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6 Great Upland Bird and Waterfowl Hunting Books

Think you could pick your one favorite bird hunting literary work? Neither could we, so here are several of our top choices.

6 Great Upland Bird and Waterfowl Hunting Books

Take a deep dive into classic bird hunting literature with any one (or all) of these top picks. (Photo By: Tom Keer)

‘If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything’ goes the old adage, and my version is that I like all horses, some dogs, and no cats. I like Clydesdales as much as minis, and there isn’t one I’ve met that I haven’t wanted to load into a trailer and bring home. I like gun dogs and working dogs, so setters, pointers, springers, Labs, and shepherds all find a soft spot in my heart. For me, lap dogs do not. Cats are too independent for my liking, and their mercenary behavior leaves me cold. You have your story, but this is mine and I’m sticking to it.

There are some books that I reread more often than others, and they fall into my ‘horse category.’ When I step back, I see my choices stimulate my thoughts while making my heart beat a bit faster. They’re likely to be different from yours, so let me know not just what I’ve missed but, more importantly, why.

DON'T MISS: "Beginner's Guide to Classic Upland and Waterfowl Hunting Literature"

The Road to Tinkhamtown

The Road to Tinkhamtown by Corey Ford
The Road to Tinkhamtown by Corey Ford (Photo courtesy of Field & Stream)

Fortunately, I don’t have to choose between upland and waterfowl literature. Good writing is good writing, and it’s enjoyable from past and contemporary writers. A strong, defined voice is transcendent. Progressively developed plots with a change and resolution are ideal. Description and dialogue used appropriately contributes to a piece and helps connect a reader with the writer. Stories need emotion, but not of the bleeding-heart variety. Robert Frost said it best when he wrote ‘no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.’ If your eyes are moist and your heart is in your throat after reading “The Road to Tinkhamtown” then you can imagine the stream that poured down Corey Ford’s face while composing it.

Woodcock Shooting

Woodcock Shooting by Edmund Davis
Woodcock Shooting by Edmund Davis

In an era of improved transportation, most hunters in the early 1900’s focused on big game. Edmund Davis travelled from Rhode Island to New Brunswick, Canada where he participated in all sporting pursuits. But his love for game birds was infections, and his experimentations aimed at perfection are recorded in his privately published “Woodcock Shooting”. We use many of his methods today: vests instead of jackets for better movement and swing, bells on dogs for easier location, dogs with long hair and predominantly white coats to resist thorns while offering easy visibility, open chokes and light loads for better patterning at close distances, the list goes on. All that, and his death was a ‘mystery wrapped in a riddle inside of an enigma’ is the stuff of legends.  

Trickiest Thing in Feathers

Trickiest Thing in Feathers by Corey Ford
Trickiest Thing in Feathers by Corey Ford

Some hunters become writers while some writers become hunters. Corey Ford falls into the latter category, and boy can he write. He was a member of New York City’s Algonquin Hotel Round Table, wrote over two dozen books, and spent time in California writing early Hollywood movie scripts. His Lower 40 column in Field & Stream was an exclamation mark in hook and bullet writing. Aside from Tickhamtown, which is considered the finest outdoor story ever written, it’d be tough to pick one other must-read. Ford’s "Trickiest Thing in Feathers" is a collection which means you don’t have to make that impossible call.

Dancers in the Sunset Sky

Dancers in the Sunset Sky by Robert F. Jones
Dancers in the Sunset Sky by Robert F. Jones

I wish I had the guts to call up Robert F. Jones and meet him in Vermont before his 2002 passing. I was, and am, in awe of his writing. Jones started as a newspaper stringer, moved on to Time magazine and then Sports Illustrated before settling into Field & Stream.  Jones was equally adept writing fiction and nonfiction, but his "Dancers in the Sunset Sky", a collection of essays and short stories captures the essence of the uplands.


The Old Man and the Boy

The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark
The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark

Perhaps my greatest attraction to Robert Ruark’s collection is that parts of it remind me of parts of my own childhood. It also reminds me of the parts in my youth that were missing. Time, open space, the pursuit of ample amounts of fish and game, all done under the tutelage of a grandfather devoted to helping the boy figure out how to do it on his own is powerful. While well known for his African big game adventures, I enjoy The Old Man and the Boy’s noble simplicity and quiet grandeur. Read it, especially if you’re bringing along a child of your own.

Meditations on Hunting

Meditations on Hunting by Jose Ortega y Gasse
Meditations on Hunting by Jose Ortega y Gasse

Jose Ortega y Gasset’s "Meditations on Hunting" is the result of Spain’s noted philosopher who turned his thoughts to hunting. Questions addressed are what it means to hunt and why people hunt, and they’re woven into a code of ethics that is intertwined with environmental beauty. Of particular significance to me is the writer’s belief of ‘historical reason’, which is short handle for the fact that people and their views are shaped and developed from the past. By understanding our past we can understand our present.

It’s truly a blessing that I don’t have to choose only five favorite books, just as it’s wonderful to add to my library’s shelves. I think I’ll saddle one up of these horses and go for a ride. The only question is which one? I guess I’ll have to make a choice.


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