This section is from the book "Moose-Hunting Salmon-Fishing And Other Sketches Of Sport Being The Record Of Personal Experiences Of Hunting Wild Game In Canada", by T. R. Pattillo. Also available from Amazon: Moose-Hunting, Salmon-Fishing and Other Sketches of Sport: Being the Record of Personal Experiences of Hunting Wild Game in Canada.
What I noticed that surprised me was the indifference of the birds to the reports. Those we missed, as well as those that got past when we were loading, would fly a few yards distant, and drop into the rice-beds like the English snipe. I was told that these birds which we had been shooting at singly came from the prairie every evening at the same time as on that night, starting from wherever they were. They feed on the plains all day on grasshoppers, beetles, and bugs of all kinds, then start for the water in the lagoon and surrounding lakes at that time of day. During the night they gather into flocks, and those that had the shooting then generally had fine sport, as we were told. Dusk had come upon us, and still the air was full of birds, but it had become a chance shooting, and therefore no pleasure, so I picked up the box and sought the shore. I found Harry had nineteen, while my pile panned out sixteen, most of them mallards, with a sprinkling of teal and blue-wing. At nine o'clock we were back at the house, greatly delighted with the afternoon's excitement. The game was accumulating so fast that Harry proposed, and I appreciated it, that, in addition to the geese already given to his neighbours, we should send them each a pair of ducks, which was done the next morning, not even overlooking the old country bach.
We were not very early on the move next day, but about nine o'clock walked to the lake, largely with the view of trying for a shot at the geese when on the shore. It was apparently just as full of ducks as on the first morning we were there, but we were getting so satiated with ducks we did not make any effort to get them, until a flock of blue-wings settled in the water directly in front of where Harry and I were sitting at the edge of the bushes. In these I became greatly interested to know if they would toll in the North-West as well as in Nova Scotia, so, without taking any precaution to conceal ourselves if they did, I sent Ready to the shore. Even before he got there, and he went with a bound, their heads were up. So soon as he began his antics they moved towards him until within five feet of the shore. This placed me in a nice predicament, for there were the birds, and here was the gunner fully 80 yards away. I should have felt badly had our previous luck been less favourable, so I concluded to try an experiment in creeping on them. The first great difficulty was to get from the sitting position to that of all-fours without being noticed, as the least motion was sure to be seen.
Before attempting this change, four marks were selected to creep to, the last one being a large cluster of rushes, and it was understood that Harry was to whistle in case the conditions changed on my way down to these. Thus fortified, I began to settle from my seat, so slowly as to be unnoticed, then, with my gun in my right hand, I moved straight upon the first mark, then to the next, and finally brought up to the last without any warning signal from Harry. Thus assured the birds were there and within shot, I cocked both barrels, settled out at full length, resting on my elbows. When I sighted them, they were uneasy and moving together, the most of them looking at me. By that I knew they would soon jump, so, as they were below me, I ranged for the outside birds, calculating the nearest ones would either jump into the shot, or be stopped by the dropping ones and pulled. " My ! my! what a jar! " It was my intention to give them the right barrel sitting, and the left when they jumped; but the recoil gave me such a shock that, for a little, nothing but my cheek and nose were in my thoughts. They pained as from ague. By the time I recovered my feet Harry ran by me to the shore, shouting, " You made a great shot; five are dead, and another has fallen outside." Ordinarily I would have been all excitement at this, but my pain just then was too severe to think much about birds. Upon examination I discovered the concussion in the first barrel set off the second, so that I had the recoil of both barrels at once. My position prevented me holding her very firm, while it brought my face directly over the shock, giving me the full force of the set-back. Fortunately, the pain did not last long, or my hunting would have been over for that day. The soreness, however, did not leave so readily.
"Pat," said Harry, "do you see Ready out after that wounded bird ? He is having some fun with him." Just as I looked, Ready was close upon him, when the duck went under, leaving the dog on the qui vive for his appearance. He came up behind him, having turned under water, and thus got a start away before he was seen. Ready spied him, and soon got up to him, when the bird tried his diving game again, but this time he had company. When he went under, so did the dog, bringing the duck with him when he came up. All this time the five were lying quietly on the water in front of us, as we thought, dead. Presently, however, one began to show signs of life, and was soon very lively, moving off from us. " Give him a shot, Harry, or we'll lose him before Ready can get to the shore." " I don't like to: we'll shoot him all to pieces; but Ready will get him all right."
We noticed the dog was inclined to land with his bird on the shore below us, and beyond the range of the wounded one working off, so I walked up the shore until he and the wounded bird were in range, when I spoke to him, and he turned towards me. Right then he spied the fellow swimming, when he gave the one in his mouth an extra bite, dropped him, and started in pursuit. The other saw him coming, went under, and came up with his bill just above the surface. This is a peculiarity of wild birds, that they have the power of weighting or sinking their bodies, so as to leave only their bills out of the water. When pursued by an enemy, it is surprising to see how fast they can swim in this way. There was an exciting race, which Ready won after a little, capturing him under water, as the previous one.