Autumn is the perfect time of year to soak in the beautiful bounty that the great outdoors has to offer us. Those perfect, golden fall days signal something in us, beckoning us to enjoy the open air and savor the majestic beauty of our surroundings.  The crisp air and crunchy leaves underfoot indicate the onset of hunting season for many in our region, as well.  In his soon-to-be-released book, Wingbeats and Heartbeats: Essays on Game Birds, Gun Dogs and Days Afield, Dave Books celebrates the time-worn tradition of not only hunting, but also of living an outdoor life and maintaining a true connection to the land.Through his expertly written collection of essays, Books exposes readers to all that the natural world has to offer.  The book takes us on a journey through many picturesque areas of the country, from the dense forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota to the arid deserts of Arizona and many places in between. He writes in great detail about the specific game birds that hunters like himself seek, including grouse, quail, woodcock, doves and chukars. He also shares tips and information about the types of guns he has chosen over the years.  The wealth of knowledge that he shares with fellow hunters and readers has come from his decades of experience, from boyhood to the present.At the onset of his story, Books shares his memories as a child learning the art of the hunt with his father and uncle. These experiences came through his tagging along on partridge hunts with them in Wisconsin, where he grew up.  He reflects on those experiences of his youth with warmth and fondness. He also recalls the story of when he received his first gun as a gift, a memorable and defining day in his life. His remarkable attention to detail brings this and many other special moments in the book to life for readers.His love and connection to his canine companions is one of the most heartwarming aspects of the book. This facet makes it a perfect choice for dog lovers everywhere. In his time as a hunter, Books has seen many bird dogs come and go. His attachment to, and affection for, each of them is both endearing and captivating. At a particularly moving point in the book, Books remembers with fondness his last hunt with one of his favorite bird dogs, Groucho.He also recollects the many lasting friendships he has formed along the way. Aside from his many hunting buddies, Books has also formed friendships over the years with landowners who have allowed him the privilege of hunting on their property. He recounts the story of being invited in by a kind couple for a snack and a warm conversation prior to his hunt one afternoon. He points to it as a lasting and treasured memory.The most important aspect of Wingbeats and Heartbeats, however, is that actually, it is not about hunting at all. It is about so much more than that. It is about the circle of life and the value of having a passion for something. It is about the importance of having an appreciation for the world that we live in and for sharing that with others. Books has made it a lifelong journey to share his love of days afield with others, and this book encapsulates that in a way that is both effortless and mesmerizing.  The relationships he has forged through his love of the hunt are indeed his reward for pursuing his lifelong passion.His easy, conversational writing style creates the tone of a friendly talk with an old friend. Wingbeats and Heartbeats is a great read for all of us, not just the hunters in the crowd. The stories that are shared within this book will draw readers in and give them a fresh appreciation for outdoor living and preserving the ways of the past. In the end, readers will feel that they have made a new friend and learned some important lessons from his life’s experiences. Humorous at some moments and touching at others, it is not to be missed.Wingbeats and Heartbeats: Essays on Game Birds, Gun Dogs and Days Afield is scheduled to be released in February 2014.

 

For Love of the Hunt

Wingbeats and Heartbeats

 

Review by Shana Raley-Lusk

Arts & Culture | Books | October 2013

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