Thursday, October 17, 2013

How Many Woodcock Count As One Grouse?

I recently reviewed my hunting logs back to 1993 when I began hunting birds over flushing spaniels. I discovered that for every grouse I’ve taken in that time, I’ve taken precisely 20 woodcock.

There’s a good reason for this. My very productive home woodcock coverts lie north of the NYS Thruway (I-90) in the orchards of the “lake plain”, and so every hunt there is a woodcock hunt, possibly a woodcock and pheasant hunt, but never ever a woodcock and grouse hunt. When I searched my Filemaker database for “woodcock > 0,” none of the pinged records contained a grouse. I was astonished, and reran my search to make sure I wasn’t making a Boolean error. Nope. I’ve never taken a grouse and a woodcock on the same hunt.

If we had moved to northern NY as I’d wanted in 1980, that proportion would certainly be much different, as grouse were and are relatively abundant there compared with the coverts south of Buffalo near the Pennsylvania line. Even so, my numbers tell what we upland hunters all know: a ruffed grouse shot fairly on the wing on public land in NY is an increasingly rare prize.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Down To Their Last Strike?

Listening to the ALDS game the other night, I heard the play-by-play guy say that the team at bat, with two men out and with two strikes on the hitter, was “down to their last strike.” Michael Kay used this phrase often as he broadcast the seemingly inevitable ending of games in which “Mr. Sandman” Mariano Rivera closed the ninth inning.

No matter who utters it, this statement is easily exposed as false. Should Rivera or any other closer have the opposing team on the ropes with two outs and a two strike count, any of several events - a single, a walk, a batter hit by pitch - gives the batting team 3 fresh new strikes. Claiming that the reliever is a strike away from victory is closer to the truth. But it’s not the absolute truth, because the closer could also win the game with any of several events including a ground out, a fly out or throwing a runner out stealing. He could also lose the game if the game’s on the road and he gives up a walk-off winning run.

I get the idea: the closer could win the game with one more strike, the batting team would lose if the current batter is charged with one more strike. But the batting team is not down to its last strike.

Speaking of third strikes, here's a great song about a little boy's ability to bounce back from baseball adversity.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stephen Bodio Writes That Guy de la Valdene Reads Cold Duck!

Well, maybe not in so many words. Let me explain.

Back in March, 2010, I wrote a piece for Cold Duck that addressed the increasing amount of time I spend hunting old familiar places as I get older. You can read it here if you'd like.

In Bodio’s “A Sportsman’s Library,” he offers thumbnails of “100 essential, engaging, offbeat, and occasionally odd fishing and hunting books….” One such book is Guy de la Valdene’s “The Fragrance of Grass,” written in 2011. Of Valdene, Bodio writes “These days he shoots partridge in Montana behind easygoing dogs like working cockers, and quail on his Florida farm. At a certain age, close or familiar begins to look exactly right. ‘The past is a different country’.”

Valdene’s observations and mine clearly identify us as fellow travelers. I’m delighted that my Cold Duck post was available in 2011 to serve as an inspiration for his book. Their respective publication dates leave scant room for doubt that Cold Duck was the chicken that laid the “Fragrance” egg.

Valdene seems like a swell guy. I’d probably hunt with him if he asked, in his coverts or mine.