When the herd are perceived lying down or grazing, the first object (attain it how it can be done) is to get well to windward, for their wariness and power of winding their dreaded enemy are almost inconceivable. Sometimes, if the deer-stalker can undergo the fatigue of traversing these Alpine precipices, it may be advisable to endeavour to get up to them, as they sometimes are so placed that such advance can be made on them witli a fair prospect of a shot. But this does not often happen, and the fatigue few gentlemen choose to incur. The shooters then resort to certain passes or stations, which the knowledge and experience of the foresters prompt them to recommend, according to the weather, the point the wind may blow from, &c.; most of whom are generally accompanied by an attendant or attendants (provided with spare rifles), and one or more large dogs of the rough greyhound species, termed (and I conceive properly) deer-hounds, as they add (mostly) to considerable speed the power of following by scent, and would seem, though they somewhat resemble them in shape, to vary, if not totally to differ from the common greyhound: my own opinion is, that they are the same animal as the old Irish greyhound, now extinct in that country. They are not certainly so large .is the Irish dog is represented to have been, but that could easily be accounted for from more than one cause.
The late Duke of Athol, who who had one of the finest Deer Forests in Scotland, at Blair in Athol, and who was devoted to the sport even almost to the veryday of his death, had this breed in great plenty and perfection, and was certainly in his day the first deer-stalker in Scotland, excepting perhaps the late Maodonnell of Glengary. I shall, therefore, give an extract from the letter of an old sportsman some few years back.
"I had the pleasure to attend the Duke of Athol in an excursion into his extensive forest in August last, and will attempt to describe to you the manner of His Grace's sport. When he first alights from his horse the servants present him with telescopes, by the use of which, looking on the mountains' sides or in the valleys, it is easy to distinguish every hart, hind, or calf: and I may venture to assert that in eight hours not fewer had been perceived than from three to four thousand head, young and old; and were it possible to go over it in a day, I am confident a man might see ten thousand deer. When His Grace espies a herd settled, he uses all methods to gain the wind of them, approaching with the utmost caution till within a hundred or six score yards. He uses a single rifle gun, and, being a first marksman, seldom misses his aim. If the herd pass or cross
No person ever took such delight in, or more pains in breeding and improving the Highland deer-hound than the late Chieftain of Glengary. I am enabled to say some little concerning his method of breeding and training. I have before stated that, in my own opinion, these rough deer-hounds were of the same species originally as the Irish greyhound; their appearance is exactly similar; and I have seen likenesses of some of the Altamont breed. The only old notice of either I can find is the following :—" The Highland Grehound, now very scarce, is of great size, deepchested, and covered with long hair. This hound was much esteemed in former days, and used in great numbers by the powerfull Cheiftains in their magnificent hunting matches. It had as sagacious nostrils as the bloodhound, and was as feirce. The Irish grehound, a very rare dog even in that kingdom, was probably the lorarius or lyemner, and these were probably imported into Ireland by the Danes."— The truth of the matter is, they were both used as lyemners, as they were led in thongs—the word li/c>nm signifying a thong. That, however, the Highland breed has degenerated (the Irish is nearly if not altogether extinct) may be gathered from the fact, that Glengary and the Duke of Athol both crossed them, and, as may be inferred from the crosses, for deficiency of nose, which was, says the above-quoted extract, as good as the bloodhound. Hoyland, Glengary'slate forester, told me, that during his time, the last twelve years previous to the latter's death, they had not been crossed; but Mr. Brown, in his work on Dogs, states, on Glengary's own authority, that he had at one period crossed them witli the genuine Pyrenean wolf-dog; and i knowthat when Glengary (his name was Macdonnell, but the Scotch gentry are always called by the name of their estates) went with his dogs into Blair in Athol, they did not consider them to be pure bred, and moreover deemed them too heavy. Hoyland's information was, that in his day they were bred promiscuously from all and the nearest affinities,provided they were possessed of any signal qualification,or had distinguished themselves on any particular occasion. The principal care they took was to make them at first seize a weak wounded deer by the throat or ear, which being early and carefully attended to, they never after, when thus once fairly entered and confirmed, broke or tore any other part of the animal. When they happened to run in on a wounded one by themselves, who was too much hurt or exhausted to turn to bay, their early dispositions, or more properly attributes, were carefully watched, and they weie trained for coursing or retrieving, as they indicated or evinced more or less tenderness of nose.
The mountains in Glengary's country, for it was of that extent it could be termed nothing else, are rugged and precipitous in the extreme. There is, however, a good deal of natural wood in the glens, among which the deer at some periods more particularly harbored. This sometimes rendered the shots more difficult, and the deer were frequently only wounded. The manner of following them in such instance was this: one Highlander led a brace of good runners in slips, while another put a staunch-nosed one on the track or slot, holding him in a rope attached to his collar, precisely after the fashion of the ancient lyemner. The dog acknowledged the scent by a fewwhisks of his tail, and, thrusting his nose high and forward, went straight on, just as a pointer does, only more regularly and quickly, when drawing up on running birds, the man always holding, him. When they came to fault, which the hound indicated by putting his nose to the ground, they allowed him to cast as he liked, though in hold, and he scarcely ever failed recovering. When they came to brooks and small rivers, which were frequent, the hound, when well entered and up to his business, instantly went up the side, and the moment he lost scent took the water at once; and my informant assured me that their sagacity, perseverance, and truth on these occasions beggared conception, and that, long experience as he had, it continued to strike him with wonder and admiration to the last.
At night (for these followings sometimes lasted a day or two) a special mark was set down ; and if there was a shepherd's hut, of which many were scattered over the hills, they made for it, and were sure to find a good peat fire, with plenty of milk, whiskey, and clean straw: they carried other provisions. After a hearty meal and plentiful libations, seasoned by some tremendous long yarns from the Chief—who to the great delight of the Highlanders, who adored him, was a grand raconteur in Gaelic—they all lay down together; the only extra luxury the Chief had being a pair of blankets, instead of, or rather added to, a rachan or plaid. Sometimes, no hut being near, they lay out 011 the mountain, where Glengary was always the first man to be asleep. For the conveniency of crossing the rivers they all wore kelts, so that their limbs were comparatively dry. By day-dawn they commenced again, and, incredible as it may appear, the track-dog scarce ever failed, sooner or Later, to take up the scent. To lose a wounded deer rendered Glengary furious; and as his anger was in keeping with the unceasing perseverance which actuated him in the pursuit of this one sport, and quite in character with his notions of his rank and power as a Chieftain— which were of the most antiquated and romantic die—his attendants, as well as his hounds, did all that in them lay to avert such a catastrophe, and it was of very rare occurrence that they were defeated. Sometimes they came upon the deer dead, or in so great a state of exhaustion as to secure it easily: at other times it was viewed at a distance; and in this case the coursing hounds were slipped, and never failed bringing the quarry to bay. All the hounds were always rewarded with a share of the blood.
Such were the dogs crossed with the Pyrenean wolf-dog, and such the practice of one of the most indefatigable deer-stalkers, of modern days at least, on record. In the sporting line, though possessing all kinds of game in abundance, he did nothing else. He was the last of the Highland proprietors who attempted to keep up the old associations, &c. of Chieftain and clanship, which, though hp was possessed of excellent qualities, hardly suited these our times, and sometimes rendered his conduct what might be termed even more than eccentric.
His death was in keeping with such associations. Passing up the Caledonian Canal in a steamer with two of his daughters, the boat was in danger of being wrecked near shore. One of the young ladies had been landed, when Glengary, thinking he could be of more assistance to the remaining one, cast himself into the water, but was dashed by a wave with such violence against a rock that he survived but a short time. The lady was saved.
I have before mentioned the Duke of Athol's system; but with respect to hounds he bred differently, crossing the Highland rough deer-hound with the modern stag or fox-hound, but never breeding again from that cross.
These methods of getting at and killing the red deer arc similarly followed in the Old Royal Forest of Glenartney, though not so unceasingly prosecuted. The noble owner is an excellent rifle shot; the head forester, Cameron, though an old man, a skilful man in his craft,.