Book Reviews

Best Birds Upland & Shore by Worth Mathewson with artwork by David Hagerbaumer

Bird-hunting may still be months away, but a great gift for the upland and shoreline bird hunter in your life is this great hardcover 219-page book. It is a compelling read for many reasons: it can stir the mental juices of any bird hunter; it helps sportsmen recall similar outings that deserve to be remembered, and it sports the delightful artwork of noted wildlife artist David Hagerbaumer.

The author writes extremely well. He captures the mood of hunting these game birds, and his poignant prose makes the reader feel as if he is walking alongside the author to work in behind a stylish pointer or setter, looking up and ahead of the dog’s nose, expectantly awaiting the flush they know will soon come.

This book, amply illustrated by black-and-white drawings, covers such game birds as band-tailed pigeon, white-winged dove, mourning dove, bobwhite quail, Scaled or Gambel’s quail, Mountain quail, Mearns quail, Valley quail, ruffed grouse. blue and spruce grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse, Lesser and Greater pinnated grouse, the ptarmigan (rock, white-tailed and willow), turkey, snipe, woodcock, chachalaca, sora rail, clapper rail, the gallinules (Virginia, King, Coot, purple and common), sandhill crane, ringneck pheasant, Grey partridge, chukar, and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse.

I love all types of bird hunting, but am particularly in love with hunting the wild turkey. Mathewson recounts one of his hunts for this king of game birds, and it is a minute-by-minute account of what happened. This is a superb bit of writing, and it is highly recommended for its keen attention to detail.

This book is not a fluff book, one filled with meaningless words or a rehash of similar stories that seem to be recycled all too often by too many people. This is great, original writing, and is something that can build a raging fire in your belly. It makes you want to read the book from cover to cover at one setting.

However, as has been my experience with great and wonderful outdoor writing, I want to savor it and make it last. I want to wallow in the pleasure of fine writing, pace myself so the experience of good reading will linger longer, and as is true with the really great hunting books, it’s my intention to read it at least once a year.

This is not a how-to book as much as it is a book of experiences. Some of the how-to is there but you’ll need to read between the lines because the author is skilled at working in tiny nuances that tell you what and why he is doing something.

The author knows how to write great copy, and anything that captures birds, dogs and fine firearms into one book, is good enough for me. I shall return to this book, and will do it soon, for another taste of fine writing coupled with excellent illustrations that take my mind afield, long before the law allows me to be there with a fine shotgun in hand.

It books were rated, as restaurants are, this one would reach the magic pinnacle of five stars. It’s that good.


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