I wish every tomorrow was opening day. I wish each month was October. I hope I never stop feeling butterflies at the rush of the flush. I hope to always revel in the smell of gunpowder. I wish our best bird dogs never left this world. I hope to have a good one by my side when it’s my turn to go.
I hope that one day my boy loves the sporting life as much as I do. I wish our traditions lived on forever and were passed on to the next hunter on the trail of life.
These little nuances and aspirations are what keep me going—to enjoy the moment now and leave the resource better for the future. This is the purpose of the hunt—the reasons why we burn so much gas and gunpowder and wear down our truck tires and leather boots. When it comes to the upland pastime, personally, I don’t care about much else.
Yet sometimes, it seems, this true purpose is getting lost. There is a growing narrative in the upland world beginning to point out our differences as hunters—from demographics to dogs to ethics and etiquette—more than the regular jokes poked at buddies over a fire at camp. This stirs internal debate about perceived judgment of identity. That said, it is difficult to discern who is judging whom these days. This narrative divides us. However, as long as you are safe, respectful, and law abiding, no one should really care who you are or how you do it. We are better together, rather than divided.
Our dogs don’t care. They just want to run on the prairies, find birds in the forests, and get scratched behind the ears on the tailgate after a job well done. I like to think that our guns don’t care. They want to shoot, get cleaned, and shoot some more. The birds for sure don’t care. They want the tall grass, young forests, and plenty of food to live. Conservation doesn’t care, either. The more hunters buying licenses and donors giving their hard-earned dollars to the resources, no matter who they are or where they come from, the better we will leave the landscape for the next generation.
I was lucky to grow up in a blue-collar hunting community. My hometown buddies still shoot the same pumpguns they used in high school. Over time, my upland evolution has led me to develop personal preferences for particular dogs, guns, and gear. We may all look and hunt in different ways, but that is okay. Pumpguns or side-by-sides? Pointers or flushers? Dakota prairies or Southern plantations? None of this really matters. Our purpose of the hunt is the same. Everything has its place, and they should all be celebrated.
When it is all said and done and we are sitting on the tailgate with a cold one, shaking hands, telling stories, and basking in the glory of a hard-fought day afield, no one really cares to focus on how we differ. And all other narratives of internal debate distract us from being united in our common goals of enjoying the nuances of the hunt now and preserving traditions for future hunters.
The truth is that there is more reason to be positive for the future of upland hunting than we sometimes read about these days. However, if we entertain unnecessary debate amongst ourselves, then we have already lost the battle. There are more hunting opportunities available than ever before. There is more information from which to learn right at our fingertips. There is more public land to hunt than we could ever cover in our lifetimes. There are more hunters of all types willing to mentor others, no matter who they are. But there is still hard work to do, and if we do our job in terms of conservation, collectively, there will be habitat and birds available to perpetuate our traditions for generations to come.
This issue of Covey Rise carries the torch forward with a plan of purpose and positivity for our readers. Silvio Calabi recalls the memories left by the pumpguns and autoloaders we grew up with. The sweat pours down our foreheads while hunting chukar at Heaven’s Gate Outfitters in the mountains of Idaho. We tell the story of YETI, from the initial vision to becoming a worldwide brand while hunting quail in Kansas with the Seiders family. Julie Jeppsen inspires our sense of the Wild West through her cowboy and sporting art. Chris Madson puts our best bird dogs in perspective when they don’t live long enough. And, we feature the story of Chef Michael Carlucci, who channels his New York roots to present wild-game dishes on the prairies of Montana.
Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. We hope you enjoy this issue!