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A Grouse Hunter's Almanac

How do I articulate all the cover and terrain I've walked through, that particular view down the New Wood River framed by three massive white pine trees? How to express that feeling of a warm bird in hand, the satisfaction of a perfect point and a well-placed shot? How to explain the pull of a matchless October afternoon when the aspen leaves are sifting down like gold coins from heaven?

A Grouse Hunter's Almanac
The Other Kind of Hunting
by Mark Parman
University of Wisconsin Press, 2010

Late summer is early season to grouse hunters in Wisconsin and the all-too-brief weeks of October are the most important of the year. When the first snows bring down the curtain on the show, the rest of the year is but an interlude.

"One October day I decided to record my thoughts throughout a day of bird hunting, writing them down as I went so I might relive them someday, perhaps some distant time when I would be too old and feeble to hunt," Mark Parman recalls in one of the more than three dozen essays collected in this anecdotal memoir. The hunting transcript was brief. however. as Parman soon realized that he would much rather hunt than write. "Writing could wait until January's cold and darkness or July's heat and humidity."

Twenty years of grouse hunting are distilled into these essays, which are arranged as a single season of hunting from August through December. In them, the author tries to ellucidate the allure of the hunt and explain why the chance to participate in nature is more important than the number of birds bagged.

Parman's hunting takes place in the "north woods" of Wisconsin, a land of aspen ("called popple around here"), tag alder, dogwoods and thorn apples populated with black bears, fishers, bobcats, whitetail deer, rabbits, songbirds, and upland game birds like woodcock and ruffed grouse. His essays are all about this setting, the wildlife, his hunting dogs and, of course, the grouse.

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