Coming home from a day of indifferent fortune at finding grouse in the glens of the hills, our party of three was obliged to cross a sluggish, winding brook running through a flat. There was no bridge, and the water was too deep for wading. The discomfort of rain and growing darkness was now aggravated by a northerly wind that promised cold weather in a few hours.

After some distance walking upon the bank, we found a woven wire fence that crossed the stream through an alder thicket. Utilizing this as a bridge, we were soon across only to discover one of the dogs, an old pointer named Bess, was not with us. She would respond neither to calls nor commands, so handing a gun to my companion and with malice in my heart I crawled back across the fence to get her.

There on the other edge of the thicket I found old Bess drawn up as stiff as glass, rolling her eyes and to me as cautiously as if she feared that movement would break the scent.

“Your silly dog is standing a rabbit!” I shouted down the now roaring wind, but at the sound of my voice there arose the shrill, thrilly whistle of a woodcock’s wings, and I saw him darkly against the faint light of the west, whipping like a flash through the tops of a sapling.


A pair of woodcock in their courtship flight, painted by Lynn Bogue Hunt in 1906.


“Oh, woodcock, woodcock!” I yelled and, at the report of one of the guns on the other side, two more cock swished out into the dying light, climbing high in the air and tearing downwind as only a woodcock can go. I saw one of them go limp as a rag and fall without so much as turning over, and then the other with a shot in the head came whistling down like one of those toys made of feathers and cork.

The old dog moved down the bank of the stream to where the brush was taller and many of the saplings wore their tattered rags of clothes. Presently she stood again, and before I could shout a warning, the shrilling of wings was followed by a shot and then another; then three so close together they were scarcely to be distinguished.

Eight woodcock had left the 20-yard strip of brush, and in that wretched light six of them had fallen to the gunners across the stream.


An excerpt from “The Choicest Gamebird,” first published in Outing magazine in 1905. This story and its accompanying artwork appear in Sporting Classics’ new Lynn Bogue Hunt: Angler, Hunter, Artist. Written by Tom Davis, the book features some 150 of Hunt’s most iconic paintings, many of which have appeared on the cover of  Sporting Classics. Get yours today while supplies last.