On Hunting


Xenophon, creator; Scripta Minora; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor, translator; Bowersock, G. W, (Glen Warren), 1936-, editor, translator

For hunting fawns and deer[*](The red deer is meant. Hunting the calves immediately after their birth seems a poor game; but no doubt they were good eating.) use Indian[*](Thibet dogs, called by Grattius (159) Seres.) hounds; for they are strong, big, speedy and plucky, and these qualities render them capable of hard work. Hunt the calves in spring, since they are born at that season.

First go to the meadows and reconnoitre, to discover where hinds are most plentiful. Wherever they are, let the keeper of the hounds[*](The Keeper of hounds has not been mentioned in connection with hare hunting. Apparently he is the person to whom all these instructions are addressed.) go with the hounds and javelins to this place before daybreak and tie up the dogs to trees some distance off, so that they may not catch sight of the hinds and bark, and let him watch from a coign of vantage.

At daybreak he will see every dam leading her fawn to the place where she means to lay it. When they have put them down, suckled them, and looked about to make sure that they are not seen, they move away into the offing and watch their calves.

On seeing this, let him loose the dogs, and taking the javelins approach the spot where he saw the nearest fawn laid, carefully observing the positions so as not to make a mistake, since they look quite different when approached from what they seemed to be at a distance.

As soon as he sees the fawn, let him go close up to it. It will keep still, squeezing its body tight against the ground, and will let itself be lifted, bleating loudly, unless it is wet through, in which case it will not stay, since the rapid condensation of the moisture in its body by the cold causes it to make off.

But it will be caught by the hounds if hotly pursued. Having taken it, let him give it to the net-keeper. It will cry out; and the sight and the sound between them will bring the hind running up to the holder, in her anxiety to rescue it.

That is the moment to set the hounds on her, and ply the javelms. Having settled this one, let him proceed to tackle the rest, hunting them in the same manner.

Young fawns are caught by this method; but big ones are difficult to catch. For they graze with their dams and other deer; and when pursued they make off in the midst of them, or sometimes in front, but rarely in the rear.

The hinds trample on the hounds in their efforts to defend their fawns; consequently it is not easy to catch them, unless a man gets amongst them at once[*](The author has omitted to explain how this is to be done.) and scatters them, so that one of the fawns is isolated.

The result of this strain on the hounds is that they are left behind in the first run; for the absence of the hinds fills the creature with terror, and the speed of fawns at that age is without parallel. But they are soon caught in the second or third run, since their bodies are still too young to stand the work.

Caltrops are set for deer in the mountains, about meadows and streams and glades, in alleys and cultivated lands that they frequent.

The caltrops should be made of plaited yew, stripped of the bark, so as not to rot. They should have circular crowns, and the nails should be of iron and wood alternately, plaited into the rim,[*](The rim (an unsatisfactory rendering) is the same thing as the crown.) the iron nails being the longer, so that the wooden ones will yield to the foot and the others hurt it.

The noose of the cord to be laid on the crown and the cord itself should be of woven esparto,[*](Yates (Textrinum Antiquorum) believes that the plant meant is Spanish broom (Genista). But it is indeed the grass esparto, Stipa tenacissima.) since this is rot-proof. The noose itself and the cord must be strong; and the clog attached must be of common or evergreen oak, twenty-seven inches long, not stripped of the bark, and three inches thick.

To set the caltrops make a round hole in the ground fifteen inches deep, of the same size at the top as the crowns of the traps, but tapering towards the bottom. Make shallow drills in the ground for the cord and the clog to lie in.

Having done this lay the caltrop on the hole a little below the surface, and level, and put the noose of the cord round the top. Having laid the cord and the clog in their places, lay spindle-wood twigs on the top, not letting them stick out beyond the circle, and on these any light leaves in season.

Next throw some earth on them, beginning with the surface soil taken from the holes, and on top of this some unbroken soil from a distance, in order that the position may be completely concealed from the deer. Remove any earth remaining over to a place some distance from the caltrop; for if the deer smells earth recently disturbed, it shies; and it is not slow to smell it.

Accompanied by the hounds, inspect the traps set in the mountains, preferably at daybreak (but it should be done also at other times during the day), in the cultivated lands early. For in the mountains deer may be caught in the daytime as well as at night owing to the solitude; but on cultivated land only at night, because they are afraid of human beings in the daytime.

On coming across a caltrop upset, slip the hounds, give them a hark-forward, and follow along the track of the clog, noticing which way it runs. That will be clear enough for the most part: for the stones will be displaced and the trail of the clog will be obvious in the cultivated ground; and if the deer crosses rough places, there will be fragments of bark torn from the clog on the rocks, and the pursuit will be all the easier.

If the deer is caught by the fore-foot it will soon be taken, as it hits every part of its body and its face with the clog during the run; or if by the hindleg, the dragging of the clog hampers the whole body; and sometimes it dashes into forked branches of trees, and unless it breaks the cord, is caught on the spot.

But, whether you catch it in this way or by wearing it out, don’t go near it; for it will butt, if it’s a stag, and kick, and if it’s a hind, it will kick. So throw javelins at it from a distance.

In the summer months they are also caught by pursuit without the aid of a caltrop; for they get dead beat, so that they are hit standing. When hard pressed, they will even plunge into the sea and into pools in their bewilderment; and occasionally they drop from want of breath.