Ultimately the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission voted to not shut down the season, but increasingly, stories about upland birds and their habitat read less like news and more like a series of dirges. We can argue the relative merits of why, and who is or isn't to blame ad infinitum. Smarter guys than I can take up that banner, but I have to admit that there are times when I look at my dogs and see not fur, flesh and bone, but ghosts. Big, goofy, loveable, tail-wagging, face-licking, depression-killing, utterly perfect ghosts. But ghosts nonetheless, apparitions that seem to grow just a tiny bit fainter, more translucent, somehow less there, with each new piece of bad news for the birds they were born to hunt, as if Fate had intertwined the two in some cosmic Gordian knot. Tug on one, tug on the other. And I admit, there are days when I feel somehow less here as well, for I am--as a bird hunter--every bit as entwined in that knot as the birds and the dogs and the lonesome places I so love. There's a beautiful symmetry to it, when you think about it: Birds are defined by the land, dogs are defined by the birds, and we, at the top of this metaphysical food chain, are defined by the totality of it all.