Winter Reading Book Report

The vernal equinox happened last Saturday at 3:47 in the morning, meaning that most of the world had approximately 12 hours of daylight, marking the beginning of astronomical spring. From now until June 20, our days will continue to get longer. We’re currently gaining time of daylight at the rate of about three minutes per day.

 One of my gauges of the arrival of spring is when the garlic I planted last October begins to emerge, and, sure enough, I saw the first shoot of garlic bravely make its appearance on March 4. A couple days later I heard the calls of a robin from somewhere in the neighborhood. Both were right on schedule.

 I went skiing on March 12, and when I got home I put my ski equipment away for the season, not because the skiing was bad, but because I decided that on my next outings I’d rather be standing in a river with fly rod in hand.

 During the winter months I’ve been doing a lot of reading, as usual, and I’ll share some notes on some books.

 Over the years, there have been a lot of books written about ruffed grouse hunting, and most of them have been set in eastern states, especially New England. A new exception is Idaho Ruffed Grouse Hunting by Andrew Wayment. In his day job, Andy is an attorney, based in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He also has serious hunting and fishing addictions and loves writing about it. While there is quite a bit of variety in upland bird hunting in Idaho, he is first and foremost a ruffed grouse hunter. Over the years, he has found a number of favorite spots, or coverts, where he finds ruffies, plus blue grouse, sharptailed grouse, even some occasional pheasants and quail.

Andy pays tribute to the traditional grouse writers such as William Harnden Foster and Burt Spiller, but his stories of dogs and birds are solidly set in the West. It’s published by The History Press.

 On the other hand, I had some interesting reading from author Jerry Hamza, who is definitely from the East, upstate New York, to be specific. He has a somewhat unusual background for an outdoor writer, as he spent some 30 years as a road manager for the late comedian, George Carlin. During those years of almost incessant travel he generally packed fishing and hunting gear, and in the process accumulated a lot of experiences. He also put in a stint as president of the Cat Fanciers Association, and in that position got to hunt and fish around the world. Yeah, who knew? I wasn’t kidding about his unusual background.

More to the point, he’s a heckuva writer and has written a couple books.  His first was Outdoor Chronicles – True Tales of a Lifetime of Hunting and Fishing, and more recently, The Zen of Home Water. This guy can write! In Zen, there’s a chapter about his joining a golf club just to get access to a golf course that has a pond on the 15th hole, known to have big largemouth bass. That story, alone, is reason to get his book. It’s published by Skyhorse Publishing.

 I’ve also been re-reading some older books, including A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, which I referenced in a recent column. Leopold’s writing bears up well, even after over 70 years since his death. One certainly gains an appreciation for his recognition as the father of scientific wildlife management and as an early thinker on ecology.

 I also re-read Hill Country and Mostly Tailfeathers, collections of essays by Gene Hill, who was a longtime editor and contributor to Field & Stream magazine, after years as an advertising copywriter for several Madison Avenue advertising agencies. He died in 1997. I had always regarded his writing as some of the best there was. Sorry to say, his writing back in the 1970s, when those books were published, actually seems dated. Excellent writing, but it seems out of date.

 Of course, I’d best not complain!

 Paul vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

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