Tom KeerSpecial to Outdoor Enthusiast Lifestyle Magazine
The upland season had been a great one, one of my best in fact, so when the woodcock coverts thinned out and the early snows made for spotty grouse hunting melancholy set in. You know exactly what I’m talking about, for what began with the sweet smell of drying hay, Indian Summer heat, and colorful foliage ended with the pre-winter color of gray. On top of that, Old Mother Hubbard’s coverts were bare.
No one ever filled up a freezer with grouse and woodcock, and that’s why folks who purse these birds are never considered meat hunters. A whitetail doe or a cow elk, that’s called filling the freezer. The cost center procuring the savory grouse or the two small medallions of livery tasting woodcock breasts places the gamebirds on par with truffles, caviar, and tuna. Ours is a whacky pursuit of a foxy local bird and a seasonally migratory bird with an upside-down brain. Go figure.
No one thought much about my driving an F-250 into the fields to scout for deer. My 13-year old legs were long enough to fully depress the clutch pedal so I wouldn’t grind the gears, and my torso was tall enough so I could see well enough above the dashboard. All kids drove young in farm country, and there were even a few lanky 10-year olds who drove pickups with a hay wagon in tow.
Fall beach fishing is like a good short story you can’t put down. There is the rising action, the climax, the falling action and the end. Some times it is fast, other times it is measured, but at all times it is a page-turner.
The day was hot, really hot, and more intense than any single one I could remember from summer’s past. It came after a week of all-day, all-night scorchers which wreck havoc on a bird dogger’s training routine. Seasonal heat is inevitable, so we improvise and shift our sessions to early morning and early evening. Even then, though, days with near hundred degree heat and 98% humidity are just plain miserable.
Whenever folks ask me where I live I adopt my best body-builder pose, arm curled tight, and point just below my wrist inside of my forearm. My anatomical reference is to Wellfleet on outer Cape Cod. Everyone laughs but the biggest cackles come from Michiganders because they know what it’s like to chart geography on a body part (Michigan is known as the Mitten because of its resemblance to the handshoe). But then again, maybe they find humor in the fact that I need to hit the gym and grunt out a few hundred more bicep curls, I don’t know.