ESCANABA — It was the rustic ritual of autumn plaid flannel.
The country lords of yesteryear made it elegant.
Field and Stream type magazines, for many decades featured feathers from grouse, pheasants, woodcocks, spaniels, shotguns and game bags.
Small game hunting season was a rite of passage in the time of our grandparents. The hunting of partridges (grouse) and rabbits (hares) was as much a part of autumn as raking leaves. Back then, almost every young hunter started out by bagging a few rabbits or bringing a bird or two home to make dinner.
I remember when I was a little boy, watching my dad get ready to go to camp in bird season.
His usual Yooper outfit took a backseat to a red flannel shirt, suspenders, leather boots, and a girdle filled with shotgun shells.
Dad was the kind of hunter who never shot anything he wasn’t going to eat. My mother could make the most delicious rabbit stew and the tastiest roast grouse.
Back then, with eight or more around the dinner table, an occasional game meal was a good and inexpensive thing to do.
In the past, images of bird dogs, such as plumed-tailed setters signaling quail and long-eared spaniels retrieving pheasants, have been found on everything from calendars to curtains.
Here in Upper Michigan, those lucky enough to have a hunting dog hunted Woodcock and Grouse.
In October, the cheerful little beagles went to the forest with their owners. His prize was the snowshoe hare. Back then, hares were much more abundant. In the last 50 years the white-tailed rabbit has expanded its territory by leaps and bounds in the UP Both rabbits are very good game animals.
In oak country, gray squirrels were also harvested and made into meals.
The good thing about small game hunting is that it brought people into the fantastic fall forest. It gave the young hunters time to learn the woods and how to move in them.
He taught survival skills. I wonder how many people today know how to skin, dress and prepare a bird or animal to make it a delicacy on the dinner table.
Today, small game hunters are at an all time low. Most Michigan hunters hunt only white-tailed deer.
People talk about eating organic and locally grown plants and animals. The small game is both.
There’s a “circle of life” just like in the “Lion King” movie. Predator and prey create a beautiful balance of nature with just the right amount of everything.
If you hunt with a shotgun, be careful, good luck and know the rules.
If you hunt with a camera, like me, great! Come out and meet our little game.
Karen (Rose) Wils has lived her entire life in North Escanaba. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.
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