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!