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The Gun Dog Summer Reading List

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June 04, 2010

The Gun Dog Summer Reading List

By David DiBenedetto

Here in Charleston, SC, the heat index is going to top out near 105 degrees this weekend, so the wife, Pritch, and I are going to head to the beach. When I’m not surf fishing with my pup I plan to finish reading a great new book, Afield: American Writers on Bird Dogs (Skyhorse Publishing). The pages, still hot off the presses, are packed with some of the country’s finest writers (Thomas McGuane, Rick Bass, Jim Harrison, and Tom Brokaw to name a few) telling some of the best dog stories ever printed.

No maudlin, sunset scenes here. Just men obsessed with their bird dogs and the hunt. Take Brokaw for example. Early in his piece, “Last Dance for the Ladies,” he lets us know he’s not just posing as a dog nut:

My wife Meredith and I have been so willing to arrange our lives to accommodate Sage and Abbie that in a vain attempt to reclaim some dignity we say aloud from time to time, “Good God, we’re the kind of people we used to make fun of.” It doesn’t change our behavior, but we do take some comfort in acknowledging our weakness in their presence.

Sound familiar? I thought so. Brokaw goes on to describe a scene from one of the final hunts for his Lab, Abbie:

Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a black ball of fur tumbling down from the top of the hill, pushing a wounded grouse ahead with her nose. Abbie, her legs now worn out, was sliding and rolling the bird into the bushes where she could trap it against thick roots. When she reached the bushes, she grabbed the blue in her jaws and lay down, waiting for me to retrieve them both. I pocketed the grouse, picked up Abbie, and carried her down the hill, weeping softly as I kept repeating into her ear, “Good girl, good girl.”

I don’t know Tom Brokaw, but something tells me he’s one hell of a guy, a dog guy. I’m hoping to finish the book in between surf fishing sessions, with my dog at my feet and a very cold beer within arm’s reach. Next on my summer reading list is A Rough Shooting Dog by Charles Fergus (on a strong recommendation from fellow F&S writer Hal Herring.)

Anyone else have some favorite gun dog stories or books? Let’s hear about them.

Comments (9)

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from Bookie12 wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Good post Dave. You mention Tom Brokaw. I had no idea too, but he is actually a total badass. I read a book in college called "Let My People Go Surfing". I am sure you have heard of it (if not buy and read it IMMEDIATELY). It's all about Yvon Chounaird and his business philosophy behind Patagonia. Anyway, Tom Brokaw is featured in the book (lots of pics and stories) as a fellow adventurer alongside Chounaird....rock climbing, scaling glaciers, vernturing deep into the back country. Anyway, he is not just a boring news anchor after all!! Brokaw is the man!

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from LRH4 wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

"Aleck Maury, Sportsman" by Caroline Gordon. Loosely based on the life of the author's father and his love of the outdoors. A great read and one of my favorites. No longer in print, but you can find one on the internet - Lea Holliday

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from johntalbott wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

My favorite outdoors book is "A Hunter's Fireside Book" by Gene Hill, but last dance with the ladies is also great, I read it in this month"s copy of garden and gun (former F&S editor Sid Evans is the G&G editor now. Great magazine, sure you know Dave, since youre in charleston. Thanks a lot for gun dog of the week!

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from straightshooter wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

johntalbott - Gene Hill is a favorite of mine, too. His book, "Mostly Tailfeathers: Stories About Guns and Dogs and Birds and Other Odds and Ends" would be be right at the top of my "dog story" book list.

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from straightshooter wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Other favorites are:
"For the Love of a Dog: Classic Bird Dog Stories" edited by Darren Brown. An added bonus is the illustrations by Brett Smith.

Another great one is "Cold Noses and Warm Hearts: Beloved Dog Stories by Great Authors." Originally compiled by Corey Ford, the latest edition was edited by Laurie Morrow. Story authors include a who's who of American literature: Steinbeck, Lardner, E.B. White,Robert Benchly,O. Henry, T. Roosevelt, etc.

Bill Tarrant's "Pick of the Litter" is also a real good read. He also wrote several good books on dog training.

Wow. You'd think that I like to read stories about dogs or something.

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from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Good stuff here, gang. The suggestions got me thinking about another good one (not all dog stories but enough to make it count) My Health is Better in November by Havilah Babcock. Great book in an old fashion sort of way.

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from daralund wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Not a hunter here, but grew up with hunters (5 brothers, Dad and dogs)and curius that Dave mentions Havilah Babcock because that's why I'm here.

LOVE Babcock's book, "The Best of Babcock" and there is a family bet riding on an answer regarding a favorite story in that book. The story, "The Deacon's Grandpa," is a great hunting dog story but I need the date (or issue date) when the story was published in Field and Stream.

You see, I remember Dad telling that story when I was a wee one and brothers say it was much later. If I win I get quail and trout. If any of you can help me ... best I can do is thank you most heartily and then enjoy my fare.

Thanks for recommendations for summer reading!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from daralund wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Oh ... and Babcock talks about "stink sparrows." Anyone know another name for them?

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from Gaston wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

I agree with johntalbott and straightshooter. Gene Hill set the bar. He's the one I compare all other writers against. A couple of Gene's books have already been mentioned, but on the topic of dogs, I'll add "Tears and Laughter" to the list.

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from Bookie12 wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Good post Dave. You mention Tom Brokaw. I had no idea too, but he is actually a total badass. I read a book in college called "Let My People Go Surfing". I am sure you have heard of it (if not buy and read it IMMEDIATELY). It's all about Yvon Chounaird and his business philosophy behind Patagonia. Anyway, Tom Brokaw is featured in the book (lots of pics and stories) as a fellow adventurer alongside Chounaird....rock climbing, scaling glaciers, vernturing deep into the back country. Anyway, he is not just a boring news anchor after all!! Brokaw is the man!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from LRH4 wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

"Aleck Maury, Sportsman" by Caroline Gordon. Loosely based on the life of the author's father and his love of the outdoors. A great read and one of my favorites. No longer in print, but you can find one on the internet - Lea Holliday

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from johntalbott wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

My favorite outdoors book is "A Hunter's Fireside Book" by Gene Hill, but last dance with the ladies is also great, I read it in this month"s copy of garden and gun (former F&S editor Sid Evans is the G&G editor now. Great magazine, sure you know Dave, since youre in charleston. Thanks a lot for gun dog of the week!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from straightshooter wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

johntalbott - Gene Hill is a favorite of mine, too. His book, "Mostly Tailfeathers: Stories About Guns and Dogs and Birds and Other Odds and Ends" would be be right at the top of my "dog story" book list.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from straightshooter wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Other favorites are:
"For the Love of a Dog: Classic Bird Dog Stories" edited by Darren Brown. An added bonus is the illustrations by Brett Smith.

Another great one is "Cold Noses and Warm Hearts: Beloved Dog Stories by Great Authors." Originally compiled by Corey Ford, the latest edition was edited by Laurie Morrow. Story authors include a who's who of American literature: Steinbeck, Lardner, E.B. White,Robert Benchly,O. Henry, T. Roosevelt, etc.

Bill Tarrant's "Pick of the Litter" is also a real good read. He also wrote several good books on dog training.

Wow. You'd think that I like to read stories about dogs or something.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Good stuff here, gang. The suggestions got me thinking about another good one (not all dog stories but enough to make it count) My Health is Better in November by Havilah Babcock. Great book in an old fashion sort of way.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from daralund wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Not a hunter here, but grew up with hunters (5 brothers, Dad and dogs)and curius that Dave mentions Havilah Babcock because that's why I'm here.

LOVE Babcock's book, "The Best of Babcock" and there is a family bet riding on an answer regarding a favorite story in that book. The story, "The Deacon's Grandpa," is a great hunting dog story but I need the date (or issue date) when the story was published in Field and Stream.

You see, I remember Dad telling that story when I was a wee one and brothers say it was much later. If I win I get quail and trout. If any of you can help me ... best I can do is thank you most heartily and then enjoy my fare.

Thanks for recommendations for summer reading!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from daralund wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

Oh ... and Babcock talks about "stink sparrows." Anyone know another name for them?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gaston wrote 3 years 45 weeks ago

I agree with johntalbott and straightshooter. Gene Hill set the bar. He's the one I compare all other writers against. A couple of Gene's books have already been mentioned, but on the topic of dogs, I'll add "Tears and Laughter" to the list.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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