140 pages, colour illustrations, colour & b/w maps,
From the preface:
"Man was a hunter long before he became a farmer. A million years of evolution in Africa and Europe adapted him as a pursuer of game, large and small. This evolutionary history, hundreds of times longer than the period he has been settled and civilised, has left an indelible mark on him. It is little wonder that hunting for pleasure has continued.
In Britain during historic times the right to hunt game has been vested with the landowner, unlike in North America and much of Europe where land ownership does not extend to the game on it. Thus as generations of Britons have moulded our countryside for farming and field sports, game populations have always been an important concern. Within the last two hundred years many well managed estates have kept detailed records of the game shot each year on their lands in estate game books. If the paintings of ]ohn Constable or Myles Birket Foster provide us with images of the landscape and rural life of the 19th century, perhaps the dusty ledgers of estate game books can tell us a little of the abundant game fauna during this era.
Today we look to the science of ecology to describe the patterns of animal abundance. In population ecology, methods are designed with care so that surveys and censuses are carried out without bias. However, many species have undergone long term changes in abundance, perhaps resulting from the accelerating changes to landscape and agriculture seen in recent decades. We are left with a desperate need to measure these long term variations for as many species as possible. But resources are limited and ecological surveys usually short term, also some species are more difficult to survey than others. Small territorial song-birds which advertise their presence from the tops of trees are easier to census than mammals like the weasel, which hunts quickly and quietly in thick undergrowth or in holes in the ground. So if we want to look at animal populations on a wide scale and over a long period we need a window into the past.
In this book we aim to use old shooting and game keepers’ records to provide us with such a window – an old deformed pane and dirtied with time, so our picture is hazy. Nevertheless the information is well recorded and quantified. In order not to misinterpret our distorted image we must first learn something of the historical and social changes which underlie these game records. We must understand the economic basis of the estates from which they came, as well as something of the changing fashion of shooting and the technical developments of firearms and traps, all of which will have affected the numbers of game killed. Qnly then can we glimpse the pattern of animal abundance in a bygone era and look at changes through time."
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