Sunday, 26 February 2012

FACTUAL REVIEW: The Confessions of a Poacher (1890) - John Watson and James West

Release Date: 01/03/03


The tips and tricks of a true countryman who started dabbling in the fine art of poaching as soon as he was old enough to slip unseen through a copse at dusk or slither along the river bank to a trout filled pool. These observations of nature are so well written that it is hard to imagine you are not out of doors when reading them. At first all is seen through the eyes of the trainee poacher and we feel the lure of the night as the young rustic watches his father's eventide preparations. He assembles his wires, nets and snares; his dogs and the trusty old flintlock and then he is away into the night. There are chapters on poaching Partridges, Hares, Pheasants, Salmon and Trout, Grouse and Rabbits each packed with lore, experience and wisdom. We learn how to intoxicate partridges by feeding grain steeped in spirits; how to entice pheasants away from the safety of the keeper's cottage by the surreptitious dropping of grain on a daily basis. The night time use of nets to take salmon from pools and sleeping grouse from the heather are described as are ferrets working the hedgerows in search of the humble rabbit and we hear how, before the days of artificial rearing, the keeper would pay as much as six pence for a pheasant's egg little realising that it had been liberated from his own stock the previous night. Even if you are not contemplating a life of rural crime there is still much you could learn from this delightful book, so also could the local squire, his keeper and the constabulary but let us hope that they do not pick up too many tips about the fine art of poaching.


Coming from a family with a history of gamekeepers, I’ve always been interested in the other side of the coin. What this book brings to the reader is an open honest account of the writers life as a poacher. It has some tips and tricks utilised by those in the Victorian period alongside the methods utilised to obtain their prey.

All in this is a book that is not only fascinating but a book that will keep readers interested throughout, especially when you add the wonderful artwork within. This will become a much cherished title in a number of homes and I already know of one person who is looking at “poaching” it from my shelves.

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