A CALL TO ARMS (PENS) FOR WESTERN AUTHORS

Almost as much as I love fly-fishing and bird hunting, I enjoy a good book on these subjects. Not the where-to’s/how-to’s mind you, but the kind of book that tells a good story, makes you laugh, or touches your heart. My brother Shawn and I are sporting book fanatics and we collect and devour every book in this vein that we can get our hands on. Truly, there are some classics on bird hunting out there by great authors!

I could be wrong (it won’t be the first time), but when it comes to western bird-hunting writers, the list seems pretty slim and the genre young when compared to the prolific writers of the east with a long tradition of writing of the uplands. Of course, there have been many eastern writers that have taken forays into the west and then written about it, but I’m actually talking about bird hunters that live here, hunt western birds, and then write about it for our enjoyment. I personally would like to see more western authors come forward and write about the birds that we hunt here in the intermountain west.

Yesterday, I put together a list of writers that fit the bill, or those, who have-at least-written about hunting the birds of my heart (yes, I do this type of stuff for fun; I guess I’m nerdy that way). Here it is:

1. Ben O. Williams. Ben Williams, the “Western Wings” columnist for the Pointing Dog Journal, has written numerous books, including Western Wings and Winston, which are both good reads.

2. John Barsness. Western Skies is a must read for any bird hunter in the west. It contains numerous stories about sage grouse and sharptail hunting.

3. E. Donnall Thomas. This talented author wrote a great book, Fool Hen Blues, about hunting upland birds and waterfowl in the west with black labs.

4. Jim Fergus. The first book I read on bird hunting was A Hunter’s Road by Jim Fergus in which the author takes an epic journey across our great country hunting with a yellow lab named-of all things-“Sweetzer.” But don’t let the dog’s name fool you; it comes from a sometimes, treacherous mountain pass in Southern Idaho that I am very familiar with.

5. John Holt. A list of western sporting writers would be incomplete without John Holt who writes about fly-fishing and bird hunting. Kicking up Trouble is a classic (sometimes irrevent) look at the birds that we hunt here in the west. The book’s title fits Holt’s crazy personality to the “T.”

6. Tom Huggler. Although he writes the “Eastern Encounters” column for The Pointing Dog Journal and lives in Michigan, Tom Huggler wrote the quintescential book on grouse (not just ruffed grouse) hunting, Grouse of North America: A Cross-Continental Hunting Guide. When you read this book, you get the clear sense that he has been there and understands western grouse hunting. Mr. Huggler has definitely done his homework for this book in the field and otherwise. He also wrote a great book about quail hunting, Quail Hunting in America, which covers the western species as well.

7. Charles F. Waterman. Who can forget Charley Waterman, the dean of outdoor writing? This ramblin’ man did it all and wrote about it. To name just a few of his books, Charley wrote: Hunting Upland Birds and Gun Dogs & Bird Guns. He actually wrote of hunting with one of Ben O. Williams crazy Brittanies named Clyde.

8. Rick Bass. Mr. Bass of Montana wrote a touching tribute to his GSP in Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had. It is a worth while read.

9. John Taylor. This author of Pennsylvania took a six week long grouse hunting trip across North America in pursuit of our native grouse and wrote: The Wild Ones: A Quest for North America’s Forest & Prairie Grouse. John’s picture appears in our blog on the right. He is the principal behind Bonasa Press which publishes very high quality sporting books.

10. Datus Proper. Also from Montana, the late Datus Proper wrote the thoughtful book, Pheasants of the Mind, which I recommend to those who like to slay these chinese dragons. Personally, however, I agree with Tom Davis’s assertion in the Pointing Dog Journal a few years ago that the best book on pheasant hunting is A Pheasant Hunter’s Harvest by Steve Grooms, but he did not make the cut because he is not a western bird hunter.

11. Buddy Levy. For those who like lunar landscapes and the test of endurance commonly called “chukar hunting,” Echoes on Rimrock, by Buddy Levy, a professor at Washington State University, is the best book on the subject.

12. Mike Gould. I almost forgot one of my favorite books about bird hunting, Plateaus of Destiny, because of the many stories about hunting blue grouse. Like me, Gould is now an Idahoan.

If there are other good books on western bird hunting, especially on blue or sharptail grouse hunting, please let me know. Also, if I have overlooked other great authors, I would love to hear about them. As the saying goes: “Birds of a feather stick together.” I call upon all of you western brothers of the hunt and of the pen to step up and share your tales of the uplands with the rest of the world. With the limited books available out there, there is a vast landscape (geographically and figuratively) to explore and expand upon. I look forward to hearing from you!

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Andy:This is a real public service. I have or know about some of these books but had no knowledge of others. I loved Jim Fergus’ book and Dr. Birdy Doggy loaned me a couple of the others.Maybe the western guys have been to busy “winning” the west to write. Those eastern guys have too much time on their hands! Just teasing, of course. Some of the great books come from the old time traditions back east.See you soon!Walter

  2. Andy…I couldn’t agree more! I would love to read more books on Western upland bird hunting!

  3. Dale Hernden says:

    OK you’ve got my interest. You know though, if I read about western hunting I’ll want to come out there and then you’ll have to entertain me!So…………tempt me at your peril.

  4. Dale, You’re welcome to come anytime! We’d love to have you experience the wild wild west. Andy

  5. Andy: glad you enjoyed Rick Bass’s ‘Colter’ — it’s not so much about upland hunting, but a glorious tribute to a dog lost too soon. You all might appreciate Joe Augustine’s ‘Feathered Tales’ as well. I know Shawn knows it already.bestA+M+M+J

  6. Andy:You are going to cost me some $$$. I only have two of these books since I have been away from bird hunting so many years, and never thought I would shoot over my own dog again, much less on western birds!Off to Alibris with my credit card. Oh well, it’s better than collecting teaspoons or salt and pepper shakers.Walter

  7. Kim Sampson says:

    Nice overview of books, Andy! I have read Pheasants of the Mind and Echoes on Rimrock, but not the others. Have you read A Chukar Hunter’s Companion by Pat Wray?? It’s another good book on chukar hunting but you’re right, there are not enough books on hunting western birds like there are for our eastern counterparts. Different landscape, same passion.Kim

  8. It is awesome to see people with a passion for reading good books like me. Walter, sorry to hurt your pocket book. Good books are an addicting and expensive habit, but they are there like a good friend when you need them!Andrew, I asked Shawn about Joe Augustine’s book, Feathered Tales, and he said the guy is from New York City. I couldn’t help but think of the Pace Picante commercials: “New York City? Get a rope!”Kim, I have Pat Wray’s book on chukar hunting. It is good, but I actually prefer to read stories as opposed to whereto’s/howto’s. Some of the books I mentioned fit into this category, but the authors tell a good story in the process. Thanks for all your great comments. That is what makes blogging so fun.

  9. Andy…A couple other Westerners I thought of are Worth Mathewson and HE Betton…both have written excellent books on Western Upland Hunting!Kim…I have chatted with Pat Wray…nice guy! I too enjoyed his book on chukar hunting!

  10. Andy:Where do you think I live? Admittedly not right in Manhattan like Joe, but NYC without a doubt. His three dogs — Jacy, Ranger, and Sugar — are some of the most intense, little English setters you might ever meet.Thanks to everyone for the other suggestions. Will definitely look for the Pat Wray book.The reason there aren’t so many books on western bird hunting is because you all still have a bunch of wild birds to chase (and no time to write).bestA+M+M+J

  11. Andrew, I just opened mouth and inserted hunting boot! That was my attempt to be funny. I hope I did not offend you. I certainly do not have anything against New Yorkers, I was just trying to focus in on western authors. I’ll have to read Mr. Augustine’s book as you suggest. Andy

  12. Andy: I didn’t take any offense — and it didn’t even cross my mind. Believe me, NYC is a tricky place to try and raise bird-dogs — but we can still produce the occasionally pretty good dog! 😎 Incidentally, I first met Joe’s dogs while they were pointing pigeons on some construction scaffolding above their heads. I don’t know how their dog-walker got them to move — she said they’d been there 10minutes!bestA.

  13. hounddog says:

    Good Stuff, Plateaus of Destiny by Mike Gould is a favorite. As a good friend I also know him to be one of the formost educators of dog handling in America. He can play a mean guitar and his current cd is a worthy listen. His Grand River Labs are a site to see in the wilds of Idaho, either on the prairies, forest or Canyon Rim. This guy is a must see, A Sage living in our mist.

  14. Hounddog, I agree that Mike’s book is a little know great one. My brother Shawn is good friends with Gary Ruppel who Mike Gould writes about in his book. Gary also breeds and trains Grand River Labs. Those labs are some of the best bird dogs I’ve ever hunted behind. Thanks for your comment. Andy

  15. Little bit late, but just discovered these valuable pages. I’ve read Henry Chappell’s At Home On The Range w/ a Texas Hunter twice. Great stories on the “borderlands” between Midwest and West.

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