Appreciating another autumnAh, but it is a fine time of year to be out-of-doors, walking through tall, golden grass with shotgun in hand. In the morning one is likely to see frost on the grass, and by mid-day the temperature will be in the high 50s or low 60s — not too warm for a long walk. Just keep an eye on the dogs to make sure they don’t overheat. If all goes well, before long you will hear the explosive flush of sharp-tailed grouse and their unique “cuk-cuk-cuk” of alarm as they fly away.
By: Bernie Kuntz, Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun
Ah, but it is a fine time of year to be out-of-doors, walking through tall, golden grass with shotgun in hand.
In the morning one is likely to see frost on the grass, and by mid-day the temperature will be in the high 50s or low 60s — not too warm for a long walk. Just keep an eye on the dogs to make sure they don’t overheat. If all goes well, before long you will hear the explosive flush of sharp-tailed grouse and their unique “cuk-cuk-cuk” of alarm as they fly away.
We in the northern Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain West sometimes take for granted the magic of autumn in our fortunate part of the country. Consider that at this moment in Dallas the highs are in the mid-90s. In Southeast Alaska the endless fall rains have started and residents do not see the sun for weeks at a time. In the Deep South it is still hot and muggy. The desert southwest is also hot — as I write this it is 101 in Las Vegas, 109 in Phoenix!
To fully appreciate autumn one must be a youngster in school, trapped in a classroom, waiting for the seemingly endless week to drag its way to Friday afternoon, then briskly walking home while September winds send leaves rattling down the street. It is 1964 again, Dad has the pickup packed for the trip to Mandan where we will spend the night at uncles’ places, and drive south to Solen in the dark for the sharptail opener.
In my mind’s eye I am 15 again, lean and a tireless walker who is figuring out very well how to shoot a shotgun. Last year Jake bought me the Remington Model 870 in 16 gauge, and I have made things treacherous for ducks, pheasants and sharptails. There is nothing I would rather do than walk the grassy hills and the edge of the brushy draws in Morton County where my great-grandparents homesteaded in 1901.
The birds flush noisily, I swing and fire and a grouse drops. I hear more flat reports from the shotguns of my uncles — Bill, August, Alphonse and Joe. My Dad, Jake, is older than every one of them but for some reason can walk longer and farther than any of them, including my younger brother Jim.
Today in 2010 Jake is almost 93 years old and I have his old Winchester Model 50 in my gun safe. Uncle Joe has Parkinson’s disease but still hunts birds with his son, Gary. Uncles Bill, August and Alphonse haven’t hunted birds in some years. (Uncle Alphonse visited a few years ago and reminded me that he never wanted to walk close to my brother or me because we always beat him to the shot. I laughed and told him that I hadn’t known that).
A few weeks ago I got my Pheasants Forever magazine in the mail, and in it was a marvelous photograph of some virgin prairie in Mclean County, North Dakota. It was a perfect representation of the grassy hills and brushy draws found in parts of the North Dakota prairie, and my heart ached in viewing the picture. I showed it to Laurie and said, “This is the sort of wonderful country I hunted as a youngster and as a young man.”
I remember with great fondness the glorious autumn days of September, the smell of curing grass, sagebrush and freedom. And in the middle of it all were the startling flushes of the sharptails.
The late Norman Maclean wrote in “A River Runs Through It”: “Of course, I am too old to be much of a fisherman.” I could say the same about myself as a bird hunter. But I plan to get out into the fields again this fall and follow the Labradors and see if I can shoot a bird or two. Because it will be another year before we pass this way again.