A la sombra de un chaparro (Spanish Edition)
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Alberto G. Pages Received 17 Jun Additional information Author information Alberto G.
The work then resembles deer-stalking, for the sportsman must necessarily creep up very close to his game in order to have any fair chance of a shot. Unless he has wormed his way to within yards before the birds are raised, the odds are long against success. Gratifying indeed is the triumph when, after many efforts, and as many disappointments, one at length outmatches them, and secures a heavy bag by a single right-and-left.
By way of illustration, we give, in the next chapter, descriptions of bustard-shooting, 1 driving with a party in the ordinary way, and 2 Stalking and driving to a single gun.
Such, roughly described, are the two chief recognized systems of shooting the Great Bustard: i. There remains, however, another method by which this game may be brought to bag—one which we may claim to have ourselves invented and brought to some degree of perfection—namely:. At one period of the year about May , just before the corn comes into ear, and when the male bustards are banded together, they are much more accessible, the corn being high all around them, and the guns more easily concealed.
But the objections from a farmer's point of view are obvious, and we have rarely followed them under these conditions, though it is a favourite period with Spanish sportsmen. We have frequently been asked by the country people to try our hands at their ambuscades by the wells above described , and often caused surprise by declining to kill bustards in this way.
It was, in fact, because we did not enjoy any of the means in vogue with the natives, that we resolved to try what could be done single-handed; and by sticking to it and hard work, have since accounted for many a fine barbon , and enjoyed many an hour's exciting sport with others not brought to bag, and which probably still roam over the Andalucian vegas to give fine sport another day.
Casa Rural Huerto del Espino Lodge, Coripe
On foot nothing could be done single-handed, but by the aid and co-operation of a steady old pony, success was found to be possible. As soon as the country is cleared of corn about July or August , bustard pass the mid-day hours sheltering from the sun in any patch of high thistles or palmetto that may grow on the bare lands or stubbles. We have also found them, during mid-summer, under olive-trees, but never in any cover or spot where they could not command all the space for many gunshots around. Having been disturbed in their siesta—generally about a couple of hundred yards before the horseman reaches them—the birds stand up, shake the dust from their feathers, and are all attention to see that the intruder has no evil designs upon them.
Ride directly towards them and they are off at once; but if approach be made cautiously and circuitously, the bustards, though suspicious and uneasy, do not rise but walk slowly away, for they are reluctant to take wing at this hot time.
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It is needless to add that the intense heat is also a severe test of endurance to the bustard-shooter. By keeping one's own figure and the pony's head as much averted as possible—advancing sidelong, crab-fashion, so to speak, and gradually circling inwards, one may, with patience, at length attain a deadly range,—seldom near, but still near enough to use the heavy AAA mould-shot with fatal effect, for the bustard, despite his bulk, is not a very hard or close-feathered bird, and falls to a blow that the grey goose would laugh at.
When the nearest point is reached—and one learns by experience to judge by the demeanour of the game when they will permit no nearer approach—the opportune moment must be seized; the first barrel put in smartly on the ground, and more deliberate aim taken with the second as they rise. The hotter the day, the nearer one can get. Much depends on the horse: if he does not stop dead the chance is lost, as the bustards rise directly on detecting a change in the movements of horse and man. With practice my pony became very clever, and came to know as well as his rider what was going on, so that after a time, we could rely on getting three or four shots a day and seldom returned without one bustard, frequently two or three.
During one year his best the writer bagged sixty-two bustards to his own gun. We make it a rule to accept no shot at any very risky distance, finding that, if not scared, the birds do not fly so far, and are more accessible on a second approach. Sometimes there occur lucky spots where, as one is slowly drawing round on them, the bustards walk over the crest of a ridge, and disappear. This is a chance not to be lost—slip from the saddle, run straight to the ridge, and surprise them, as they descend the reverse slope, with a couple of barrels ere they have time to realize the danger.
Dips and hills, as before remarked, are not frequent on the haunts of bustards, but we have chanced on such localities more than once. Upon one occasion we bagged a brace of the largest barbones we ever saw by such a piece of good luck. A blazing sun is a great assistance, making the birds lazy and disinclined to exert themselves. As an instance of this we remember being after bustard one day in September—an intensely hot day even for Spain, and with a fiery sun beating down on the quivering plains.
Though well protected by a thick felt helmet and wearing the lightest of light summer clothes, the heat was almost more than one could endure.
Opio en las nubes / Opium In The Clouds
We had unsuccessfully ridden over some thousands of acres of stubble and waste—it was on the historic plains of Guadalete where Roderic and the Arabs fought—when at length we were gratified by observing three bustards walk out of a cluster of thistles. After twice circling round them, we saw that at eighty or ninety yards' distance, they would stand it no longer: so turning in the saddle, gave them both barrels, but without effect, as they sailed away about a mile and settled.
On a second approach, as they rose at yards, it looked as though they were impracticable, but doubting if there were other birds in that neighbourhood, we kept on, and followed them in this second flight, which this time was shorter. Again they rose wild—wilder than ever, at fully yards. They came down upon a patch of the barley-stubbled plain where we were able to mark their position to a nicety, for they pitched close to a sombrajo , or sun-shade for cattle a thatch of palmetto spread on aloe-poles.
On approaching the place, and not seeing the bustards afoot, we concluded they were resting after their repeated flights; but having reached almost the exact spot, we could still see nothing of them. This was perplexing. We knew they could not have risen, for our eyes had never left the spot where they had settled.
What could have become of them? All at once we saw them, squatting flat within thirty yards of us, each bird pressed close down with his neck stretched along the ground.
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All trouble was now rewarded. It was not a chance to be risked by shooting from the saddle: and as we slid to the ground, gun cocked, and facing the birds, we felt it was the best double rise at big bustards that ever man had. As we touched the ground, they rose: one fell dead at forty yards, a second, wheeling back, showed too much of his white breast to be let off; the third flew far beyond view, and the only regret, for a moment, was that there were no treble-barrelled breech-loaders.
Half an hour later we fell in with a band of young bustards, which allowed us to approach near enough to drop one; so that evening the old pony had a good load to carry home. The two following examples of fortunate days will serve to illustrate the system of bustard-shooting as practised on the corn-lands of Southern Spain, and convey some idea of the haunts and habits of this noble game-bird, in a region where they still remain abundant. The rendezvous was at the Cortijo de Jedilla, a farm lying some twelve miles away, and the hour fixed was nine o'clock on an April morning.
This, along a road that resembled the remains of an earthquake, necessitated an early start. For near three hours we rattled and jolted along in the roomy brake, that lurched at times like a cross-channel steamer, to the merry-jingling bells of a four-in-hand mule-team. At the hour appointed our ponies and people stood around the broad-arched entrance of the cortijo, all under the direction of old Blas, the keen-eyed mountaineer, equally at home on rugged sierra, or bestriding bare-backed his restive colt, and intimately acquainted with every inch of the wide country around.
Blas had left home long before daybreak on that lovely spring morning, and after covering the four leagues across the plains at a hand-gallop, had already—like swift Camilla—scoured all the cultivated lands around the cortijo, in search of the big birds while yet they were busy seeking their matutinal feed.
He received us with the gratifying intelligence that he had marked tres bandadas —three packs of bustard. In a few minutes we were mounted, the guns slung in the fundas , and away.