Left: Approaching the fowl with stalking-horse. Right: Shooting with the stalking-horse. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
The specimens we have been fortunate enough to meet with on our own river have been very few, indeed only three altogether. Of these, one had completely fallen into decay (its head had disappeared), and its owner seemed careless as to whether he ever rendered it efficient again or not. He complained that there were "a dozen men worriting about with a gun for one as used to be," and that there was not much to be done any way. The second that we saw was placed against a hedge far from any human dwelling, and had a very melancholy air about it, that strongly suggested "occupation gone." It was, however, in tolerable repair, and the proprietor may have intended to look it up before the winter, feeling confident that it would not walk itself off, and that no one would think of stealing it. The third was that from which we have drawn our illustrations, and is in regular use at the present time, probably the only one in the kingdom. Mr. Harting speaks of the device in the past tense, and it will perhaps be interesting news to him that it is not yet quite extinct. The three specimens alluded to have been essentially the same in construction, though differing somewhat in detail. A slight wooden frame (not unlike a hurdle), with canvas tightly stretched over it, forms the body; a head, bent down as if grazing, is rudely carved out of a flat piece of wood; tufts of horsehair are added for mane and tail; and with two straight pieces of wood for legs, the animal is, as far as appearance goes, complete. We were assured by the maker of one (who ought to have known) that it was "the very image of a horse." He told us that by adding horns it became "the very image of a cow." As both he and the wild-fowl, who are the chief parties concerned, seem satisfied with the resemblance, of course we could not presume to criticize. Being always presented broadside to the sight of the ducks, one fore and one hind leg are found to be sufficient. A swinging prop is added which is used in carrying the stalking-horse, and enables it to stand by itself when necessary. A hole in the shoulder serves for a look-out, and afterwards for resting the barrel of the gun, which is protruded a few inches. Sometimes a second hole is added at the animal's quarters, which permits two sportsmen to work together, and in that case they fire simultaneously. [199-200]
Robertson, H. R. Life on the Upper Thames. London: Virtue, Spalding, & Co., 1875.Internet Archive digitized from a copy in the University of Toronto Library.
Last modified 7 May 2012