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CHAPTER I

THE GUN AND THE CHARGE

In the whole realm of sport there is no matter so controversial as snipe shooting. Whoever the writer may be, and, unless he restricts himself to mere generalisations, whatever he may write, he will always find plenty of people who hold views other than his

Snipe shooting is a difficult subject. I must do my best from my own point of view, and, with the foreknowledge that a certain proportion of readers are sure to differ from me in details, console myself with the reflection that I shall but be in the same gallery as that occupied by other scribes who have

own,

gone before.

Let me first of all take into consideration the question of armament.

I have at times regularly used a 20-bore, a 16-bore, and a 12-bore on snipe (I have also killed snipe with

such extremes as a 410 and a 6) and have seen a good deal of the performance of small bores, for snipe shooting, in other hands; and the conviction I have had forced upon me is that an average shot will kill fifteen or twenty per cent. more birds with a 12-bore than with a 20-bore. Snipe shooting is a different thing from nearly every other kind of shooting. A first-class shot can walk up September partridges and kill nearly as large, never quite as large, a proportion of birds with a 20-bore as he would kill if shooting with a 12-bore. Such shooting is a matter of pure skill; if the gun is held right, the bird comes down. Snipe shooting is very often not a matter of pure skill; though the gun is held right, the bird may escape scot-free. The partridge does not twist; the snipe does twist; and it is this twisting habit of the latter bird that gives the 12-bore its great superiority over the 20-bore as a gun for snipe. Of those snipe which twist as the shot is fired, or the instant after the shot is fired, a large proportion are brought to earth by the larger killing circle of the 12-bore which the smaller killing circle of the 20-bore would leave untouched.

The 12-bore being a better gun to use for snipe shooting than a gun of any smaller gauge, let us now consider what patterns it is best that the

barrels should give. With choke boring a perfected art, we can command any pattern from the 120 or so (1š oz. No. 6, 30-in. circle, 40 yards range) of the cylinder to the 230 or so of the full choke: we can have anything between a barrel that will put upwards of five-sixths of the charge into the 30-in. circle at 40 yards and a barrel that will put less than half the charge into the circle.

In considering the choice of patterns for snipe shooting there are various points we have to weigh. The snipe is a very small bird and will often escape if the pattern is too open. If, on the other hand, the pattern is a close one, though the chances of killing the bird, it being assumed that the aim is correct, are greater than would be the case if the pattern were open, the bird is less likely to be within the killing circle of the close pattern than within that of the open one. As the result of considerable experience in snipe shooting, I am strongly in favour of having the right barrel an improved cylinder, pattern about 140, and the left barrel a full choke; and I believe that whether the gunner be a good shot, a bad shot, or an indifferent shot, he will do better work on snipe with such a gun than with any other. There are, however, many good snipe shots who prefer a gun both barrels of which throw a close pattern. “You

can always give a snipe law,' I have often heard it said, 'and if the birds are wild you will certainly do better with two choked barrels than you would if you had one barrel a cylinder.' This is not quite correct. In perfectly open country you can, of course, always give a bird law, but many of the best snipe grounds are not quite open country. The snipe has a most unhappy knack of placing some obstacle-a stunted blackthorn hanging over the streamlet or a pollard willow beside the dyke-between itself and the gunner, and it frequently happens that the favourite spots of snipe are just those very spots where such obstacles exist, and where only shots at short range can be had unless the gunner knows his ground well and flushes the birds while yet some distance away.

I call many such spots to mind, spots where a snipe may always be found when there are any birds at all in the district. One, for example, is a sharp bend in a small stream where stand three willows very close together. From whatever direction one approaches, the birds on rising from this spot will nearly always instantly place the willows between themselves and the gun and make good their escape. The only way to ensure a shot at fair range is to come to a standstill some distance away and throw a stone into the stream. When walking over country where obstacles of this

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