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the quickest and most comprehensible. Having determined where to rig out, the sloop is brought to an anchor, the gunner has taken soundings, a depth of four feet may be the result.
The first thing is to get the box over the side, then the head fender is attached. Different gunners have different methods.
The next thing is generally the placing of the weights in position, the object being to bring the box level with the water when the sportsmen take their position. (At a distance of 100 yards, a box and the men within it are invisible).
The box is then anchored fore and
aft, the head fender facing the wind. Then the decoys are placed around in such shape as to, if possible, draw the attention of the wild duck to the foot of the box, as it is difficult to shoot birds swinging in at the head.
In the case of the wind shifting, it is always necessary to adjust the box, observing the same law as in the original rigging, i. e., head fender to the wind. The purpose of this fender, which is composed of long laths and strong cloth, is to break the force of the sea. Another precaution against rough water is a strip of lead around the edge of the box, which can be raised at will. Having placed the men, guns and
ELEVATION-I, BOX; 2, FENDER; 3, HEAD ANCHOR; 4, STERN ANCHOR
LAYOUT OF A BATTERY AND DECOYS
shells in the machine, the gunner returns to the sloop, weighs anchor, and makes short sail; weather conditions determine just about how far he shall leave the battery. Should an attending sloop in her anxiety to stir up the birds, get away so far as to be of no use in a case of emergency, the following tactics should be adopted by the men in the box.
Say it suddenly blows up and the sea runs high. The first thing you would do would be to raise the lead strip before mentioned. This being inadequate to prevent the inroad of the water a line should be made fast to as many of your iron stools (which are on deck of the box) as possible, and the
same thrown over the tail end. This will lighten your craft some and you will float higher and manage to keep out of the water till the sloop arrives, which she will surely do, as those in charge understand your condition.
One day I had a couple of good boys rigged all serene; weather steady and no cause for worry about the battery. So I sailed away after a raft of birds two miles off. We succeeded in getting them up, and had the pleasure of seeing them fly in twos and tens to where we knew our outfit lay. Then we beat back. Judge of my annoyance on getting close to the boys to see them (as I thought) setting vis à vis on the deck of the box. I signaled to
them to "get down," and received no satisfactory response. Closer inspection proved that they were standing on the deck and that the box was on the bottom of the bay. One of their guns had "went off" and blown a hole through the end of the machine. In In such an emergency, a cartridge generally fits the leak; sometimes the addition of a handkerchief caulks well enough till assistance arrives.
As during the duck-shooting season the water is rather cold, it is always advisable to rig in shoal water, and in never more than three feet deep, though I have known baymen to rig in the channel, where the lines to the stools scarcely touched the bottom. None other than experts should ever attempt to do this. After many years I have come to the conclusion that there is none of us who know what ducks are going to do, whether they will fly to the stool like chickens, in clouds, or scud past us one at a time.
Tireless vigilance is necessary in a box, for should such relax for an instant, that instant will find you unpre
pared. On a warm day I have seen good sports go to sleep in the machine and birds fly in and alight among the wooden imitations. I have known crack trap shots, men who have met the best at Monte Carlo, who couldn't get one broadbill out of seventy-five.
When the wind blows hard is always the best time for point shooting, in fact. "Let her blow!" and let it be good and cold, and it's ten to one ducks are flying, although this is neither law nor rule. As I said before in different words, the more ye know about how ducks fly the less ye understand. In fine weather, such as we have had during this season, ducks of all breeds are liable to assemble in "rafts." The word "rafts" may suggest just exactly how they assemble. At a distance they look like a thick, black line, sometimes extending a mile and a half (speaking conservatively). When the weather is fine this raft generally appears in deep water, deeper than possible to rig. Under such conditions shooting is poor, as even suppose the birds are forced to take to the air, they will simply de
scribe a circle of about five miles circumference, and alight just where they were before. This year I have seen such conditions; have seen the air alive with ducks, and yet they would not "stool." They had selected a feeding ground the weather was not interfering with their operations. Unlike us mortals, they had a good thing, knew it, were satisfied, and the result was that gunners coming from a distance to shoot on the Great South Bay during the last month had the pleasure of seeing multitudes of web-footed fowl, and yet slim chance to get a bag pretentious enough to satisfy the demands of their own family circle.
When ducks fly at an outfit in a swarm the novice fires into the mass of flapping wings and nothing drops; when such a circumstance happens with a "vet" he selects his birds, and usually gets 'em.
"Duck or no Duck" (in the bag), I make bold to say the outing after duck.
in these waters is fraught with interest, excitement and all the elements of glorious sport, and he is a poor example of the true sportsman who will kick if the luck is bad, and if, owing to calm, it takes him five hours to cross the bay on his homeward tack.
As to shells: I have seen everything from No. I to No. 9 shot used, before everything from black powder, at so much a pound, to Ballistite. I've known. men so very particular as to use No. 6 in the right and No. 1 in the left, but old gunners never do these kind of things. They just get in the box with a gun you'd be afraid to touch (looks like junk), and any old shells left over by the boys.
When shooting from a box use a black cloth cap and a grey or black sweater. Shun khaki yellow gunning coats as you would bad whiskey. Wear good rubber boots to the hip. Oldfashioned woolen gloves go well. Get a good day, shoot a hundred shells, and