were hind-hunting ; many deer were on foot, 
hounds had divided a good deal and were all over 
the place, when Anthony was seen coming down the 
road toward Cloutsham surrounded by a small pack. 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 2 b^ 

He-had met them and stopped them off a stag on the 
wet ground on Dunkerry, and with his couples, the 
straps of his breastplate, a handkerchief, a bit of 
string, and the thong of his whip had captured and 
secured three or four couple : it was a good perform- 
ance, but I think he was glad to hand them over to 
the huntsman, especially as he was able to get his 
second horse at the same time. 

The men always have two horses out, frequently a 
pony for the tufting besides ; but the best second 
horseman cannot always be in the right place, and the 
days, as has been shown, are sometimes very long, 
even for two horses. 

People ask, not un frequently, whether horses do 
not require a special education before they become 
comfortable mounts over Exmoor ; but provided they 
will look where they are going, and change their legs 
if they see they are about to put their feet into a deep 
rut or on to a big stone, they arc- all right, and any 
horse with sense soon learns that much ; though if he 
has run on the moor as a young one. or been ridden 
quietly over it during the summer it is all the better, 
as then he is less likely to get frightened if he finds 
himself up to his girths in a bog. 

As in most countries, not less depends on the 
rider than on the animal he bestrides ; only you 



264 STAG-HUNTING 



cannot hope to see the end of a long straight run 
unless you have blood and condition ; if your horse 
is a good hack too, all the better, for you may pro- 
bably have a long ride home, but nothing is essential 
except blood and condition ; both of the best. 

For light weights horses between 14.2 and 
15.2 are to be recommended, as they get down 
steep hills with more ease to themselves than bigger 
animals ; yet there are big horses who will go 
brilliantly. Some years ago an officer spending his 
winter leave on Exmoor, had a fine upstanding horse 
by Roman Bee, which he rode well to the front with the 
utmost regularity. This horse was good enough to win 
a steeplechase at Sandown in the spring following, and 
was sold for a large sum. The owner had also a pony 
about two hands less in height than the steeplechaser, 
and he went as well on the one as on the other ; very 
few could beat him. 

All the same a valuable Leicestershire hunter is 
not in his place with the Devon and Somerset, and a 
despised hireling not worth 307. will often be a better 
mount. Over such a country light weights have of 
course a great advantage, though there have always 
been heavy men who could hold their own, whatever 
line the hounds ran, and however deep the country 
might be ; but such men belong to the limited class 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 265 



wh<5 always pay attention to what hounds are doing, 
and know the country and understand the sport 
thoroughly. Without these qualifications a man 
cannot ride successfully to staghounds. 

Sometimes one hears, generally in sporting novels, 
of an unknown sportsman visiting a Strange Hunt 
and ' cutting down ' all the best men belonging to 
it, in the run of the season. Perhaps this happens 
occasionally in a straightforward country, but it is 
doubtful if it occurs in those where the best horseman 
in the world may get into hopeless difficulties for 
want of local knowledge, which none but a native can 
possess. 

And this is especially true of Exmoor. There are 
few coombes that you cannot cross in many places, 
but there are still fewer which it is wise to cross 
except at certain points. Moreover, though you may 
ride many miles over the moor without encountering 
a fence, yet you are bound to come to one sooner or 
later, and as they are generally unjumpable, with gates 
a long distance apart, it is best for the stranger to 
follow someone who knows his way about. 

Probably a horse could go wherever a stag can 
(except over fences), but the scent may easily lie a 
few yards right or left of where the deer has passed, 
and in wet ground those few yards may make all the 



STAG-HUNTING 



difference. Even deer will get fairly bogged oc- 
casionally, and a horse in the same place would no 
doubt be in worse difficulties. Riding to the stag- 
hounds, therefore, generally resolves itself into riding 
in groups. There may be a score of men out, each 
of them capable of taking the best line, but if there is 
only one best line they will naturally ride together, 
followed by those who cannot go alone, while other 
groups will be seen making for every point of the 
compass except that toward which the hounds are 
heading, some to gain a place of vantage whence 
they hope to get a view of the chase ; others whose 
horses are not fast, or are not fit, to make a short cut 
to what they conceive to be the deer's destination ; 
while others, who do not want to go far from home, 
will hang about on the chance of hounds turning back 
toward them. And of course not unfrequently hounds 
do come round to those who have ridden to points : 
but if the run be a fast and a straight one, nobody 
has a chance but those who have got a good start, 
and have stuck as close as they can to the pack 
throughout. 

To the doing of this there is no royal road, but 
one thing is certain : namely, that if you wish to be 
with hounds after they have crossed a valley, you 
must descend into that valley with them, for they will 



HOUNDS AND HORSES 267 



certainly go up the opposite hill a great deal faster 
than your horse. 

There are occasions when it is wise to draw rein 
and watch, but that is where knowledge and judgment 
come in ; and as they cannot be taught from a book, 
it is useless to say more. 






268 STA G- HUNTJNG 



CHAPTER VI 

DEER 

REFERENCE has been made to the number of deer 
generally killed in the season, and in this connection 
it is often asked how many deer there are in the 
country hunted by the I )evon and Somerset. It is a 
question difficult to answer, and there is not much 
encouragement to be found in a letter now before me, 
written to the then Master in February 1883 by a 
gentleman who is reckoned an authority, in which he 
begged that hunting might forthwith be discontinued, 
on the ground that the herd in the home country, 
which by elaborate estimates he calculated at 197 and 
no more, would not stand any further diminution. 
Hunting, however, went on, and in three years from 
the date of the letter hounds had killed 188 deer in 
the districts in which, on paper, only 197 existed : so 
if the estimate had been correct the deer would have 
been well nigh exterminated. Yet the average number 
killed for the last ten seasons is 60 ! 



DEER 269 

_You cannot take a census of wild animals, and 
the only fact we have to go on is that some 60 deer 
can be and are killed year after year without any 
apparent reduction in their numbers in the country. 
From this I believe the total head of deer to be about 
400. For if 60 are killed without reducing the stock, 
there must be a similar number born and reared to 
replace them ; and if there are 60 hinds who rear 
their calves, there will be fully 120 who are too young 
or too old to breed, or are barren or who fail to rear 
their calves. That would make nearly 200 hinds of 
all ages ; and as we know of nothing to cause any 
permanent inequality of number between the sexes, 
there is likely to be a male deer for every female 
which gives 400 in round figures as the stock at 
the beginning of the hunting season. As Scotch 
authorities say that to keep a herd stationary in 
numbers you should not kill more than one-eighth to 
one-tenth, and as quite six deer come to grief indepen- 
dently of the hounds every year, it may safely be said 
that this estimate is a moderate one. 

A good many people will call it too high, on the 
ground that no one sees deer in such numbers ; but 
the time that the deer show themselves is the winter, 
when the public does not hunt, and even then for 



270 STAG-HUNTING 



every deer that you do see there is pretty certainly 
another that you do not. 

It may be added that in 1520 the number of deer 
reserved on the royal forest of Exmoor was 100 ; 
that Lord Graves in 1812 put the stock at 200, 100 
fewer than it had been forty or fifty years earlier ; as 
only 1 08 were killed in the next six years, it seems 
likely that his lordship's estimate was too liberal, or 
else there was a great deal of poaching. 

Strangers inquire as often about the weight of 
our West-country stags as about their numbers. We 
always weigh the carcase dressed and clean, without 
head, skin, or slots, so comparison with Scotch 
records is not very easy. Stags nowadays seem to be- 
heavier than they were a century ago, and it may be 
questioned whether the common explanation of better 
feed is the correct one ; for though turnips were not 
grown in the days of the old war, yet, as the furrows 
still show, there was land tilled for grain then that has 
long -relapsed into heather, and the deer no doubt 
took tithe and toll of it then as they do now. Only the 
weight of the haunches is given in the old records, 
and this but occasionally. The following entries may 
be quoted : Aug. 23, 1780, 'The great stag,' his 
haunches weighed 105 Ibs. ; Aug. 26, 1814, 'a large 
stag,' the haunches weighed 38 Ibs. (each) ; Aug. 25, 



DEER 27 1 

'a very old stag,' the haunches weighed above 
40 Ibs. (each). 

Of course it is easy to cut a haunch so as to weigh 
a few pounds more or less ; but 40 Ibs. would be a 
very moderate weight for a haunch now. The lightest 
of fourteen stags weighed at the kennels in 1892 
turned the scale at 154 Ibs., the heaviest being 250 
Ibs. The following exceptional weights have also 
been recorded : Aug. 27, 1877, 290^, Ibs. with the 
skin on, but without head, &c. weighed at Holnicote ; 
Sept. 7, 1 88 1, 280 Ibs., weighed by Mr. Rock of 
Gratton ; Sept. 15, 1884, 280 Ibs., weighed by Mr. 
Marley, Porlock Ford; Sept. 7, 1885, 275 Ibs., 
weighed at Dunster Castle. A good average hind of 
four years old and upward will weigh about 108 Ibs. 
they very seldom carry any flesh ; but an old hind 
killed on Feb. 12, 1889, was no less than 135 Ibs. ; she 
was and apparently always had been barren, and was 
in good condition. 

It has been stated by a Scotch writer that the 
heaviest deer do not usually have the best heads, but 
that is not our experience. Three of the four heavy 
stags last referred to had particularly fine horns ; the 
difference, however, in weight of carcase between the 
old stags and those of the present day is not repeated 
in their heads. 



272 STAG-HUNTING 

Dr. Collyns writing in 1860 says, ' It is rare at the 
present day to kill a stag furnished with horns of such 
size as many of those kept at Castle Hill, Barons- 
down, Holnicote, Worth, and elsewhere, as trophies 
of the chase in times gone by.' It may be doubted, 
however, whether this was true in 1860, and certainly 
it is not now, as the subjoined measurements will 
show. Mr. Birmingham measured Sir Thomas 
Acland's heads ; the others were kindly measured for 
me by Mr. Rowland Ward. The obituary notices 
assigned to the heads of Sept. 5, 1803, and Aug. 14, 
1812, are not quite certain. The former was bought 
at the Worth House sale a few years ago ; so there 
can be little doubt that it came off a stag killed by 
the hounds while Mr. Worth had them, and as its 
points correspond with those of Mr. Worth's first stag, 
and it was honoured with gilding, I have put it down 
to that day's sport. The other may have been killed 
from the Stoodleigh covers on Oct. 12, 1814, instead 
of on Aug. 14, 1812, but is unquestionably one of my 
great-grandfather's trophies. 

The harems of our master stags seldom exceed 
half a dozen hinds ; and this, coupled with a milder 
climate and good food, would account for there being 
as a rule more substance and growth in the horns of 
our deer than in those of Scotch ones. They do 



DEER 



273 



ot 

M 



. 
W 



:-=s =^I C 



adgworthy Wo 
on. Property o 
to have weighe 
tradition 
an Cleaves ; kill 



in 

M 
Sai 
only 



ound 
North o 
land. ai 
this is onl 
ound in D 



Pr 

n So 



M 
o 



l_ E D _ 

o^fcli.^ a., 

fjj's^ li 

qj u *^ iS ;>,' I rt ' 

: a J?-i 5 ffo u ' 

Illliyl '! 

ia "0^^^T^ ^ 

! lf3S II 1' 
Bisi-S^Is - 

JIWS^S^S 18: 
2 3 ^a, ? = ^ ; 

Sb"" ^-a-sS^ 
^ 5 -a t-u a-a-o -a 

S i i|" <; = S 

C U^ 



1\ I 



~ = 





C~3"O O -O C 3 JJ- 

fe=^y=^'^ = o - 

. 3 ^" -2 3 2 

' 



'^s 



5001 

3 a. 



S S 

3 = 

d i- 

G& 



n 

& 
p 



u o 

o o 



274 STAG-HUNTrNG 

not often grow many points. Eighteen and nineteen 
points are on record, twice in 1786, and again in 
1871, but I know of very few heads with four or more 
points on top of both sides, and all the ' rights ' the 
venerable term for the three lower antlers, which has 
survived with us from the fourteenth century. There 
were only two such among the hundred and fifty 
stags killed in my mastership. Heads of twelve 
points are common enough, and that with all the 
tines of good length, but the extra development 
seems to tend as a rule, not to the multiplication of 
points, but rather to increased length and weight in 
the beam, and especially in the brow antlers, which 
are often over a foot long, and sometimes reach 
fifteen inches. The bez, or bay antler, the royal 
antler of the old books, the next above the brow, is 
frequently quite short, and is often wanting altogether. 
Once only have I seen a bay antler growing from 
the back of the horn instead of the front. This was 
on the head of a fine stag that we killed from Haddon 
on September 19, 1884 ; the formation is common, 
however, in the wapiti. I have never seen or heard of 
but three heads with only brow antlers and two on top, 
like a sambhur one killed in 1799, theothersin 1883 
and 1895 ; the first an old stag, the second a three- 
year-old, the last a full-grown stag with a broken leg. 



DEER 



275 



Old stags often grow eccentric and deformed heads. 
There is a pair of horns at Eggesford which came off 
a very fat old stag many years ago, which are merely 
uprights about a foot long : a nine-year-old stag had 
a similar head in 1872. Cases of brow antler and 
upright on one side, or brow, trey and very short 
points on top, are not uncommon, but I have never 



Age of 
deer 


Lord Graves 


Dr. Collyns 


Dr. Clarke's deer 


Comte de 

Canteleu 


i to 2 

2 


Short upright 
and small brow 


Upright Upright 
Br. upright Br. B. T i, near- 


Upright 
Upright or 3 


3 


Brow and up- 


ly 2 feet long 
Br. T. upright Br. B. T. 3 & 2 


or 4 points 
7 or 8 points 




right 






4 

5 


Br. T. upright 
Br. B. T. 2 & i 


l!r. B. T. 2 & i 
l!r. 15. T. 2 


Br. B. T. 3 

Br. B. T. 3. All 


10 or 1 2 points 
12, 14, or 16 








points on top 










long 




6 


Br. B. T. 2, 


Br. B. T. 3 & 2 


Br. B. T. & 4 . 


14 to 20 




both horns 












Br B. T. 3 


Br. B. T. 4 










This deer would 










have been reck- 










oned by his head 










to have been a 










3-yr.-old at two, 










and a s-yr.-old 










at three 





seen a perfect caber slat head (brow and a long up- 
right) : and it is curious they should not exist in the 
West of England, though they are of* frequent oc- 
currence in Scotland. Bifurcated bay and trey antlers, 
which are often seen in Germany, are very rare on 
Exmoor ; but Nott stags are not unknown. The only 

T 2 



276 STAG-HUNTING 



thing really certain seems to be that you cannot tell 
a stag's age accurately by his horns, and that the 
authorities differ as to the head a stag may be expected 
to bear at different ages. The preceding table makes 
this very plain, and it may be interesting to compare 
it with the description of the horns shed each year 
by a stag that was stolen off Exmoor by a Dr. Clarke 
of Lynmouth about forty years ago, and kept in a 
small paddock by him ; the said horns being now in 
the Albert Museum at Exeter. 

Br. signifies brow antler, B. bay, T. trey : the 
figures thereafter indicate the number of points on top. 
This table may be further compared by the curious 
with the following, which is taken with additions from 
Mr. John Fortescue's book, and brought up to date, 
and shows the heads actually borne at their death 
by a few deer whose ages were known. 

In the cases, at any rate, of those deer that were 
originally taken as calves or yearlings, there can be no 
doubt about the age at death, and it will be noticed 
that in hardly any instance was the head what, accord- 
ing to the tables, it ought to have been. The nineteen- 
year-old stag* was hardly bigger or heavier than a very- 
large hind indeed, he weighed only 3 Ibs. more than 
the yeld hind mentioned on a previous page. Two 
other instances are known in which deer, proved by 



DEER 



-7- 



'" 


Date of first 
capture 


Age at first 
capture 


Date when 
killed 


Appearance of head 
when killed 


1853 


Had 2 on top 


Oct. 5, 1860 


Br. T. 3 on each horn 




both horns 






May ii. 1860 


2 years 


Sept. 6, 1870 


Br. T. 3 on each horn 


May 9, 1861 


3 years Oct. 7, 1862 


Br. T. a on each horn. 






Small but even 


Sept. n, 1863 


' A splendid 


Sept. 2, 1864 


Br. B. T. 3 both horns. 




stag' 




The same points as pre- 








vious year, but heavier 








horns 


Oct. 27, 1863 


Calf 


Jan. 4, 1872 


Uprights, with no point.- 






at all 


April 1 8, 1864 


i year 


Sept. 30, 1870 Br. B. T. -5 on each horn 


Oct. 30, 1866 


3 years 


Aug. 22, 1871 


18 points. Br. B. T. 7 and 








Br. T. 6 


Aug. 31, 1868 





Aug. 31, 1869 Br. T. 2 and Br. B. T. 






Had 2 on top the pre- 






vious year also. ' Con- 






stitutionally wron.u ' 


Oct. 10, 1868 





Sept. 85, >~''''/ Same number of points as 






previous year, but bigger 








beam 


Sept. 




.-' r. 16,1872 


Br. 1!. T. i and Br. B. i. 








Had 2 on top one side if 






not both in 1869 


Oct. 19, 1870 


in Sepl. 4, 1874 


Br. T. 3 and Br. T. 4. 






Points blunt and jagged 


Jan. i, 1872 
Jan. 19, 1875 


3 C V aT 


Aug. 28, 1873 
Aug. 28, 1882 


Br. B. T. 2 and 3 
B. T. 4 and 9. \ 








very tine head 


Aug. 13, 1875 or 


3 years 


Aug. 19, 1885 


Br. T. 2 and 3. A fine 


May j8, 1879 


Calf 


widespread head 


Aug. 28, 1876 


4 years 


Aug. 27, 1880 


Br. B. T. 4 and 3 


Dec. 2, 1876 


i year 


Aug. 30, 1883 


Br. B. T. 4 on each horn. 








A splendid stag 


1877 


i year 


Aug. 15, 1894 


Br. T. 2 and 3. Beam 








long, but very light 


Dec. 13, 1877 


5 years 


Sept. 23, 1878 


Br. T. 3 and 2 




(about ) 






Aug. 31, 1881 


2 years 


Sept. i, 1884 


Br. B. T. 2 on each horn 


Sept. 27, 1883 


3 years. Bi . 


Oct. 9, 1886 


Bi. B. T. 3, Br. 'I'. . \ 




T. 2. on each 




fine head with long 




horn points 


March ->6, 1884 


Calf . Oct. 8, 1890 


Br. B. T. 3 Br. T. 2. 




Horns rather light 


1890 


Calf Sept. 21, 1895 


Br. T. 2 on each horn, 






with an offer for Bay 



278 STAG-HUNTING 



their worn-out teeth and other evidence to be of great 
age, had quite small and shrunken frames. What be- 
comes of the old deer? They are not all killed by the 
hounds : a few may meet with foul play, but some must 
die a natural death. Yet it is hardly ever that their 
bodies are found. Those of young deer are met with 
occasionally ; they get injured jumping fences in the 
dark, or starved during a deep fall of snow, or catch 
inflammation of the lungs after a severe chase in 
cold weather ; for some reason these accidents 
oftener occur to young male deer than to hinds, but 
it is very seldom, if ever, that one hears of a real 
old stag perishing in such ways. Probably, when 
they feel their end is near, they go away and hide 
themselves, as wounded animals do, and die in 
solitude. But even then it is strange that their 
decaying carcases do not attract attention in a country 
where staghounds or foxhounds are through nearly 
every cover every week. 

I have never heard any explanation that accounted 
for this satisfactorily, for the hinds would not eat 
carrion, though there seems little doubt that they will 
eat both bones and shed horns. The time at which the 
horns are shed is with us about May i, the old stags 
first, and the velvet is lost between August 20 and 
September 15. 



DEER 279 

Miles considered that a stag who had had a good 
mother would grow his horns earlier and stronger 
than one who had perhaps lost his dam before he was 
five months old ; this seems reasonable as regards 
the first pair or two of horns, at any rate. I cannot 
trace any satisfactory connection between the weather 
and the development of the horns. Undoubtedly 
the best heads are better in some years than in 
others ; but it was remarked that they were generally 
very fine in 1881, the season following one of the 
heaviest snowfalls on record in the west of England. 

One-horned stags are not uncommon ; three were 
killed on the Quantocks in 1895 ; one, a very old stag, 
was supposed to be the father of the others. As far 
as could be judged from the skulls, none of the 
three had ever had more than one horn, the tap root 
of the other being stunted and withered. A one- 
horned stag is at no disadvantage in the rutting 
season, so there is no inherent improbability in the 
hereditary theory in this instance. A hind with 
horns is the heroine of a great chase which took place 
in P'rance in the time of Charles IX. in the forest of 
Amboise, and the Comte de Canteleu speaks as if 
horned hinds were by no means unknown since : but 
there is no tradition even of such prodigies in the 
west. The well-being of the deer has no doubt been 



280 STAG-HUNTING 



m 



greatly promoted by the abolition since 1862 of 
hind-hunting in May ; only barren hinds were sup- 
posed to be hunted then, but mistakes were made : 
and even if they were not hunted the want of quiet 
must have been very prejudicial to the mothers of 
the herd so short a time before the date at which 
they dropped their calves an event that takes place 
usually in the middle of June, though there are 
authentic cases of calves being dropped in Septem- 
ber, as also of twins. 

Such differences as exist in the times and seasons 
between Scotland and Exmoor, and between Exmoor 
and the Continent, are however easily accounted for by 
the difference of climate and latitude : the habits and 
nature of the red deer remain the same, and those who 
seek his death whether with rifle or with hound, have 
similar need of endurance and tenacity, and must be 
familiar alike with his habits and his wiles. 



NOTES FOR VISITORS 281 



CHAPTER VII 

NOTES FOR VISITORS 

A FEW notes as to the most convenient hunting 
quarters in the Devon and Somerset country may be 
of service to some of those who read these pages. 

Exford is the most central place : the kennels 
are situated there, so there is always company and 
guidance to be had both out and home. On nearly 
four days out of five, the fixture is within six miles, 
and there are only three meets more than ten mile- 
distant . Further, and this is no slight advantage, it is 
not often that the return journey to Exford after hunting 
is a very long one. Occasionally it takes the hounds 
four hours and more to get back to kennel, but on the 
great majority of days the distance does not exceed 
from five to eight miles. On the other hand, Exford 
is decidedly out of the way : there is a telegraph office 
there, but it is twelve miles from a station ; and there 
is not much to do on off days unless you have enough 
horses to hunt with the Exmoor Foxhounds and the 



282 STAG-HUNTING 

Quarme Harriers, as well as with the Staghounds. 
Both these packs begin hunting early in September, 
and both meet regularly in the neighbourhood. 

Cutcombe is nearly as central as Exford, and is 
four miles nearer to Dunster station ; but the same 
remarks as to off-days apply, and it is not quite so well 
placed for the Foxhounds. 

Winsford is four miles the wrong side of Exford 
for the best meets, but is very convenient for the 
Dulverton country. It is only six or seven miles from 
Dulverton station over the hill, but more by the 
driving road. 

Dulverton is too near the southern boundary of 
the country to be well placed for such meets as 
Cloutsham, Hawkcombe Head, Culbone Stables, <\:c., 
which are near the Bristol Channel ; but it is very 
central for the fixtures in its own district ; and the 
hunting days there are from a quarter to a third of the 
whole. The Stoodleigh country, the Dulverton Fox- 
hounds and the Quarme Harriers are also within easy 
reach ; as later in the year are also the Tiverton Fox- 
hounds and Sir J. Amory's Harriers. The other places 
mentioned above are mere villages, but Dulverton is a 
small market town ; and as the trains run conveniently 
from it to both Taunton and Exeter, it is the most 
accessible of all the hunting quarters, being slightly 



NOTES FOR VISITORS 283 

supefior in this respect to Dunster and Mine-head on 
the other side of the county. 

These are both favourite resorts of hunting people 
and tourists. They are not very near to any of the 
meets (except one, reputed the worst in the country), 
and it is always a long way both out and back from 
them to the Dulverton fixtures ; but the West 
Somerset Foxhounds and Minehead Harriers are 
kennelled near, and they have a good many advan- 
tages in other ways, especially on non-hunting days ; 
moreover, they are the only places from which you can 
hunt in comfort both on Exmoorand on the Quantocks. 

Porlock and Porlock Weir are too much at one 
end to be very suitable for those who wish to attend 
every fixture, but are excellent homes for those who 
only want to hunt on the north, which is the side 
of the country where the sport is best and the meets 
most numerous. I suppose one-third of all the deer 
killed die within three miles of Porlock Church, and 
certainly for the winter hind-hunting no more desir- 
able quarters can be found. The Exmoor Foxhounds 
are generally within reach, as they are also from 
Lynton and l.ynmouth; but these last are at one 
corner of the country, so the distance to the meets of 
the Staghounds is seldom less than eight miles, and 
the ride home after hunting generally more. 



284 STAG-HUNTING 



Simonsbath has most of the advantages of Exford 
except that of the telegraph office, and most of its 
disadvantages, being rather farther from nearly all the 
meets, though rather nearer to a station. The local 
guide-books give full information as to hotels ; but I 
may mention that most of the clergy are ready to let 
their parsonages to hunting visitors during the autumn 
months, and that many of the farmers take lodgers. 
Mr. Sanders had a printed list of lodgings prepared 
in 1895 which is procurable at the kennels. Horses 
can be hired from Taunton, Barnstaple, and South 
Molton, as also at any of the places named, except 
Simonsbath, Cutcombe and Winsford. Visitors who 
bring their own horses with them will do well to make- 
sure beforehand that the stabling offered them is 
suitable, for it is by no means good everywhere. It 
can be very cold on the moor, even in September, 
as well as very hot, so warm clothing should not be 
forgotten for either man or beast. 



THE COOKERY OF VEXISOX 

BY 

ALEXANDER INNES SHAN I) 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

VENISON plays so important a part in the story of the 
human race, that volumes might be devoted to it. 
But even in the merest sketch in outline, it must be 
treated historically, romantically and practically. WV 
must go back to the birth of the world as we know 
it, and to the opening chapters of Genesis. When 
our first parents exchanged the fig-leaves for skins, 
we believe all commentators are agreed that their 
rudimentary costume was a dress of deer-hide. As 
they had been expelled from their garden, and had 
neither ploughed nor sown, we take it for granted 
that they lived on the game they killed. The 
patriarch Isaac had flocks and herds in abundance, 
but although 'the world's grey fathers,' like the 
Bedouin, lived chiefly on a ilk diet on curds and 
koumiss, and light dairy preparations Isaac seems 
to have been a gourmet. He loved savoury meat, 
and had a predilection for venison or rather antelope- 



288 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

flesh. But his sight was defective though the teeth 
were sound, and we may assume, also, that the 
sense of smell was failing. No doubt, in the sultry 
climate of Palestine, there was no possibility of hang- 
ing meat, otherwise neither venison nor the delusive 
kid would have been brought straight from ' the field ' 
to the table. But the upshot of that eventful piece 
of deception was, that Esau, having been robbed of 
his birthright, turned his back upon pastoral pursuits. 
He became the chief of a race of hunters, and the 
father of the roving Edomites, with their hand against 
every man. They multiplied and spread over the 
wildernesses of Mesopotamia, and the sandy wastes of 
the Arabian deserts. Then what between hunger and 
greed, when fired by the match of fanaticism, they 
broke out of their deserts under the prophet of God, 
and threatened to overrun Europe with their locust- 
like swarms. So that had Esau come home half an 
hour sooner with his haunch of venison or hind-quarter 
of antelope, the destinies of great part of the world 
would have been altered. No Count Julian would 
ever have opened Europe to the Arab hosts ; the 
Alhambra, the Alcazar of Seville, the many-coloured 
mosque of Cordova, would never have been built in 
the quaint magnificence of Oriental architecture ; the 
Vega of Granada and the Huerta of Valencia might 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 289 



never have been watered with indestructible irrigation 
works, and then, when the Moslems were pushing 
their adventurous enterprise, the grandsire of Charle- 
magne would not have had the chance of saving the 
Church and Christendom in the carnage on the field 
of Tours. 

But we are soaring a flight considerably above 
the cooking-range, Grove's, and the London Tavern. 
Turtle and venison ! they are the symbols of civic 
luxury. We dare to say that the typical haunch, 
with all that precedes and follows it, from the iced 
punch and Madeira to the curious old cognac, has 
done more than the example of Whittington or 
Gresham to animate aspirants to the gown and the 
golden chain. It is like the leg of mutton on the 
greased pole scrambled for by ragged tatterdemalions. 
But that mutton, as the may-fly on the stream, is 
swallowed and gone, whereas the civic haunch is 
perpetually renewed, and a thing of joy that ever 
repeats itself. The pity of it is that the alderman 
cannot revive the edge of his appetite as the houris 
of the Mahommedan Paradise renew their blushing 
charms. Surfeit will lead on to satiety, and venison 
and burgundy with sedentary habits end in the 
gout, dyspepsia, and doctors' fees. We shall have 
something to say about sauces afterwards, but after 

U 



290 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



all, there is no such condiment as hunger. We ven- 
ture to aver that the most successful banquets of 
venison have come off somewhere in the Wild West 
of America, between the Alleghanies and the Sierras. 
The wayfarer has gone dinnerless for a day or two, 
or the wandering mountain-man may have feared to 
fire a shot, knowing that he may be ambushed by 
hostile Indians. He has kept body and soul together, 
as best he might, on snakes and lizards and ' such 
small deer.' In the end starvation has got the better 
of prudence. With gloating eyes and trembling 
pulses he has stalked the tempting buck and dropped 
him. As he has risked so much he will hazard some- 
thing more. He gathers fuel and kindles a fire, 
though aware that the smoke may betray him. But 
as he butchers the slaughtered deer, he is thinking 
only of dinner. He slashes out the liver and lights. 
They will warm more quickly over the smoky blaze, 
while the fillets he has sliced from the haunch are 
grilling. If he is an epicure he sprinkles the meat 
with powder from his horn, and he washes down the 
repast with long draughts from the rippling stream. 
It is not far removed from the rude Abyssinian feast, 
where the beef-steaks were cut from the living ox ; but 
did ever man dine more heartily or deliciously ? If 
he had his personal medical attendant, he would be 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 291 

warned against the imprudence of over-indulgence 
after prolonged abstinence. Being reckless, he does 
not give the matter a thought, and though he has no 
dinner-pills in his 'possible-sack,' no evil consequences 
ensue. The mountain air is the most invigorating of 
tonics. Imagine a Lord Mayor, with his unrivalled 
opportunities, gifted with such a swallow, and such 
incalculable digestive powers, and you have the ideal 
of mortal dignity with the perfection of sensuous bliss. 
That, no doubt, is an extreme case. Now that the 
world is being rapidly settled up, and that there are 
well-marked trails and victualling stations scattered 
about in the interior of the Dark Continent and the 
Highlands of Central Asia, men are seldom reduced 
to such sharp extremities. But we have always 
considered it a great take-off to the enjoyment of the 
sportsman-gourmet, that however hungry he may 
be, he must wait indefinitely for dinner. The hunt- 
ing larder is replenished from day to day, as the 
manna in the wilderness was fresh gathered each 
morning. The hunter, after many a weary walk and 
stalk, comes back towards nightfall with the choicest 
portions of the deer. The fire may be in readiness, 
but he must possess himself in patience while the 
dinner is cooking. We have seen a starving cur 
watch the gnawing of a bone of which he hopes the 



292 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



reversion, and we greatly doubt whether the miseries 
of suspense are repaid by any subsequent satisfaction. 
Moreover, slips between the platter and the lip must 
be counted with. Some alarm may disturb the camp, 
or the sudden descent of a thunderstorm may put 
out the fire. One of the most pathetic incidents we 
have come across in the course of our reading 
is chronicled by Ruxton in that delightful book, 
' Adventures in Mexico.' He had been riding for 
days on short rations, when he reached a town where 
he could do some marketing. He and his hungry 
cavalry escort were seated round the great pot 
simmering over a fire in the Plaza, containing the 
unusual luxuries of beef, fowls, onions, and eggs. 
There was no venison, by the way, on that particular 
occasion, though he lived chiefly on the deer that fell 
to his rifle, but the moral is the same. Ruxton sat 
smoking a puro voluptuously, and inhaling the odours 
of \hepuchero. At last came the moment of projection. 
With precautions he raised the earthenware kettle, 
when the bottom gave way and the contents were 
precipitated. Tableau of traveller and troopers, 
who had to mortify the flesh as usual on Mexican 
beans and cakes of buckwheat. 

But there are historical deceptions nearer home, 
over the haunch or the neck. It was Theodore Hook, 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 293 



we-think, who was engaged to dine with a friend, 
when, looking down through the area railings next 
door, he saw a glorious haunch revolving on the spit. 
With the promptitude of genius, his resolution was 
taken. He happened to have a slight acquaintance 
with that neighbour : he knocked, walked upstairs, 
palmed off one of his plausible stories and was duly 
invited to stay to dinner. The expected haunch 
never made its appearance. Queries were insinuated 
and explanations ensued. The host's friend in No. 
99 had a party that evening, and his own kitchen 
range being out of repair, he had sent in that noble 
haunch to be roasted. We know it was Hook who, 
strolling through Mayfair with Terry, the protege of 
Walter Scott, was arrested, as Lowell sweetly sings, in 
' The Biglow Papers,' by 

Ketchin' smells of roast and boiled 
A' comin' from the kitchen. 

Again he looked down and saw his favourite joint. 
He did not know the gentleman who owned it from 
Adam, but again he walked in, presented his friend, 
procured an invitation, enjoyed an excellent dinner ; 
was, of course, the life and soul of the society, and 
won the gratitude of the good gentleman he had 
victimised by making the evening go off delightfully. 



294 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

So much so, that he could afford to close his brilliant 
improvisations on the piano with the confession, 

I'm very much pleased with your fare, 
Your cellar's as prime as your cook. 
My friend's Mr. Terry the player, 
And I'm Mr. Theodore Hook. 

Dropping into poetry, like Silas Wegg, naturally 
suggests Goldsmith's famous ' Haunch of Venison.' 
The tuneful Oliver, who paid his way by fiddle-playing 
abroad, and went singing through the world, ' with a 
light heart and a thin pair of breeches,' said rueful 
grace in immortal verse for a gift he had received but 
never enjoyed. We all know the tale of that quarter 
of venison, and the recipient spoke of it feelingly, 

... for finer or fatter 

Never rang'd in a forest or smok'd on a platter. 
The haunch was a picture for painters to study, 
The fat was so while, and the lean was so ruddy. 

Hesitating ' to spoil such a delicate picture,' the 
haunch went to Sir Joshua in Leicester Square, doubt- 
less in gratitude for many a good dinner in prospec- 
tive. Reynolds might paint it or eat it, as he pleased, 
but Oliver kept the neck and breast. He had not 
been so generous as appeared at first sight, for, in 
our opinion, a good neck can more than hold its own 
with the haunch ; and as for the breast, that goes 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 295 

inte the pasty, when, instead of speculating on a slice 
which may be better or worse at the will of the 
carver, you may cut and come again in a round 
game, where there are prizes and no blanks. That 
is to say, if the cook knows his or her business, and 
condiments and savouries are judiciously introduced. 
We all know how that pathetic tragi -comedy ended. 
The Jew and the Scot still kept a corner for the pasty. 
And after all that past}- never appeared, which is 
another illustration of the moral as to slips between 
cup and lip. 

Goldsmith offered the haunch for Reynolds to 
paint ; and the red or the fallow deer, dead or alive, 
running afoot in forest or park, swinging from hooks 
in the sylvan larder, or served at the princely or 
baronial feast, have played a conspicuous part in 
English art and poetry. For venison is essentially a 
British dish, and the cooks and cooking books of 
France and the Low Countries have very little to 
say to it. They treat casually of the roebuck with 
the hare, but take small notice of the red deer. 
So Weenix seldom introduces a stag in his studies o( 
game, although the antlers and graceful head would 
be the crowning triumph of a trophy. That is simply 
because, except in the far south, the forests are few and 
far between, and in the north each tract of broken 



296 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

woodland was indefatigably hunted by packs of 
wolves. 

Vert and venison with us were strictly guarded 
by the atrocious severity of the Norman forest laws. 
The deer were preserved, under pain of death or muti- 
lation, for the sport and table of the sovereign. Even 
under the Tudors there were still 70 royal forests, 13 
chases, and no fewer than 700 parks. The park was 
enclosed by oaken palings, and the forest was defined 
by natural boundaries, by streams, metes or meres. 
The barons and the monastic orders were granted 
privileges in their own domains by special licence. 
We may be sure that the Church took excellent care 
of itself. Landseer's picture of 'Bolton Abbey in 
the olden time' carries us back to the jovial days 
which preceded and hastened the dissolution of the 
monasteries. The portly prior, with fhe flower of the 
holy brotherhood, is standing over the slaughtered 
deer. The good monk is grateful for the gifts of God, 
and though the smile of expectant complacency is 
benignant, woe be to the brother who presides in the 
kitchen, if he ' sins the mercies ' by careless cookery. 
We can conceive his stern air of solemn reprobation, 
by referring to Scott's companion picture, dashed in 
with pen and ink, in the ' Monastery.' The Abbot of 
Saint Mary's had paid a visit to the lonely tower of 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 297 



Glemlearg. The saintly man had been rewarded for 
the effort by the sight of a sublime haunch which had 
not been brought up in the hampers on the sumpter 
mules. And the sympathetic refectioner explains in 
glowing terms \hz provenance of the unexpected dainty. 
' So please your Holiness and Lordship, he is a son of 
the woman of the house, who hath shot it and sent it 
in killed but now ; yet as the animal heat hath not 
left the body, the kitchener undertakes it shall eat 
as tender as a young chicken and this youth hath a 
special gift in shooting deer and never misses the 
heart or the brain, so that the blood is not driven 
through the flesh, as happens too often with us. It is 
a hart of grease your Holiness has seldom seen such 
a haunch/ 

The kitchener knew something of his business. 
Who (see the remarks of the British Solomon in ' The 
Fortunes of Nigel ') says ' hart of grease says much ; ' 
for the fault of the Scottish red deer is deficiency in 
fat. So much so, that it is often supplemented from 
the humbler mutton. The kitchener was right in 
dwelling on the merits of a hart clean-killed ; but we 
greatly doubt whether that haunch from Glendearg 
could have ' eaten tender as a chicken.' It had been 
carried down the glen from the enchanted spring, and 
had time enough to cool and to stiffen. But Scott, 



298 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

with all his gifts, was no gourmet, and when Scrope 
or Glengarry sent him a haunch, be it said with all 
reverence, it was a case of the proverb of the 
pearls. He talks lightly of passing a haunch over to 
Lockhart's tender mercies, which he ' hacked well 
enough, as there was plenty to come and go upon ; ' 
and Lockhart tells us that when one of them came in, 
kept to corruption, Scott would sit in innocent surprise 
when his guests were sniffing the tainted air with 
unmistakable signs of disgust, as the deer in his native 
wilds when he gets wind of the stalker. Neverthe- 
less, Scott's novels and poems, laying the scenes in 
the feudal times, and reviving Froissart-like the 
mediaeval manners, are full of the glorification of 
the deer, living and dead. To say nothing of ' The 
Chase 'in 'The Lady of the Lake,' he borrows many 
a simile from the hunting and the tinchel. But 
neither baron nor chieftain, beater nor driver, was 
over-fastidious as to the dressing and serving. The 
buck pulled down at the sports of Stirling, when 
Lufra broke away from the Douglas' side, was sent 
straight to the spit, that 

Venison and Bordeaux wine 
Might serve the archery to dine. 

When venison furnished forth the better part of 
the feast of Clan Quhele at the solemn inauguration 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 299 



of the succession of the young chieftain, more 
attention was paid to the dressing of the skins lint 
protected the armour of the chosen champions than 
to the dressing of the deer. We always think with 
envy of the jovial midnight supper, when the clerk of 
Copmanshurst entertained the royal knight-errant, and 
the clutches of both were emulously in the bowels of 
the mighty pasty. But both the convives were men 
of Gargantuan appetite and ostrich-like digestion, 
and we suspect that sundry members would have 
backed their bills, had that pasty been sent up as ' the 
joint' at a club in Pall Mall. But the Baron of 
Bradwardine, who had served in France and dined at 
the table of the Duke of Berwick, was more of a 
connoisseur than the holy clerk. He laid down the 
law sensibly and with knowledge, as to the compara- 
tive qualities and the seasons of roe and red deer. 
' The roe may be hunted at all times alike ; for never 
being in what is called pride of grease, he is also never 
out of season, though it be a truth that his venison 
is not equal to that of either the red or the fallow 
deer'(?) To which sentence, so far as the fallow 
deer is concerned, I venture to append a note of 
interrogation. 

Going back to Bolton Abbey, it reminds me of 
another great poet who celebrated, incidentally, a 



300 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



mediaeval miracle. Wordsworth assures us that his 
' White Doe ' made her way, sabbath after sabbath, 
from Rylstone Fell to the church of the Priory. As 
she had a dozen miles to travel, going and returning, 
it may be presumed that the fair creature steered 
a bee-line course, through swamp, morass and 
treacherous quaking bog. Till she was placed under 
the safeguard of superstition, we cannot conceive, 
remembering the regularity of her church attendance, 
how she escaped the bows or hackbuts of the West 
Riding poachers, who always held their own in these 
dales, in spite of the watchers of Cliffords or Nortons. 
Wordsworth celebrates that deer poetically and pla- 
tonically ; but, by the way, we were agreeably surprised 
to find in his friend Southey a sensibility of which 
we had not suspected him. We knew him for a 
poet, a historian and a scholar, but we believed he 
cared as little for anything beyond his books as the 
worthy minister of Saint Ronan. Respect was changed 
to regard when we came on this imprecation, in a 
letter to his friend Bedford, who had urged the 
Laureate to alter some stanzas in a mortuary ode. 
' If I do,' wrote Southey, with pious emphasis, ' may 
I boil my next haunch of venison.' It is sidelights 
in biography such as these which endear a poet to 
posterity ; there we have the touch of the noble 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 301 

nature which makes the whole world of refinement 
akin. 

That Shakespeare loved venison we know. Not 
because he stole the deer from the Lucys' park at 
Fulford for the theft did not come off at Charlecote. 
That might have been done in a spirit of pure devilry 
when he had fallen into dissipated company, as 
Denzil and Risingham 'snatched the deer from Rokeby 
Park,' or as Tompkins and Jocelyn came to the deadly 
quarrel over their trespass in Woodstock. But we 
see it in Shakespeare's plays passim. There is the 
memorable scene when Sir John is befooled by the 
merry wives in Windsor Forest. When he comes on 
disguised in hide and antlers, he says, ' For me, I 
am here a Windsor stag ; and the fattest, I think, i' the 
forest.' Falstaff was a bon vivant if ever there was 
one, and his thoughts flew at once to the fat to the 
inches of grease on the brisket. He may have been 
groaning over his own obesity, though well used to it ; 
but he naturally thought of the savoury veniscn as it 
would be served by mine host of the Garter or by 
Mistress Quickly's cook in Eastcheap. 

We could multiply at will more modern instances. 
Love Peacock's ' Maid Marian,' with the forest queen 
and those sylvan banquets at which the victims of the 
free outlaws were hospitably entertained in a semi- 



302 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



metrical glorification of vert and venison, interspersed 
with snatches of ballads which were the songs of the 
bowmen of the Greenwood. Peacock was a dreamer 
and fantastical novelist : but he had sound ideas on 
the subject of cookery, and has conceived in his 
' Dr. Opimian ' the type of the orthodox and high- 
living divine of the Establishment, who held, with 
Johnson, that the man who did not mind his belly 
was worse than an infidel. No one of his admirers 
is likely to forget his sage remarks on Palestine soup 
and the jowl of the salmon. Peacock was a poetical 
dreamer, and George Borrow, on the other hand, was 
an eminently practical man and a devoted missionary. 
The author of ' The Bible in Spain,' not only took 
his life in his hand habitually, but condemned himself 
to asceticism. Travelling in Spain through the civil 
strife between Carlists and Christines, he would 
generally have been intensely grateful for the cow- 
heels that Sancho marked for his own. We admire 
Borrow's single-minded devotion all the more, that 
the natural man delighted in good and substantial 
cheer. The round of beef that Lavengro dined on at 
the Western coaching inn will live with the leg of 
mutton and mealy potatoes of the Wiltshire farm 
painted by Richard Jefferies with the realistic pictur- 
esqueness of Rembrandt's joint in the Louvre. When 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



Lavengro praises the hedgehog encased in clay and 
baked in embers by the gipsies, we readily take his 
word that the plat was delicious. We can see him 
now smacking his lips over the salmis of thyme-fed 
rabbits, over which he gloats with gusto, when a table 
was spread unexpectedly for him in famine-stricken 
Portugal. But in the matter of venison his feelings 
hurry him away, and he soars from his nervous prose 
into sublime poetry. It is in the interview with the 
sporting county justice, on the day of the prize-fight, 
when his respectable Norfolk acquaintance, Thurtell, 
subsequently hanged for the Elstree murder, is backing 
the bruiser with the flattened nose. The worthy 
magistrate is giving the aspirations of his friend, the 
scholarly Whiter : 

Oh, give me the haunch of a buck to cut, and to drink 

Madeira old 

And a gentle wife to rest with and in my arms to fold, 
An Arabic book to study ; a Norfolk cob to ride, &c. 

And we ask if there can be a more enchanting 
picture of the life of a refined and virtuous man who 
proves his gratitude for heaven's best gifts by enjoying 
them heartily ? 

Venison was of course the staple dish at the great 
mediaeval banquets arranged on a scale of lavish 
profusion. Fortunately no meat keeps so w T ell or so 



3 04 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



long with ordinary care, for the deer must have been 
sent in from many a distant forest and chase to 
furnish out those sumptuous boards. The great house 
of Neville had manors in most of the English counties. 
At the installation of George, the youngest brother of 
the Kingmaker, as Archbishop of York, all the world 
of the Court society was bidden to the feasting. 
Upwards of 500 ' stagges, bucks, and roes ' were 
served entire, and 4,000 cold pasties of venison figured 
on the bill of fare. At many a coronation banquet 
the menu was nearly as magnificent, as we gather 
from ' The Noble Book of Cookery,' reprinted from a 
rare manuscript in the Holkham collection, and edited 
by Mrs. Napier. The guests brought Gargantuan 
appetites to those feasts, and the caterers went in 
for show and quantity rather than quality. We can 
imagine the amount of pains which could be spared 
on the dressing and the serving when half a thousand 
deer were turning simultaneously on the spits. Ex- 
ceptional attention may have been paid to the bucks 
that were destined for the upper tables. They ap- 
peared in what we should now consider barbaric 
company. There were peacocks displaying their 
gorgeous trains the oldest and toughest of the cocks ; 
there were swans in their snowy plumage, selected for 
size and splendour ; there were even the eagles we 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 305 



should now condemn as carrion, and which in all 
human probability may have been centenarians ; and 
the head and chine of the savage boar which took 
precedence of the deer may have belonged to a brute 
who had been the terror of generations and ravaged 
the woodlands in defiance of the rangers. In those 
days, and with such impracticable materials, the chief 
carver and his aides-de-cour had no sinecures. The 
rather that the fork had not been invented. They 
grappled the beast or bird with one hand, breaking it 
up with the other by the way, ' breaking ' was the 
technical expression for carving the deer. Indeed 
the technicalities of carving were systematised as a 
philological fine art, with phrases assigned to each 
separate species, from the breaking of the deer to the 
' unlacing ' of the coney. 

Those ancestors of ours must have been men of 
heroic mould and iron stomachs. They breakfasted, 
with their ladies, on salt beef and beer, they spiced 
their wines into infernal decoctions, and when the 
cuisine went beyond plain roasting and boiling, the 
good meat was bedevilled by incompetent cooks. 
Some of the recipes in ' The Noble Boke of Cookery ' 
are curious, but we can recommend few conscien- 
tiously for modern imitation. That for the ' rosting ' 
of venison when the deer was not served entire 

x 



306 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

directs you to cut the meat into slices, spit them 
and powder with salt and ginger. The ' side of high 
grease ' is to be mangled in similar fashion ; but as if 
the scorched slices had not suffered sufficiently, they 
are to be subsequently boiled in red wine. Nothing 
could well have been more ingeniously devised to 
get rid of the fat and let those juices evaporate which 
it is the aspiration of modern cookery to retain. The 
recipe might pass well enough for making kabobs 
in an Eastern desert ; but the Orientals have the 
excuse of a scarcity of fuel. For a ' mortice of 
flesche,' you are to pound up the venison with flesh 
of hens, and seethe it and thicken with bread crumbs 
and colour with saffron and boil again, and thicken 
again with yoke of eggs and then send -up the 
suspicious mess. But to do those ingenious medi- 
aeval artists bare justice, they let no part of the 
animal be wasted. The liver and kidneys, we admit, 
are excellent, and black puddings of the venison are 
not to be despised. But the Umbles or Numbles, 
which were much in favour, simply meant the entrails 
in general. 

' To make numbles tak hert middrif and kidney 
and hew them smalle and prise out the blood and 
sethe them in water and ale and colour it with brown 
bred or with blod and fors it with canell and galin- 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 307 

galte and when it boilithe kole it a litille with ale and 
serve it.' 

In the dish made of those modest materials, we 
have the obvious origin of our humble pie. And in 
those times of enforced economy and rough living, 
the deer like the bullock went into the salting trough, 
and was toughened for winter consumption in a strong 
solution of brine. 

There has been a long-standing controversy as to 
the comparative merits of haunches of hill mutton 
and haunches of venison. Christopher North, who 
professed himself a connoisseur in good living, 
pronounces dogmatically, more suo : ' Try a gigot 
of five-year-old blackfaced,' he says, ' with the veni- 
son, by alternate platefuls, and you will invariably 
leave off after the venison.' But our faith in Chris- 
topher was considerably shaken by some previous 
remarks on a Tay salmon. Conceive a man of taste 
and feeling committing sacrilege on the crimping and 
the curd by calling on the waiter to bring the casters, 
and blending vinegar, ketchup, and cayenne, with 
what ? with peas and potatoes. For the only sauce 
for that noble fish was the water in which he had been 
boiled. We attach greater importance to the dis- 
cussion of the epicures in 'Meg Dods,' although 
there the dispute was left practically open. Jekyl 

X2 



308 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



declares that the fat buck from a southern park is 
fitting food for heroes and princes. Meg sniffs in- 
dignantly at his southland fancies, and holds for the 
deer of her native hills. Whereas the Indian nabob, 
' stiff in opinions,' like Buckingham, pronounces : 
' For my own private eating a leg of five-year-old heath 
wether mutton before all the venison in the world.' 
In sober truth, it is a case of the two sides of the 
shield. All depends on the sex, age, condition, 
feeding and breeding of the deer. Hence the im- 
portance of buying your venison from a salesman 
who has a reputation at stake and whose word may 
be implicitly trusted. The ideal red deer for table 
purposes is a young yeld or barren hind, in prime 
condition from favourable pasturage. Not a few of 
the forests are overstocked : in some the grazing 
and the shelter of the ruminating ground are ex- 
ceptionally good, while others, like the South Downs, 
or the glens of western Scotland, have herbs and 
grasses which give an unapproachable flavour to the 
flesh. So, naturally, there is a still wider difference 
between the fallow deer in enclosed parks. It stands 
to reason that an animal fattened simply on rich 
meadow grass, though he may run heavy and lay 
on a superabundance of fat, must be inferior to his 
cousins of the uplands, bred on the slopes of the 



THE COOKERY 01-' VENISON 309 



CheCiots, or on the Welsh marches, where the heather 
is shooting up among the bracken and the air in the 
warm spring season is fragrant with the balmy thyme. 
The best fallow venison we ever tasted came of deer 
escaped from a fenceless park, who had been ranging 
free for several generations through woodlands and 
sheep pastures skirted by cornfields. 

As for the roe, he deserves far more respect than 
is paid to him. We have heard what the Baron of 
Bradwardine had to say on the subject, and it is true 
that he is never altogether out of season ; but both 
buck and doe are at their best in the height of summer, 
before the rut. For some reason, that is specially 
noticeable in the well-conditioned denizens of the 
German woods. In a Scottish shooting box the roe 
always comes in conveniently for soup or pasty, stew 
or ; fry ; ' but he is more appreciated in Germany, and 
pour cause. His is the only venison generally pro- 
curable. He swarms in the woods and is always 
super-excellent, for he feeds in the meadows by 
meandering brooks, and takes free toll of the crops 
with impunity. We know nothing much better than 
a tender rehriicke or saddle, served with an artistic 
sauce piquante. By the way, that is one of the 
best dishes in the menus of the Cologne hotels, 
although too often it is injured by inadequate hanging. 



310 THE COOKERY OF /VENISON 

Only last year we luxuriated in an exquisite rehriicke 
at one of the best managed of these caravanserais. 
The meat had been hung a point, and the cooking 
approached perfection, so much so that we were 
effusive in commendation. The head waiter re- 
marked complacently that the foresters brought the 
roe fresh every day, as if they were trout from the 
Eifel, or salmon from the Rhine, and should pass at a 
bound from the glade to the platter. So no one, of 
course, can have tasted venison to advantage in hot 
climates, for there you must choose between tough- 
ness and putrefaction. But such abuses in the cooler 
latitudes of North Germany, and in a kitchen pre- 
sided over by a chef of pretensions, are unpardonable 
sins of negligence or ignorance. We may add that 
the tourist on the Rhine may do worse than wash 
down the rehriicke with Liebfraumilch or Rauen- 
thaler. 

Serving the venison is a matter of no little con- 
sequence, for the fat has the unfortunate defect of 
congealing with extraordinary celerity. As a rule, 
eating off gold or silver plate is one of the penalties of 
ostentatious magnificence, with which the gourmand 
would willingly dispense. There must always be an 
unpleasant arriere-pensee of plate-powder lurking in 
the chasings and stray corners. I'.ut with venison, in 



THE COOKERY OF VENJSON 311 

a small and select company, silver, or the humblei 
pewter, with spirit lamps beneath, may be used with 
great advantage. Always sensitive to the fleeting 
nature of earthly pleasures, the bitter lesson is never 
more forcibly brought home to the epicure than when 
the venison fat and gravy are congealing visibly on 
china before his eyes. The evanescent joy eludes 
him unless he bolt the delicacies American fashion, 
which is fatal to his hopes, obnoxious to his prin- 
ciples, and attended by indigestion, dyspepsia and 
remorse. 

Carving is to the full as important as serving, 
though now it is generally done at the side table, and 
beyond the control of a capable Amphitryon. More 
is the pity, for much depends upon it, so far as veni- 
son is concerned in especial. Meg Dods gives 
excellent directions and suggests mapping out a chart 
with cloves for the guidance of the inexperienced. 
Incisions should be made longitudinally and cross- 
ways, the slices should be somewhat thin and cut 
lengthways, the more delicate lying to the left, when the 
joint is turned endways to the carver. But carving the 
haunch was always an embarrassing piece of business, 
and likely to breed envy and malice. The carver, 
in an excess of the charity which begins at home, 
was suspected of looking after himself, of making 



312 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



invidious reservations and smuggling away choice 
morsels. He was supposed to act on Mr. Lowton's 
maxim in ' Pickwick : ' ' Friendship is all very well, but 
d n hurting yourself for anybody else.' More- 
over when he was careless or incompetent, the guests 
first served were sure to come best off. Perhaps, 
when the party is small, and the plates are set on 
spirit lamps, the fairest course would be that adopted 
by Mr. Moulder in ' Orley Farm,' when distributing 
his Christmas turkey. Mr. Moulder divided breast, 
liver, stuffing, &c., into as many portions as there 
were guests, and then dealt them out with judicial 
impartiality. So would only unimpeachable justice 
be done, and those heartburnings which play the 
mischief with the palate would be avoided. 

Before railways had run the coaches off the road, 
the Scotch forests were far removed from southern 
dinner tables. But, by a beneficent arrangement of 
Providence, venison may be kept with due care for a 
fortnight or even three weeks. When it has been 
hung in the larder the precautions are simple, 
though close attention is needful. Cut out the pipe 
running along the backbone, which is likely to taint, 
and wipe away the mould which gathers on the surface 
and in the folds of the meat. You may dust from 
time to time with flour or pepper or pounded ginger. 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 313 



When the haunch is to be dressed, sponge the surface 
with lukewarm water, and rub it with butter and lard. 
Cover with sheets of paper, well buttered or steeped 
in salad oil, and over that lay a paste of flour and uatL-r 
half an inch thick. Swathe with strong paper again, 
secure with greased string, and drench the whole in 
melted butter to prevent the paper from catching fire. 
Baste incessantly before a strong, clear fire, using a 
cradle spit ; the time depending of course on the size 
of the haunch. A large joint may need at least five- 
hours. Half an hour before it ought to be done, 
remove the swathings and test with a skewer. Then 
reduce the fire, and baste every few minutes with 
claret and butter. Celerity in sending from the fire to 
the table is everything, and the brown gravy poured 
over the meat should be as hot as the dish on which it 
is served. The recipes for the gravy are various, 
although all suggest similar ingredients. A very good 
one is a pound of currant jelly, a gill of port, and the 
rind of a lemon with a flavouring of cinnamon. Other 
experts substitute claret for port - which we think a 
mistake and suggest the addition of cloves and nut- 
megs, cinnamon and cayenne. These details must be 
matters of taste or fancy. Mistress Meg Dods, as 
usual, is somewhat more original. She tells us that the 
sauces most relished by the Cleikum Club were, first, 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



a glass of claret with three times the quantity of veni- 
son or mutton gravy, and a small glassful of raspberry 
vinegar ; or, second, a plain piquant sauce of white wine 
vinegar and white sugar, heated in a stone jar. 

Meg Dods has an alternative recipe, taken from 
the notebooks of old Mr. Winterblossom, who declared 
it had been handed down from the kitchens of Mary 
of Guise. There is internal evidence of that, for it 
smacks of the dark ages. We should be sorry to 
recommend it, for it seems an excellent way of de- 
stroying the essential savour. Nevertheless it may be 
given briefly as a curiosity. Season the haunch by 
rubbing it with mixed spices. Soak and baste for 
six hours with claret and vinegar. Strain the liquor, 
mix with butter, and baste the haunch all the time 
it is roasting. The sauce is the contents of the drip- 
ping pan, with ketchup added, or highly flavoured 
vinegar. 

A roasted neck may rival the haunch, or it may 
be cut up and served as cutlets. Trim the cutlets ; 
season them with pepper. Dip each separately in 
melted butter, dust with flour, sprinkle with beaten 
egg and roll in bread crumbs. Fry in hot lard for 
ten minutes ; then lay the cutlets in a dish covered 
with paper. Let them simmer before the lire for a 



THE COOKERV OF VENISON 315 

few minutes to evaporate the grease, and serve with 
financ&re sauce. 

For haricot cut the cutlets somewhat thick, or 
slice squares of a couple of inches or so from the 
shoulder. Brown with butter in a stewpan over a 
bright fire, then drain off the grease and sprinkle 
flour. Flood the meat in stock, season with salt and 
pepper, and stir till it boils. Scoop the pink of a few 
delk ate carrots, and boil for half an hour. Boil some 
small balls of turnip for half the time. Strain the 
vegetables, and add port or claret with red currant jelly. 

Venison collops are a Scottish version of the 
English cutlets, and it is an excellent dish when 
you bring a Highland appetite to it. But perhaps the 
same objection generally applies as to Mary of 
Guise's haunch that it is inartistically over-seasoned. 
The directions are, to season the cutlets highly with 
mixed spices, having previously marinaded them in 
claret, vinegar, and spice. After being browned in 
the stewpan, a sauce is then poured over them, which 
has been slowly heated in a close-covered pan. Its 
ingredients are a quarter-pint of strong brown gravy, 
as much claret or port, grated sugar, bread crumbs, 
and a glass of white wine vinegar. Capital these 
collops may be, as we have often proved. P.ut so 



316 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 

have we seen an old goat marinaded, when meant to 
do duty for chamois in the hostelries of the Alps. 

The collops, like a civet, come in usefully when 
the deer has been long hung and perhaps overhung. 
The civet of fresh venison is sure to be tough and 
indigestible. Because, for the civet, steaks are to be 
cut from shoulder or breast, although sometimes it is 
made of chops which come from the back ribs. As 
the meat is likely to be lean, fry some bacon in butter, 
and when melted drain off most of the liquid. Brown 
the steaks in the liquor, mixing with wine and soup 
stock. Add vegetables and savoury herbs at discretion 
onions and mushrooms are specially recommended. 

Roedeer, by the way, makes an excellent civet ; 
it used to be a specialite at the sylvan Restaurant 
Henri Quatre at St. Germains-en-laye. 

Historically and gastronomically the pasty ranks 
next to the haunch. It is economical, too, for any- 
thing may be used for it, although the breast is gene- 
rally preferred. Cut the pieces small, trimming away 
bone and skin. Bones and unconsidered trimmings 
make excellent gravy. Distribute impartially the fat 
and the lean ; if the fat fall short, as is probable, 
supplement with good mutton, season with pepper, 
c., pour in the gravy, with the indispensable addi- 
tions of red wine and white vinegar ; do not forget to 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 317 



add mushrooms, if procurable, and failing these, shred 
in a few onions. A squeeze of a lemon gives zest to 
the dish, and, as Bailie Jarvie's father, the Deacon, 
said of a boiled tup's head, an overdone pasty is rank 
poison. An hour and a half of baking in the oven 
should suffice for a moderate-sized dish. In any 
case, underdoing is a fault on the right side which 
can easily be rectified. N.B. In the opinion of 
most competent judges a pasty slightly underdone is 
decidedly better cold than hot. 

The shoulder is often too lean to roast, and is 
generally somewhat dry. It is sold reasonably 
enough in the market to be well within the reach 
of modest purses. But with simple treatment and 
small expenditure in spices which in this case may be 
judiciously used in moderation it makes an admirable 
stew, and, as -Mr. Micawber remarked of the devil 
of underdone mutton, there are few better comestibles 
in its way. Keep the shoulder till it bones easily. 
Flatten and cover with slices of fat mutton. Sprinkle 
with spices and roll it up. Stew in a close pan in 
beef or mutton gravy, and when nearly ready for 
dishing, add some wine, or, if strict economy be a 
consideration, we suggest that ale may serve. 

In our opinion there is not much to be said for 
soup of venison, pure and simple. It is made like 



3iS THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



similar soups, and has not the rich flavour of the 
Scottish puree dc licvre, with its copious infusion of the 
fresh blood. But venison plays a leading part in the 
potage a la Meg Merrilies, for which we are indebted, 
as Lockhart tells us, to the genius of the Duke of 
Buccleuch's accomplished chef, M. Florence, an ex- 
officer of the Grand Army, who devised it as a graceful 
compliment to the author of ' Guy Mannering.' You 
may use with the venison the shin of beef or the 
scrag of mutton. Boil with carrot and turnip, parsley, 
and peppercorns. Throw in anything you please in 
the way of winged game, from muirfowl or snipe to 
partridge or pheasant. Carve the birds in delicate 
pieces and season with spices. Put the game to 
the strained stock, with small onions, sliced celery 
and sections of white cabbage, and let the vege- 
tables simmer for half an hour before the game is 
added. Wine to taste, as previously, though that 
was no part of the savoury mess which gladdened 
the soul of Dominie Sampson in the Kaim of Dern- 
cleugh. 

We had almost forgotten the familiar hash, the 
secret of which and three-fourths of the savour are in 
the concoction of the gravy as already described. 
The meat and the gravy in the saucepan must be 
shaken frequently, and suffered to simmer slowly. 



THE COOKERY OF VENISON 319 

Here, too, mutton fat should be added to supplement 
deficiencies, and there can be no question that 
French beans are the vegetable to eat with the hash, 
though it might puzzle the physiologiste de gout to 
assign any such satisfactory reason as invariably 
associates beans with bacon. Finally, as everything 
may be turned to profit in this inestimable animal, 
the liver makes an excellent fry for breakfast ; and 
a roasted heart is not to be despised, when nothing 
better may be had. Soak the heart for several hours ; 
wash away the blood, and dry it well. Stuff with veal 
stuffing, sew it up, rub with butter, cover with flour 
and water, and wrap in paper tied in with string. 
Roast and baste for a couple of hours before a clear 
fire. Remove paper and paste fifteen minutes before 
it is done ; dredge with flour, and baste again with 
melted butter. Serve with sauce and currant jelly, 
and see that it is sent to table hot as the nobler 
haunch. 

We have said our say elsewhere against the 
practice of mixing wines at dinner, and serving 
various vintages, however rich and rare, with the 
several courses. We said it was a sound rule to stick 
to champagne, nor have we anything to retract. 
But no rule is without its exceptions, and we are 
bound to admit an exception in the case of venison. 



320 THE COOKERY OF VENISON 



For with venison Burgundy goes as naturally as iced 
punch with the turtle, and with far more obvious 
reason. The bouquet of the one and the savour of 
the other were evidently predestined to make a 
happy love match. 



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