Hunting & Heritage  |  02/15/2023

Endings, Beginnings, and the Space in Between


Don’t mourn the season’s end, celebrate it

By Chad Love

It’s a long drive from the plains of western Oklahoma to the frozen north country, and Minnesota is admittedly not this Okie’s natural environment, especially in February.

But this drive has become something of an annual tradition for me, and a capstone to my season. Why? Because I am headed for Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic this week. If you don’t know, Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic (or “Pfest” as employees tend to truncate it) is our annual celebration of all things upland. It is — in the parlance of our times — kind of a big deal.

As an employee, I’m also kind of expected to be there, which is a bit contra to my solitary nature, but I have grown to enjoy it anyway. For me it is a good way to end the season on a celebratory note without getting all mopey about it. 

This is probably a curious attitude for someone with a job like mine, but I’ve never been one to mourn the end of bird season, or immediately start thinking about next season even as I catch my breath from the last walk of this one.

It’s certainly not because my passion for it doesn’t burn as brightly as it did when I was a dogless, clueless kid kicking up fencerows. Just the opposite: As the years have passed almost all my other hunting pursuits have fallen by the wayside, until all that remains of what once was a burning, all-consuming, all-season obsession is this yearly search for that fleeting triangulation of bird and dog and soul.

But as in all things, there is a finite amount of any one experience you can reasonably take in without the danger of that experience devolving from the transformative into the routine.
Because without absence to sharpen desire, passion tends to degrade to the point of taking what we love for granted. And the day I lose that curiosity and wonder for bird hunting is the day I know I’ve lost something essential to me. 

And so I welcome the end of the season, in my own bittersweet way, because I know that seasonal pause keeps the flame of my passion burning.

I thought about it this morning as the dogs and I went on one last, long, looping walk toward the far horizon. We searched for that one final bird, and that one final moment before quietly slipping this season into memory.

We missed the bird but found the moment. And the moment will sustain what the soul desires in that time between now and then. That’s what moments are for, and why we seek them.

So don’t mourn the end of the season. Cherish the moments that made it special. If you can, make it to Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic for one last celebration of what moves you before you, too, slip this season into memory.

Chad Love, who is looking forward to celebrating with fellow upland enthusiasts at 2023 Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic, is editor of the Quail Forever Journal.