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Beginner's Guide to Classic Upland Bird and Waterfowl Hunting Literature

Stock up on these classic works and fill the pages of your mind with the dogs, birds, and double guns of yesteryear.

Beginner's Guide to Classic Upland Bird and Waterfowl Hunting Literature

Our upland and waterfowl traditions run deep, and they’re chronicled through books. (Photo By: Tom Keer)

I sneezed as I passed through the front half of the dusty antique store. The wide pine floors creaked, and dust covered items packed on the walls, on tables, and in every corner. There was something for everyone ranging from vintage toboggans, functional Coke machines from the ‘50s, furniture from the 1800s, and an endless amount of kitschy bric a brac. The bookstore was way in the back, and there was always a good selection of fishing and hunting titles. That’s where I found a copy of Frank Woolner’s Timberdoodle! as well as Burt Spiller’s Grouse Feathers.

I removed both from their shelves. They were first editions, and their dust jackets were intact. Neither was inscribed, so I brought them to the dealer for pricing.

“Forty bucks,” he said.

“Forty bucks for both?!” I questioned. I thought that was cheap.

“All right, how’s $20 for the pair?”

I shelled out the Andrew Jackson and headed for the door. I didn’t even wait for a receipt.


Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it: Our upland and waterfowl traditions run deep, and they’re chronicled through books. Sitting in a leather chair by a fire and reading one is a connecting experience. When we think of our personal experiences and combine them with a good narrative essay, a short story, a humor piece, or a how-to, we celebrate those deep roots. Removing a book from a shelf, turning pages, and reading is an experience. We can learn and experience life as those who came before lived it. And we understand how our experiences add to the rich patina of our field pursuits.

Starting Your Own Book Collection

Discussions around ‘must read’ upland and waterfowl works are as varied as the dog breeds and shotguns we use. Here’s a partial list from my collection. I’ve found most of the books in bookshops, in antique shops, or at tag sales. When one appears on a dusty shelf it’s like finding a four-leafed clover. Others can be found online, with AbeBooks being a particularly good source. Keep your eye out for special reprints through magazines and publishing houses and visit collectors who specialize in sporting literature.

Sporting books are like our dogs, our shotguns, and our art: there’s always room for one more.

classic upland bird and waterfowl hunting books
Pour a nip of something strong and sit with one of these classics to keep the feathers and flushes running through your mind all year long. (Photo By: Tom Keer)

Classic Upland Bird & Waterfowl Hunting Books

·       Burton L. “Burt” Spiller: Grouse Feathers, More Grouse Feathers, Grouse Feathers Again, Drummer in the Woods

·       Frank Woolner: Timberdoodle! and Grouse and Grouse Hunting

·       William Harnden Foster: New England Grouse Shooting

·       Edmund Davis: Woodcock Shooting

·       Charles Fergus: A Rough Shooting Dog

·       Corey Ford: Trickiest thing in Feathers, Cold Noses Warm Hearts, Minutes of the Lower 40, Every Dog Should Have a Man, and The Road to Tinkhamtown

·       George Bird Evans: The Upland Shooting Life

·       H.G. “Tap” Tapply: The Sportsman’s Notebook and Tap’s Tips

·       William G. “Bill” Tapply: Upland Autumn, Upland Days: 50 Years of Upland Hunting.

·       Robert Ruark: The Old Man and the Boy

·       Ted Lundrigan: A Bird in the Hand, Grouse and Lesser Gods

·       Havilah Babcock: My Health is Better in November, Tales of Quail and Such, The Education of Pretty Boy

·       Theophilus Nash Buckingham: Bloodlines, De Shootinest Gent’man, Game Bag, among others.

·       Gorham Cross (Grandpa Grouse): Partridge Shortenin’

·       S.T. Hammond: My Friend the Partridge: Memories of New England Shooting

·       Robert F. Jones: Dancers in the Sunset Sky, Upland Passage, A Field Dog’s Education, Gone to the Dogs: Life with My Canine Companions

·       Gene Hill: Hill Country, A Listening Walk, Mostly Mutts, Passing a Good Time, The Whispering Wings of Autumn, A Hunter’s Fireside Book: Tales of Dogs, Ducks, Birds, & Guns

·       Archibald Rutledge: Hunting & Home in the Southern Heartland: The Best of Archibald Rutledge

·       James “Jim” Harrison: Just Before Dark, Off to the Side

·       Lamar Underwood, editor: Greatest Hunting Stories Ever Told: 29 Unforgettable Tales

·       Jose Ortega y Gasset: Meditations on Hunting

·       Aldo Leopold: A Sand County Almanac

·       John Taintor Foote: Pocono Shot

·       Timothy Foote: Dumb-bell of Brookfield, Pocono Shot and Other Great Dog Stories 

·       Steve Groom: Pheasant Hunter’s Harvest, Modern Pheasant Hunting

·       Charley Waterman: Gun Dogs and Bird Guns

·       Kenneth C. “Ken” Roebuck: Gun Dog Training Spaniels and Retrievers, Where Spaniels Spring

·       George King: That’s Ruff

·       Michael McIntosh: Best Guns, Shotguns and Shooting (three volumes), A.H.Fox

·       Gordon MacQuarrie: Stories of the Old Duck Hunters & Other Drivel, More Stories of the Old Duck Hunters, Last Stories of the Old Duck Hunters

·       Mark Volk: The Upland Way

Many of the featured writers produced magazine stories, some of which were anthologized into collections. If you find an author whose work you admire, search out his individual stories. The late Virginia Woolf described the goal of the party Mrs. Dalloway threw as one that should ‘kindle and illuminate.’ I think that’s an admirable goal for a sporting library, and it’s one that each of these authors has achieved.


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