Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold, Sporting Editor. August 29, 1897. [September the Hunter's Idyl for Quail and Water Fowl.] Omaha Sunday Bee p. 7.

Forest, Field and Stream.

Coming of the Month of Joy for Ardent Sportsmen.

  • The drowseful dream of the sweet autumn time,
  • With its mildew, mould and mellow,
  • Comes glimmering on with its show sublime,
  • From fence corner, field and fallow,
  • And clinging close, the wild aster grows,
  • With the Marguerite and mallow.

Next Wednesday will be the first of September, the dawn of the sportsman's idyl. The maples are already donning their gilded gowns, and a hazy splendor is settling over the distant hills. The sumac glows and burns with intense fire along the lonely country roads, the hazel-pod is browning, the sensitive plant drooping and the frosty pursuivants of fast approaching autumn warn the sportsman to be up and doing. He must procrastinate no longer, the chicken are strong of pinion and shortly the melodious honk of the wild goose will fall from the over arching blue and the quack of the emerald-headed mallard startle the echoes of marsh and lagoon. There is the boat to be hauled out and overlooked, rubber waders to patch, shooting wammus mended, decoys retouched, shells laid in and a thousand and one other details looked after that he may be in readiness to sally forth on the first day of his fall vacation.

And what an autumn this will be! It opens up on an abundance that is rare indeed. The fields of corn and wheat and hay are vast oceans of richness and wealth and the sturdy farmer will harvest a profit undreamed of before. But Nature has not been benign and lavish to yeomanry alone. The sportsmen have not been overlooked. The sources from which he reaps a new store of health and happiness will yield in a measure that will restore memories of halcyon days supposed to be forever passed. The chicken are more plentiful than they have been for years, and so favorable has been the season that the young can now hardly be distinguished from the old ones. Midday finds thousands of these royal birds huddled within the cooling shades of our measureless corn fields, while in the evening they wander off into the long slough grass of the valleys in quest of grasshoppers and larvae, after the fashion of earlier years, when the tramp of the buffalo was a familiar sound and the sight of the picturesque mounted Sioux not infrequent. And the quail! No such a crop was ever produced in Nebraska before. Every broad hay field has produced its bevy or two, and today every stubble, every plum and every hazel patch is the rendezvous of Bob White and upland shooting will be capital.

And the wild fowl. The conditions are perfect for the entertainment of myriads of these squawking and cackling and piping beauties. Feed gluts morass and marsh, lake shore and river bank, and water ways are filled with the refreshing liquid of spring and cloud. Along the bottom lands of the Platte, beloved and lovely stream that it is, the tortuous Elkhorn and legendary Loup, the nodding flag is fading, the fuzzy catoninetails browning fast, and tints of russet and gray are everywhere creeping in and out among the almost universal green; the autumn flowers are opening their versi-colored eyes in every imaginable nook and cranny, while the arms of the cottonwood are beginning to drop their golden leaves on the smooth waters they have shaded through the dog days or the withering grass of the prairie. Along the muddy shores the yellowleg trots with easy grace, thrusting his pointed beak into the mud or shallows, or sounding his clear, whistle at passing crow or venturesome blackbird. Scores of sandpipers dot the glistening sands, and golden plover, in bunches, sweep along the bars, while the king-fisher and the bee-bird vie with each other in the variety of note and gyration.

The frost has evidently began its work somewhat prematurely in and about the great breeding grounds of the polar regions, for already in the late evening, the upper sky is marked by lines of teal and spoonbill, while some mallards and widgeon are noted amongst the hurrying caravan. Of course most of the ducks now encountered are local birds, but the fact that both canvasback and redhead have been seen whizzing along the rocky escarpment of the Niobrara tells that the north has at least sent down an advance scouting party.

Indeed is the autumn time the sportsman's idyl, and truly the dawning cycle must prove a rare and inspiring one, and as my ever esteemed friend and brother, Charles Hallock says, under the summer's decaying mantle, and on the blue waters and in the hazy air, will we find our joyous quest. We will be abroad in fields of sun and shade and early dews, which will send the sportsman's blood into runes of rapture. Game has thriven this year. This is due to natural causes and the better preservative spirit which is fast possessing all true sportsmen. The desire to wantonly invade the field in advance of the season is disappearing before the stern detestation of such a practice. We are beginning to feel the quality of true sport and savagery is becoming a crime. This quality is not ascertained by the quantity of results the bag-plethora, or the swine appetite of him who is, forsooth, privileged to bear a gun. Rather it is determined by the emotions of a day, the sights of every hour, the new senses and olden retrospect of earlier sessions with nature and her entertaining touch; the freshened vigors of manhood, its skill, its fascinating moods and tenses with the dog, the gun, the rod and brook. These are the signs of modern sportsmanship; this is the gentility afield which we emulate, this and its boon to body and mind should be the bestowal of sere, crisp autumn days.