Three shots, I said to myself. Score: zero, zero, zero; 797 shells to go. From far off to the right a bird flushed from the No. 1 lane. Several enthusiasts fired at it without effect. Unmistakably a cock; the bird crossed 70 feet overhead, destination apparently Bratislava. I took a long swing and a long lead, and fired the left barrel. The pheasant struck the ground at our feet.
"Na zdar!" cried my retainers, meaning "Good going!" "Lucky shot," declared the three policemen.
Four shots, score one. 796 shots to go, if we used up all our ammunition. Two minutes had passed since we entered the forest.
The guns grow warm
So it went for those first two miles. The beaters picked up the birds; the hunters touched only their shotguns; and my retainers shouted "Hen, don't shoot!" at suitable moments. With the first 50 shells I killed 19 pheasants. Both guns grew warm and so did I in my Austrian rompers. The three members of the secret police, treading heavily on the heels of my retainers, continued to make remarks and offer unsolicited observations.
A rabbit finally fixed my policemen. A driven pheasant, with 300 beaters strung out across the woods, will take off ahead of the marchers. So will foxes and deer. But hares and rabbits combine fright with imagination. A startled rabbit is likely to whip around a stump in a scuffle of leaves and head back toward the line of marchers at 40 mph, ears laid flat and hind legs going like pistons. This hare dashed between my legs, did a terrified tango through my three faithful retainers, and put on a beautiful show of broken-field running through the policemen. I spun around 180� in the most conspicuously prohibited manner, and deliberately set off a charge of No. 6 shot safely above bunny's head, halfway between two of the policemen. They were not far apart. All three of them went flat on their faces in the yielding Moravian mud. Bunny lengthened his stride.
"Na zdar!" cried my retainers. "Help!" gurgled the stricken policemen.
I earned a fine symmetrical raspberry from the Chief Forester, with an assist from the Czech Foreign Office representative. But the members of the secret police thereafter maintained a prudent and respectful distance to the rear, and they offered no further suggestions regarding my shooting.
There are two other ways to shoot pheasants at Zidlochovice. One is to shoot them head on. A few hundred yards from the edge of the woods the line of march stopped, and the hunters were led around the outside and took positions facing the woods, at stands in an open field opposite the 10 lanes we'd been following. Crowded into the woods was the entire game population that had been moving on ahead of us, only now the pheasants were between us and the beaters, who, in response to the forester's trumpet, resumed their forward movement.
At the edge of the woods, pheasants took wing by the hundred. For 15 minutes, or until the beaters themselves reached the edge of the woods facing the hunters, everyone fired as fast as his two guns could be passed back and forth between hunter and loader. I killed 38 cock pheasants in a quarter of an hour, and all down the line the noise sounded like a dress rehearsal for Austerlitz.