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Title: Fishing and Shooting Sketches
Author: Cleveland, Grover, 1837-1908
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fishing and Shooting Sketches" ***

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 Fishing and
 Shooting Sketches


 Illustrated by


 COPYRIGHT, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING CO.
 COPYRIGHT, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, BY THE INDEPENDENT.

 Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England.

 _All Rights Reserved._


 [Illustration: From Copyright Photo, by Pach.
                      Yours truly
                         Grover Cleveland]



 A DEFENSE OF FISHERMEN                            19
 THE SERENE DUCK HUNTER                            49
 SUMMER SHOOTING                                  139
 CONCERNING RABBIT SHOOTING                       153
 A WORD TO FISHERMEN                              165
 A DUCK HUNTING TRIP                              179
 QUAIL SHOOTING                                   197

The Mission of Sport and Outdoor Life

I am sure that it is not necessary for me, at this late day, to dwell
upon the fact that I am an enthusiast in my devotion to hunting and
fishing, as well as every other kind of outdoor recreation. I am so
proud of this devotion that, although my sporting proclivities have at
times subjected me to criticism and petty forms of persecution, I make
no claim that my steadfastness should be looked upon as manifesting the
courage of martyrdom. On the contrary, I regard these criticisms and
persecutions as nothing more serious than gnat stings suffered on the
bank of a stream--vexations to be borne with patience and afterward
easily submerged in the memory of abundant delightful accompaniments.
Thus, when short fishing excursions, in which I have sought relief
from the wearing labors and perplexities of official duty, have been
denounced in a mendacious newspaper as dishonest devices to cover
scandalous revelry, I have been able to enjoy a sort of pleasurable
contempt for the author of this accusation, while congratulating myself
on the mental and physical restoration I had derived from these
excursions. So, also, when people, more mistaken than malicious, have
wagged their heads in pitying fashion and deprecated my indulgence
in hunting and fishing frivolity, which, in high public service, I
have found it easy to lament the neglect of these amiable persons
to accumulate for their delectation a fund of charming sporting
reminiscence; while, at the same time, I sadly reflected how their
dispositions might have been sweetened and their lives made happier if
they had yielded something to the particular type of frivolity which
they deplored.

I hope it may not be amiss for me to supplement these personal
observations by the direct confession that, so far as my attachment to
outdoor sports may be considered a fault, I am, as related to this
especial predicament of guilt, utterly incorrigible and shameless. Not
many years ago, while residing in a non-sporting but delightfully
cultured and refined community, I found that considerable indignation
had been aroused among certain good neighbors and friends, because it
had been said of me that I was willing to associate in the field with
any loafer who was the owner of a dog and gun. I am sure that I did not
in the least undervalue the extreme friendliness of those inclined to
intervene in my defense; and yet, at the risk of doing an apparently
ungracious thing, I felt inexorably constrained to check their kindly
efforts by promptly conceding that the charge was too nearly true to be

There can be no doubt that certain men are endowed with a sort of
inherent and spontaneous instinct which leads them to hunting and
fishing indulgence as the most alluring and satisfying of all
recreations. In this view, I believe it may be safely said that the true
hunter or fisherman is born, not made. I believe, too, that those who
thus by instinct and birthright belong to the sporting fraternity and
are actuated by a genuine sporting spirit, are neither cruel, nor greedy
and wasteful of the game and fish they pursue; and I am convinced that
there can be no better conservators of the sensible and provident
protection of game and fish than those who are enthusiastic in their
pursuit, but who, at the same time, are regulated and restrained by the
sort of chivalric fairness and generosity, felt and recognized by every
true sportsman.

While it is most agreeable thus to consider hunting and fishing as
constituting, for those especially endowed for their enjoyment, the
most tempting of outdoor sports, it is easily apparent that there
is a practical value to these sports as well as all other outdoor
recreations, which rests upon a broader foundation. Though the
delightful and passionate love for outdoor sports and recreation is not
bestowed upon every one as a natural gift, they are so palpably related
to health and vigor, and so inseparably connected with the work of life
and comfort of existence, that it is happily ordained that a desire
or a willingness for their enjoyment may be cultivated to an extent
sufficient to meet the requirements of health and self-care. In other
words, all but the absolutely indifferent can be made to realize that
outdoor air and activity, intimacy with nature and acquaintanceship with
birds and animals and fish, are essential to physical and mental
strength, under the exactions of an unescapable decree.

Men may accumulate wealth in neglect of the law of recreation; but how
infinitely much they will forfeit, in the deprivation of wholesome
vigor, in the loss of the placid fitness for the quiet joys and
comforts of advancing years, and in the displacement of contented age by
the demon of querulous and premature decrepitude!

     "For the good God who loveth us
     He made and loveth all."

A Law not to Be Disobeyed

Men, in disobedience of this law, may achieve triumph in the world of
science, education and art; but how unsatisfying are the rewards thus
gained if they hasten the night when no man can work, and if the later
hours of life are haunted by futile regrets for what is still left
undone, that might have been done if there had been closer communion
with nature's visible forms!

In addition to the delight which outdoor recreations afford to those
instinctively in harmony with their enjoyment, and after a recognition
of the fact that a knowledge of their nerve- and muscle-saving
ministrations may be sensibly cultivated, there still remains another
large item that should be placed to their credit. Every individual, as a
unit in the scheme of civilized social life, owes to every man, woman
and child within such relationship an uninterrupted contribution to the
fund of enlivening and pleasurable social intercourse. None of us can
deny this obligation; and none of us can discharge it as we ought, if
our contributions are made in the questionable coin of sordidness and
nature's perversion. Our experience and observation supply abundant
proof that those who contribute most generously to the exhilaration and
charm of social intercourse will be found among the disciples of outdoor
recreation, who are in touch with nature and have thus kept fresh and
unperverted a simple love of humanity's best environment.

A Chance in the Open for All

It seems to me that thoughtful men should not be accused of exaggerated
fears when they deprecate the wealth-mad rush and struggle of American
life and the consequent neglect of outdoor recreation, with the
impairment of that mental and physical vigor absolutely essential to our
national welfare, and so abundantly promised to those who gratefully
recognize, in nature's adjustment to the wants of man, the care of "the
good God" who "made and loveth all."

Manifestly, if outdoor recreations are important to the individual and
to the nation, and if there is danger of their neglect, every
instrumentality should be heartily encouraged which aims to create and
stimulate their indulgence in every form.

Fortunately, the field is broad and furnishes a choice for all except
those wilfully at fault. The sky and sun above the head, the soil
beneath the feet, and outdoor air on every side are the indispensable

A Defense of Fishermen

By way of introduction and explanation, it should be said that there is
no intention at this time to deal with those who fish for a livelihood.
Those sturdy and hard-working people need no vindication or defense.
Our concern is with those who fish because they have an occult and
mysterious instinct which leads them to love it, because they court the
healthful, invigorating exertion it invites, and because its indulgence
brings them in close contact and communion with Nature's best and most
elevating manifestations. This sort of fishing is pleasure and not
work--sport and not money-grabbing. Therefore it is contemptuously
regarded in certain quarters as no better than a waste of time.

Generous fishermen cannot fail to look with pity upon the benighted
persons who have no better conception than this of the uses and
beneficent objects of rational diversion. In these sad and ominous days
of mad fortune-chasing, every patriotic, thoughtful citizen, whether he
fishes or not, should lament that we have not among our countrymen more
fishermen. There can be no doubt that the promise of industrial peace,
of contented labor and of healthful moderation in the pursuit of
wealth, in this democratic country of ours, would be infinitely improved
if a large share of the time which has been devoted to the concoction of
trust and business combinations, had been spent in fishing.

The narrow and ill-conditioned people who snarlingly count all fishermen
as belonging to the lazy and good-for-nothing class, and who take
satisfaction in describing an angler's outfit as a contrivance with a
hook at one end and a fool at the other, have been so thoroughly
discredited that no one could wish for their more irredeemable
submersion. Statesmen, judges, clergymen, lawyers and doctors, as well
as thousands of other outspoken members of the fishing fraternity, have
so effectively given the lie to these revilers of an honest and
conscientious brotherhood that a large majority have been glad to find
refuge in ignominious silence.

Notwithstanding this, weak, piping voices are still occasionally heard
accusing fishermen of certain shortcomings and faults. These are so
unsubstantial and unimportant that, as against the high place in the
world's esteem claimed by those who love to fish, they might well be
regarded as non-essentials, or, in a phrase of the day, as mere matters
of detail. But, although it may be true that these charges are on the
merits unworthy of notice, it cannot be expected that fishermen, proud
of the name, will be amiably willing to permit those making such
accusations the satisfaction of remaining unchallenged.

The Hangers-on of the Fraternity

At the outset, the fact should be recognized that the community of
fishermen constitute a separate class or a sub-race among the
inhabitants of the earth. It has sometimes been said that fishermen
cannot be manufactured. This is true to the extent that nothing can
supply the lack of certain inherent, constitutional and inborn qualities
or traits which are absolutely necessary to a fisherman's make-up. Of
course there are many who call themselves fishermen and who insist upon
their membership in the fraternity who have not in their veins a drop of
legitimate fisherman blood. Their self-asserted relationship is
nevertheless sometimes seized upon by malicious or ignorant critics as
permitting the assumption that the weaknesses and sins of these
pretenders are the weaknesses and sins of genuine fishermen; but in
truth these pretenders are only interlopers who have learned a little
fish language, who love to fish only "when they bite," who whine at bad
luck, who betray incredulity when they hear a rousing fish story, and
who do or leave undone many other things fatal to good and regular
standing. They are like certain whites called squaw-men, who hang about
Indian reservations, and gain certain advantages in the tribes by
marrying full-blooded Indian women. Surely no just person would for a
moment suppose that genuine Indians could be treated fairly by measuring
them according to a squaw-man standard. Neither can genuine fishermen be
fairly treated by judging them according to the standards presented by

In point of fact, full-blooded fishermen whose title is clear, and whose
natural qualifications are undisputed, have ideas, habits of thought and
mental tendencies so peculiarly and especially their own, and their
beliefs and code of ethics are so exclusively fitted to their needs and
surroundings, that an attempt on the part of strangers to speak or write
concerning the character or conduct of its approved membership savors of
impudent presumption. None but fishermen can properly deal with these
delicate matters.

What sense is there in the charge of laziness sometimes made against
true fishermen? Laziness has no place in the constitution of a man who
starts at sunrise and tramps all day with only a sandwich to eat,
floundering through bushes and briers and stumbling over rocks or wading
streams in pursuit of the elusive trout. Neither can a fisherman who,
with rod in hand, sits in a boat or on a bank all day be called
lazy--provided he attends to his fishing and is physically and mentally
alert in his occupation. This charge may perhaps be truthfully made
against squaw-fishermen who become easily discouraged, who "tire and
faint" early, and lie down under the shade to sleep, or go in swimming,
or who gaze about or read a book while their hooks rest baitless on the
bottom; but how false and unfair it is to accuse regular, full-blooded
fishermen of laziness, based on such performances as these! And yet this
is absurdly done by those who cannot tell a reel from a compass, and who
by way of familiarizing themselves with their topic leave their beds at
eight o'clock in the morning, ride to an office at ten, sit at a desk
until three or perhaps five, with an hour's interval for a hearty
luncheon, and go home in the proud belief that they have done an active,
hard day's work. Fishermen find no fault with what they do in their own
affairs, nor with their conception of work; but they do insist that
such people have no right to impute laziness to those who fish.

Why Fish Stories Should Be Believed

It is sometimes said that there is such close relationship between
mendacity and fishing, that in matters connected with their craft all
fishermen are untruthful. It must, of course, be admitted that large
stories of fishing adventure are sometimes told by fishermen--and why
should this not be so? Beyond all question there is no sphere of human
activity so full of strange and wonderful incidents as theirs. Fish are
constantly doing the most mysterious and startling things; and no one
has yet been wise enough to explain their ways or account for their
conduct. The best fishermen do not attempt it; they move and strive in
the atmosphere of mystery and uncertainty, constantly aiming to reach
results without a clue, and through the cultivation of faculties,
non-existent or inoperative in the common mind.

In these circumstances fishermen necessarily see and do wonderful
things. If those not members of the brotherhood are unable to assimilate
the recital of these wonders, it is because their believing apparatus
has not been properly regulated and stimulated. Such disability falls
very far short of justifying doubt as to the truth of the narration. The
things narrated have been seen and experienced with a fisherman's eyes
and perceptions. This is perfectly understood by listening fishermen;
and they, to their enjoyment and edification, are permitted by a
properly adjusted mental equipment to believe what they hear.

This faculty is one of the safest signs of full-blooded right to
membership. If incredulity is intimated by a professional member no
injustice will be done if he is at once put under suspicion as a
squaw-fisherman. As to non-members who accuse true fishermen of
falsehood, it is perfectly clear that they are utterly unfitted to deal
with the subject. The only theory fitting the condition leads to the
statement that any story of personal experience told by a fisherman is
to the fishing apprehension indubitably true; and that since disbelief
in other quarters is owing to the lack of this apprehension, the folly
of accusing fishermen of habitual untruthfulness is quite apparent.

The Taking of the Leviathan

The position thus taken by the brotherhood requires that they stand
solidly together in all circumstances. Tarpon fishing has added greatly
to our responsibilities. Even larger fish than these may, with the
extension of American possessions, fall within the treatment of American
fishermen. As in all past emergencies, we shall be found sufficient in
such future exigencies. All will go well if, without a pretense of
benevolent assimilation, we still fish as is our wont, and continue our
belief in all that our brethren declare they have done or can do. A few
thousand years ago the question was impressively asked, "Canst thou draw
out leviathan with a hook?" We must not falter, if, upon its repetition
in the future, a brother replies: "Yes, with a ten-ounce rod;" nor must
we be staggered even if another declares he has already landed one of
these monsters. If American institutions are found adequate to the new
tasks which Destiny has put upon them in the extension of our lands, the
American Chapter of the world's fishermen must not fail by their
time-honored methods and practices, and by such truthfulness as belongs
to the fraternity in the narration of fishing adventure, to subdue any
new difficulties presented by the extension of our waters.

Why the Biggest Fish Are Always Lost

Before leaving this branch of our subject, especial reference should be
made to one item more conspicuous, perhaps, than any other, among those
comprised in the general charge of fishermen's mendacity. It is
constantly said that they greatly exaggerate the size of the fish that
are lost. This accusation, though most frequently and flippantly made,
is in point of fact based upon the most absurd arrogance and a love of
slanderous assertion that passes understanding. These are harsh words;
but they are abundantly justified.

In the first place, all the presumptions are with the fisherman's
contention. It is perfectly plain that large fish are more apt to escape
than small ones. Of course their weight and activity, combined with the
increased trickiness and resourcefulness of age and experience, greatly
increase their ability to tear out the hook, and enhance the danger that
their antics will expose a fatal weakness in hook, leader, line or rod.
Another presumption which must be regretfully mentioned, arises from the
fact that in many cases the encounter with a large fish causes such
excitement, and such distraction or perversion of judgment, on the part
of the fisherman as leads him to do the wrong thing or fail to do the
right thing at the critical instant--thus actually and effectively
contributing to an escape which could not and would not have occurred
except in favor of a large fish.

Beyond these presumptions we have the deliberate and simple story of the
fisherman himself, giving with the utmost sincerity all the details of
his misfortune, and indicating the length of the fish he has lost, or
giving in pounds his exact weight. Now, why should this statement be
discredited? It is made by one who struggled with the escaped fish.
Perhaps he saw it. This, however, is not important, for he certainly
felt it on his rod, and he knows precisely how his rod behaves in the
emergency of every conceivable strain.

The Finny Hypnotist

All true fishermen who listen to his plain, unvarnished tale accept with
absolute faith the declared length and weight of the fish that was
almost caught; but with every presumption, besides positive statement,
against them, carping outsiders who cannot fish, and who love to accuse
fishermen of lying, are exposed in an attempt to originate or perpetuate
an envious and malicious libel.

The case of our fraternity on this point of absolute and exact
truthfulness is capable of such irrefragable demonstration that anything
in the way of confession and avoidance ought to be considered
inadmissible. And yet, simply for the sake of argument, or by way of
curious speculation, it may be interesting to intimate how a variation
of a few inches in the exact length or a few ounces in the exact weight
of a lost fish, as given by the loser, may be accounted for, without
meanly attributing to him intentional falsehood. The theory has been
recently started, that a trained hunting dog points a bird in the field
solely because the bird's scent creates a hypnotic influence on the dog,
which impels him by a sort of suggestion to direct his nose toward the
spot from which such scent emanates. If there is anything worth
considering in this theory, why may not a struggling fish at the end of
a line exert such a hypnotic influence on the intensely excited and
receptive nature at the other extremity of the fishing outfit, as to
suggest an arbitrary and independent statement of the dimensions of the

With the accusations already mentioned it would certainly seem that
the enmity of those who take pleasure in reviling fishermen and their
ways should be satisfied. They have not been content, however, in
the demonstration of their evil-mindedness without adding to their
indictment against the brotherhood the charge of profanity. Of course,
they have not the hardihood to allege that our profanity is of that
habitual and low sort which characterizes the coarse and ill-bred, who
offend all decent people by constantly interlarding their speech with
fearful and irrelevant oaths. They, nevertheless, find sufficient
excuse for their accusation in the sudden ejaculations, outwardly
resembling profanity, which are occasionally wrung from fishermen in
trying crises and in moments of soul-straining unkindness of Fate.

Now, this question of profanity is largely one of intention and
deliberation. The man who, intending what he says, coolly indulges in
imprecation, is guilty of an offense that admits of no excuse or
extenuation; but a fisherman can hardly be called profane who, when
overtaken without warning by disaster, and abruptly hurled from the
exhilarating heights of delightful anticipation to the depths of dire
disappointment, impulsively gives vent to his pent-up emotion by the
use of a word which, though found in the list of oaths, is spoken
without intentional imprecation, and because nothing else seems to
suit the occasion. It is by no means to be admitted that fishing tends
even to this semblance of profanity. On the contrary, it imposes a
self-restraint and patient forbearance upon its advanced devotees which
tend to prevent sudden outbursts of feeling.

It must in frankness be admitted, however, by fishermen of every degree,
that when the largest trout of the day, after a long struggle, winds
the leader about a snag and escapes, or when a large salmon or bass,
apparently fatigued to the point of non-resistance, suddenly, by an
unexpected and vicious leap, frees himself from the hook, the
fisherman's code of morals will not condemn beyond forgiveness the
holder of the straightened rod if he impulsively, but with all the
gentility at his command, exclaims: "Damn that fish!" It is probably
better not to speak at all; but if strong words are to be used, perhaps
these will serve as well as any that can do justice to the occasion.

Uncle Toby, overcome with tender sympathy, swore with an unctious,
rotund oath, that his sick friend should not die; and we are told that
"the accusing spirit which flew up to Heaven's chancery with the oath
blushed as he gave it in; and the recording angel as he wrote it down
dropped a tear upon the word and blotted it out forever."

The defense of the fishing fraternity which has been here attempted is
by no means as completely stated as it should be. Nor should the world
be allowed to overlook the admirable affirmative qualities which exist
among genuine members of the brotherhood, and the useful traits which an
indulgence in the gentle art cultivates and fosters. A recital of these,
with a description of the personal peculiarities found in the ranks of
fishermen, and the influence of these peculiarities on success or
failure, are necessary to a thorough vindication of those who worthily
illustrate the virtues of our clan.

The Serene Duck Hunter

In the estimation of many people, all those who for any purpose or in
any manner hunt ducks are grouped together and indiscriminately called
duck hunters. This is a very superficial way of dealing with an
important subject. In point of fact, the objects of duck shooting and
its methods of enjoyment are so various, and the disposition and
personal characteristics of those who engage in it present such strong
contrasts, that a recognition of their differences should suggest the
subdivision of this group into distinct and well-defined sections. Such
a subdivision would undoubtedly promote fairness and justice, and lead
to a better understanding of the general topic.

There are those whose only claim to a place among duck hunters is based
upon the fact that they shoot ducks for the market. No duck is safe from
their pursuit in any place, either by day or night. Not a particle of
sportsmanlike spirit enters into this pursuit, and the idea never enters
their minds that a duck has any rights that a hunter is bound to
respect. The killing they do amounts to bald assassination--to murder
for the sake of money. All fair-minded men must agree that duck
hunters of this sort should be segregated from all others and placed in
a section by themselves. They are the market shooters.

There are others claiming a place in the duck-hunting group, who, though
not so murderously inclined as the market shooters, have such peculiar
traits and such distinctive habits of thought and action, as abundantly
justify placing them also in a classification of their own. These are
the hunters who rarely miss a duck, but whose deadly aim affords them
gratification only in so far as it is a prelude to duck mortality, and
who are happy or discontented as their heap of dead is large or small.
They have smothered the keen delights of imagination which should be the
cheering concomitants of the most reputable grade of duck hunting, and
have surrendered its pleasures to actual results and the force of
external circumstances. Their stories of inordinate killing are
frequently heard, and often enliven the pages of sporting magazines.
There can be but little doubt that this contingent give unintentional
support to a popular belief, originating in the market shooters'
operations, that duck shooting is a relentlessly bloody affair. These
are the dead shots among duck hunters.

The Vindication of the Gentle Huntsmen

The danger that all those who essay to shoot ducks may, by the conduct
of these two classes, acquire a general and unmitigated reputation for
persistent slaughter, cannot be contemplated without sadness. It is
therefore not particularly reassuring to recall the fact that our
countrymen seem just now to be especially attracted by the recital of
incidents that involve killing,--whether it be the killing of men or any
other living thing.

It is quite probable that the aggregation of all duck hunters in one
general group cannot be at once remedied; and the expectation can hardly
be entertained that any sub-classification now proposed will gain the
acceptance and notoriety necessary for the immediate exoneration of
those included within this group who are not in the least responsible
for the sordid and sanguinary behavior of either the market shooter or
the dead shot. These innocent ones comprise an undoubted majority of all
duck hunters; and their common tastes and enjoyments, as well as their
identical conceptions of duty and obligation, have drawn them together
in delightful fraternity. By their moderate destruction of duck life
they so modify the killing done by those belonging to the classes
already described, that the aggregate, when distributed among the entire
body of duck hunters, is relieved from the appearance of bloodthirsty
carnage; and they in every way exert a wholesome influence in the
direction of securing a place for duck hunting among recreations which
are rational, exhilarating and only moderately fatal.

The Honorable Order of Serene Duck Hunters

It must be frankly confessed that the members of this fraternity cannot
claim the ability to kill ducks as often as is required by the highest
averages. This, however, does not in the least disturb their serenity.
Their compensations are ample. They are saved from the sordid and
hardening effects induced by habitual killing, and find pleasure in
the cultivation of the more delicate and elevating susceptibilities
which ducking environments should invite. Under the influence of
these susceptibilities there is developed a pleasing and innocent
self-deception, which induces the belief on the part of those with whom
it has lodgment, that both abundant shooting skill and a thorough
familiarity with all that pertains to the theory of duck hunting are
entirely in their possession and control. They are also led to the
stimulation of reciprocal credulity which seasons and makes digestible
tales of ducking adventure. Nor does bloody activity distract their
attention from their obligations to each other as members of their
especial brotherhood, or cause them to overlook the rule which requires
them to stand solidly together in the promotion and protection, at all
hazards, of the shooting reputation of every one of their associates.
These may well be called the Serene Duck Hunters.

All that has been thus far written may properly be regarded as merely an
introduction to a description, somewhat in detail, of the manner in
which these representatives of the best and most attractive type of duck
hunters enjoy their favorite recreation.

A common and easy illustration of their indulgence of the sentimental
enjoyments available to them is presented when members of the fraternity
in the comfortable surroundings of camp undertake the discussion of the
merits of guns and ammunition. The impressiveness with which guns are
put to the shoulder with a view of discovering how they "come up," the
comments on the length and "drop" of the different stocks, the solemn
look through the barrel from the opened breech, and the suggestion of
slight "pitting," are intensely interesting and gratifying to all

When these things are supplemented by an exchange of opinions concerning
ammunition, a large contribution is added to the entertainment of the
party. Such words as Schultz, Blue Ribbon, Dupont, Ballistite and Hazard
are rolled like sweet morsels under the tongue. Each of the company
declares his choice of powder and warmly defends its superiority, each
announces the number of drams that a ducking cartridge should contain,
and each declares his clear conviction touching the size of shot, and
the amount, in ounces and fractions of ounces, that should constitute an
effective load.

Undoubtedly the enjoyment supplied by such a discussion is keen and
exhilarating. That it has the advantage of ease and convenience in its
favor, is indicated by the fact that its effects are none the less real
and penetrating in the entire absence of any knowledge of the topics
discussed. To the serene duck hunter the pretense of knowledge or
information is sufficient. The important factors in the affair are that
each should have his turn, and should be attentively heard in his
exploitation of that which he thinks he knows.

There is nothing in all this that can furnish reasonable ground for
reproach or criticism. If under the sanction of harmless self-deception
and pretense this duck-hunting contingent, to whom duck killing is not
inevitably available, are content to look for enjoyment among the things
more or less intimately related to it, it is quite their own affair. At
any rate it is sufficient to say that they have joined the serene
brotherhood for their pastime, and that any outside dictation or
criticism of the mode in which they shall innocently enjoy their
privileges of membership savors of gross impertinence.

There comes a time, however, when the calm and easy enjoyments of
in-door comfort must give way to sterner activities, and when even the
serene duck hunter must face the discomfort of severe weather and the
responsibility of flying ducks. This exigency brings with it new
duties and new objects of endeavor; but the principles which are
characteristic of the fraternity are of universal application. Therefore
our serene duck hunter should go forth resolved to accomplish the best
results within his reach, but doubly resolved that in this new phase of
his enjoyment he will betray no ignorance of any detail, and that he
will fully avail himself of the rule unreservedly recognized in the
brotherhood, which permits him to claim that every duck at which his
gun is fired is hit--except in rare cases of conceded missing, when an
excuse should be always ready, absolutely excluding any suggestion of
bad shooting. And by way of showing his familiarity with the affair in
hand it is not at all amiss for him to give some directions as he
enters his blind as to the arrangement of the decoys.

How to Take Good and Bad Luck

It is quite likely that his first opportunity to shoot will be presented
when a single duck hovers over the decoys, and as it poises itself
offers as easy a target as if sitting on a fence. Our hunter's gun is
coolly and gracefully raised, and simultaneously with its discharge the
duck falls helplessly into the water. This is a situation that calls for
no word to be spoken. Merely a self-satisfied and an almost indifferent
expression of countenance should indicate that only the expected has
happened, and that duck killing is to be the order of the day.

Perhaps after a reasonable wait, another venturesome duck will enter
the zone of danger and pass with steady flight over the decoys easily
within shooting distance. Again the gun of our serene hunter gives
voice, summoning the bird to instant death. To an impartial observer,
however, such a course would not seem to be in accordance with the
duck's arrangements. This is plainly indicated by such an acceleration
of flight as would naturally follow the noise of the gun's discharge and
the whistling of the shot in the rear of the expected victim.

This is the moment when the man behind the gun should rise to the
occasion, and under the rule governing the case should without the least
delay or hesitation insist that the duck is hit. This may be done by the
use of one of several appropriate exclamations--all having the sanction
of precedent and long use. One which is quite clear and emphatic is to
the effect that the fleeing duck is "lead ballasted," another easily
understood is that it has "got a dose," and still another of no
uncertain meaning, that it is "full of shot." Whatever particular
formula is used, it should at once be followed by a decided command to
the guide in attendance to watch the disappearing bird and mark where it

The fact should be here mentioned that the complete enjoyment of this
proceeding depends largely upon the tact and intelligence of the guide.
If with these he has a due appreciation of his responsibility as an
adjunct to the sport, and is also in proper accord with his principal,
he will give ready support to the claim that the duck is mortally
wounded, at the same time shrewdly and with apparent depression
suggesting the improbability of recovering the slain.

If as the hours wear away this process becomes so monotonous as
to be fatiguing, a restful variety may be introduced by guardedly
acknowledging an occasional miss, and bringing into play the excuses and
explanations appropriate to such altered conditions. A very useful way
of accounting for a shot missed is by the suggestion that through a
slightly erroneous calculation of distance the duck was out of range
when the shot was fired. A very frequent and rather gratifying pretext
for avoiding chagrin in case of a long shot missed is found in the
claim that, though the sound of shot striking the bird is distinctly
heard, their penetration is ineffective. Sometimes failure is attributed
to the towering or turning of the duck at the instant of the gun's
discharge. It is at times useful to impute failure to the probability
that the particular cartridge used was stale and weak; and when all
these are inadmissible, the small size of the shot and the faulty
quality or quantity of powder they contain, may be made to do service;
and, in extreme cases, their entire construction as well as their
constructor may be roundly cursed as causes for a miscarriage of fatal

How True Duck Hunters Stand Together

When the ducks have ceased to fly for the day the serene duck hunter
returns to camp in a tranquil, satisfied frame of mind befitting his
fraternity membership. He has several ducks actually in hand, and he
has fully enjoyed the self-deception and pretense which have led him
to the belief that he has shot well. His few confessed misses are
all satisfactorily accounted for; and he is too well broken to the
vicissitudes of duck shooting, and too old a hunter, to be cast down
by the bad fortune which has thickly scattered, over distant waters
and marshes, his unrecovered dead.

When at the close of such a day a party of serene duck hunters are
gathered together, a common fund of adventure is made up. Each as he
contributes his share is entitled to add such embellishments of the
imagination as will make his recital most interesting to his associates
and gratifying to himself; and a law tacitly adopted but universally
recognized by the company binds them all to an unquestioning acceptance
of the truth of every narration. The successes of the day as well as its
incidents of hard luck, and every excuse and explanation in mitigation
of small returns of game, as they are rehearsed, create lively interest
and quiet enjoyment. The one thing that might be a discordant note would
be a hint or confession of downright and inexcusably bad shooting.

In this delightful assemblage of serene duck hunters there is no place
for envious feeling toward either the slaughtering market shooter or the
insatiable dead shot. They only seek, in their own mild and gentle way,
the indulgence of the pleasures which the less bloody phases of duck
hunting afford; and no censorious critic has the right to demand that
their enjoyment should be marred or diminished by the exactions of
veracity or self-abasement.

Reference has already been made to the scrupulous care of this
fraternity for the promotion and preservation, at all hazards, of the
shooting reputation of all the associates. This is a most important
duty. Indeed, it may be reasonably feared that any neglect or faltering
in its discharge would undermine the entire fabric of the serene
brotherhood's renown. The outside world should never gain from any of
its members the least hint that a weak spot has been developed in the
shooting ability of any of their number; and in giving an account of
hunting results it is quite within bounds for them to include in the
aggregate, not only the ducks actually killed and those reported killed,
but those probably killed and neither recovered nor reported. The fact
that such an aggregate has been reported by an associate should impart
to every member absolute verity, and each should make the statement his
own, to the displacement of all other knowledge. Such ready support of
each other's allegations and such entire self-abnegation are absolutely
necessary if the safety of the organization is to be insured, and if its
success and usefulness are to endure.

Thus the great body of serene duck hunters, who have associated together
for the promotion of high aims and purposes, pursue the even tenor of
their way. They do not clamor for noisy recognition or make cheap
exhibition of their virtues. They will, however, steadily and
unostentatiously persevere, both by precept and practice, in their
mission to make all duck hunters better and happier, and to mitigate the
harsh and bloody features of duck hunting.

The Mission of Fishing and Fishermen

It was quite a long time ago that a compelling sense of duty led me to
undertake the exoneration of a noble fraternity, of which I am an humble
member, from certain narrow-minded, if not malicious, accusations. The
title given to what was then written, "A Defense of Fishermen," was
precisely descriptive of its purpose. It was not easy, however, to keep
entirely within defensive limits; for the temptation was very strong and
constant to abandon negation and palliation for the more pleasing task
of commending to the admiration and affection of mankind in affirmative
terms both fishing and fishermen. A determination to attempt this at
another time, and thus supplement the matter then in hand, made
resistance to this temptation successful; but the contemplated
supplementation was then foreshadowed in the following terms:

    "The defense of the fishing fraternity which has been here attempted
    is by no means so completely stated as it should be. Nor should the
    world be allowed to overlook the admirable affirmative qualities
    which exist among genuine members of the brotherhood and the useful
    traits which the indulgence in the gentle art cultivates and
    fosters. A recital of these, with a description of the personal
    influence of these peculiarities found in the ranks of fishermen,
    and the influence of these peculiarities on success or failure, are
    necessary to a thorough vindication of those who worthily illustrate
    the virtues of our clan."

The execution of the design thus foreshadowed has until now been evaded
on account of the importance and delicacy of the undertaking and a
distrust of my ability to deal adequately with the subject. Though these
misgivings have not been overcome, my perplexity, as I enter upon the
work so long delayed, is somewhat relieved by the hope that true
fishermen will be tolerant, whatever may be the measure of my success,
and that all others concerned will be teachable and open-minded.

Lessons the Fisherman Learns from Nature

The plan I have laid out for the treatment of my topic leads me, first
of all, to speak of the manner in which the fishing habit operates upon
man's nature for its betterment; and afterward to deal with the
qualities of heart and disposition necessary to the maintenance of good
and regular standing in the fishing fraternity.

There is no man in the world capable of profitable thought who does not
know that the real worth and genuineness of the human heart are
measured by its readiness to submit to the influences of Nature, and to
appreciate the goodness of the Supreme Power who has made and beautified
Nature's abiding-place. In this domain, removed from the haunts of men
and far away from the noise and dust of their turmoil and strife, the
fishing that can fully delight the heart of the true fisherman is found;
and here in its enjoyment, those who fish are led, consciously or
unconsciously, to a quiet but distinct recognition of a power greater
than man's, and a goodness far above human standards. Amid such
surroundings and within such influences no true fisherman, whether
sensitively attuned to sublime suggestion, or of a coarser mold and
apparently intent only upon a successful catch, can fail to receive
impressions which so elevate the soul and soften the heart as to make
him a better man.

It is known of all men that one of the rudiments in the education of a
true fisherman is the lesson of patience. If he has a natural tendency
in this direction it must be cultivated. If such a tendency is lacking
he must acquire patience by hard schooling. This quality is so
indispensable in fishing circles that those who speak of a patient
fisherman waste their words. In point of fact, and properly speaking,
there can be no such thing as an impatient fisherman. It cannot,
therefore, be denied that in so far as fishing is a teacher of the
virtue of patience, it ought to be given a large item of credit in
reckoning its relation to the everyday affairs of life; for certainly
the potency of patience as a factor in all worldly achievements and
progress cannot be overestimated. If faith can move mountains, patience
and faith combined ought to move the universe.

Moreover, if those who fish must be patient, no one should fail to see
that patience is a most desirable national trait and that it is vastly
important to our body politic that there should continue among our
people a large contingent of well-equipped fishermen, constantly
prepared and willing to contribute to their country's fund of blessings
a liberal and pure supply of this saving virtue.

To those who are satisfied with a superficial view of the subject it may
seem impossible that the diligence and attention necessary to a
fisherman's success can leave him any opportunity, while fishing, to
thoughtfully contemplate any matter not related to his pursuit. Such a
conception of the situation cannot be indorsed for a moment by those of
us who are conversant with the mysterious and unaccountable mental
phenomena which fishing develops. We know that the true fisherman finds
no better time for profitable contemplation and mental exercise than
when actually engaged with his angling outfit. It will probably never be
possible for us to gather statistics showing the moving sermons, the
enchanting poems, the learned arguments and eloquent orations that have
been composed or constructed between the bites, strikes or rises of
fish; but there can be no doubt that of the many intellectual triumphs
won in every walk of life a larger proportion has been actually hooked
and landed with a rod and reel by those of the fishing fraternity than
have been secured in any one given condition of the non-fishing world.

This may appear to be a bold statement. It is intended as an assertion
that fishing and fishermen have had much to do with the enlightenment
and elevation of humanity. In support of this proposition volumes might
be written; but only a brief array of near-at-hand evidence will be here

Those who have been fortunate enough to hear the fervid eloquence of
Henry Ward Beecher, and even those who have only read what he has
written, cannot overlook his fishing propensity--so constantly manifest
that the things he said and wrote were fairly redolent of fishing
surroundings. His own specific confession of fealty was not needed to
entitle him to the credentials of a true fisherman, nor to disclose one
of the never-failing springs of his best inspiration. When these things
are recalled, and when we contemplate the lofty mission so well
performed by this noble angler, no member of our brotherhood can do
better in its vindication than to point to his career as proof of what
the fishing habit has done for humanity.

What Mashpee Waters Did for Webster

Daniel Webster, too, was a fisherman--always in good and regular
standing. In marshaling the proof which his great life furnishes of the
beneficence of the fishing propensity, I approach the task with a
feeling of awe quite natural to one who has slept in the room occupied
by the great Expounder during his fishing campaigns on Cape Cod and
along the shores of Mashpee Pond and its adjacent streams. This
distinguished member of our fraternity was an industrious and attentive
fisherman. He was, besides, a wonderful orator--and largely so because
he was a fisherman. He himself has confessed to the aid he received
from a fishing environment in the preparation of his best oratorical
efforts; and other irrefutable testimony to the same effect is at hand.

It is not deemed necessary to cite in proof of such aid more than a
single incident. Perhaps none of Mr. Webster's orations was more
notable, or added more to his lasting fame, than that delivered at the
laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument. And it will
probably be conceded that its most impressive and beautiful passage was
addressed to the survivors of the War of Independence then present,
beginning with the words, "Venerable men!" This thrilling oratorical
flight was composed and elaborated by Mr. Webster while wading waist
deep and casting his flies in Mashpee waters. He himself afterward
often referred to this circumstance; and one who was his companion on
this particular occasion has recorded the fact that, noticing
indications of laxity in fishing action on Mr. Webster's part, he
approached him, and that, in the exact words of this witness, "he seemed
to be gazing at the overhanging trees, and presently advancing one foot
and extending his right hand he commenced to speak, 'Venerable Men!'"

Mr. Webster's Remarks to a Fish

Though this should be enough to support conclusively the contention that
incidents of Mr. Webster's great achievements prove the close
relationship between fishing and the loftiest attainments of mankind,
this branch of our subject ought not to be dismissed without reference
to a conversation I once had with old John Attaquin, then a patriarch
among the few survivors of the Mashpee Indians. He had often been Mr.
Webster's guide and companion on his fishing trips and remembered
clearly many of their happenings. It was with a glow of love and
admiration amounting almost to worship that he related how this great
fisherman, after landing a large trout on the bank of the stream,
"talked mighty strong and fine to that fish and told him what a mistake
he had made, and what a fool he was to take that fly, and that he would
have been all right if he had let it alone." Who can doubt that patient
search would disclose, somewhere in Mr. Webster's speeches and
writings, the elaboration, with high intent, of that "mighty strong and
fine" talk addressed to the fish at Mashpee?

The impressive story of this simple, truthful old Indian was
delightfully continued when, with the enthusiasm of an untutored mind
remembering pleasant sensations, the narrator told how the great
fisherman and orator having concluded his "strong, fine talk," would
frequently suit the action to the word, when he turned to his guide and
proposed a fitting libation in recognition of his catch. This part of
the story is not here repeated on account of its superior value as an
addition to the evidence we have already gathered, but I am thus given
an opportunity to speak of the emotion which fascinated me as the story
proceeded, and as I recalled how precisely a certain souvenir called
"the Webster Flask," carefully hoarded among my valued possessions, was
fitted to the situation described.

Let it be distinctly understood that the claim is not here made that all
who fish can become as great as Henry Ward Beecher or Daniel Webster. It
is insisted, however, that fishing is a constructive force, capable of
adding to and developing the best there is in any man who fishes in a
proper spirit and among favorable surroundings. In other words, it is
claimed that upon the evidence adduced it is impossible to avoid the
conclusion that the fishing habit, by promoting close association with
Nature, by teaching patience, and by generating or stimulating useful
contemplation, tends directly to the increase of the intellectual power
of its votaries, and, through them, to the improvement of our national

In pursuance of the plan adopted for the presentation of our subject,
mention must now be made of the qualities of heart and disposition
absolutely essential to the maintenance of honorable membership in the
fishing fraternity. This mode of procedure is not only made necessary by
the exigencies of our scheme, but the brotherhood of fishermen would not
be satisfied if the exploitation of their service to humanity and their
value to the country should terminate with a recital of the usefulness
of their honorable pursuit. The record would be woefully incomplete if
reference were omitted to the relation of fishing to the moral
characteristics and qualities of heart, with which it is as vitally
connected as with the intellectual traits already mentioned.

No man can be a completely good fisherman unless within his piscatorial
sphere he is generous, sympathetic and honest. If he expects to enjoy
that hearty and unrestrained confidence of his brethren in the
fraternity which alone can make his membership a comfort and a delight,
he must be generous to the point of willingness to share his last
leaders and flies, or any other items of his outfit, with any worthy
fellow-fisherman who may be in need. The manifestation of littleness
and crowding selfishness often condoned in other quarters, and the
over-reaching conduct so generally permitted in business circles, are
unpardonable crimes in the true fisherman's code.

Of course, there is nothing to prevent those from fishing who wholly
disregard all rules of generosity, fairness and decency. Nor can we of
the brotherhood of true fishermen always shield ourselves from the
reproach to which we are subjected by those who steal our livery and
disgrace it by casting aside all manly liberality in their intercourse
with other fishermen and all considerate self-restraint in their
intercourse with fish. We constantly deprecate the existence of those
called by our name, in whose low conception of the subject, fishing is
but a greedy game, where selfishness and meanness are the winning cards,
and where the stakes are the indiscriminate and ruthless slaughter of
fish; and let it be here said, once for all, that with these we have
nothing to do except to condemn them as we pass. Our concern is with
true fishermen--a very different type of mankind--and with those who
_prima facie_ have some claim to the title.

How to Know a True Fisherman

No burdensome qualifications or tedious probation obstruct the entrance
to this fraternity; but skill and fishing ability count for nothing in
eligibility. The oldest and most experienced and skillful fisherman
will look with composure upon the vanishing chances of his catch through
the floundering efforts of an awkward beginner, if the awkward
flounderer has shown that he is sound at heart. He may not fish well,
but if he does not deliberately rush ahead of all companions to pre-empt
every promising place in the stream, nor everlastingly study to secure
for his use the best of the bait, nor always fail to return borrowed
tackle, nor prove to be blind, deaf and dumb when others are in tackle
need, nor crowd into another's place, nor draw his flask in secrecy, nor
light a cigar with no suggestion of another, nor do a score of other
indefinable mean things that among true fishermen constitute him an
unbearable nuisance, he will not only be tolerated but aided in every
possible way.

It is curious to observe how inevitably the brotherhood discovers
unworthiness. Even without an overt act it is detected--apparently by a
sort of instinct. In any event, and in spite of the most cunning
precautions, the sin of the unfit is sure to find them out; and no
excuse is allowed to avert unforgiving ostracism as its punishment.

A true fisherman is conservative, provident, not given to envy,
considerate of the rights of others, and careful of his good name. He
fishes many a day and returns at night to his home, hungry, tired and
disappointed; but he still has faith in his methods, and is not tempted
to try new and more deadly lures. On the contrary, he is willing in all
circumstances to give the fish the chance for life which a liberal
sporting disposition has determined to be their due; and he will bide
his time under old conditions. He will not indulge his fishing
propensity to the extent of the wanton destruction and waste of fish; he
will not envy the superior advantages of another in the indulgence of
the pastime he loves so well; he will never be known to poach upon the
preserves of a fortunate neighbor; and no one will be quicker or more
spirited than he in the defense of his fishing honor and character.

Truth as Defined by the Honorable Guild

This detailed recital of the necessary qualifications of good
fisherman-ship serves most importantly as the prelude of an invitation
for skeptics to observe the complete identity of these qualifications
with the factors necessary to good citizenship, and from thence to
concede a more ready recognition of the honorable place which should be
awarded to the fraternity among the agencies of our country's good.

In conclusion, and to the end that there should be no appearance of
timidity or lack of frankness, something should be said explanatory of
the degree and kind of truthfulness which an honorable standing in the
fishing fraternity exacts. Of course, the notion must not be for a
moment tolerated that deliberate, downright lying as to an essential
matter is permissible. It must be confessed, however, that unescapable
traditions and certain inexorable conditions of our brotherhood tend to
a modification of the standards of truthfulness which have been set up
in other quarters. Beyond doubt, our members should be as reliable in
statement as our traditions and full enjoyment of fraternity membership
will permit.

An attempt has been made to remedy the indefiniteness of this
requirement by insisting that no statement should be regarded as
sufficiently truthful for the fisherman's code that had not for
its foundation at least a belief of its correctness on the part
of the member making it. This was regarded as too much elasticity
in the quality of the belief required. The matter seems to have
been finally adjusted in a manner expressed in the motto: "In
essentials--truthfulness; in non-essentials--reciprocal latitude." If
it is objected that there may be great difficulty and perplexity in
determining what are essentials and what non-essentials under this rule,
it should be remembered that no human arrangements, especially those
involving morals and ethics, can be made to fit all emergencies.

In any event, great comfort is to be found in the absolute certainty
that the law of truthfulness will be so administered by the brotherhood
that no one will ever be permitted to suffer in mind, body or estate by
reason of fishermen's tales.

Some Fishing Pretenses and Affectations

I would not permit without a resentful protest an expression of doubt as
to my good and regular standing in the best and most respectable circle
of fishermen. I am as jealous as a man can be of the fair fame of the
fraternity; and I am unyielding in my insistence upon the exclusion of
the unworthy from its membership. I also accept without demur all the
traditions of the order, provided that they have been always in the
keeping of the faithful, and carefully protected against all
discrediting incidents. In addition to all this, my faculty of credence
has been so cultivated and strengthened that I yield without question
implicit and unquestioning belief to every fishing story--provided
always that it is told by a fisherman of good repute, and on his own
responsibility. This is especially a matter of loyalty and principle
with me, for I am not only convinced that the usefulness and perhaps the
perpetuity of the order of Free and Accepted Fishermen depends upon a
bland and trustful credulity in the intercourse of its members with each
other, but I have constantly in mind the golden rule of our craft, which
commands us to believe as we would be believed.

I have not made this profession of faith in a spirit of vainglorious
conceit, but by way of indicating the standpoint from which I shall
venture to comment on some weaknesses which afflict our brotherhood, and
as a reminder that the place I have earned among my associates should in
fairness and decency protect me from the least accusation of
censoriousness or purposeless faultfinding.

I do not propose to make charges of wickedness and wrong-doing, which
call for such radical corrective treatment as might imperil the peace
and brotherly love of our organization. It is rather my intention mildly
to criticise some affectations and pretenses which I believe have grown
out of overtraining among fishermen, or have resulted from too much
elaboration of method and refinement of theory.

These affectations and pretenses are, unfortunately, accompaniments of a
high grade of fishing skill; and in certain influential quarters they
are not only excused but openly and stoutly justified. I cannot,
therefore, expect my characterization of them as faults and weaknesses
to pass unchallenged; but I hope that in discharging the duty I have
undertaken I shall not incur the unfriendship of any considerable number
of my fishing brethren.

It has often occurred to me that the very noticeable and increasing
tendency toward effeminate attenuation and æsthetic standards among
anglers of an advanced type, is calculated to bring about a substitution
of scientific display with rod and reel for the plain, downright,
common-sense enjoyment of fishing. This would be a distinct and
lamentable loss, resulting in the elimination to a great extent of
individual initiative, and the disregard of the inherent distinction
between good and bad fishermen, as measured by natural aptitude and
practical results.

As in an organized commonwealth neither the highest nor the lowest
elements of its people constitute its best strength and reliance, so in
the fraternity of fishermen neither the lowest hangers-on and intruders,
nor the highest theorists who would make fishing a scientific exercise
instead of a manly, recreative pursuit, make up the supporting and
defensive power of the organization. It is the middle class in the
community of fishermen, those who fish sensibly and decently, though
they may be oblivious to the advantages of carrying fishing refinements
far beyond the exigencies of catching fish, upon whom we must depend for
the promotion and protection of the practical interests of the

It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that the zeal and enthusiasm
of this valuable section of our membership should not be imperiled by
subjecting them to the humiliating consciousness that their sterling
fishing qualities are held in only patronizing toleration by those in
the fraternity who gratuitously assume fictitious and unjustifiable

I shall attempt to locate the responsibility for the affectations and
pretenses I have mentioned, not only in vindication of our sincere and
well-intentioned rank and file, but for another reason, which concerns
the peace of mind and comfort of every member of the organization in his
relationship with the outside world. The fact that we are in a manner
separated from the common mass of mankind naturally arouses the
unfriendly jealousy of those beyond the pale of the brotherhood; and
fishing--the fundamental object and purpose of our union--is in many
quarters decried as an absurd exertion or a frivolous waste of time. In
such circumstances we cannot be charged with a surrender of independence
if we attempt by a frank statement to deprive these ill-natured critics
of all excuse for attacking our entire body on account of faults and
weaknesses for which only a small minority is responsible.

Bluntly stated, the affectations and pretenses which I have in mind, and
which in my opinion threaten to bring injury upon our noble pursuit,
grow out of the undue prominence and exaggerated superiority claimed for
fly-casting for trout. I hasten to say for myself and on behalf of all
well-conditioned fishermen that we are not inclined to disparage in the
least the delightful exhilaration of the sudden rise and strike, nor
the pleasurable exercise of skill and deft manipulation afforded by this
method of fishing. We have no desire to disturb by a discordant dissent
the extravagant praise awarded to the trout when he is called the
wariest of his tribe, "the speckled beauty," the aristocratic gentleman
among fish, and the most toothsome of his species. At the same time, we
of the unpretentious sort of fishermen are not obliged to forget that
often the trout will refuse to rise or strike and will wait on the
bottom for food like any plebeian fish, that he is frequently unwary and
stupid enough to be lured to his death by casts of the fly that are no
better than the most awkward flings, that notwithstanding his fine dress
and aristocratic bearing it is not unusual to find him in very low
company, that this gentleman among fish is a willing and shameless
cannibal, and that his toothsomeness, not extraordinary at best, is
probably more dependent than that of most fish upon his surroundings.

While our knowledge of these things does not exact from us an
independent protest against constantly repeated praise of the qualities
of trout and of fly-casting as a means of taking them, it perhaps
adds to the spirit and emphasis of our dissent when we are told
that fly-casting for trout is the only style of fishing worthy of
cultivation, and that no other method ought to be undertaken by a true
fisherman. This is one of the deplorable fishing affectations and
pretenses which the sensible rank and file of the fraternity ought
openly to expose and repudiate. Our irritation is greatly increased when
we recall the fact that every one of these super-refined fly-casting
dictators, when he fails to allure trout by his most scientific casts,
will chase grasshoppers to the point of profuse perspiration, and turn
over logs and stones with feverish anxiety in quest of worms and grubs,
if haply he can with these save himself from empty-handedness. Neither
his fine theories nor his exclusive faith in fly-casting so develops his
self-denying heroism that he will turn his back upon fat and lazy trout
that will not rise.

We hear a great deal about long casts and the wonderful skill they
require. To cast a fly well certainly demands dexterity and careful
practice. It is a matter of nice manipulation, and a slight variation in
execution is often apt to settle the question of success or failure in
results. It is, besides, the most showy of all fishing accomplishments,
and taken all together it is worth the best efforts and ambition of any
fisherman. Inasmuch, however, as the tremendously long casts we hear of
are merely exhibition performances and of but little if any practical
use in the actual taking of fish, their exploitation may be classed
among the rather harmless fishing affectations. There is a very
different degree of rankness in the claim sometimes made that an expert
caster can effectively send his fly on its distant mission by a motion
of his forearm alone, while all above the elbow is strapped to his side.
We take no risk in saying that such a thing was never done on a fishing
excursion, and that the proposition in all its aspects is the baldest
kind of a pretense.

As becomes a consistent member of the fraternity of fishermen, I have
carefully avoided unfriendly accusation in dealing with a branch of
fishing enthusiastically preferred by a considerable contingent of my
associates. If, in lamenting the faddishness that has grown up about it,
plain language has been used, I have nevertheless been as tolerant as
the situation permits. No attempt has been made to gain the applause of
pin-hook-and-sapling fishermen, nor to give the least comfort to those
who are fishermen only in their own conceit, and whose coarse-handed
awkwardness, even with the most approved tackle, leads them to be
incurably envious of all those who fish well.

It is not pleasant to criticise, even in a mild way, anything that
genuine fishermen may do--especially when their faults result from
over-zealous attachment to one of the most prominent and attractive
features of our craft's pursuit. It is, therefore, a relief to pass from
the field of criticism, and in the best of humor, to set against the
claim of exclusive merit made in behalf of fly-casting for trout the
delights and compensations of black-bass fishing. I am sure I shall
be seconded in this by a very large body of fishermen in the best of
standing. It is manifestly proper also to select for this competition
with trout casting a kind of fishing which presents a contrast in being
uninfluenced by any affectations or by a particle of manufactured and
fictitious inflation.

In speaking of black bass I am not dealing with the large-mouthed
variety that are found in both Northern and Southern waters, and which
grow in the latter to a very large size, but only with the small-mouthed
family inhabiting the streams or lakes and ponds of the North, and which
are large when they reach four pounds in weight. I consider these, when
found in natural and favorable surroundings, more uncertain, whimsical
and wary in biting, and more strong, resolute and resourceful when
hooked, than any other fish ordinarily caught in fresh waters. They will
in some localities and at certain seasons rise to a fly; but this cannot
be relied upon. They can sometimes also be taken by trolling; but this
is very often not successful, and is at best a second-class style of
fishing. On the whole it is best and most satisfactory to attempt their
capture by still fishing with bait.

To those with experience this will not suggest angling of a tame and
unruffled sort; and if those without experience have such an estimate of
it they are most decidedly reckoning without their host. As teachers of
patience in fishing, black bass are at the head of the list. They are
so whimsical that the angler never knows whether on a certain day they
will take small live fish, worms, frogs, crickets, grasshoppers,
crawfish or some other outlandish bait; and he soon learns that in the
most favorable conditions of wind and weather they will frequently
refuse to touch bait of any kind. In their intercourse with fishermen,
especially those in the early stages of proficiency, they are the most
aggravating and profanity-provoking animal that swims in fresh water.
Whether they will bite or not at any particular time we must freely
concede is exclusively their own affair; but having decided this
question against the fishermen, nothing but inherent and tantalizing
meanness can account for the manner in which a black bass will even then
rush for the bait, and after actually mouthing it will turn about and
insultingly whack it with his tail. An angler who has seen this
performance finds, in his desire to make things even with such
unmannerly wretches, a motive in addition to all others for a relentless
pursuit of the bass family.

Another and more encouraging stage in bass fishing is reached when
biting seems to be the order of the day. It must not be supposed,
however, that thereupon the angler's troubles and perplexities are over,
or that nothing stands in the way of an easy and satisfying catch.
Experience in this kind of fishing never fails to teach that it is one
thing to induce these cunning fellows to take the bait, and quite
another to accomplish their capture. It is absolutely necessary in this
stage of the proceedings that the deliberation and gingerly touch of the
fish be matched by the deliberation and care on the part of the
fisherman at the butt of the rod; and the strike on his part must not be
too much hastened, lest he fail to lodge his hook in a good holding
place. Even if he succeeds in well hooking his fish he cannot
confidently expect a certain capture. In point of fact the tension and
anxiety of the work in hand begins at that very instant.

Ordinarily when a bass is struck with the hook, if he is in surroundings
favorable to his activity, he at once enters upon a series of acrobatic
performances which, during their continuance, keep the fisherman in a
state of acute suspense. While he rushes away from and toward and around
and under the boat, and while he is leaping from the water and turning
somersaults with ugly shakes of his head, in efforts to dislodge the
hook, there is at the other end of the outfit a fisherman, tortured by
the fear of infirmity lurking somewhere in his tackle, and wrought to
the point of distress by the thought of a light hook hold in the fish's
jaw, and its liability to tear out in the struggle. If in the midst of
it all a sudden release of pull and a straightening of his rod give the
signal that the bass has won the battle, the vanquished angler has,
after a short period of bad behavior and language, the questionable
satisfaction of attempting to solve a forever unsolvable problem, by
studying how his defeat might have been avoided if he had managed

No such perplexing question, however, is presented to the bass fisherman
who lands his fish. He complacently regards his triumph as the natural
and expected result of steadiness and skill, and excludes from his
thoughts all shadow of doubt concerning the complete correctness of his
procedure in every detail.

My expressed design to place fishing for black bass with bait in
competition with fly-casting for trout will, I hope, be considered a
justification for the details I have given of bass fishing. It commends
itself in every feature to the sporting instincts of all genuine
anglers; and it is because I do not hope to altogether correct the
"Affectations and Pretenses of Fishing" that I have felt constrained to
rally those who should love angling for bass--to the end that at least a
good-natured division may be established within our fraternity between
an ornamental and pretense-breeding method and one which cultivates
skill, stimulates the best fishing traits, and remains untouched by any
form of affectation.

Summer Shooting

As a general rule our guns should be put away for a long rest before the
summer vacation. There is, however, one game situation which justifies
their use, and it is this situation which sometimes appropriately allows
a small-gauge gun to be placed beside the rod and reel in making up a
vacation outfit.

In July or August the summer migration from their breeding places in
the far North brings shore-birds and plover--both old and full-grown
young--along our Eastern coast, in first-rate condition. My experience
in shooting this game has all been within recent years, and almost
entirely in the marshes and along the shores of Cape Cod. Like other
members of the present generation and later comers in a limited field, I
have been obliged to hear with tiresome iteration the old, old story of
gray-haired men who tell of the "arms and the man" who in days gone by,
on this identical ground, have slain these birds by thousands. The
embellishment of these tales by all the incidents that mark the progress
of our people in game extermination I have accepted as furnishing an
explanation of the meager success of many of my excursions; but at the
same time my condemnation of the methods of the inconsiderate
slaughterers who preceded me has led to a consoling consciousness of my
own superior sporting virtues.

While I am willing to confess to considerable resentment against those
who in their shooting days were thoughtless enough to forget that I was
to come after them, it must by no means be understood that my gunning
for shore-birds has been discouraging. I have made some fair bags, and
any bag is large enough for me, providing I have lost no opportunities
and have shot well. Besides, I have never indulged in any shooting so
conducive to the stimulation and strengthening of the incomparable
virtue of patience. I have sat in a blind for five hours, by the
watch--and awake nearly all the time at that--without seeing or hearing
a bird worth shooting.

It is, however, neither the killing of birds nor the cultivation of
patience that has exacted my absolute submission to the fascination of
shore-bird shooting on Cape Cod. It is hard to explain this fascination,
but my notion is that it grows out of a conceited attempt to calculate
the direction of the wind and other weather conditions over-night, the
elaborate preparations for a daylight start, the uncertainties of the
pursuit under any conditions, the hope, amounting almost to expectation,
that notwithstanding this the wisdom and calculation expended in
determining upon the trip will be vindicated, the delightful early
morning drive to the grounds, the anticipation of a flight of birds
every moment while there, and the final sustaining expectation of their
arrival in any event just before night. The singular thing in my case
is that if all goes wrong at last, and even if under the influence of
fatigue and disappointment I resolve during the drive home in chill and
darkness that the trip will not be repeated for many a long day, it is
quite certain that within forty-eight hours I shall be again observing
the weather and guessing what the direction of the wind will be the next
morning, in contemplation of another start.

But some will say, how are the incidents of hope and expectation,
or of preparation and calculation, which are common to all sporting
excursions, made to account for this especial infatuation with
shore-bird shooting? I shall answer this question as well as I can by
suggesting that the difference is one of degree. In gunning for other
game one knows, or thinks he knows, where it is or ought to be. The wind
and weather, while not entirely ignored, usually have a subordinate
place in preliminary calculation, and the pleasures of hope and
expectation are kept within the limits of ability or luck in finding the
game. On the other hand, the shore-bird hunter knows not the abiding
place of his game. He knows that at times during certain summer months
these birds pass southward in their long migration, but he cannot know
whether they will keep far out at sea or will on some unknown day be
driven by wind and weather to the shore for temporary rest and feeding,
and thus give him his opportunity. Though the presence on marsh or shore
of a few bird stragglers may put him on his guard, it must still remain
a question whether the game in sufficient quantities to make good
shooting is hundreds or thousands of miles away or in the neighborhood
of the shooting grounds.

I believe the unusual contingencies of shore-bird shooting and the wider
scope they give for hope and expectation, together with the manifold
conditions which give abundant opportunity for self-conceit in
calculating probabilities, account for its quality of exceptional

The sportsman who persists is apt occasionally to find a good number of
birds about the grounds; and when that happens, if he is adequately
equipped with good decoys, and the right spirit, and especially if he is
able to call the birds, he will enjoy a variety of fine shooting. The
initiated well understand the importance of the call, and they know that
the best caller will get the most birds. The notes of shore-birds,
though quite dissimilar, are in most cases easily imitated after a
little practice, and a simply constructed contrivance which can be
purchased at almost any sporting goods store will answer for all the
game if properly used. The birds are usually heard before they are
seen, and if their notes are answered naturally and not too vehemently
or too often, they will soon be seen within shooting range, whether they
are Black-Breasted Plover, Chicken Plover, Yellow Legs, Piping Plover,
Curlew, Sanderlings or Grass Birds. Of course, no decent hunter allows
them to alight before he shoots.

I would not advise the summer vacationist who lacks the genuine sporting
spirit to pursue the shore-bird. Those who do so should not disgrace
themselves by killing the handsome little sand-pipers or peeps too small
to eat. It is better to go home with nothing killed than to feel the
weight of a mean, unsportsmanlike act.

Concerning Rabbit Shooting

Some hunters there are, of the super-refined and dudish sort, who deny
to the rabbit any position among legitimate game animals; and there are
others who, while grudgingly admitting rabbits to the list, seem to
think it necessary to excuse their concession by calling them hares. I
regard all this as pure affectation and nonsense. I deem it not beneath
my dignity and standing as a reputable gunner to write of the rabbit as
an entirely suitable member of the game community; and in doing so I am
not dealing with hares or any other thing except plain, little everyday
plebeian rabbits--sometimes appropriately called "cotton-tails."
Though they may be "defamed by every charlatan" among hunters of
self-constituted high degree, and despised by thousands who know nothing
of their game qualities, I am not ashamed of their pursuit; and I count
it by no means bad skill to force them by a successful shot to a
topsy-turvy pause when at their best speed.

These sly little fellows feed at night, and during the day they hide so
closely in grass or among rocks and brush that it is seldom they can
be seen when at rest. Of course, no decent man will shoot a rabbit while
sitting, and I have known them to refuse to start for anything less than
a kick or punch. When they do start, however, they demonstrate quite
clearly that they have kept their feet in the best possible position for
a spring and run. After such a start the rabbit must in fairness be
given an abundant chance to gain full headway, and when he has traversed
the necessary distance for this, and is at his fastest gait, the hunter
that shoots him has good reason to be satisfied with his marksmanship. I
once actually poked one up and he escaped unhurt, though four loads of
shot were sent after him.

In the main, however, dogs must be relied upon for the real enjoyment
and success of rabbit hunting. The fastest dogs are not the best,
because they are apt to chase the rabbit so swiftly and closely that he
quickly betakes himself to a hole or other safe shelter, instead of
relying upon his running ability. The baying of three or four good dogs
steadily following a little cotton-tail should be as exhilarating and as
pleasant to ears attuned to the music as if the chase were for bigger
game. As the music is heard more distinctly, the hunter is allowed to
flatter himself that his acute judgment can determine the route of the
approaching game and the precise point from which an advantageous shot
can be secured. The self-satisfied conceit aroused by a fortunate guess
concerning this important detail, especially if supplemented by a fatal
shot, should permit the lucky gunner to enjoy as fully the complacent
pleasurable persuasion that the entire achievement is due to his
sagacity, keenness and skill as though the animal circumvented were a
larger beast. In either case the hunter experiences the delight
born of a well-fed sense of superiority and self-pride; and this,
notwithstanding all attempts to keep it in the background, is the most
gratifying factor in every sporting indulgence.

Some people speak slightingly of the rabbit's eating qualities. This
must be an abject surrender to fad or fashion. At any rate it is
exceedingly unjust to the cotton-tail; and one who can relish tender
chicken and refuse to eat a nicely cooked rabbit is, I believe, a victim
of unfounded prejudices.

Why, then, should not rabbit hunting, when honorably pursued, be given a
respectable place among gunning activities? It certainly has every
element of rational outdoor recreation. It ministers to the most
exhilarating and healthful exercise; it furnishes saving relief from
care and overwork; it is free from wantonness and inexcusable
destruction of animal life, and, if luck favors, it gives play to
innocent but gratifying self-conceit.

Let us remember, however, that if rabbit hunting is to be a manly
outdoor recreation, entirely free from meanness, and a sport in which a
true hunter can indulge without shame, the little cotton-tail must in
all circumstances be given a fair chance for his life.

A Word to Fishermen

Those of us who fish in a fair, well-bred and reasonable way, for the
purpose of recreation and as a means of increasing the table pleasures
of ourselves or our friends, may well regret the apparently unalterable
decree which gives to all those who fish, under the spur of any
motive--good, bad or indifferent--the name of fishermen. We certainly
have nothing in common with those who fish for a livelihood, unless
it be a desire to catch fish. We have, in point of fact, no closer
relationship than this with the murderously inclined, whose only motive
in fishing is to make large catches, and whose sole pleasure in the
pursuit is the gratification of a greedy propensity. Nevertheless we,
and those with whom we have so little sympathy, are by a sort of
unavoidable law of gravitation classed together in the same fraternity,
and called fishermen. Occasionally weak attempts have been made to
classify the best of this fraternity under the name of Anglers, or some
title of that kind, but such efforts have always failed. Even Izaak
Walton could not change the current of human thought by calling his
immortal book "The Compleat Angler." So it seems however much those
who fish may differ in social standing, in disposition and character,
in motive and ambition, and even in mode of operation, all must abide,
to the end of the chapter, in the contemplation of the outside world,
within the brotherhood called "Fishermen." Happily, however, this
grouping of incongruous elements under a common name does not prevent
those of us who properly appreciate the importance of upholding the
respectability of decent fishing from coming to an agreement concerning
certain causes of congratulation and certain rules of conduct.

We who claim to represent the highest fishing aspirations are sometimes
inclined to complain on days when the fish refuse to bite. There can be
no worse exhibition than this of an entire misconception of a wise
arrangement for our benefit. We should always remember that we have
about us on every side thousands of those who claim membership in the
fishing fraternity, because, in a way, they love to fish when the
fish bite--and only then. These are contented only when capture is
constant, and their only conception of the pleasures of fishing rests
upon uninterrupted slaughter. If we reflect for a moment upon the
consequences of turning an army of fishermen like these loose upon fish
that would bite every day and every hour, we shall see how nicely the
vicissitudes of fishing have been adjusted, and how precisely and
usefully the fatal attack of discouraging bad luck selects its
victims. If on days when we catch few or no fish we feel symptoms of
disappointment, these should immediately give way to satisfaction when
we remember how many spurious and discouraged fishermen are spending
their time in hammocks or under trees or on golf fields instead of with
fishing outfits, solely on account of just such unfavorable days. We
have no assurance that if fish could be easily taken at all times the
fishing waters within our reach would not be depopulated--a horrible
thing to contemplate. Let it not be said that such considerations as
these savor of uncharitableness and selfishness on our part. We are only
recognizing the doctrine of the survival of the fittest as applied to
fishermen, and claiming that these "fittest" should have the best

What has been said naturally leads to the suggestion that consistency
requires those of us who are right-minded fishermen to reasonably limit
ourselves as to the number of fish we should take on favorable days. On
no account should edible fish be caught in such quantities as to be
wasted. By restraining ourselves in this matter we discourage in our own
natures the growth of greed, we prevent wicked waste, we make it easier
for us to bear the fall between decent good luck and bad luck, or no
luck, and we make ourselves at all points better men and better

We ought not to forget these things as we enter upon the pleasures of
our summer's fishing. But in any event let us take with us when we go
out good tackle, good bait, and plenty of patience. If the wind is in
the South or West so much the better, but let's go, wherever the wind
may be. If we catch fish we shall add zest to our recreation. If we
catch none, we shall still have the outing and the recreation--more
healthful and more enjoyable than can be gained in any other way.

A Duck-Hunting Trip

It is not a pleasant thing for one who prides himself on his strict
obedience to game laws to be accused of violating these laws whenever he
hunts or fishes--and especially is it exasperating to be thus accused
solely for the delectation or profit of some hungry and mendacious
newspaper correspondent. It is not true that I was once arrested in
Virginia for violation of the game laws, or for shooting without a
license; nor was any complaint ever made against me; nor, so far as I
know, was such a thing ever contemplated.

Sport Versus Slaughter

Equally false and mischievous, though not involving a violation of law,
was the charge that a party of which I was a member killed five hundred
ducks. Our shooting force on that expedition consisted of five gunners
of various grades of hunting ability, including one who had not "fired a
gun in twenty years," and another who could "do pretty well with a
rifle, but didn't know much about a shotgun." We were shooting four
days, but on only one of these days was our entire force engaged.
There was not one in the party who would not have been ashamed of any
complicity in the killing of five hundred ducks, within the time spent
and in the circumstances surrounding us; nor is there one of the party
who does not believe that, if the extermination of wild ducks is to be
prevented, and if our grandchildren are to know anything about duck
shooting, except as a matter of historical reading, stringent and
intelligent laws for the preservation of this game must be supplemented
and aided by an aggressive sentiment firmly held among decent ducking
sportsmen, making it disgraceful to kill ducks for the purpose of
boasting of a big bag, or for the mere sake of killing. Those who hunt
ducks with no better motives than these, and who are restrained, in the
absence of law, by nothing except the lack of opportunity to kill, are
duck-slaughterers, who merit the contempt of the present generation and
the curses of generations yet to come.

Our party killed about one hundred and twenty-five ducks. We ate as many
as we cared to eat during our stay among the hunting marshes, and we
brought enough home to eat on our own tables and to distribute among our
friends. It seems to me that gunners who kill as many ducks as will
answer all these purposes ought to be satisfied.

On the Cooking of Wild Ducks

And just here I want to suggest something which ought to greatly curtail
the distribution of wild ducks among our friends. In households where no
idea prevails of the difference between properly cooking a wild duck and
one brought up in a barnyard, a complimentary gift of wild fowl is
certainly of questionable advisability; for if these are cooked after
the fashion prescribed for the domestic duck they will be so thoroughly
discredited in the eating that the recipient of the gift will come near
suspecting a practical joke, and the donor will be nearly guilty of

In Virginia they have a very good law prohibiting duck shooting on
Wednesdays and Saturdays, and of course on Sundays. These are called
rest days. We arrived at the very comfortable club-house of the Back Bay
Club, in Princess Anne County, about noon one Saturday, with weather
very fair and quiet--too much so for good ducking. From the time of our
arrival until very early Monday morning, besides eating and sleeping, we
had nothing to do but to "get ready." It must not be supposed that those
words only mean the settlement in our quarters and the preparation of
guns, ammunition and other outfit. Many other things are necessary by
way of stimulating interest and filling the minds of waiting gunners
with lively anticipation and hope. Thus during the preparatory hours
left to us our eyes were strained hundreds of times from every favorable
point of observation in search of flying ducks; hundreds of times the
question as to the most desirable shooting points was discussed, and
thousands of times the wish was expressed that Monday, instead of being
a "blue bird day," would present us with a good, stiff breeze from the
right direction. The field of prediction was open to all of us, and none
avoided it. A telling hit was made by the most self-satisfied
weather-prophet of the party, who foretold an east wind at sundown,
which promptly made its appearance on schedule time.

When we were roused out of bed at 4.30 o'clock that Monday morning we
found our east wind still with us in pretty good volume, and although we
all knew it was not in the most favorable quarter, and that the weather
was too warm for the best shooting, it was with high hopes that we got
into our boats and started in midnight darkness for our blinds. Whatever
anticipation of good shooting I had indulged met with a severe reverse
when I learned that my shooting companion and I were expected to kill
ducks with our decoys placed to the windward of us. I warmly protested
against this, declaring that I had never done such a thing in my life,
and in the strongest language I objected to the arrangement; but all to
no purpose.

As I expected, the ducks that were inclined to fly within our range,
coming up the wind behind us, saw our blinds and us before they saw the
decoys, and when we tried to turn and get a shot, a sudden flare or
tower put them out of reach. As for fair decoying, they had no notion of
such a thing. We killed a few ducks through much tribulation; but the
irritation of knowing that many good opportunities had been lost by our
improper location more than overbalanced all the satisfaction of our
slight success. That my theory on the subject of windward decoys is
correct was proved when on Thursday, with a west wind and decoys to the
leeward, we killed at the same place more than twice as many ducks as we
killed the first day. This was not because more came to us, but because
they came in proper fashion.

On Having One's "Eye Wiped"

It was on this day that I once or twice had my "eye wiped," and I recall
it even now with anything but satisfaction. It is a provoking thing to
miss a fair shot, but to have your companion after you have had your
chance knock down the bird by a long, hard shot makes one feel somewhat
distressed. This we call "wiping the eye"; but I have always thought the
sensation caused by this operation justified calling it "gouging the

We left for home after one more very cold day spent in the blinds, with
some good shooting. Every one of the party was enthusiastic in speaking
of the pleasure our outing had afforded us, and all were outspoken in
the hope that our experience might be repeated in the future.

Now, let it be observed that most prominent among the things that had
occupied us and were thus delightfully remembered, and among the
experiences desired again in the future, were the rigors and discomforts
we had undergone in our shooting. So far as the good things and the
comforts of the club-house itself entered into the enjoyment of our
trip, it would be strange if they did not present great allurement; for
nothing in the way of snug shelter and good eating and drinking was
lacking. It is not so easy, however, to reason out the duck hunter's
eagerness to leave a warm bed, morning after morning, long before light,
and go shivering out into the cold and darkness for the sake of reaching
his blind before daybreak--not to find there warmth and shelter, but to
sit for hours chilled to the bone patiently waiting for the infrequent
shot which reminds him that he is indulging in sport or healthful
recreation. Suppose that such a regimen as this were prescribed in cold
blood as necessary to health. How many would think health worth the cost
of such hardships?

"The Duck Hunter Is Born--Not Made"

Suppose the discomforts willingly endured by duck hunters were required
of employees in an industrial establishment. There would be one place
where a condition of strike would be constant and chronic. If it be said
that the gratification of bringing down ducks pays for all the suffering
of their pursuit, the question obtrudes itself, how is this compensation
forthcoming in the stress of bad luck or no luck, and how is it that the
duck-hunting propensity survives all conditions and all fortunes?

I am satisfied that there is but one way to account for the unyielding
enthusiasm of those who hunt ducks and for their steady devotion to
their favorite recreation: The duck hunter is born--not made.

Quail Shooting

We hear a great deal in these days about abundant physical exercise as a
necessary factor in the maintenance of sound health and vigor. This is
so universally and persistently enjoined upon us by those whose studies
and efforts are devoted to our bodily welfare that frequently, if we
withhold an iota of belief concerning any detail of the proposition, we
subject ourselves to the accusation of recklessly discrediting the laws
of health.

While beyond all doubt a wholesale denial of the importance of physical
exertion to a desirable condition of bodily strength would savor of
foolish hardihood, we are by no means obliged to concede that mere
activity of muscles without accompaniment constitutes the exercise best
calculated to do us good. In point of fact we are only boldly honest and
sincere when we insist that really beneficial exercise consists as much
in the pursuit of some independent object we desire to reach or gain by
physical exertion, coupled with a pleasant stimulation of mental
interest and recreation, as in any given kind or degree of mere muscular
activity. Bodily movement alone, undertaken from a sense of duty or upon
medical advice, is among the dreary and unsatisfying things of life. It
may cultivate or increase animal strength and endurance, but it is apt
at the same time to weaken and distort the disposition and temper. The
medicine is not only distasteful, but fails in efficacy unless it is
mingled with the agreeable and healing ingredients of mental recreation
and desirable objects of endeavor.

I am convinced that nothing meets all the requirements of rational,
healthful outdoor exercise more completely than quail shooting. It seems
to be so compounded of wholesome things that it reaches, with vitalizing
effect, every point of mental or physical enervation. Under the
prohibitions of the law, or the restraints of sporting decency, or both,
it is permitted only at a season of the year when nature freely
dispenses, to those who submit to her treatment, the potent tonic of
cool and bracing air and the invigorating influences of fields and trees
and sky, no longer vexed by summer heat. It invites early rising; and as
a general rule a successful search for these uncertain birds involves
long miles of travel on foot. Obviously this sport furnishes an
abundance of muscular action and physically strengthening surroundings.
These, fortunately, are supplemented by the eager alertness essential to
the discovery and capture of game well worth the effort, and by the
recreative and self-satisfying complacency of more or less skillful

In addition to all this, the quail shooter has on his excursions a
companion, who not only promotes his success, but whose manner of
contributing to it is a constant source of delight. I am not speaking of
human companionship, which frequently mars pleasure by insistent
competition or awkward interference, but of the companionship of a
faithful, devoted helper, never discouraged or discontented with his
allotted service, except when the man behind the gun shoots badly, and
always dumbly willing to concede to the shooter the entire credit of a
successful hunt. The work in the field of a well-trained dog is of
itself an exhibition abundantly worth the fatigue of a quailing
expedition. It behooves the hunter, however, to remember that the dog is
in the field for business, and that no amount of sentimental admiration
of his performances on the part of his master will compensate him, if,
after he has found and indicated the location of the game, it escapes
through inattention or bad shooting at the critical instant. The
careless or bungling shooter who repeatedly misses all manner of fair
shots, must not be surprised if, in utter disgust, his dog companion
sulkily ceases effort, or even wholly abandons the field, leaving the
chagrined and disappointed hunter to return home alone--leg weary,
gameless and ashamed. He is thus forced to learn that hunting-dog
intelligence is not limited to abject subservience; and he thus gains a
new appreciation of the fact that the better his dog, the better the
shooter must know "what to do with his gun."

I do not assume to be competent to give instruction in quail shooting. I
miss too often to undertake such a _rôle_. It may not, however, be
entirely unprofitable to mention a fault which I suppose to be somewhat
common among those who have not reached the point of satisfactory skill,
and which my experience has taught me will stand in the way of success
as long as it remains uncorrected. I refer to the instinctive and
difficultly controlled impulse to shoot too quickly when the bird rises.
The flight seems to be much more speedy than it really is; and the
undrilled shooter, if he has any idea in his mind at all, is dominated
by the fear that if the formality of aiming his gun is observed the
game will be beyond range before he shoots. This leads to a nervous,
flustered pointing of the gun in the direction of the bird's flight, and
its discharge at such close range that the load of shot hardly separates
in the intervening distance. Nine times out of ten the result is, of
course, a complete miss; and if the bird should at any time under these
conditions be accidentally hit, it would be difficult to find its
scattered fragments. An old quail shooter once advised a younger one
afflicted with this sort of quick triggeritis: "When the bird gets up,
if you chew tobacco spit over your shoulder before you shoot."

It is absolutely certain that he who aspires to do good quail shooting
must keep cool; and it is just as certain that he must trust the
carrying qualities of his gun as well as his own ability and the
intelligence of his dog. If he observes these rules, experience and
practice will do the rest.

I hope I may be allowed to suggest that both those who appreciate the
table qualities of the toothsome quail, and those who know the keen
enjoyment and health-giving results of their pursuit, should recognize
it as quite worth their while, and as a matter of duty, to co-operate in
every movement having for its object the protection, preservation and
propagation of this game. Our quail have many natural enemies; they are
often decimated by the severity of winter, and there are human beings so
degraded and so lost to shame as to seek their destruction in ways most
foul. A covey of quail will sometimes huddle as close together as
possible in a circle, with their heads turned outward. I have heard of
men who, discovering them in this situation, have fired upon them,
killing every one at a single shot. There ought to be a law which would
consign one guilty of this crime to prison for a comfortable term of
years. A story is told of a man so stupidly unsportsmanlike that when he
was interfered with as he raised his gun, apparently to shoot a quail
running on the ground, he exclaimed with irritation: "I did not intend
to shoot until it had stopped running." This may be called innocent
stupidity; but there is no place for such a man among sportsmen, and he
is certainly out of place among quail.

It is cause for congratulation that so much has been done for quail
protection and preservation through the enactment of laws for that
purpose. But neither these nor their perfunctory enforcement will be
sufficiently effective. There must be, in addition, an active sentiment
aroused in support of more advanced game legislation, and of willing,
voluntary service in aid of its enforcement; and in the meantime all
belonging to the sporting fraternity should teach that genuine
sportsmanship is based upon honor, generosity, obedience to law and a
scrupulous willingness to perpetuate, for those who come after them, the
recreation they themselves enjoy.


Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise,
every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and

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