While it has been a few years, some of the fondest memories I have both as a youth and an adult involved shooting sports with my father. For several years we went sporting clays shooting with my uncles and from my later teens until my father wasn't physically up to the rigors, we spent part of each fall in the forests of northern Michigan pursuing ruffed grouse and woodcock. Those days spent hunting among the brilliant fall colors of northern Michigan were magical. As a younger man we often were accompanied by my uncle Bill and uncle Greg, other family friends and my namesake, Arthur "Art" Regenold who was one of the finest men I have been privileged to know. I wrote about Art in 2011 on my old blog, The passing of a great man. When I pictured Ol' Remus, the image I often conjured up was Art, an unpretentious man of deep wisdom.
When I saw this video last night it captivated me. If you haven't been in the grouse woods chasing the wily ruffed grouse or the not-so-wily but still amazing woodcock it might not be all that interesting but for me it brought back a flood of memories and made me wonder why I pursued a stupid career in financial services for all of those years when I could have been much happier doing guide work.
My family has had an affinity for setters from the time I was a child and our family dog was an English Setter named Sandy. He wasn't any sort of hunting dog and my dad's later English setter was not much of a bird-dog either although he tried but we did do some hunting over a friend's dog many years and watching a dog work birds is beautiful even if you never get a shot off.
That is what most "environmentalists" who never go outside don't understand. Hunting isn't about killing animals. It is about recapturing the primal instinct of humanity to pursue game and to do so in the woods and bogs and prairies of North America. Some of the best days of hunting were days we came back with our game pouches empty and our double guns unfired, but having spent the day in the brilliant sunlight and blazing colors of Michigan birch and poplar trees. The beauty could take your breath away.
Hunting grouse and woodcock isn't like duck hunting where you sit in a blind drinking coffee until the birds come to you or like deer hunting in a stand. If you want those birds, you are going to work for it, walking through close stands of small trees, tripping over vines and getting tangled in briars. If you didn't wear some sort of stout material on your legs you would be tattered from the briars after an hour.
When hunting grouse you can walk for an hour and see nothing and then suddenly the explosion of a grouse taking flight giving you a split second to shoulder your shotgun, track the bird and get off your shot. Where grouse are explosive, athletic flyers the woodcock looks like a drunk leaving the bar at closing time, changing speed, flittering first one way and then the other. I can't count how many times I had a woodcock dead to rights over the shotgun only to pull the trigger and miss. With the grouse it is all about speed, if you can get the shotgun up, which is challenging in the close stands of trees you find them, then you are likely to kill them. Bagging a woodcock is mostly a matter of luck.
Anyway, just a little reprieve from the never-ending shitshow of American life in the 2020s and a nostalgia trip to better days.