Category Archives: Game Birds

The Wildfowler’s Quest: Forty Years of Wandering with America’s Foremost Wildfowler. — George Reiger


The Wildfowler’s Quest, by George Reiger, published by Nick Lyons Books in 1989 is his memoir of gunning for wildfowl in the latter half of the 20th century. I remember when I was growing up my father had amassed a pile of hunting magazines, copies of Outdoor Life, Sports Afield and Field and Stream to name a few. I spent many hours poring over these magazines looking for articles on waterfowling. I learned a great deal about wildfowling across the United States and to a limited extent in Canada. At the time it never occurred to me that people across the world enjoyed wildfowling too. What makes this such a good read is that Reiger recounts his experiences gunning for wildfowl both in North America and in different parts of the world including chapters on wildfowling in Argentina, South Africa, Europe and the UK and the USSR.

Among the more interesting accounts Reiger includes is that of gunning for wild geese in the Netherlands over live decoys. He described this wild goose hunting strategy noting the following:

The greatest excitement for me was that we were using flying decoys. My host had raised the decoys (all white-fronts) from eggs, and he had four family groups. As you know, geese maintain very close family bonds. The male decoys are tethered in the field in front of the blind at a range where the shooting is to occur–20 to 25 yards–, no more! The females and young are taken into the hide (alias, blind), and this is the stimulus for every bird to set up the most unbelievable clamor to try to locate one another. This certainly gets the attention of the wild birds which look, but usually continue on their way. That is, continue until the young birds in the hide are thrown into the air whereupon they fly about in search of their parents. Meanwhile the adult females are allowed to wander outside of the hide. With all this activity, the wild birds come in as if on elastics! (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

This goose hunting strategy worked very well as Reiger recounts “every time my host lofted a bird, we had a little bunch come to us. We shot (two guns: a double and an o/u) ten birds in half an hour and decided that was quite enough–but we could have had 25 geese by 10 o’clock!” (The Wildfowler’s Quest, p. 143)

The book includes chapters on various species of wildfowl, including rails, geese, sea ducks and woodcock and is beautifully illustrated with line drawings by Joseph Fornelli. In the concluding chapters Reiger discusses clubs, conservation and the appeal of wildfowling for those who take part in the sport. In my opinion, this book is well worth reading for anyone who relishes wildfowling and wants an understanding of the history of the sport in North America and across the world.

Posted by Geoffrey

Hunter’s Guide. — Revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (Originally published by the National Rifle Association of America)


The Hunter’s Guide was revised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources with permission from the National Rifle Association of America and the Alberta Department of Energy and Natural Resources. The National Rifle Association holds the copyright to the material used in this publication. It was first published in 1982. The Hunter’s guide was printed and distributed in Ontario by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and served as the text book for the Hunter Education Program prospective hunters are required to complete before being issued their first hunting license. In its 301 pages, it is a comprehensive guide to hunting, hunting regulations, wildlife management, hunter safety, proper and safe gun use and the science of wildlife management. Of those 301 pages, there is one page (shown above) which demonstrates how to use handguns safely. These were included as the safety test one was required to pass before being granted their Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC), the precursor to the current Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) included handling of handguns, whether you intended to acquire handguns or not. This was a provision mandated by the passage of Bill C-17 in 1991 by then Minister of Justice Kim Campbell in the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

The fact that the NRA had a hand in the publication of the Hunter’s Guide did not go unnoticed by prohibitionists. In 2000 controversy erupted when the OFAH donated copies of the Hunter’s Guide to Ontario School Boards for addition to school library collections. Gail Nyberg, Chair of the Toronto School Board in 2000, objected to the donation and ordered the books returned to the OFAH. Her complaint was “it sends a message that it’s okay to me. That our government, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and a legitimate group, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters think it’s okay to have handguns. Well I don’t think it is okay to have handguns. We’ve had to deal with school violence. The possibility of guns and weapons are all over North America. I just think it’s highly insensitive.” (as cited in CBC News)

I remember when this story broke. As a librarian myself, I made a point of contacting the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and bringing to their attention the Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom. I pointed out that somehow these principles were lost on the the Toronto School Board in 2000.

All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation’s Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society.

Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee the right of free expression by making available all the library’s public facilities and services to all individuals and groups who need them.

Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups.

Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles.

Though the Hunter’s Guide is no longer in use as the textbook for the Hunter Education Program in Ontario, it remains a very useful source of information for new hunters and a good read.

Posted by Geoffrey


My Friend the Partrige: Memories of New England Shooting . — S.T. Hammond


Stephen Tillingshast Hammond (1831- ) had a lifelong love of upland gunning with dogs, the ruffed grouse being his favourite quarry. My Friend the Partridge was published in 1908 by the Forest and Stream Publishing Company. The copy in our library collection is from a limited edition reprint, one of 1025 copies (copy no. 812), published by Laurence G. Barnes of the Gunnerman Press. The book is an early form of the genre that became very popular in  the 20th century. It is a memoir of Hammond’s experience in gunning for ruffed grouse, ecology of the ruffed grouse, training dogs for the hunt and wing shooting. He dedicates a chapter to wing shooting, noting that in his boyhood, ground swatting was the norm, noting that “I well remember that, when I was a boy, the man who could ‘shoot flying’ was looked upon as a wonder, and pointed out to strangers as one far above the common herd, but now ‘the woods are full of them’.”

Times have changed since 1908 when My Friend the Partridge was published. In Hammond’s day, hunting was viewed more favourably and the introduction of young people, boys and young men, to gun ownership and hunting were seen as a good thing, not cause for alarm. He notes in the chapter on wing shooting:

The noble sport of field shooting has done much for the men and boys of the last two generations. It has enabled them to store up a stock of vitality that has done them good service in the time of need. The forms of those who practice it will not be prematurely decayed, their minds will not easily be warped by worldly cares; for there is a stimulus in the air of the forest that fills their veins with a potent power to withstand the debilitating effects of the strenuous life. Not only this, but the average boy must perforce, in some manner, work off the surplus steam that all boys are possessed of–at least, all boys  that are worth while. It has been my experience that in many instances these high-strung youngsters, who did not take to the woods, have worked off this surplus steam in a manner that was very distressing to their friends, and far from being conducive to their own well being.

So when your boy asks for a gun, thankfully place it in his hands and wish him good luck.

In spite of the negative attitudes held by some in the present day toward hunting and gun ownership, for those who appreciate upland gunning over dogs as I do, Hammond’s words ring true. I grew up learning from my father and other hunters to appreciate the pleasures of the hunt and looked forward to the day when I could have my own gun. When I came of age, I was given my own gun, with the understanding this was a privilege, that I was leaving childhood behind and taking on the responsibilities of an adult. What has changed since Hammond wrote these words is that in the present day it is both young men and young women who are introduced to the pleasures of hunting and gun ownership. I am bringing the son of friends of mine into the field this season as he has come of age and desires to take up hunting. I am happy to bring him into the fold and hope that the hunting tradition S.T. Hammond wrote of continues in North American culture for generations to come.

Posted by Geoffrey