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THE LAST STAG OF THE SEASON
BY THE REV. H. A. MACPHERSON
DEE R - S TALKING
BY CAMERON OF LOCHIEL
BY VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
BY ALEXANDER INNES SHAND
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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
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.
.\ATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER
BY THE REV H. A. MACPHKKSUN
I. THE RED DEER'S HOME . ... 3
II. THK RED DEER'S LIFE . . . . . . 26
III. ECHOES OK THE ("HASH 45
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
BY THE VlSCOCNT EuRINGTON
I. IN DAYS OK YORE ....... 197
II. F.N FKANVK. ....... 208
III. IN DE\I>N AND SUMKKM.I . . . . 215
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)
T. CHARLTON AND A. THORRUKN
(Reproduced by the Su'an Electric Engraving Company}
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
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
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
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
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
20 NATURAL HISTORY OF THE RED DEER
gracing the meet' ('The Cumberland Foxhounds,'
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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-
ECHOES OF 7'HE CHASE 45
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
' 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
CAMERON OF LOCHIEL
' 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
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
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
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
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-
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
But for the deer-stalker, if he is not driven home
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
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
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 !
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
THE PRACTICE OF DEER-STALKING 131
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
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
Then again, as regards clothes. One often reads
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
I 4 6 DEER-STALKING
what it might, we would try to get him a shot
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
1 62 DEER-STALKING
after such an experience, so I limped as best I could
for the remainder of the distance, and reached home
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
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
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
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-
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
SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL ASPECTS 169
DEER FORESTS : THEIR SOCIAL AND ECONOMICAL
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-
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
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
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,
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
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
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-
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.
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
THE VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
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 ;
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 :
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 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( ^
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
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
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.
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
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,
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.
own experience, which I cannot forbear quoting in
' 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-
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
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-
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
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.'
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
as successive woodcocks resort year after year to the
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
I have known many a good run that did not begin
1 August 21, 1885.
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
7HE CHASE 235
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
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
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
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
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
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
It is of little or no use to ride at a deer and crack
your whip, but by galloping parallel to him, between
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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-
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 !
_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
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.
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
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
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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.
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
Dr. Clarke's deer
i to 2
and small brow
Br. upright Br. B. T i, near-
Upright or 3
Brow and up-
ly 2 feet long
Br. T. upright Br. B. T. 3 & 2
or 4 points
7 or 8 points
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
Br. B. T. 2,
Br. B. T. 3 & 2
Br. B. T. & 4 .
14 to 20
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
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
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
Date of first
Age at first
Appearance of head
Had 2 on top
Oct. 5, 1860
Br. T. 3 on each horn
May ii. 1860
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.
The same points as pre-
vious year, but heavier
Oct. 27, 1863
Jan. 4, 1872
Uprights, with no point.-
April 1 8, 1864
Sept. 30, 1870 Br. B. T. -5 on each horn
Oct. 30, 1866
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
.-' 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
Aug. 19, 1885
Br. T. 2 and 3. A fine
May j8, 1879
Aug. 28, 1876
Aug. 27, 1880
Br. B. T. 4 and 3
Dec. 2, 1876
Aug. 30, 1883
Br. B. T. 4 on each horn.
A splendid stag
Aug. 15, 1894
Br. T. 2 and 3. Beam
long, but very light
Dec. 13, 1877
Sept. 23, 1878
Br. T. 3 and 2
Aug. 31, 1881
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
March ->6, 1884
Calf . Oct. 8, 1890
Br. B. T. 3 Br. T. 2.
Horns rather light
Calf Sept. 21, 1895
Br. T. 2 on each horn,
with an offer for Bay
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
' 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
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
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-
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
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
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
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-
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
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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