Page:VCH Kent 1.djvu/596

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A HISTORY OF KENT generally described as good ' rough ' or ' all- round ' shooting. For this reason it is an ideal locality for the man of moderate means, or for one whose ambitions do not soar to those lofty heights attained by the Hamp- shire partridge-driver with his 200 or 300- brace days, or the Norfolk pheasant-shooter with his enormous bag of rocketers. Although a large part of Kent is still mainly agricultural, and divided up into big holdings that are well farmed by the few remaining yeomen agriculturists of the old school, a considerable acreage has been laid down to grass of recent years — a state of things that is never conducive to the well-being of partridges and pheasants. Such land is quite capable of supporting a moderate head of partridges and a still more moderate amount of pheasants ; but the lack of food supplied on the stubbles in other districts results in an inferior and smaller breed of partridges and makes the pheasant to a great extent dependent upon artificial feeding. Kent, as every one knows, enjoys the titles of ' The Garden of England,' and ' The Hop County,' the former by reason of the fact that orchard and market garden cultivation are two of its staple industries, and the latter because of its hop-producing reputation. Unfortunately for the shooting man neither of these occupations is particularly suited to game-preservation, for where the land is cut up into small holdings and a number of persons are constantly employed in the fields and gardens, there is little possibility for game to flourish. Birds, therefore, have been driven away from these much frequented areas, and even where they still have the courage to nest in the spring they must meet with a great amount of disturbance of an unintentional kind, and sometimes, one fears, of a description that is not precisely accidental. The hop-garden, although of little use as a feeding ground for partridges or pheasants, even when they can be left undisturbed, provides better security and cover for them than is afforded by closely cropped pastures. Partridges, indeed, during hot weather are very prone to seek the shade and quiet of the hop-garden, and it is a little unfortunate that the Kentish hop-picking begins at about the same date as partridge shooting. The end of August sees a vast invasion of ' foreigners ' from London and elsewhere, and just at the moment when it is desirable from the shooting man's point of view to keep the land quiet, the peaceful valleys of the hop-country are filled with the noisy clamour of families innumerable. Their coming is sufficient signal for every partridge in the district to quit the scene of so much boisterous activity, and the shady hop-garden, which otherwise would provide a sure find for the partridge-shooter during the early days of September, is not worth beating. Here and there, however, where the gardens lie in more secluded situations, the partridge-shooter will not always visit them in vain. It goes without saying, of course, that it is impossible to walk up birds in a hop- garden, where in the half-light that filters through the thick canopy of leaves overhead accurate shooting would be out of the ques- tion. Nor is there ever sufficient cover in the way of undergrowth in a well-ordered hop-garden to allow the sportsman to get within shot of the birds, although should the ground have been allowed to lie quiet for a few days before shooting, it is always worth while to include the hop-garden in the beat for the purpose of driving into more suitable cover any birds that may be l}'ing hid- den therein. Later on when driving proper begins — about the middle of October — the land is clear both of hops and hop-pickers. Despite the fact that one end of it is about as modernized as it can very well be, Kent for the most part is very conservative in its customs, and many of its ancient ways are still followed as faithfully as those of its sister county of Sussex. The good old method of walking up partridges or pheasants from behind in preference to the more modern style of driving them to the guns is still in vogue in most parts, although driving is now extensively practised in the moreopen country. So much depends, of course, on the contour of the land, the style of farming adopted, and the size of the holdings, that no general principles of shooting can apply to the county as a whole. Some prefer one method, and some another, but every known style of game-shooting is practised in Kent. When driving pheasants in flat districts, such as abound in this county, it is some- what difficult to ' show ' birds to the best possible advantage. It is not always easy under such conditions to make pheasants rise sufficiently to afford really sporting shots, and careful arrangement of each beat is necessary to obtain the best results. The birds must be gradually worked to the highest points of the covert without necessarily being shot at during the process, and it should be remembered that pheasants rise better from high covert as a rule than from ' short cut,' and that they generally fly better and faster when being driven towards home. But each keeper must arrange matters according to the nature of the ground with which he has