Seeking the communal, one event at a time
Story and Photo by Chad Love
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience. This is partly a function of the time of year as the end of bird season in my little part of quail country draws near and I become a bit more contemplative than normal (and for me — a classic overthinker — that’s saying a lot).
But it’s also partly a function of the interactions I’ve had with quail — and fellow quail hunters — over the course of this past season. It’s been a busy time for me. I’ve hunted all six species of quail, and I’ve met and hunted with more new-to-me hunters than I’ve ever previously shared a field with.
Do that enough, and you begin to see similarities between the birds you’re hunting and the people you’re hunting with. Which brings me back to resilience. And quail.
To me, quail personify that famous (and much-paraphrased) Thomas Hobbes quote about life being nasty, brutish, and short. Even in the best of times they live on the ragged edge of existence and at the mercy of predators, weather, habitat loss, and just about anything else nature (and humans) can throw at them.
And yet they thrive, often in places and in conditions that would kill you or me within days. Their numbers may ebb and flow from year to year and cycle to cycle, but there is an amazing core of resilience buried deep within that small bundle of feathers, one that is all out of proportion to what you see and feel when you hold one — still warm and limp from the shot —in your hand.
Quail hunters are a bit like that, too: we’re resilient. Maybe we don’t often think of ourselves in such terms, but we are, because we stick with what we love, and what moves us, often in the face of daunting odds and obstacles.
Time and time again this season I have been as surprised by the often-poignant stories and passions of the new hunters I’ve shared a field with as I've been surprised by the birds themselves. It’s made me realize, now more than ever, that we are a community — a resilient one — bound by common goals, common passions, common interests.
I may not know why, exactly, someone else will walk for miles to experience the singular moment of a covey rise. Their reasons for doing so may be vastly different from mine, but they are reasons nevertheless, and that binds us.
And that, I have discovered, is an inspiring thing to know and discover about yourself, and others. We all need a community. We all need that commonality of spirit and interest. Even those of us who trend strongly misanthrope, as I do.
So here’s my suggestion this season for everyone out there who wishes to experience what I describe, but may not know where to start in order to find it: Attend a local Quail Forever banquet or function, especially if you’ve never been. It’s banquet season all across quail range. Find one, bury your hesitation, your doubt, your fear, and see what it’s all about.
I have a friend who literally travels all over the country bird hunting, and at every stop she makes, she checks to see if there’s a nearby banquet. If there is, she attends, and she has made friends and acquaintances and strengthened those communal bonds with every event.
Try it. I won’t claim that you’ll find people just like yourself. But you’ll find people who are, as they say, on your spectrum, and I think that’s about as close to ready-made kinship as we are likely to find in this world.
Chad Love, who is neither nasty, brutish, nor short, is editor of Quail Forever Journal