Today’s guest blogger is Mark Parman, whose new book of hunting essays, Among the Aspen, we published this week.
The publication of my book Among the Aspen has been a bittersweet experience. Between the writing and editing of my manuscript, we moved from our longtime home in Wausau to a small cabin 160 miles away in northwestern Wisconsin. Not only were we leaving behind our friends and home, but all of the coverts I had discovered, cultivated, and hunted for the past 25 years. These places were old friends, and I wasn’t ready to say farewell.
The book is organized around the places I hunt. Each chapter focuses on one of my coverts, special places where I had gained so much and also left behind a part of myself. As a much younger man, I shot my first grouse in New Wood and my first woodcock at Swanda’s. At that time, I didn’t even have a dog since we were renting an apartment. The dogs would come later and create an even stronger connection to my coverts. So, when my new book arrived in the mail and I cracked open its stiff spine and crisp pages, what struck me first was what I had left behind.
On the other hand, it’s immensely satisfying to hold one’s own just-published book. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and long hours, but for me it is also a concrete record of some of the things that happened in those places, which nobody can take away. I could always turn to these pages and revisit these sweet lands. When my dogs Fergus and Jenkins are gone, I will still have this, a record of my roaming through the autumn woods with them doing what we love best—hunting grouse and woodcock.
A few of the essays in Among the Aspen are drawn from experiences near our new home in Seeley. As I write this in April of 2018, the Triangle, which I pass by several times each day, is still buried under a foot of snow. No woodcock are performing the sky dance there—yet. This past October, I was almost home and could smell the wood smoke from our chimney when Fergus slammed into a point. We were walking an old logging road that’s slowly reverting to balsam fir, white pine, and birch. It’s not really ideal cover, so I was surprised when a woodcock twittered up and flushed to the north. Several more times this past season, the dogs pointed woodcock here, surprising me each time, so I’ve dubbed this place Woodcock Surprise.
I hunted new cover with my dogs on nearly every outing last season. I’m learning new landscapes and finding new coverts. More important, I’m making fresh memories and creating new stories, like the nine snow-roosting grouse that surprised Jenkins and me . . . Well, that’s a story for another book!
A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac and a contributor to A Passion for Grouse. He is a member of the Ruffed Grouse Society, American Woodcock Society, and Loyal Order of Dedicated Grouse Hunters. He taught English for many years at the University of Wisconsin–Marathon County in Wausau. He lives near Seeley, Wisconsin.is the author of