Before going to Scotland I got one of the first of the new Winchester over-and-under guns, made in Japan, that arrived in this country. It looks like a Browning but has barrels lined with chrome nickel and a new type of choke. It was supposed to have open, skeet-type barrels, but the gauge showed it to have a tighter choke—measuring slightly more open than a modified choke and improved cylinder. I took this gun with me and got another like it from Abercrombie & Fitch, although the new gun was marked "modified and improved cylinder." These guns proved perfectly satisfactory for the shooting in Scotland. Only in the duck and goose shooting did I feel inadequately gunned.
The third afternoon of hunting was unforgettable. Just before dark, at about 3:30, we took positions in well-built blinds on the edge of the water. The lake was a mile long and half a mile wide. I was put in the last blind on the upper end, with my loader and a gamekeeper with a retriever.
We had been told to shoot any ducks that flew within range but to stop shooting when we heard the geese coming in and wait until the first flight had landed. Then, when the second flight came in, we were to start shooting.
The ducks were few and far away, but I managed to down some before we heard the distinct chatter and talk of flying geese. By this time it was almost dark. Suddenly, out of the dusk, a thousand of them came in, and what a sight and what a sound! The first flight wheeled over me and landed in the middle of the lake, well out of range. But they had hardly settled when the second wave arrived. On the second whirlaround I fired two barrels and heard two geese hit the water. And then came the next flight and the next. Four flights wheeled over, and out of each I got two birds, and then it was too dark to shoot. But what a thrill—eight geese in almost as many minutes. Although it was too dark to see, they kept coming in, in spite of the shooting. The chatter of the calling birds, the swish of their wings, the sound of their skidding stop in the water filled the air, and through it all ran the chorus of their continuous talking.
That night we had 54 ducks and 44 geese, and as we gathered up our guns and shells and picked our way through the marshes to the cars, we were a happy and contented group of hunters.
And so the days went on—similar in tone, but with an endless variety of shooting. We shot from five positions each day for six days and never worked the same country twice. One day we were shooting at woodcock, another day the birds were predominantly partridge, skittering downwind, tiny fluffs of feathers that were out of range before you could single out one bird. And then there was the day when a fat little roebuck came bounding out of the trees and fell dead before Davies' charge of No. 7 shot—-hit behind the foreleg. Had I not seen it I wouldn't have believed a one-shot kill could be made with such fine pellets. I went out to the cold-storage house that night to see him. He was fat and sleek and beautiful, with two tiny horns just showing through the hair of his crown.
And that cold-storage room—have you ever seen 3,000 birds hanging in neat rows on racks built for the purpose? And none of them had been plucked or drawn! In the U.S. we wouldn't think of leaving birds that long uncleaned. They say in Europe they like their birds a bit "high."
One morning while we were having breakfast, a very attractive woman joined us and was introduced as a friend from London who had come to spend the day. She sat next to me at the table, and since she was dressed in hunting clothes, I asked her if she was going to join us for the day's shoot. She replied that she didn't care much for bird shooting but that she was going out to shoot a hind. As we were waiting for our vehicles, she pulled out in a little English car with one of the gamekeepers. She was headed for the moors—higher country, where the deer are found.
That evening she showed up for cocktails, stylishly dressed. I asked her what luck she had. She replied she had got two hinds.
"What kind of a gun?" I asked.