We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Wingbeats and Heartbeats

Essays on Game Birds, Gun Dogs, and Days Afield

Dave Books; Illustrations by Christopher Smith

Publication Year: 2014

Wingbeats and Heartbeats is a wingshooter's odyssey to the wild places where, at the end of the day, the companionship of faithful gun dogs and good friends matters more than a bulging game bag.
            In this sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant collection of essays, Dave Books celebrates a time-honored connection to the land and the hard-earned hunting rewards of an outdoor life. Through these essays, readers tag along on adventures in the forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the fields of Iowa and North Dakota, the prairies of eastern Montana and Nebraska, the mountains of western Montana and Idaho, and the deserts of Arizona. Books also writes of the game birds that hunters pursue and admire: grouse, quail, woodcock, doves, chukars, Hungarian partridge, and waterfowl.
            A heartfelt tribute to the freedom and magic of the hunt, Wingbeats and Heartbeats is a book that has much to say about work and fun, success and failure, and the sights, sounds, and smells of a day afield.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (84.1 KB)
p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.6 KB)
pp. i-vi


pdf iconDownload PDF (68.3 KB)
pp. vii-x


pdf iconDownload PDF (52.8 KB)
pp. xi-xii


pdf iconDownload PDF (70.6 KB)
pp. xiii-xvi

Upland Tales

read more

Autumn Magic

pdf iconDownload PDF (104.4 KB)
pp. 3-10

I suppose I was eight or nine when Dad and Uncle Hal gave in to my pleading and let me tag along on one of their Saturday ruffed grouse hunts. Of course, my dad and uncle didn’t call these birds “ruffed grouse,” nor did anyone else in the west- central...

read more

Completing the Picture

pdf iconDownload PDF (93.5 KB)
pp. 11-17

Brittanys and woodcock seem to belong together, perhaps because they knew each other back in France, the ancestral home of the little “poacher’s dog.” In France, where the woodcock is known as the becasse, he is still hunted with Brittanys,...

read more

Humbled by Huns

pdf iconDownload PDF (109.5 KB)
pp. 18-26

eased around the corner of the abandoned ranch house and squinted into the warm October sun. My gaze swept quickly over the rusting farm machinery and the dilapidated stable. Except for a light breeze rustling the golden leaves of a cottonwood,...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (78.8 KB)
pp. 27-33

Cocking a quizzical eyebrow over a squinched- down blue eye, the old rancher sputtered, “Sharp-tailed what?” “Sharp-tailed grouse, you know, the brown prairie birds with the pointed . . .” “Oh, you mean chickens !” he interrupted. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”...

read more

Chukars Aren’t Easy

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.4 KB)
pp. 34-41

We used to rest on the west side of the Salmon River near Grangeville, Idaho, look across at the vertical slopes rising from the narrow fringe of sandy beach on the east side, and shudder at the prospect of hunting there. The slopes...

read more

Sonoran Safari

pdf iconDownload PDF (89.0 KB)
pp. 42-49

The Arizona desert can be a daunting place when the wind blows. Joe Elliott and I had driven south from Montana in January for a week of Gambel’s quail hunting, and had set up camp on public land about thirty miles north of the small town of...

read more

Edgar’s Bird

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.2 KB)
pp. 50-57

Remember that old Simon and Garfunkel tune, “The Sound of Silence”? If you’re using your ears to follow a Brittany’s bell through manzanita brush and live oaks along the Mexican border, silence is a wonderful sound. It means you may be...

read more

Jailhouse Blues

pdf iconDownload PDF (67.7 KB)
pp. 58-64

We got up before dawn to let the dogs out of their travel crates and greet the new day—the first morning of a long- awaited January quail hunt in southeastern Arizona. Steve McMorran and I had left the cold and snow of...

read more

Hunting the Sagebrush Sasquatch

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.2 KB)
pp. 65-71

Try to shoot a young one,” I said. “They’re the best eating.” Thus I advised my hunting partner, Joe Elliott, as we stood watching the sun creep over the horizon and paint the eastern Montana prairie in shades of gold. We’d driven from our...

read more

Judge Owen Denny Day

pdf iconDownload PDF (92.1 KB)
pp. 72-79

Last August Joe Elliott caught me off guard. “What are your plans for Judge Owen Denny Day?” he asked. He had that smug look he gets when he makes a long crossing shot on a rooster pheasant. The electrical impulses in my brain hiccupped a few times and...

read more

An Ammunition Maker’s Best Friend

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.2 KB)
pp. 80-85

First a downwind zinger raced by and I shot behind it. Then an upwind floater tooled past, and I had the impression it wasn’t moving at all. I shot behind that one, too. My gracious host, Kansan Bill Nye, grinned. “You have to get that gun barrel...

read more

Don’t Forget the Bear Spray

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.9 KB)
pp. 86-90

Several western states lump blue grouse, ruffed grouse, and spruce grouse in their hunting regulations as “mountain grouse.” These birds may all live in the mountains, but that’s where the similarities end. A mature male blue grouse can weigh...

read more

A Lonely, Wild Bird

pdf iconDownload PDF (102.9 KB)
pp. 91-98

There’s a little town called Rothsay in western Minnesota where I often stop on my cross- country travels. It’s on Interstate 94, not far from the North Dakota line. A truck stop just off the freeway serves up a mean country breakfast, but best...

read more

Gentleman Bob

pdf iconDownload PDF (99.2 KB)
pp. 99-106

We rarely ran into bobwhite quail when I was a kid growing up in west- central Wisconsin. We must have been at the northern edge of the bobwhite’s range, because when we hunted counties south of Eau Claire we would...

Helpers in the Hunt

read more

A Dog’s Life

pdf iconDownload PDF (100.4 KB)
pp. 109-118

While packing for a duck hunting trip last fall, moving gear from the house to the truck, I carelessly left the kitchen door ajar. Preoccupied with my chores, I didn’t notice that my two- year-old black Lab, Bailey, had slipped out of the...

read more

Dogs May Be Smarter than We Think

pdf iconDownload PDF (76.1 KB)
pp. 119-125

Scientists don’t credit dogs with great reasoning power, but I’ve had things happen in forty years of following gun dogs that have given me pause for thought. I once had a young Brittany named Sally who didn’t care much for retrieving but had a burning...

read more

Bird Dogs and Buzztails

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.4 KB)
pp. 126-135

My Brittany, Chief, was on point, and I had walked past him, a little to one side, until I was ten yards in front. When no birds flushed, I turned to look back at him. He rolled his eyes up at me, then broke and rushed forward a few...

read more

Strange Happenings Afield

pdf iconDownload PDF (108.4 KB)
pp. 136-146

My black Lab Maggie and I were hunting along Box Elder Creek in eastern Montana when she charged into a wild rose thicket and nosed out a rooster pheasant. The bird dropped a leg when I shot but continued flying up the creek...

read more

Second Chances

pdf iconDownload PDF (68.1 KB)
pp. 146-152

There are a couple of truisms about old dogs and old duck hunters. One is that if you are a twelve- year-old Labrador retriever, the cold, dark water of late November looks a little less inviting than it once did. The other is that if you’re a hunter...

read more

Rite of Passage

pdf iconDownload PDF (65.9 KB)
pp. 153-158

While my veterinarian friend Steve Sekerak studied my thirteen- year-old Lab’s X- rays, I studied Steve’s face, looking for a sign of hope. I didn’t see one. When he finally spoke, his words hit me like a sledgehammer. “Jenny’s riddled...

People and Places

read more

A Nose for Valley Quail

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.3 KB)
pp. 161-167

I was jinxed, hoodooed, skunked, and snakebit. Over the years I had bagged bobwhite, scaled, Gambel’s, Mearns, and even mountain quail. But valley quail (also called California quail)...

read more

Longtails and Liars

pdf iconDownload PDF (80.9 KB)
pp. 168-175

I think enough time has passed that I can tell this story without fear of electronic surveillance or a full- press audit from the IRS. Some forms of gambling are illegal, but judging by the number of office pools in progress during the NCAA basketball...

read more

Taking One for the Team

pdf iconDownload PDF (72.4 KB)
pp. 176-181

The other day I was digging around in the desk drawer where I put things I can’t bring myself to throw away and I ran across an old birthday card from a couple with whom I bird hunted for many years. Printed in England, the card features a drawing of a scowling Englishman decked out in hat, shooting coat...

read more

Conjugal Bliss

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.5 KB)
pp. 182-187

I was looking out my office window in Helena, Montana, watching it snow when the phone rang. “Hello.” “Dave, it’s Joe. You aren’t gonna believe this.” “Believe what? Where are you?” “I’m on my cell phone. I’m sitting here looking at the Conservation...

read more

Country Folks and City Slickers

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.3 KB)
pp. 188-196

As a lifelong pheasant hunter I’ve knocked on a lot of doors to ask permission to hunt. Most of the time the response has been a polite yes or no, and maybe a short conversation about the weather. But once in awhile a knock on the door has introduced me to a memorable character, and sometimes it has marked...

read more

The Hi-Line

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.2 KB)
pp. 197-203

The Milk River originates in Glacier National Park and meanders eastward, partly in Canada and partly in north- ern Montana, about 700 miles to its confluence with the Missouri River north of Fort Peck Reservoir. On his way west with the Voyage of Discovery in 1805, Meriwether Lewis named the river...

read more

Sundown Roosters

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.0 KB)
pp. 204-211

If I had to choose one hour of the day to hunt pheasants with a dog, I’d take the last hour. Birds are active then—filling their crops, picking grit, and moving toward roosting areas where they’ll settle in for the night. As the air cools, scenting conditions...

E-ISBN-13: 9780299294731
E-ISBN-10: 0299294730
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299294700
Print-ISBN-10: 0299294706

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 10 drawings
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Fowling -- United States -- Anecdotes.
  • Game and game-birds -- United States -- Anecdotes.
  • Hunting dogs -- United States -- Anecdotes.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access