An inside look at the Fall 2019 Issue of Project Upland Magazine.
The calendar might say that fall is still a month away, but the cooler breezes and shorter days have a different story to tell. For some, the beginning of Fall is marked by an overabundance of pumpkin-spiced, well . . . everything, hitting the shelves, but for many more the start of fall is opening day of the season, whether that be dove, goose, or early teal.
Here at Project Upland, fall kicks off when the Fall issue of the magazine hits your mailbox. Here’s a sampling of some of the great stories this issue has in store:
Making of a Bird Hunter
Kicking off the issue, author Joel Penkala, host of The Gun Room Podcast, takes readers on a ride as we follow his journey into the uplands through reflections of his relationship with his father and their hunts together.
“On paper, this is what bird hunters’ dreams are made of. I will not try to put words to something as uniquely personal as the dynamic between my father and me. The depth of the bond that we formed in the woods, the successes and the failures, brought us together. I have never been in battle, but from those I have spoken with who have, the dynamic that exists between two people that hunt effectively together must be akin to that type of experience. You can communicate with a nod or slight gesture. You know where you need to be and what you need to do, while knowing what the other party will be doing without questioning. Dad and I achieved a level of precision and concert in our hunting bordering on perfection.”
Love Conquers All
A lot of pieces in Project Upland center around a writer’s love of the chase, the hunt, dogs, conservation, birds, — just about everything upland. In Love Conquers All, writers Craig Koshyk and Lisa Trottier share reflections of their relationship blossoming over a shared love for the outdoors Lisa’s journey from bystander with a camera to upland hunter.
“I was amazed at the complexities involved and blown away by how much there was to experience, to learn, to see. Even the smells were captivating—the scent of fresh cut alfalfa in September, forest floor in October and the fragrance of wild mint, ripe cranberries, and chokecherries wafting through the air. And then there was the thrill of the chase, of watching Craig and Félix do what hunters and their dogs have done for centuries. Watching them, I began to understand what drew them to the field. They may be happy in the city, but hunters and their dogs are absolutely euphoric when they’re in the field following their ancient instincts.
After that first hunt, I was hooked. I joined Craig and the dogs in the field as often as I could, discovering new aspects of the hunt every time I went out. And, as the seasons progressed, I could feel my own hunter-gatherer instincts begin to stir. But I must admit that I sometimes felt a bit out of place. I was a woman in what seemed to be a man’s world.”
English Setters of the Italian Alps
In this piece, author Ryan Lisson discusses a recent study that suggests bobwhite quail management may have to change in Missouri
“It’s a sad reality that the bobwhite quail population has been in a steady decline across the nation for years. One or two generations ago they were plentiful, as was the number of quail hunters who pursued them. But according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the bobwhite population has dropped more than 85 percent since 1966. With thousands of trained individuals collecting these data, it’s hard to disagree with the trend. One of the largest suspected reasons for this sharp decline is loss of habitat. Think about it: how much have we changed our landscape since the 1960s? Pretty significantly. It was time for me to call the researchers to get a better idea of their perspectives.”
“In the moment I picked up that bird that gave its life for me, all sorts of wild things went through my head. The mountains of northern New England. Ruffed grouse that fell in fleeting moments that are only given time by thought. And here was much of that. The wild of the West that seemed to stretch forever–it seems big maybe just because there are no trees to tame my view. Tame, that’s the word that came to my mind. This bird was not tame, it couldn’t be. It was exciting, adventurous, new, and, I already knew from last night’s dinner, tasty.”
The Gun Shop
In The Gun Shop, author Edgar Castillo invites readers to tour the The Olathe Gun Shop, the birthplace of his upland bird hunting passion.
“As we walked through the front door, the bell rang. Funny, as I had not heard it upon entering the gun shop, probably because I was taken aback from what lay before me when I entered. I climbed into the truck and held onto the contents purchased for the season. From that day forward, The Gun Shop would play an integral part in my “upland” upbringing. Just like my father, The Gun Shop, too, would become a center point for my love for hunting birds. Just as he passed on his knowledge, experiences, and instructions, I inherited the gun shop from my father. His presence in the field was also shared with times visiting the gun shop as we prepared for the upcoming season.”
Redefining a Successful Hunt
Everyone has their own idea of what a successful hunt means to them. Here, author Jennifer Wapenski examines her most successful hunting adventure yet, with only one bird to show for her efforts.
“Before I really got into this lifestyle, I would have defined hunting success as bag limits and meat in the freezer. After completing a summer of pretty intense dog training and my first full season chasing birds, I realize there’s so much more to all of this than a kill count. There’s the time spent exploring the wilderness, discovering new places, and appreciating the beauty of the natural world. There’s the satisfaction of learning new tactics and facing new challenges.”
Legend of Hartley
You might recognize Hartley from his appearances in numerous Project Upland films and photography, but he doesn’t let the fame go to his head. In Legend of Hartley, Project Upland Podcast host Nick Larson talks about what it’s like owning the ubiquitous English setter of Project Upland.
“While some say setters do it better (and sometimes I say that) I’m biased of course. I swear Hartley enjoys the spotlight, and I will say he does look good under it. Again, I’m biased. But there’s nothing really “legendary” about Hartley. He’s just a bird dog owned by an upland hunter who happens to work for Northwoods Collective. Shhh . . . don’t tell him I said that! Before he was gracing the pages of magazines and pointing birds on camera, he was just another setter pup adopted at 8 weeks old by two strangers who would soon become his favorite people in the world.”
Traditions Come Around
Traditions in upland hunting is something our readers can certainly relate to. Here, author Travis Coberly reminds us how memories made afield keep relationships strong even after years apart.
“In the spring of last year, my group was together again at an alumni event, retelling stories of our past hunts. We all lamented the lapse of our annual pilgrimage and wondered if we could revive the tradition, at least for one season. And so, nine months later, there we were once more, united again, clad in blaze orange, chasing pheasants like old times. Well, not exactly like old times. The passage of time had not ignored us. Many of the guys carried a lot more weight than they used to – and less hair. The hair that remained was beginning to turn gray in places. Too much time at the dinner table and not enough time in the gym meant more frequent breaks in the field. We seriously considered time for a post-lunch nap.”
Shadow of a Man
Continuing with the thread of tradition, in this essay by Erin Woodward reflects on the life of a grandfather he barely knew but feels a connection to through their shared passion of upland hunting.
“Recently searching among a collection of my family’s belongings, I found nearly hidden in a mothball-filled closet the very same Chief upland vest worn by my grandfather. Beautiful green stitching on the tag became a happy surprise. The vest with its muted tone of beige color, and worn game bag once filled with pheasant and quail, now captured my mind with stories of coveys being flushed across a cold Kansas prairie. I imagined the echoing blast of a shotgun being absorbed into my shoulder, and the point of a dedicated bird dog retrieving a hunter’s prize as I slipped on the vest. It fit.”
Taste of All Things Wild
The cover story for the Fall issue of Project Upland features none other than award-winning food writer Hank Shaw. As a companion piece to the upcoming film Food and Hunting, Chet Hervey’s in depth profile Taste of All Things Wild, takes a look at Hank’s journey from newspaper reporter to renowned chef and author inviting thousands to learn and enjoy the art of cooking all things wild.
To be fair, Hank is not exactly a cynic, he just plays one on TV. His blend of sarcasm, plain-speak, and a touch of derision is just a tough New Jersey exterior covering a passionate conservationist, ethicist, and philosopher. There are even times when he ventures into the realm of the poetic. Whether he’s scaling a fish in his college dorm room (pro-tip from Hank: Don’t do that.) or creating a recipe for sage grouse enchiladas whose ancho chiles will melt your face off, he has a monk-like devotion to his calling to be, as he puts it, “The America’s Test Kitchen meets Alton Brown of wild game.”
I spent a couple of frigid November days last fall on the Kansas prairie with Hank, abusing our hip flexors by plowing through bent-over sorghum cane in pursuit of pheasant during the Kansas Ringneck Classic, an earnest and heartily attended event in support of some fantastic Pheasants Forever and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism programs. While the temperature certainly affected my shooting accuracy (yeah, that was the problem), it didn’t seem to faze Hank as he managed to stuff a Yeti Hopper full of whole pheasant carcasses for his trip home to California.
“Did TSA enjoy that?” I asked later.
“Yeah, they pulled me aside and asked, ‘Are you going to eat these?’ And I couldn’t help myself,” Hanks remembers with a laugh. “So I just looked at him and said, ‘No, I’m flying them halfway across the country in my carry-on so I can throw them away.’”
Looking to Winter
Now that Fall has officially hit the shelves, we’re already working hard on the upcoming Winter issue, sure to bring you more of the stories, photography, and passion for the outdoors you know and love from Project Upland.
We’ve got a lot of great things on deck this winter including a profile on Marissa Jensen, Pheasants Forever Outreach and Communications Coordinator. Jensen has fallen in love with the uplands along with her German shorthaired pointer, Reese. Jensen is also the subject of an upcoming Project Upland original film, to be released in December, that takes viewers through her stomping grounds in Nebraska for ring-necked pheasant and bobwhite quail.
Nancy Anisfield gives readers an inside look at the annual “Bitch Hunt”, a women’s-only hunt in Maine that started out as an idea at a holiday cookie swap that has grown into a tradition for the last 26 years and counting.
Jay Dowd will take a historical look at the life of Edmund Davis, the author of the 1908 book Woodcock Shooting.
That’s just a taste of what’s to come for the Winter issue, stay tuned!
Rachelle Blair-Frasier is a Michigan native, bird dog enthusiast, and Managing Editor of Project Upland Magazine.