The art of gunning

In order to obtain a complete mastery over the gun, the young beginner should proceed in something like the following order: Let the handling and shouldering of the gun be expertly acquired in its unloaded state, taking care to regard its height, length of arm, and inclination of shoulder of the pupil. This practice should be gone through for an hour or two at a time for some days, until complete familiarity with all the required movements is attained. He should be expert at raising or depressing his gun to every kind of level, and taking an aim at various objects. To hold the gun firmly to the shoulder is an important consideration. It is likewise recommended to place the left hand close, or nearly so, to the trigger, as this prevents, in a great measure, any danger from the bursting of the piece. To cultivate a steady and decisive mode of walking and standing, is very advantageous for successful shooting. Anything like trepidation and an indecisive gait are inimical to successful sport. A firm placing of the limbs greatly assists the arms in readily and gracefully elevating and presenting the gun. The gun should be carried barrel upwards, and sloped towards the left arm, the lock being clasped by the hand of that side, the fingers embracing the stock, which allows the arm, though supporting the gun, yet to do it with readiness and ease, and to be placed with facility within the grasp of the hand previous to the meditated elevation. In the act of cocking, the forefinger should quit the front of the trigger, and extending itself sloping forward through the guard, only feel the side of it with a gentle pressure. The body, by this action of throwing out the butt, combined with the step-out of the left leg in taking form, will be brought with its weight principally upon that limb; a position assumed as more immediately called for, when the flight is nearly in a line from the gunner, or to the left, which will comprise four out of five of all the shots. Again, when the word present! Is used either audibly or mentally, the following directions are given. Let the barrel at this moment, inclined over the left shoulder, be swept in a circle forwards with a smart motion, the forefinger of the right hand (moving as directed above) being as it were the centre of motion upon which the gun turns during the sweep; by which action, the butt should be raised nearly to its full height, and then bring it back with a sharp motion into its place within the shoulder; whilst at the same time, an increased grasp with the left hand, which till now has kept its hold very loosely, combines with that of the right hand upon the gripe of the stock to keep it firmly there. The direction of barrel to the mark, or what may be termed the line of level to be taken, in the first instance, is a little below what, as already drawn by the eye to the object, may be distinguished by the name of the line of sight. The latter should be firm and immovable, to which a precise adjustment of the line of level must be firmly made by an easy flexure of the upper part of the body altogether, but without any loosening or twisting of the butt from its firm hold within its shoulder; and on the instant that these two lines are brought into contact, bear direct upon the object. Before an object crossing, the aim should be full high for a bird rising up or flying away very low, and between the ears of hares and rabbits running; it should be straight away; all this in proportion to the distance; the shooter rarely erring by firing at the crossing bird when at forty yards, at least five or six inches before it. As the barrels of double guns usually shoot a little inwards at long distances, there is so far a preference in favor of the right barrel for an object-crossing to the left, and vice versa. Till the pupil is fully master of these intricacies, he will find great assistance from the sight, which he should have precisely on the intended point when he fires; he will thus by degrees attain the art of killing game in good style, which is to fix his eyes upon the object, and fire the moment he has brought up the gun. The shooter should accustom himself not to take his gun from his arm till the bird is on the wing, and never to vary his eye from the very one it first fixed upon. Another good rule is, that as soon as the eye bears on the object to be fired at, provided that the muzzle of the gun the same, then it is proper to fire; for when the eye dwells too long, the distance becomes increased, and the sight is impaired. To kill birds flying across either to the right or the left, allowance must be made by the shooter not only for the distance he is from them, but also for the strength of the birds and the velocity of their motion; thus, it must be taken into account that the flight of the partridge in November will be greatly accelerated to what it was two months before. It may also be mentioned that in a cross-shot to the right, the difficulty is very much increased if the right leg is first when the birds rise; the gun cannot then be brought but a very trifling way beyond a straight line to the right. When dogs point, or when game has been marked and expected to spring, the walk should be with short and easy steps; the body can then be easily turned upon the legs, as if on a pivot, and the range of the bird commanded even if it should fly quite round the sportsman. The science of aiming accurately, however, will be of little service, except the gun be held steady from all starting or flinching in the act of firing. Shooting in company has given rise to a code of laws for the government of sportsmen. All birds that cross should be considered as belonging to the gunner to whose side their heads are pointed, unless a previous understanding is come to, that either party may take an after-shot at a tailing bird. When single birds rise and go away fair from either party, it may be proper to have it previously understood that such should be taken alternately by each shoot.

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