Fall is my favorite season here in Michigan. As the color of the leaves begin to intensify, so does my desire to take to the woods. I feel an unexplained urge to travel from my house in lower Michigan back to my hometown in the Upper Peninsula.
Every fiber of my being longs to be there. Much like the way I assume a woodcock feels during migration flights; there is an internal force that pulls me back home and into the aspen cuttings.
Ruffed grouse and woodcock season opens mid-September and I find myself making the five-hour trek north and across the Mackinaw Bridge nearly every weekend from then until the beginning of November. Many of my weekdays are spent wishing it was 5 p.m. on Friday, a time when I can take flight. I leave my office and speed home (in my truck that I packed with gear on Thursday night), change out of business casual attire into my Prois Hunting Apparel and pick up “Wesson” — my German Shorthair Pointer, before we start our journey north. Most of the drive takes place under the cover of darkness, akin to how woodcock fly with the light of the moon illuminating their path.
Why I upland hunt
Upland hunting has always been a soul-cleansing experience for me. I cherish the time that I am able to spend outside, taking in the beauty of nature. Breathing fresh air into my lungs always seems to be in direct correlation with a good mood and a clear head. The memories I have of hunting with friends and family are something I will always cherish. There is a special camaraderie that bird hunters share, almost as if connected spiritually by our common bond.
Last week, a family friend and fellow upland hunter lost his battle with cancer. Eilert Von Voss was originally from Germany, but resided in Michigan, where he worked as a business man. He once helped my dad purchase one of the best bird dog we have ever had, “Halle”, a German Shorthair Pointer straight from Germany. We would always love to have “Uncle Eilert” hunt with the three of us. Halle is no longer with us either; she went to the big aspen cutting in the sky last year. I will always hold the memories we shared very dear to my heart and I believe that Eilert and Halle are together now, hunting in an upland paradise. This weekend my dad and I hunted in tribute of those we have loved and lost; including Eilert, Halle and my brother who passed away five years ago on October 13. Fallen bird hunting partners and bird dogs will always have a special place in my heart, separate from the rest.
“We keep our memories in the same place we bury dogs and pals who are no longer with us. We keep these treasures in the vaults that hold the sights of geese pitching into a set of field decoys and quail buzzing out of a brushy corner by a split-rail fence. And when the time comes when it’s easier to remember old times than to gather up new ones, it is to this place that we go, you and I, to watch for the flight at sunset.” ~ Steve Smith