The Book

A project we’ve been kicking around for some time is finally happening, and frankly, we’re damn excited about it. In early December of 2013, Mouthful of Feathers: Upland Hunting in the West will be released, featuring a collection of original, full-length essays by:

  • Tosh Brown
  • Reid Bryant
  • Michael Gracie
  • Chad Love
  • Greg McReynolds
  • Tom Reed
  • Bruce Smithhammer
  • Bob White

With an introduction by Miles Nolte.

Cover art by Bob White.

The book will be published by Pulp Fly, Ltd. and available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble for Kindle, Nook and iPad platforms.

More to come soon – please stay tuned. And if you haven’t done so already, the best way to stay tuned is by signing up as a follower of this blog, which you can do on the menu on the right side of this page, and by “liking” our Facebook page. Thanks.

A Bird Hunter’s Table

A new, “highly recommended” addition to the upland hunter’s bookshelf has just been released – A Bird Hunter’s Table by Sarah Davies.

A Bird Hunter’s Table is about cooking, eating, and sharing friendship. It is also about gundogs, gamebirds, and getting outside to enjoy the land. Featuring contributions by MOF’s Tom Reed and Greg McReynolds, among other notables.

A Bird Hunter’s Table includes over 130 recipes, stories from the field, and a smattering of natural history.  To learn more, see a sample of the book, or to purchase, visit www.birdhunterstable.com or contact the author at birdhunterstable@gmail.com.  Trust us – this one is worthy, friends.

 

ABHT_cover_front

A Blessed Pursuit

An excerpt from Steve Rinella’s worthy new book, “Meateater:”

“Earlier, I wrote of the things that I’ve suffered while in pursuit of a lifestyle that makes sense to me. Things such as cold, hunger, loneliness, and fear. What I failed to mention are the ways in which I’ve been blessed through that same pursuit. While hunting, I’ve cried at the beauty of mountains covered in snow. I’ve learned to own up to my past mistakes, to admit them freely, and then to behave better the next time around. I’ve learned to see the earth as a thing that breathes and writhes and brings forth life.

 

I see these revelations as a form of grace and art, as beautiful as the things we humans attempt to capture through music, dance, and poetry. And as I’ve become aware of this, it has become increasingly difficult for me to see hunting as altogether outside of civilization. Maybe stalking the woods is as vital to the human condition as playing music or putting words to paper. Maybe hunting has as much of a claim on our civilized selves as anything else. After all, the earliest forms of representational art reflect hunters and prey. While the arts were making us spiritually viable, hunting did the heavy lifting of not only keeping us alive, but inspiring us. To abhor hunting is to hate the place from which you came, which is akin to hating yourself in some distant, abstract way.

Review: “Hunting Gambel’s Quail” by Ben Smith

Certain birds are tough to hunt, and by “tough” I don’t just mean “challenging.” I mean birds that live in the kind of rugged terrain that can be truly harsh on both people and dogs. Wild pheasant in certain places can fit this bill, as do wild chukar in most places they’re found.

But I would also certainly add Gambel’s quail to the list. For those who’ve never chased this particular quail, picture a hot, dry, rocky landscape. Now throw in several varieties of cactus, thorny mesquite, catclaw and acacia, dense creosote and other wonderful obstacles. And while we’re at it, add venomous snakes and occasional packs of javelina (that don’t tend to take kindly to dogs) into the mix as well.

Now that you have an idea of the landscape and some of it’s lovelier denizens, it’s time to add the bird. Gambel’s quail will not tend to hold politely for a pointing dog, so forget about quaint notions of a “gentlemanly” approach to this. They will run, as evolution has taught them to do, and they will tend to run for cover – which means right into the thickest, thorniest, nastiest stuff they can find, drawing your dog in after them. If this doesn’t work, as a last resort they may flush. But a “flush” in this case tends to mean getting up low and fast, sometimes just a few feet over your dog’s head. And, at the end of the day (if not sooner), you can expect to be spending time with a good pair of tweezers, extracting lots of painful, pointy things from your dog, and probably yourself. Are you in?

Maybe I’m being just slightly dramatic here, but not really, at least not in my experience of trying to hunt these birds. But the flipside of all this is that despite everything I said above, hunting Gambel’s quail is a frickin’ blast, and you will certainly gain a newfound respect for this tough little bird. You may also gain a greater appreciation for one of the most amazing, and surprisingly diverse environments on the planet – the Sonoran desert.

Our friend Ben Smith, over at the fine blog AZ Wanderings, has been chasing these quail for some time now, and has thankfully decided to offer his thoughts and advice for those thinking of giving it a try. Available in e-book format, “Hunting Gambel’s Quail: A Beginner’s Guide to Chasing Southwestern Quail” is packed with great info, especially if you are new to this particular game. Trust me – you will save a lot of wasted time wandering around the desert by first absorbing all the tips that Ben has to offer in this guide, from behavior and natural history of Gambel’s, to finding the best habitat, to gear tips. I would highly recommend it before heading off on your first desert quail trip.

Other nice features of “Hunting Gambel’s Quail” are a pictorial guide for quick and easy field dressing, a couple of great recipes, a printable gear list and links to important online resources for planning your trip.

As an aside, I also have to add that one thing I really like about the e-book revolution is that old publisher’s notions about how many pages a book needs to have, in order to be commercially viable, are being thrown out the window. In the past, this led to many books being far longer than they really needed to be, just to achieve “X” number of pages that a publisher deemed was necessary for the book to succeed. With e-books, a book’s physical thickness has nothing to do with it anymore. And Ben’s book is a perfect example of this – at 29 pages, it would likely never have seen traditional publishing approval. But really, who cares about page count – isn’t it about focused content? The book contains all that it needs to and nothing more. And that’s a good thing.

“Hunting Gambel’s Quail” can be purchased and downloaded online directly from Ben’s site at this link, and is a steal given all the quality information it has to offer.

The Chukar Hunter’s Companion

There are few books written about hunting chukar, and even fewer that are really well-written by someone who has dedicated a significant portion of their life to chasing and learning about them. Maybe this is a result of the fact that the group of people who really go off the deep end of chukar obsession is pretty small to begin with. Maybe it’s because many dedicated chukar hunters, much like those who really get into chasing carp with a fly rod or mountain goats with a bow, tend to be a bit different; a hermetic lot, who feel their experience has been hard won (and rightly so) and are content to let others figure it out on their own, as they did.

It may have been the inimitable Charlie Waterman who first wrote about chasing wild chukar in the West, or at least he’s the earliest I’ve come across (if anyone knows of earlier writings, I’d love to hear about them). Buddy Levy’s “Echoes in Rimrock” is also a fine read. Other than the odd chapter on chukar in more general bird hunting books here and there, there isn’t much else, aside from Pat Wray’s definitive book, “A Chukar Hunter’s Companion.”

For practical info, “A Chukar Hunter’s Companion” is hands down the best of the lot I’ve come across. It covers everything from the cultural and natural history of the bird to considerations in planning a chukar hunt, tips for success, fine-tuning for chukar dogs, thoughts on ethics, gear choices, great recipes and more. Most importantly (well, for me, anyway…), the book is engagingly and well-written, offers great practical info based on extensive, real experience, and is full of wry observation and humor.

In addition, the book contains little gems like this;

“My friend Ed Park once told me a story about a native of the country of Lebanon, a serious chukar hunter. Commitment is pretty much required for anyone who hunts chukars more than once, but this gentleman took commitment a few rungs higher…into the heady realm of devotion. During the nearly continuous military squabbles taking place between Lebanon and Syria while he was growing up, he regularly crossed over the mountains separating the two countries to hunt chukars well into Syria. On several occasions he had to hide in the rocks to evade mounted Syrian military patrols.

When questioned about his reasoning, he said simply, “Chukar hunting was a lot better in Syria.” It is an explanation chukar hunters would understand completely.”

It also happens to be the only chukar hunting book I know of with a handy, accurate test for gauging just how bad your chukar affliction has become. Useful stuff indeed, compadres.

You can find out more and order “A Chukar Hunter’s Companion” here.

Reverse Points: Bird Dogs Reconsidered

Part of the reason we started MoF is because we felt that fresh, down to muddy earth writing about the upland experience, unencumbered by formulaic nostalgia, is a hard thing to find. But when we do come across those all-too-rare exceptions, we’d like to offer props and give our readers a heads up. A while back I discovered a fine book – a book that finally takes a humorous, unflinching look at the reality of owning, and more importantly living with, bird dogs.

“Reverse Points: Bird Dogs Reconsidered” is truly a fun read, full of great, atypical pics of canine partners doing what they do best (especially when they’re at their worst). The book features the photography of Nancy Anisfield, taken at dog training clinics and on hunting trips around the country. Contributors include Alan Liere, Jon M. Bronson, , Michael A. Halleran, Tom Parmelee and our own Matt Crawford.

From the publisher:

“Tired of all the noble tales and images of gun dogs, Nancy Anisfield and five other outdoor humor writers take a look at the darker side of bird dogs and stare it in the face, even though that face is coated in mud with a cluster of slobber-laced pheasant feathers matted to its jowl.”

Definitely a kindred spirit.

Reverse Points can be ordered through Ugly Dog Hunting.

(p.s. – we aren’t in the business of product endorsements, just celebrating and supporting good writing.)

Rough shooting

As it turns out, I need a gun-bearer.

I’ve been reading a copy of Shooting By Moor, Field and Shore, an almanac of shooting in England, published 1929. It paints a portrait of a different time and a different world. Furthermore, it points out the inadequacy of my low brow ways. In the brief section on “walk up hunting” as opposed to shooting driven game, the authors point out the obvious burdens associated with “rough shooting.”

“In order to kill game on a rough shoot, you must either walk it up, or indulge in impromptu driving either with the help of a friend of friends. You have to carry your own gun all day, and most probably the game bag as well.”

Imagine the horror of having to “carry your own gun” and game whilst hunting. I should have flipped through this book before I logged a hundred or so miles to shoot only a handful of quail this season, carrying my own gun the whole time.