Joined: 12 Mar 2005
Fowler. I agree that the English wrote the book on wingshooting. Its just that they wrote it in the 19th, not the 18th century.
Modern flinters have had the benifit of another two hundered years of metalurgical development. They are a bit faster than most older, or less well maintained guns. However, none are as fast to ignite and fire than the well designed, well maintained precussion gun of the mid 19th century, and never will be. The black powder trail from pan to main charge will always be slower than the hotter, faster ignition of a fulminated mercury cap through the direct line of nipple channel to charge. this could not take place until the cap was developed and the percussion system perfected. It did not happen until the late 1830's at the earliest.
That is also when wingshooting finally began to take hold as a commonly shared skill. after this time, all the modern shooting techniques were developed. Every wingshooting technique from constant lead to move, mount, shoot and every variation of the basic methods were well established by the 1870's. As far as shooting techniques go, nothing has changed since then.
Shooting flint fowlers at clays is fun. But they compete in their own class in most cases, because they are outclassed by the caplocks, period. I've shot at many a local muzzleloading shoot here in New England. Not once have the flint guys ever had to compete against the precussion guys. It would not be a fair match.
I envy those guys who can reliably put them all in the black with a flint lock. The slower ignition works against me. I'm too used to the instant shot, and can't hold the gun steady enough , long enough. It takes practice to do it and a familiarity with the gun, its lock set up, and the right loading technique to get the flintlock to shoot consistantly well.
However, I shoot a precussion gun just as well as a breech loader if all goes well. I've even won my class several times and placed often enough to be acknowledged as a competant shot locally. Plus loading and maintaining consistantly repeatable ignition is far easier with a good percussion gun. No amount of nostalgia will change that. However, the flinters are absolutely beautiful to look at and the guys who shoot them well to be admired for their commitment to their chosen venue.
Interesting discussion, although it has wandered a bit off topic.
Guy, you're about 1,000 years off on the arrival of pheasants in England. The Romans brought them in. The legend, of course, is that Jason and the Argonauts brought them back to Europe from their voyage in search of the golden fleece, to Colchis on the Black Sea. (Hence the pheasant's scientific name, phaisanus colchicus.)
As for the wingshooting thing, the Brits (although they don't like to admit it) actually learned the game from the French, clear back in the 17th century, when their royals were in exile on the Continent. Brought it back to England when they returned to power. But it certainly didn't gain a lot of popularity until the 19th century, because of the percussion ignition thing (and later, the breechloader and self-contained shells).
If you happen to have a moderately active "peg" on a drive, especially if you're loading for yourself, you'll get caught with an unloaded gun and birds overhead--as I did on more than one occasion, and our driven day did not involve an especially large number of birds. And loading myself, I can reload a breechloader (especially an ejector gun) a heck of a lot faster than a loader can handle a front stuffer.
Unless you're on a shoot that specializes in extremely "tall" birds, choke isn't much of an issue even today. Couple of my friends do a fair amount of driven shooting, and have pairs of guns made for that purpose in England. One has .010 in both barrels of both guns; the other one has .007 and .013, his theory being that if Bond does not get the bird, the devil will. (These are 12's.)
Joined: 12 Mar 2005
Larry, The Romans could very well have initially introduced the Caucasian pheasant to Britain. However, there is no definative, written proof and their hold on the Britons was always tentative at best. They did introduce it to a thoroughly Romanized Gaul, but the bird they introduced was a very domesticated version. These birds were like free range chickens and were common around the villa estate grounds. However, they never were a forest bird and required grain fields and brush for nesting like today. Most of ancient Britain was oak forest except where it was cleared for agriculture by the Villa owners' slaves. Gaul was much more widely settled and farmed. Plus, the vast coastal plains of Normandy and northern France were ideal habitat for feral birds.
Common Roman practice was to net the roosting hen, and eat her and/or the eggs, or raise the poults for meat later in the year. Cocks were hunted with a leashed, restrained, and silenced dog and net mostly for sport and meat later in the year. Eventually training and breeding replaced the leash.
The practice of netting pheasants with or without the aid of a dog survived into the late 18th century in France, and in a way, is still with us today. However, we use a shotgun instead of the net. The Brittaney, one of the resulting breeds that came from these ancient dogs, is very much still with us and a fine bird dog too as are all pointers in general.
The so called wild pheasant established itself throughout the less forested coastal areas of northern France and Normandy as a feral species after the collapse of the Roman system and throughout the dark ages. The practice of hunting them hung on through this unsettled time in the more settled and civilized areas of the Frankish lands. The Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties reestablished the art of hunting with net and dog and made it popular among the French and later Norman nobles into the early to late middle ages.
There is written proof that the Normans brought what was to become known as the common English pheasant shortly after conquering the Anglo-Saxons. These birds established themselves throughout England well into the next five centuries due to the protection they received from the draconian hunting laws the Normans laid on the commoners as well as the ongoing clearing of the English oak forests for agriculture, building material, and fuel.
However, by the late 18th century, this strain was considered extinct in England. The Reformation and the English civil war brought wide ranging changes to the land. Social, industrial, animal husbandry, and agricultural practices so changed the English landscape and the behavior of the people, that the bird died out mostly from lack of habitat and uncontrolled netting by a growing, more liberated, somewhat independant lower middle class agrarian population and their servents.
The modern ringneck is not the same bird as the English pheasant of old. It is an established hybred introduced at the end of the 18th century. It is a much wilder, hardier and dominant bird that has managed to survive in the former species' range due mostly to the developing conservation practices that started in the early 1800's in England and later on the continent. It has pretty much replaced the common English pheasant throughout Europe because of its more adaptive, wild traits and dominant genes. It is basically the same bird we enjoy here in the states.
Although hunting the birds with dog and throw net was more or less common in France throughout the first and second millinia, it was King Louis the 14th who made the much less common practice of shooting at pheasant wildly popular among the French nobility and the English Catholic nobility he gave sancuary to at his court in Versailles.
This palace and its huge grounds was the world famous guilded cage he had built just for the purpose of entertaining and controlling his lords and their families. Versailles was like our modern Disney World, except it was for the nobility only. As with everything he did, he turned social occasions to his political advantage and made them part of the amusement he provided within his system of appeasement, competition for royal favor, and complex, constantly changing rules of royal court etiquette.
These Royal French birds were hardly wild. They were as pen raised, overfed, and as pampered as the French nobles who shot at them. Often, the birds were force fed Gems or had their craws slit, stuffed with trinkets, and sewn up. The lucky shooter who bagged one got to keep the gift inside.
Plus, the birds more than likely had to be thrown to get them to fly. Often, their flight feathers were plucked or trimmed to limit their speed and range to ensure they were recovered and reused. Hitting them in the air was still pretty tricky with a flintlock or snap haunce and concidered more luck than art except for the very skillful. Birds often got ground sluiced after landing, which was tolerated but laughed at or recovered for another forced flight. Louis even held contests between expert crossbowmen and gunners. Often the archers won.
As with everything else social he influenced, the Sun King turned these festive shoots into decadent and very controlled occasions complete with lavish decor, splendid dress, abundant food, pomp and ceremony. But that was his aim. It kept the French nobility, weak, dependant, and under his thumb. It kept the rest of Europe in awe, except for Protestant England. Even here though, Louis's power was felt. Not to be out done by the French, the English royal nobility began to reestablish their own power and influence on England again after the Cromwell era. So Louis's prestige and influence had an effect even in conservative England. The effect on English society was felt until after WWI.
The French snap haunce fowling piece was a lighter, more embellished, and smaller gauge gun than the English fowling piece. However, both developed and evolved into fairly reliable flintlock hunting arms by the late 18th century. However, wingshooting still had a long way to go to become popular. Most birds and small game were shot while at rest. Powder and shot were expensive and not to be wasted, even by the well off.
Wingshooting pheasant was never a common practice among the French country people. Netting them was the much more ancient and traditional practice. Netting was practical, reliable, and economic. Plus, it was quiet. Hunting by commoners was not well condoned by the French noble land holders. However, the French peasant knew well how to get by. What the Marquis did not know did not hurt him. Especially when he was away attending court at Versailles as was manditory for four monthes out of a year. However, the customary repression of the Jacquery did act as a conservative measure to an extent. The ancient strain of birds persisted in France until the ringnecked pheasant replaced them later on starting in the mid 19th and early 20th centuries. It is ironic that the English pheasant survived in France long after they disappeared from England.
The French revolution and the Napoleonic era brought an abrupt halt to hunting in France and much of Europe. England was relatively unaffected and free to advance socially, scientifically, technologically, and industrially. The practice of driven shooting and the bird the English aristocracy shot at evolved and became very different than the French version. Both 19th century English system and bird were a result of the advancements in science, the developing game conservation practices, and technology that was fairly well stifled on the continent from the constant wars of the era. As we all know, England came out of that time with the greatest most far flung empire on earth. France and much of Europe lay devastated.
The First World War had the same effect on social hunting in England that earlier wars had in Europe. An entire generation of male English Aristocracy was wiped out and the economy ruined. Only the very wealthy could even think of shooting at driven birds. The English middle and upper classes began turning away from guns and hunting. Its a trend that still is going on today, reinforced by the even greater carnage of WWII.
The driven bird hunt of the mid to late 19th century and the pre-war 20th does not exist anymore. The modern version is a much scaled down one. Gun handlers/loaders so common and necessary to the earlier hunts have gone the way of percussion guns and the later black powder and semi smokeless shells which made them desirable if not essential for the well dressed shooters. The tradition of driven bird shooting lives on as a hollow echo of former, grander times. I'm afraid there is no modern equivelent that can rightly be compared my friend. However, that is not a bad thing if you think about it. It was one of the practices of the excessively extravegent, self centered upper class of a failed social system. Why would we wish to copy losers. I like our modern American system fine. 16GG
Joined: 07 Dec 2005
I just sent you a PM but thought I would ask you here as well!!!
I read several of your responses to questions about 16ga Citori guns. You seem very knowledgable and I thought you might have the answer to my question. Where all 16ga Citori guns built on 16ga frames or where some built on 12ga frames??? AND If they were built on 12ga frames are they much heavier or poor handing??
I would really appreciate your help with this question. THANK YOU, Dave
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