Filling a heart with upland hunting memories, some lost to time to but none to soul
By Tom Carpenter
While I am not a complete packrat in the fullest sense of that mostly unfavorable-sounding word, I can find good reasons to save things. Let’s call me a collector.
I’ve been a collector since childhood, especially when it comes to outdoor adventures. A little discovery saved from an excursion afield. A tiny prize picked up on a hunt. A small memento of a life lived with bird dogs and loved ones in wild upland places.
Some folks would call them trinkets: “small ornaments or items of little value” according to the dictionary. These items probably would appear that way to the untold eye. I prefer the word treasures: “precious things of great worth or value.”
So let’s dig into my box and I’ll tell you about a few of them.
There’s a little Basset hound figurine, from whence I know not but a symbol nonetheless of the baying rabbit-and-pheasant dogs I grew up following across the hills of Wisconsin’s driftless … and an even tinier Brittany-looking curio for Chestnut, Scout, Rascal and now Lark, the bird dogs of my adult life. There’s Scout’s bell.
Look at my collection of dried thornapples and other small fruits … some picked up on the ground or snagged off a tree or bush as I hunted past, but many gleaned from the crops of roosters, sharptails, chickens or ruffs.
What about this head of Indiangrass? A dried rudbeckia flower. The seedhead with gossamer petals of a year’s last coneflower. An acorn. Dried aster blooms, some faded now to mere hints of purple, others captured in forever white. I think those snowberries are from western Minnesota: about as far east as you find them. Rose hips pocketed on some prairie hillside in the Dakotas.
That’s some of the vegetative. But of course we will find the avian too. Some songbird feathers — are those orange-shafted ones from a flicker? Here, clearly a bluejay; there, a cardinal. And yes, gamebird feathers. Here’s one from a ruff’s tailfan. A beloved sharptail. Oh this one’s gotta be a Hun. Look at these 3-inch mini rooster tailfeathers! And one substantial spur.
I even have the rattle from a rattlesnake thankfully found dead and not encountered alive.
And look at this prized artifact from some hunter before me: An arrowhead that was right there when I knelt to tie my hunting boot on a sandy lakeshore.
These trinkets, my treasures, don’t take up much room in the box in which they live. But they fill my heart.
As for many of them, I can tell you the exact place and situation and perhaps even the date when I found, rescued or gathered them. For others, I have no recollection of why they are here, and those may be best of all: treasured moments and emotions and memories perhaps lost to time but not soul.
This story first appeared as Carp's Corner on the back page of the Fall 2020 issue of
Pheasants Forever Journal.
Tom Carpenter is editor at Pheasants Forever.