TWO IMAGES, TWO WORLDS APART

The first image is an unsigned painting of an English hunter around the end of the 18th century. The other is a photograph of the famous lord Ripon shooting, it dates from about 1900.

But there is so much more to these two images!

In the first the lone hunter carries and loads his gun by himself. He handles his dogs, again by himself. He carries a bag, indication of the limit of his game harvest. In the background is relativley open country and a house, a destination for the hunter and his harvested game.

A lone self reliant hunter hunting in a manner most of us can understand and identify with.

The photograph shows a wealthy man using three guns and two loaders to shoot, not hunt, game with no limit.

The game would have been pressed over the “gun” by dozens of beaters. Downed game would have been retrieved and collected by several dog handlers and loaded onto a game cart and delivered to a game dealer. The “gun” of the so called golden age of shotgunning did not load, nor carried, his guns. He had no bag, for he never carried his quarry. He never even walked from one static peg to another, there were shooting brakes to carry him.

In the space of three generations the lone self sufficient hunter was succeded by the babied and immobile “gun”. The hunter was turned into a human gun turret.

The proces of this developmennt was the result of many factors. Including changes in land ownership and managament (see the Inclosure Act), technological development of the gun which enabled driven shooting. Try shooting driven game with a trio of muzzle loaders and see how that goes!

What is fascinating and puzzling is how and why the gun developed for this static unbridled shooting of driven game, an activity with low hunting appeal, became such a coveted item. The headlong rush by almost all gunmakers to copy the side by side boxlock and sidelock is well documented. Almost every single maker of shotguns was offering boxlocks and sidelocks by the early 20th century.

Specialised guns designed and developed for driven game shooting were offered and bought in the thousands by hunters who would never indulge in driven game shooting. Fascinating!