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Title: From Thomas William Magrath, Esq., to the Rev. Thomas Radcliff, Dublin.
CollectionAuthentic Letters from Upper Canada [Rev. Thomas Radcliff]
SenderMagrath, Thomas Wm
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationfarmer
Sender Religionunknown
OriginLondon, England
DestinationDublin, Ireland
RecipientRev. Thomas Radcliff
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1681
TranscriptLondon, March, 1832.
My dear Sir,
As I supposed would be the case, when I wrote last,
blame» has led me to this city; and I shall go forward
to Ireland before my return to Canada. I promised to
continue the subject of field sports, and having now
despatched the beasts, I must try my hand upon the birds.
Partridge Shooting
The partridge is here a much finer and larger bird than
with you, but does not afford half the sport.
The coveys, when raised, generally perch in trees and
7 the™' aS t a m e Iy a s barn-door fowl. The best dog to use
in this case is of the genuine King Charles breed-who
when he finds, will quest, and tree the birds, whose whole
attention being fixed on him, as he barks at the bottom
of the trees, you may come within half distance if you
wish, and pick them off one by one, without disturbing
the rest; unless, that by firing at the upper birds first
their tumbling through the branches will disconcert the
others and make them take wing—even in this case, the
lively cocker will follow and tree them again; and unless
in the vicinity of a settlement, where they are frequently
disturbed, you may shoot three or four brace from the
covey without any difficulty. The dog must be trained,
not to mind the fallen birds, but to pursue those on wing,
and thus, from tree to tree, you may by degrees bag the
entire covey, without compunction, as, in this country no
one ever thinks of leaving any for breed. Your poaching
sportsmen whose main object is a supply for the table,
and whose epicurean taste appreciates the delicious flavor
of the bird, think this delightful sport; but I cannot agree
with them—there is something inglorious in a sitting shot,
that a true professor cannot brook.
Quails, also, upon a much larger scale than your's, are
becoming abundant, as the clearing advances.

The Shooting of Woodcock and Snipe

It appears extraordinary to a sportsman, coming from
the old country, who has been accustomed to shoot woodcocks,
in the depth of winter, to find on his arrival here
that the summer months are those when that sport is
enjoyed in high perfection—not at the moment reflecting,
that they, being birds of passage, will be led by instinct
to desert the northern latitudes, (before they become
bound in impenetrable frost,) for milder climes whose
unfrozen springs arc better suited to their manner of
subsistence. Ireland is, in many places, remarkable for
excellent cock shooting, which I have myself experienced in the most
favorable situations, not, however, to be compared with
this country, where the numbers are truly wonderful.
Were I to mention what I have seen in this respect, or
heard from others, it might bring my graver statements
into disrepute.—As a specimen of the sport, I will merely
give a fact or two of not unusual success, bearing, however,
no proportion to the quantity of game. I have known
Mr. Charles Reward, of York, to have shot, in one day,
thirty brace, at Chippewa, close to the Falls of Niagara—
and I, myself, who am far from being a first rate shot,
have frequently brought home from twelve to fourteen'
brace, my brothers performing their parts with equal
success—after dinner, now and then, an amicable disputation
will arise as to the number of shots hit, and missed;
which is generally decided by reference to the remaining
contents of the powder horns, all having been equally
filled in the morning. This frequently reminds me of a
story I had heard before I left Ireland, of a large party of
sportsmen who turned out one day from a most hospitable
mansion into the best cover that country afforded, and
returned to dinner, after a splendid day's shooting.
A convivial evening naturally embraced the subject of
their morning prowess—and each exulting in the sport,
and elate with his own particular success, enumerated the
shots which he had hit and missed. A gentleman present,
who was no sportsman, and, of course, entitled to express
surprise, took out his pencil, to note, as it were, the
wonders of the day, and having exhibited the account,
which was stated to him as correct, he rang the bell, and
inquired the number of woodcocks brought home that
day; this being sent up, bore testimony to the accuracy of
the sportsmen's recollection, and upon the whole, their
skill and fortune appeared to have been equally good,
and that but one shot had been missed out of every five
—upon which the same gentleman remarked that there
must be some mistake; as he, who had accompanied them
to the cover, and had never left it till they did, not carrying
a gun, had amused himself, with a knife and stick,
tallying every shot that was fired during the day. This
fatal tally being produced, and its notches compared with
the number of woodcocks, the account assumed a different
form, which evinced, that instead of one shot missed in
five, there was but one shot hit in six.
This admirable lecture upon vain glory, was productive,
I am told, of great merriment, the gentleman who instituted
the humorous scrutiny, having assured them that he
meant not to make any invidious or individual application
of his sporting arithmetic, but to leave them to settle the
balance among themselves.
The woodcock here is smaller than those I was in the
habit of seeing at home. When flushed they rise with a
kind of whistle. In settlements near a river they are most
numerous; but never appear until some clearing has been
made. I have never met a woodcock in the wild Bush, in
all my excursions.
The snipe are pretty much the same as with you, differing
a little in plumage; and being less wild, are more
easily shot. There is a variety called the great snipe, not
very common. The former kind is to be met with every
where, and are in such numbers that a tolerable shot may
bring home from twenty to thirty brace in a day.

Duck Shooting

Of the varieties of the duck species I must postpone the
description till a future opportunity, as my present letter
is drawing to a close.
The Wood Duck is so termed from lighting in the trees; and
is, of course, very easily shot. The warfare against this
sort must be considered a slaughter, rather than a sport
Should our friend John Wall bring out with him the
Roaring Mag, as he calls his great duck gun, what lanes
would he not cut in the countless flocks that seem to court
The common duck shooting affords excellent sport.
They particularly abound in a marsh near York, where
the amusement is enjoyed in manner following.
You get into a canoe or skiff, with a person expert at
the use of the paddle, and then proceed quietly along,
avoiding the dry sedge and rushes as much as possible;
the sound caused by their brushing against the sides of the
canoe, disturbs the ducks from their feed, and sets them
on the watch; in which case it is very difficult to get a shot.
The true method is to proceed with two canoes, that while
one remains quiet, the other, making a wide circuit, may
come round the flock, and make them fly over the party,
in that which is stationary; this method can seldom fail
of success. Great steadiness, however, must be observed on board,
in default of which many accidents take place. I have
known a whole party lose their guns, by the awkwardness
of one who, unaccustomed to "the skimmer of the seas,"
lost his balance, and upset her; treating himself and his
companions to a hazardous swim, and wet jackets.
In lake shooting, a friend of mine, in letting down the
hammer of his gun, discharged its contents through the
bottom of the canoe at a considerable distance from shore,
when the only mode of safety was to hurry off his coat,
place it over the orifice, and sit down upon it firmly; at
every swerve of the canoe, a plash of water would break
in, making his situation as uncomfortable as dangerous, till
at length he reached the shore, immersed above the hips.
For river shooting, the Nottawesaga, which runs into
lake Huron, is the best duck river I have ever met. Twenty
pair a day has been with me a common day's sport.
They abound here from the remoteness of the situation,
and from their being seldom disturbed. Here are to be
found, in great numbers, the large black ducks, the Canard
You come at them in this way—when you perceive a
Mock on the water, you must paddle slowly towards them,
keeping in the middle of the river; if you go faster than
they can swim, they will take wing, but if you proceed
quietly, they will continue to swim before you; joined,
perhaps, by another flock, but not within shot. When you
have driven them thus, for a few hundred yards, run the
canoe into the sedge, at the river's side, remaining silent
and concealed; presently they will all return down the
river to their feeding ground. Wait till they are just
passing; determine how many are to fire at them on the
water, and how many in the air, and a great havoc is the
certain result.

Chasing the wounded birds is esteemed good sport. For
some days my party eat of nothing but ducks. Too fastidious
to be at the trouble of plucking the feathers from
the entire body, they merely bared the breast, and cutting
it out threw away all the rest, except when the Indians,
who were with me, wished to convert the refuse into soup
and even then they were not very particular, as to the

Your's, dear Sir,