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    Pairings

    It seems that pairings is the hot trend in the food world. Being raised in a kitchen where red wine was served with red meat, white with poultry and fish, and sun tea was the universal beverage, I find this concept both interesting and mildly humiliating. Until recently, I never would have considered an India Pale Ale as a dessert drink, properly paired with ginger spiced chocolate truffles. Who knew? Certainly not I, as my understanding of IPAs was that they were to be enjoyed when both the heat and humidity were unbearable.

    This concept caused me to begin to ponder pairings in the relation to bird hunting. Barrels are paired on double guns, whistles and compasses on lanyards, partners and bird dogs as well. Next came the pairing of game birds and words.

    Bird hunting, being a diverse sport, we are fortunate to have much to pair, both in the way of authors and subject matter. The difficulty becomes pairing an author’s voice with the reader’s interest. To accommodate a variety of tastes, I suggest reading anthologies. Although anthologies are more of a smorgasbord than an exact pairing, they provide for an exploration of flavor. These flavors can be explored this fall through four anthologies published by Countrysport Press. Listed in order of publication, the titles are Call of the Quail (1989), Come October (1991), Bare November Days (1992) and Pheasant Tales (1995). Each title being game bird specific, Come October focuses on woodcock while Bare November Days’ essays feature ruffed grouse.

    The format of each anthology is the same. The publisher commissioned original writings, allowing the contributors’ words to pair with the overall theme. The importance of the original work in these volumes is significant, as most anthologies are comprised of previously published works. By Countrysport publishing original stories, these anthologies remain unique and noteworthy. The contributing authors chosen were an all-star lineup of bird hunting writers including Gene Hill, Tom Huggler, Robert E. Jones, Michael McIntosh and Charlie Waterman. Upland Almanac columnist Bryan Bilinski authored essays in the woodcock and grouse editions. Countrysport also chose top-shelf artists such as Herb Booth, Eldridge Hardie and Bruce Langston. Their illustrations are original sketches, eye pleasing line drawings that provide intensity without extraneous noise.

    While all focused their pens on the topic species, the diversity of their passages adds flavor to each book. In Call of the Quail, the reader is shown coveys from the plantations of the Southeast to the brush country of Texas and back north into the Midwestern heartlands. Pheasant Tales takes one from Michigan to Montana chasing long-tailed roosters. Each author’s perspective is different, yet blends comfortably with the other voices. These volumes expose the reader to McIntosh’s romantic passion, Waterman’s practicality and Hill’s humor and humility. An example is the following passage from Hill’s submission to Pheasant Tales titled “Ten-Second Pheasants.”

    What I did see as I topped the rise was a handful of wild-eyed Labs flushing two dozen birds about three gunshots away; a sight only too familiar to the longtime Lab owner. But it’s a glorious sight anyway, and one you won’t often see unless you’re a prairie pheasant hunter.

    Whether this fall’s opener finds you on the prairies, the north woods or the tall pines, one of the Countrysport Press’s anthologies is the perfect “pairing” for your trip. Call of the Quail, Come October, Bare November Days and Pheasant Tales are all full of flavor, the flavor of the fall, dogs, birds and tired legs.

    These books can be properly paired with a quail hunt and dinner at Liam’s in Thomasville, Georgia, as well as burgers and drafts at the American Legion in Wessington Springs, South Dakota, after an afternoon of shelterbelts and sloughs.

    Food for thought: Forget the pairings. Read all four and enjoy a literary wing shooting buffet.

    Wolfe Publishing Group