Young at heart
Sporting Shooter|August 2020
Young at heart
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Tony Jackson explores some of the more unusual fieldsports adopted by our ancestors when times were tough. Beetle fight, anyone?
TONY JACKSON

In these strange times, it might amuse readers to learn about some of the more bizarre field sports adopted by our ancestors (perhaps even our grandfathers!) in lieu of the more conventional sporting activities. Many years ago, (during WWI) a 164-page illustrated book was published under the title Minor Field Sports. The author, L.C.R. Cameron, felt there was a need to educate the younger generation on inexpensive forms of fieldsports as, sadly, so many of their natural instructors, gamekeepers, and fathers, had been killed in the war.

It was a laudable aim, even if some of the sports proposed to appear today distinctly eccentric. Apart from information on how to set about hunting for rats, stoats, squirrels, moorhens, and water voles, hawking small birds and dog racing, the embryo sportsman was offered information on shooting games with a bow and arrows, wiring pike, spearing eels, minnow fishing and catching crayfish. There were instructions on shooting pigeons and rooks and some preliminary notes on the more conventional field sports.

However, the author then deviated into a variety of activities which were, to say the least, outlandish! Most boys, suggested Mr. Cameron, are fond of keeping magpies and jackdaws as pets and a tame jackdaw, he advised, will sit on its owner’s fist and can be carried around the walls of a hut or garden house, both of which at night abound in earwigs and other insects.

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August 2020