nothing to fear, at present, from the hand of the destroyer. As far as
we are able to observe, their numbers have not diminished for the past
thirty-five years. Their breeding grounds are away up in the unknown,
and possibly unknowable, north, and, although they are more liable to be
destroyed in their southern winter quarters, they have not thus far been
very extensively pursued there. What few are killed along our seaboard
each spring are but a drop in a bucket, and if more of our business men
would occasionally, for a week or so, break away from the pressure that
comes to body and brain by the daily routine of office and occupation,
and betake themselves to some such cheerful place of resort, where all
thoughts of the care of business are abandoned, there would be fewer
cases of " softening of the brain," " nervous prostration," and " heart
failure " than we are now pained to hear in this work-day world.
The week following the 23d of March fell to the Providence Club,
than whom a more cheerful, social, and generous party never enters the
field. The club was represented by six of Little Rhody's best boys, who
always leave their cares and clients behind them. To say they are not
the jolliest company that ever trod the sands of time or Cape Cod would
be to utter a simple, unadorned slander. They, too, had hard luck in
shooting. Rough winds prevailed, and, although there were plenty of
birds in the bay, they did not incline to shore, and the bag made that
week was only fifteen brant. The next party of nine fared better.
Winds and tides were favorable; the birds shored well; and the party
triumphantly scored 102 brant. The 6th of April brought a party of
nine, who made a bag of sixty-eight brant. The party for the I3th was
less successful, getting only forty-one. Up to this time very few young
brant had been killed, but as the season draws to a close the proportion
of young birds is usually greater. It was so this year. When young
birds constitute any considerable portion of the birds present, the
number killed each day is greater. The young are unsophisticated, less
suspicious, and decoy better than old ones. None of the gaggles, after
the first of April, tarried as long as usual to feed in the bay, and later
many did not stop at all, but passed directly over on their northward
journey. Within a few years great changes have taken place in the flats
and marsh ; the feeding ground has been destroyed, so that to-day
this bay does not present so attractive a resort as it did ten years ago.
What the outcome of all this mass of shifting sand may be no one can
BRANT SHOOTING, 1892. 505
predict. The water will be likely to remain shoal, and the brant, while
they may find less food than formerly, will probably find shelter here
from impending storms.
A lively set of young men, called " The Boys' Party," full of fun and
frolic, occupied the works on the 2oth of April. This party has for
several years claimed to be the champion party, in point of shooting and
number of birds killed, but this year the fates were against them, or
from some other cause, they only killed fifteen brant.
The 27th of April brought up the last party of six. The shooting
here, as a rule, is not good after the 25th or 26th of April, though some
of the birds linger here as late as the loth of May, or even later, but
there are not enough to warrant pursuing them. The party of the
27th had none of them ever seen shooting of this kind before, and some
of them were enthusiastic in its praise. They made a bag of forty-seven
brant, and closed the season on the 4th of May.
The boxes are to be taken up and stored, the decoys removed to town
to be cared for, and the local members dispersed to their several
avocations. Of the total number of 289 brant killed during the season,
82 were young birds.
President Monomoy Branting Club.
Boston, Mass., May 12.
[ From Shooting and Fishing. ,]
THE season for brant shooting at this locality depends somewhat upon
the weather. If the spring opens mild and warm, the birds arrive in
goodly numbers from their winter retreat along the Carolina coast toward
the end of February or first of March ; indeed, in an open winter, some
linger here, where they find good food and are moderately secure from
gunners, till spring. The number remaining is small, even in the mild-
est winter, and as they are shy of a boat, and do not go ashore except on
the open sand flats, they are not pursued at this inclement season. But
let a black duck come on to the plashes to feed or visit a spring-hole for
a drink of fresh water, even in the coldest day in winter, and he is almost
sure to meet death in so doing, even though he may be as poor as a crow
and as worthless for food.
So scarce have the ducks become, that, during a sojourn of two weeks
this spring at Chatham, we did not see a single black duck where thirty
years ago in that time hundreds might be seen. The scarcity of these
noble food birds is, in a great measure, due to the great slaughter in mid-
winter, when they are driven to the plashes and meadows for food and
water, and are worthless.
We are at a loss to know why the Legislature in its wisdom, watching
the food interests of the people, lobsters, scallops, fish, game, do not
throw the protecting mantle of the law around these poor creatures dur-
ing the winter months, before they are all exterminated.
The 2oth of March is about as early as the sport of brant shooting
can be relied upon, and in a very severe winter even later than this ; but
the work of preparation planting boxes, building bars, making and
repairing wood decoys, cleaning and putting club houses in order must,
necessarily, begin two or three weeks earlier. The resident members of
the Monomoy Branting Club, who are interested in the welfare and suc-
cess of the non-residents, kindly attend to all these details, so that when
the weekly parties arrive they have nothing to do but indulge in such
sport as the season presents.
The reason why these birds are shot in springtime in place of autumn
is somewhat phenomenal. Most of the migratory birds that breed very
far north, stop here with their young on their way back to the sunny south,
where they spend the winter. Brant are an exception to this rule. They
never stop unless compelled by severe storm or wind, then remain no
longer than the obstruction holds. So far as we know, not a single one
was killed last fall ; and the few that are sometimes captured, after the
long journey from the Arctic regions, are in poor condition, and unworthy
a place on any respectable table. But once again back upon their undis-
turbed feeding ground, they soon recuperate, becoming fat and luscious,
fairly rivaling the famous canvasback in the estimation of the epicure.
Both species are vegetarian, the former feeding on zostera marina, while
the latter devours valisneria spiralis, which has a spicy flavor that is
imparted to the flesh, making it desirable as an article of food. This law,
we believe, holds good in most animals ; viz., that their flesh partakes
largely of the flavor of what they feed on. Furthermore, it is astonish-
ing how quickly a bird, from any cause has become emanciated, will
recover condition when restored unmolested to abundant food.
A sportsman, of great experience and keen observation, remarked to
us only a few weeks since, that during the past winter, while shooting in
North Carolina, he was overtaken by a snowstorm that covered the
ground to a depth of six or eight inches, thereby depriving bob-white of
his rations for two or three days, and in this brief period they became so
poor and wasted as to be almost worthless for the table. The snow
BRANT SHOOTING, 1894. 507
suddenly melted and disappeared, and in three days the birds shot
seemed to be as plump and palatable as before.
Brant this season have not averaged quite as large as on some former
seasons. Usually the young birds that arrive late in the season are well
developed, and in excellent condition, weighing three pounds and up-
wards ; but this season the last flight ran below that weight.
The month of March being very mild and agreeable, the bay was liter-
ally covered with brant as early as the 25th of that month, and for the
next two weeks it was thought, by those best able to judge, there had
not during the memory of the oldest inhabitant been so many brant
Some few years back we undertook to make an estimate of the number
of brant that passed this point. As a rule, we may say, the brant at this
season hug the shore, so that, though they may not stop, they are mostly
within sight ; and yet, no doubt, many do fly so wide out as not to be
seen. Our estimate of the number seen in the year referred to was
5,000,000. Of the 285 birds killed this season, 153 were young. This is
a larger proportion of young birds than we remember being recorded in
thirty-five years' shooting. Let us then suppose, since more than half
the birds on the ground this year are young, if there were 5,000,000 last
year, then, barring casualties, there must be this year 10,000,000 of these
hungry mouths to be daily filled with zostera marina. Few people, not
even sportsmen, are aware of the immense swarms of these little geese.
We have often remarked that brant are about the only valuable game
bird capable of sustaining their numbers against the formidable means
of destruction brought against them ; and if they are pursued, as they
probably will be in future, upon their winter feeding grounds at the South,
they must ultimately disappear from the earth, as will the other large
game birds and animals.
Let us now turn our thoughts towards the Monomoy branting club
house. It is the ipth of March. The four water-tight boxes, partly
concealed in the sand flats, and partly surrounded by an artificial bar of
the same kind of material, so arranged as to represent a natural bar,
upon which the pair of live decoys are to promenade and show wings, or
by their musical r-r-r-onk, r-r-r-onk, herald a passing flock, thus traitor-
ously enticing their kindred into the hands of their destroyers. About
a hundred wood decoys are anchored along or grouped in a semicircle in
front of each box. The four boxes are named, South, Mudhole, West,
and North, and each is capable of holding a guide and two gunners.
The guides are, in familiar phrase, Lon, George, Washy, and Fernando.
It is necessary to have men of great patience and experience for these
responsible positions. There is Alonzo (Lon), a gunner of good judg-
ment, and more than a half century of practical experience, and as steady
and cool under fire as one of Napoleon's old guard. And George, our
worthy local manager, has held the even tenor of his way through all the
vicissitudes of the club since its birth, thirty-two years ago. And Washy,
his brother, with a keen eje and steady hand, looking after the comfort
and good behavior of all those placed in his charge, and withal, an excel-
lent shot. We name lastly, another brother, of less experience, but
equally attentive to duty, painstaking, unselfish, and always pleased to
give those in his care the best opportunity for a good shot.
It is amusing to see how nervous and excited a neophyte will become
when he observes a gaggle of geese in the distance steadily approaching
the box, and as the prospect of a big shot increases, how uncontrollable
he becomes. He may want to jump up and shoot, they look so big,
even at a distance of 200 yards, and it requires coolness and good sense
to suppress the ardor of youth and prevent the loss of a rare opportunity.
It is no uncommon thing for a young gunner to become " rattled," and
shoot an old decoy valued at $25. Again and again has this been done,
and hence the necessity of cool, intelligent guides.
The great storm of the i2th of April made a clean breach over the
great Nauset beach, and threatened the stability of the island upon which
the club houses are located. Fortunately we escaped, but thousands of
tons of sand were moved westward, and this westward movement of
sand has filled the ship channel, buried beneath its vast body all the
inner feeding ground, and left at low tide a dry driveway to town.
Formerly the birds would, at high tide, cross over the shoal or white
water on the flats to the inner feeding ground, but since that has been
extinguished, the birds become shy of white water, and keep themselves
along the margin of the dark or deep water. This condition of things
has, for several years, been growing worse and worse, and this spring it
was decided to move the boxes further west, or nearer deep water.
This movement renders the work of keeping the bars in order more
difficult, and also subjects us to a loss of some cripples. In fact, we
believe not a single decoy has been saved this year, a thing that has not
occurred for many years. The success of the boxes moved nearer the
deep water, and the number of brant killed there, has fully demonstrated
the folly of placing the boxes so far away from the line of travel of the
brant as they have heretofore been.
But five young men are anxiously waiting an introduction to the boxes,
and meanwhile are indulging in the usual routine of amusements upon
such occasions at club houses. Later on they are joined by two others,
making the party seven. The weather was cold and boisterous, and
although there were plenty of brant in the bay, very few were killed.
Aside from the boats pursuing the birds on the feeding places, many
boats were in near proximity, catching scallops, which was a sore
BRANT SHOOTING, 1894. 509
vexation up to the 1st of April, and the score of the party for the ist was
only thirty-one brant. Still, the occasion was an agreeable one, and they
all felt that an outing of this kind had its compensations ; that occasional
cessations from daily toil and business are needful to health of both mind
and body. A sportsmen's club is an excellent remedy for nervous pros-
tration, but we must not forget that "an ounce of preventive is worth
more than a pound of cure."
On the 28th of March, the second weekly party, the " Boys' Party," as it
is called, arrived. The party was, as usual, full ; /'. e., contained eight,
the full capacity of the boxes. For several years they have claimed to
be the champion party of the club, but for the two past years victory has
not perched upon their banners ; not because they were not industrious,
frugal, and temperate, like most of the other members and their guests,
but because they failed to woo the fickle goddess from other fascinating
fields. We should, however, slander the " boys " and the occasion, did
we not admit that they enjoyed every moment of the week, and retired
with fifty-five brant, feeling stronger and better able to cope with the trials
of business and duties of life than before.
The third party consisted of seven of the substantial sons of Provi-
dence, R. I., and vicinity. They are business men who fully appreciate the
opportunity offered for a vacation at this season of the year. The past
year has been a very trying one for finance and business of all sorts, and
it requires no stretch of the imagination to understand how eagerly the
party availed themselves of this very agreeable outing. At this, as at
most other shooting grounds, there are annoyances and often hindrances
beyond control. The party this week were disturbed by boats with heavy
guns sailing about the bay and shooting at long range and keeping the
birds on the move, and, while they do not kill a great many themselves,
they prevent others from getting them. Furthermore, the effect is very
injurious to the whole business. Shooting at birds on their feeding
ground soon drives them away, and they find other places to feed, or
depart altogether. It is a sort of dog-in-the-manger arrangement, and
ought to be stopped by legislation. Such a law was in operation a few
years since, but was foolishly, we think, repealed. The party was fortu-
nate in capturing sixty-three of these delicious birds, and cheerfully
withdrew in favor of the fourth party.
The great gale of April u to 14, which made such havoc with ship-
ping and other property along our coast, also did much damage to the
club and the fourth party. The storm raged fearfully for four days.
The tides were very high, the boxes overflowed, and the birds, driven
from the water, had to seek shelter on the meadows and high beaches, or
wherever they could get a foothold. About forty were shot under the
lea of Morris' Island. Never so many brant in the bay, and never were
they so terribly at the mercy of wind and wave. The gunners were glad
to be inside the club house, where peace and plenty prevailed. As soon
as the wind shifted and the storm abated, the birds took wing for Prince
Edward Island by the million. But others soon filled their places, and
the sport proceeded. A single Canada goose, the only one of the season,
was killed by this party. Anas canadensis must be on the wane. Never
so few seen at Cape Cod as during the past season. We hardly think
persons who are not gunners, and never visit the seashore, are aware of
the rapidly diminishing numbers of our large birds. Take, for instance,
our wild pigeons, geese, canvasback, and other ducks, now as compared
with sixty years ago. It seems as though, if some means for their pres-
ervation is not adopted, there will be hardly one left for the youth of
the next generation. The fourth party retired with a bag of thirty-nine
The fifth party arrived on the i8th of April, and found plenty of birds
on the feeding ground, notwithstanding the vast swarms that had gone
north. Although so large a proportion of the birds were young, they
did not decoy as well as one might expect. We presume they had been
educated on their winter feeding grounds to know the difference between
animate and inanimate, decoys, and very wisely kept aloof from those
little sand bars surrounded by artificial representatives. The party got
in its first day's work on the iQth of April, that memorable day when
General Gage pompously sent out his regulars to destroy military stores
and their brave defenders at Concord and Lexington. We would offer
our gratitude to Governor Greenhalge for fitly naming it " Patriots'
Day," but we will not relate how hastily the enemy retreated before the
desultory fire of the untrained yeoman soldiery. We did repulse, with
considerable loss, the invading army of brant. Their bloody footprints
were left upon the field at night, as we gathered up thirty-six dead bodies,
and scored the best day of the season. The weather continued fine
too fine and warm to hold the birds here. Many departed, but few came.
The week was a merry one with the party, and was much enjoyed, espec-
ially by those who had never before participated in this peculiar kind of
shooting. Each one seemed proud to take home his share of the seventy-
six birds killed, and to be able to present such fine specimens to his
The sixth and last party to wind up the season contained nine per-
sons, not all professed gunners, but gentlemen who wished for a few
days of release from business for health and recreation. The birds
began to grow scarce, as the season was about two weeks in advance of
ordinary seasons, and some of the party departed before the end of the
week, which terminated on May 2. The writer was the last to bid adieu
to all the joys and comforts of the occasion on May i. The bag for the
BRANT SHOOTING, 1894. 511
last week was only seventeen brant. The score for the season, as
before stated, was 285 brant, which is about the average for the thirty-
two years' existence of the club.
The shore birds, as well as the swimming birds, seem to be moving
northward earlier this year than usual. On the 24th of April a flock of
twelve black-breasted plcver (Charadrius squatarola), together with
some smaller birds, probably red-backed sand-pipers (Tringa alpina),
alighted on the flats quite near our box, and ran about, feeding, as play-
ful as young chickens. It was amusing to see how eagerly they sought
puddles of water to bathe in, and how cheerful and happy they seemed
to be to get a footing on land again, for we could not refrain from the
idea that Cape Cod was the first land they had seen since they left South
America. It is the opinion of some older gunners that blackbreasts and
redbreasts (Tringa canuttts)Ao not arrive here before about the I5th of
May, but this year several flocks of the former were seen before May i.
Winter yellowlegs, crooked-bill snipe, piping plover, and perhaps a few
other species, arrive before May i. We are of the opinion that we
never saw so few of the larger fowl at Chatham as there were this
spring. Canada geese, ducks of all kinds, loons, and gulls, all seemed
more scarce than hitherto.
President Monomoy Branting Club.
Boston, May 21.
[Forest ami Stream.']
BOSTON, May 6. The work of preparation for the shooting com-
menced on February 25, but there was so much ice on the Flats that
nothing in the way of putting in boxes could be done for about two
weeks. There is, however, much labor to be performed by the local
members before the arrival of the non-residents. The club houses are
to be put in order. 300 wood decoys are to be repaired and painted,
furniture, boxes, and canvas overhauled, and everything put in order for
housekeeping. The three clubs Monomoy, Providence, and Man-
chester all run under the management of the first-named, the same
as heretofore. The four boxes, South, Mudhole, West, and North, are
to be planted.
These watertight boxes, each containing a guide and two gunners, are
about six feet long, three feet wide and deep, and as the tide has a maxi-
mum depth of about eighteen inches, one-half of the box must be buried
in the flats, and sand wheeled up around it to form a natural bar and
hide the box. As these bars are so easily obliterated by high wind and
water, in order to save the vast amount of labor in reconstructing, a
canvas cover, like a ship's sail, is thrown over it, a hole cut for the box,
and the edges buried in the sand to hold it in place.
The weather was so cold and severe that the first box, the South, was
not in position before the 6th of March, and the last, the North, was
barely in place on the 2oth, on which day the first regular weekly party
of eight men arrived from Boston anticipating good shooting. But alas !
few birds are on the feeding ground, and what few there are keep a good
distance from the boxes. The party struggled on cheerfully through
the week and came out with one brant ! and retired to make room for
the second party of nine men. Fresh arrivals of the migrants made
them fairly plentiful, but still they kept off shore, and paid very little
attention to the decoys. Buoyed up by hope and the prospects of
better fortune in the near future which was never realized the
devotees departed with a meagre bag of eight brant.
The third weekly party, April 3-10, better known as "the boys'
party," older to-day than when they received that appellation twenty
years ago, full of energy and ambition, entered the field and com-
menced operations; but with all their enterprise they could not coax
the birds within range, and the week closed with a record of only nine
The fourth party, made up of selections from the Providence Club,
which contains some choice specimens of sportsmen, headed by his
Honor, ex-Mayor Barker, turned out on this occasion but five " braves "
to compete for the championship of the season. Of all the -gentle
spirits that participate in the sport as well as the festivities of the club,
none enter with greater zest or participate more joyously than the
distinguished members of the Providence Club. The shooting was
quite unsatisfactory, but the brave boys struck up a cheerful note and
departed with a bag of nine brant.
The fifth party was composed mostly of elderly gentlemen, who
have seen service, and are entitled to the honor of "veterans." Their
victories in the present field were somewhat like Santa Anna, who
alleged that General Taylor "didn't know when he was whipped."
Considering their age and disabilities, the eight " veterans " did noble
work, performing every duty at box and bar with equal alacrity of the
younger members; but they could not perform miracles, or by any
mystic art restore confidence to the minds of the migrants. As each
BRANT SHOOTING, 1895. 513