PREFACE NOTWITHSTANDING, the large number of books, both ancient and modern, which have been written on the art of Hawking, it cannot be said that the Enghsh-speaking people generally have more than a very vague idea of the character of the sport, or the mode in which it was, and still is, conducted.
Yet, in an experience of Hawking which extends over more than thirty years, the author has found that a great and increasing curiosity, and even a real interest in the subject, prevails, especially amongst sporting men, who are in many notable instances beginning to believe that hawks and their owners have been unduly disparaged, and that there is more to be said in their favour than has for the last two centuries been imagined.
There has not been space in this volume to discuss the much-vexed question how far the use of hawks is compatible with the preservation of game. But it may be said here, without any reservation, that wherever experiments have been actually tried, Hawking has been found not to spoil but to improve the shooting.
The object of the author has been to describe as briefly as was consistent with clearness the birds now chiefly used in the chase, and the manner of training and flying them. His hope is that some of the sportsmen who read these pages may, in spite of the difficulties which they will have to encounter, resolve to give this old and honourable sport a trial. The use of technical terms has been avoided as far as possible; and those which could not be excluded have been explained in the text.
The annals of falconry, since it was deposed from its fashionable place - in England by the Great Rebellion, and afterwards in France by the Revolution - are obscure, and for the most part buried in oblivion. Here and there the name of a notable falconer, professional or amateur, emerges from the mist, showing us that the sport was still carried on with vigour by a few. In the middle of the eighteenth century Lord Orford flew kites in the eastern counties, and this sport, as well as rook-hawking and heron-hawking, was successively carried on by the Falconers' Society, the Falconers' Club, and the High Ash Club, which latter existed from about 1792 to later than 1830, and included amongst its members Lord Berners, Colonel Thornton, and other sporting celebrities. In Scotland falconry has always been kept up. The life of John Anderson covers the whole of the last half of the eighteenth century, as well as more than a quarter of the nineteenth. This accomplished trainer of hawks was for the first twenty years or so of the present century in charge of the Renfrewshire establishment kept by Fleming of Barochan, and flown chiefly at partridges and woodcocks. During the early years of the same century, until 1814, Colonel Thornton did a great deal of hawking on his own account, at first in Yorkshire, and afterwards at Spy Park, in Wiltshire.
From 1823 to 1833 Mr. John Sinclair flew woodcocks with success in Ireland. In 1840 Lord O'Neill and Colonel Bonham took a moor in Ross-shire for hawking; and in the following year the Loo Club was started for heron-hawking in Holland, under the auspices of Mr. E. Clough Newcome. This influential club continued to flourish till 1853. Its place was taken, not many years after, by the Old Hawking Club, which, although it has never undertaken the flight at herons, continues to carry on an annual campaign against rooks and game with great credit and success. In France a hawking club was started in 1865, under the title of the Champagne Club, but was not long-lived; and several minor attempts at organising new clubs have been made in England during the last thirty years. There are at the present moment at least thirty private establishments in England alone where trained hawks are kept and flown, besides several in Scotland and Ireland.
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