A GROUSE HUNTER’S ALMANAC
The Other Kind of Hunting
By Mark Parman
Published 2010 – University of Wisconsin Press
Mark Parman has been a longtime contributor of classic grouse and woodcock hunting stories to the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine. A favorite Parman articles is “What He Carried”, which was published in the fall 2013 issue and features an introspective story about the possessions and superstitions that make grouse and woodcock hunters a unique group. The story starts with, “Each possession (of a grouse hunter) brings with it reminders of special days gone by.” If you are a grouse hunter, you understand this inexplicable phenomenon. The story talks about the symbols of grouse hunting that captivate us all throughout the year. He writes, “In late winter, he notes a grouse feather floating across the wood floor of his living room or kitchen, escapees from his gamebag, or he finds one stuck to the wet nose of his dog. He doesn’t mind the feathers. He picks one up, twirls the rachis in his fingers and is carried back to October.” Has this happened to any of you during bitter cold January? I suspect it has.
Being a fan of Parman’s writing and his ability to explain simple events in life that resonate with grouse hunters, I was excited to review his book A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac – The Other Kind of Hunting for this issue of the magazine. For the sake of not burying the lead, this book is recommended to any grouse and woodcock literature fan or for any hunter who wants to read Parman’s take on many aspects of the grouse hunt experience. Parman does it again with relating his personal stories to a broader audience and raises some important issues that we as grouse hunters need to discuss and answer. He is clear and honest with his own beliefs on the sport but presents them in a fashion that is open-minded and impartial allowing the reader to make up their own mind.
It never hurts to use the Aldo Leopold quote from A Sand County Almanac, “There are two kinds of hunting: ordinary hunting and ruffed grouse hunting,” which Parman uses to set the tone on the inside of the cover, a quote that sets grouse hunting apart from others. His preface honors his bird dogs, a Weimaraner and an English setter, through time and connects them specifically to the purpose of the book, a theme that readers will see hold strong throughout. He writes, “I can still see them pointing, retrieving, and tearing around the woods and fields in the prime of their short but full lives.”
Parman takes us on a journey through the seasons of the grouse hunt experience (early season, midseason and lateseason) in his northern Wisconsin covers. Through his personal stories, he explores a wide array of grouse hunting topics from the birds themselves, bird dogs, how woodcock fit in, the grouse cycle, grouse as food and huntable covers. He weaves in discussions on whether to shoot wild flushes, grouse gun preference, the pace of the hunt and hunting gear.
In comparing grouse hunting to other types of hunting, Parman introduces deep-level discussions on ethics and etiquette, “Today the goal often is to dominate nature, unlike Leopold’s purpose, which was to participate in nature. Hunters talk about ‘crushing,’ ‘smacking,’ or ‘smoking’ birds, as if the hunt were a contest scored between the hunter and the hunted . . . fortunately, record books for grouse don’t exist.”
With the ever-present need to diversify grouse hunting to youth, women and new hunters, I found how Parman raises the issue particularly interesting, “In our postnuclear information age, grouse hunting seems quaint, old-fashioned pursuit, like making firewood or hiving bees, and I often wonder if the younger generation will continue the tradition or trade it for a video game that simulates the experience indoors. Grouse hunting seems connected to our distant past, the one peering out at me from old black and white photos at the courthouse and the county historical society, and it’s difficult to project its future, particularly when much of the younger generation doesn’t seem all that interested in walking a couple of miles over rough country just to get a shot at a bird.”
Overall, A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac – The Other Kind of Hunting is a great addition to your grouse hunting library – Parman celebrates the intricacies of grouse hunting, and through his experiences, the reader learns valuable information from dogs, habitat to gear while being challenged by issues that need to answered for the sake of grouse hunting’s future. ~ Review by Matt Soberg
A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac can be purchased for $19.95 on RGS-Mart at ruffedgrousesociety.org. – Use the Discount Code USA1776 by July 4, 2016 to get approximately 11% off plus free FedEx SmartPost shipping.