My favorite books

In 1976, Jim Rikhoff founded the National Sporting Fraternity Limited and its publishing arm, the Amwell Press. Rikhoff earlier had founded the Winchester Press and was a well-known figure in the sector of the book industry that deals with hunting and fishing.

A group of sportsmen was organized and limited to 1,000 members. Using money I earned from working at the radio station and the newspaper in Arkadelphia, I joined. Various collectible book titles were published and first offered to fraternity members. Each title was limited to 1,000 copies. All copies were signed by the author and Jim Rikhoff.

Because I purchased a number of these books through the years, I was delighed to read this on a website for book collectors: “These books have become very collectible because of a few reasons. They are limited to only 1,000 copies, they are put together with beautiful bindings and slipcases, and the content is desired by hunting, fishing and history enthusiasts. In many editions, you will also find great photos from the author’s personal collections.”

The most recent of these books I purchased was “A Quail Hunter’s Odyssey” by Joseph Greenfield Jr. It came out in 2004.

As I thought about my quail hunting past (see the previous post), I found myself  drawn to this book.

Greenfield wrote: “The true bird hunters consider this addicting avocation to be nothing less than the key to the enjoyment of life. From late November until early March, the everyday problems of life become unimportant. Quail season is open. Each component of bird hunting — birds, dogs, shotguns — combine in changing proportions to paint a beautiful canvas. Dyed-in-the-wool bird hunters frequently choose to hunt by themselves. My primary reason for hunting with others is that they own the land and have invited me to participate. Without them there would be no hunt. Except for this eminently cogent reason, I am at a loss to understand why one would hunt with a companion.”

I loved hunting with my dad. But I also knew I was becoming a man when he would let me take our truck and our bird dogs out alone. There was nothing like going out after school for a quick hour or two of hunting before dark — just our Brittany spaniel, our English setter and me.

I never much enjoyed hunting pen-raised birds. With wild quail becoming rare in most parts of Arkansas, I stopped hunting quail years ago. I miss it terribly.

“Unless physically unable, the true bird hunter will choose to hunt wild quail,” Greenfield wrote. “This endeavor will entail either many hours of fruitless searching or else taking part in an extraordinarily expensive endeavor. Certainly there are many shooting preserves which make a considerable effort to simulate wild bird hunting. Undoubtedly, for some, released birds may serve as a reasonable substitute for wild birds. But, and it is a very big but, not for me or for other dyed-in-the-wool bird hunters. Wild quail in their natural habitat are the necessary game.”

Greenfield has a chapter in the book titled “Bird Hunting: Is There A Future?”

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll experience in Arkansas what I experienced as a boy when it comes to bird hunting. I’m not an optimist in this area.

“In spite of the long odds, hunters must continue to fight the good fight to preserve the sport,” Greenfield wrote. “On the other hand, while it is available, enjoy the totality of the hunting experience — being close to God in the great outdoors. Perhaps we live at the tail end of a tradition stretching back to the time when our forefathers first crawled out of the primordial slime. If sport hunting disappears, God forbid, man and beast alike will be by far the poorer.”

At least I have the memories. And at least I have some nice, leather-bound hunting books to keep me company at night.

Let’s let Joseph Greenfield close: “Why hunt birds? The simple answer: Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats watching a pair of pointers cover a picturesque piece of ground in a workmanlike manner and slamming on brakes to a stylish point. Or even better, admiring them precisely handling a running covey. This tableau, immediately followed by the feel of a fine double shotgun brought into play and accompanied by the thunderous sound of the covey flushing, is an experience without equal. There may be a few things I haven’t tried, but nothing I have attempted, seen or read about even comes close.”

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