Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Dog and a Newspaper Column

Did you know that the skies above the Texas coast used to be filled with seemingly limitless numbers of canvasbacks, mallards, and Canada geese? Hunters once harvested ducks, shorebirds, and other waterfowl by the hundreds in a single morning. The hundred-year-period from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries brought great changes in attitudes and game laws -- changes initially prompted by sportsmen who witnessed the disappearance of birds and their habitat.

In A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting: The Decoys, Guides, Clubs, and Places, 1870s to 1970s (Texas A&M University Press, 2012), author R. K. Sawyer explores that 100-year period. His book includes research from interviews with experienced waterfowl hunters as well as historical and modern photographs. His book also showcases hunting clubs, decoys, duck and goose calls, equipment, and hunting practices of the period.

 We asked author R. K. Sawyer what inspired him to write a book about waterfowl hunting:
“Credit for ‘A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting’ goes mostly to a dog and a newspaper column. First, the dog. I visited Chet Beaty in 2007 to purchase a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Nellie, and in his office, Chet had a stack of old Texas waterfowling history photos. They were the John Winter Collection, loaned to him by Cliff Fisher, and those hundreds of pictures from 1914 to the 1940s led me to believe someone ought to compile them.  Next, the newspaper. Around the same time, Houston Chronicle ‘Outdoor’ writer Shannon Tompkins wrote of late 1800s canvasbacks in Lake Surprise, Chambers County. That, too, convinced me that someone ought to write a tome on historical Texas water fowling. With the dog, photos, and a newspaper column, I set out on the journey. I was not a writer. But, since then, I have learned that an amateur canwrite a book; the only difference is that the professional writer can do it in three drafts, the amateur in something a little over a hundred.”
Rob Sawyer has been a waterfowl hunter since 1964, the seeds of his lifelong passion sown on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.  Since then Rob has hunted waterfowl over a good portion of the Eastern and Central Flyways, and even New Zealand.  Rob’s inspiration for his two-volume series on the history of Texas waterfowl hunting stems from a lifetime of collecting Chesapeake Bay fowling stories, and over the years, he expanded his interest to include most of North America.  But Rob found little material on Texas, a region he was sure had a waterfowling heritage as robust as those that were better documented.  Rob was right.  The result was his first book, A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting – The Decoys, Guides, Clubs, and Places, and a second volume, due out in 2013, titled Texas Market Hunters, Game Laws, and Outlaws

Rob currently resides in Sugar Land, Texas, with his wife Wendy, daughter Christen, and a Chesapeake Bay retriever.  He can found from September through February each year prowling the Texas prairie for geese and cranes, or the coastline for ducks, and is on the staff of Thunderbird Hunting Club in Matagorda. 

Look for A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Huntingthis fall! Check out more information about this new book here!
--Madeline Loving