FOWLING (says Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, book v. ch. 8. edit, London, 1660), may be performed with guns, limetwigs, nets, glades, gins, strings, baits, pit-falls, pipe-calls, stalking horses, setting dogs, and decoy ducks; or with chaff nets for smaller birds; there may also be added bows and arrows, which answered the purpose of guns, before they were invented, and brought to perfection.
The Stalking Horse, originally, was a horse trained for the purpose, and covered with trappings, so as to conceal the sportsman from the gameheintended toshootat. Itwas particularly useful to the archer, by affording him an opportunity of approaching the birds unseen by them, so near that his arrows might easily reach them; but as this method was frequently inconvenient, and often impracticable, the fowler had recourse to art, and caused a canvass figure to be stuffed, and painted like a horse grazing, but sufficiently light, that it might be moved at pleasure with one hand. These deceptions were also made in the form of oxen, cows. and stags, either for variety, or for conveniency sake. In the inventories of the wardrobes, belonging to king Henry VIII. we frequently find the allowance of certain quantities of stuff for the purpose of making " stalking coats, and stalking horses for the use of his majesty."
There is also another method of fowling, which (continues Burton) is performed with nets, and in the night time; and the darker the night the better. " This sport we call in England, most commonly bird-batting, and some call it lowbelling ; and the use of it is to go with a great light of cressets, or rags of linen dipped in tallow, which will make a good light; and you must have a pan or plate, made like a lanthorn, to carry your light in, which must have a great socket to hold the light, and carry it before you, on your breast, with a bell in your other hand, and of a great bigness, made in the manner of a cow-bell but still larger ; and you must ring it always after one order. If you carry the bell, you should have two companions with nets, one on each side of you; and with the noise of the bell, and glare of the light, the birds will be so amazed, that when you come near them, they will turn up their bellies: so that your companions may then lay their nets quietly upon them, and take them. But you must continue to ring the bell; for if the sound shall cease, the other birds, if there be any more at hand, will rise up and fly away. This (he adds) is an excellent method to catch larks, woodcocks, partridges, and all other land birds." However excellent this method might have been deemed at the time, the fowling piece has, almost entirely, superseded the use of the bell, net, and stalking horse: indeed the very term Fowling, in the sense here intended to be conveyed, is become obsolete. The reader is referred to articles Decoy,
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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