George Bird Evans

American writer (1906-1998)

George Bird Evans (28 December 19065 May 1998) was an author, an artist, a dog breeder, and a sportsman. Evans' most notable contributions are in the area of upland gunning with English Setters. Over the course of his career, Evans authored over two dozen books and several hundred magazine articles on this subject, becoming one of the world's foremost authorities on upland gunning and bird dogs.

George with Fox Sterlingworth



The Upland Shooting Life (1971)

  • If a man’s life is not long enough, a dog’s is even shorter and anything you can do to make that fuller is worthwhile.
  • Much of the pleasure of shooting is what accompanies it and sharing it all with a good friend.
  • And if gunning over an intelligent handsome setter enriches my sport, certainly a hearthful of them on a winter evening or speckled faces peering out of our station wagon are things to value.
  • I want there to be woodcock forever flying over in October, and solitude, and Hunter’s Moons. But most, I want there always to be Grouse- of all wild things, the wildest- in these endless mountains we call home.
  • Be worthy of your game
  • If I could shoot a game bird and still not hurt it, the way I can take a trout on a fly and release it, I doubt if I would kill another one. This is a strange statement coming from a man whose life is dedicated to shooting and gun dogs. For me, there is almost no moment more sublime than when I pull the trigger and see a grouse fall. Yet, as the bird is retrieved I feel a sense of remorse for taking a courageous life. About the time I passed fifty I noticed this conflict becoming more pronounced...
  • How then, can you love a bird and kill it and still feel decent? I think the answer is, to be worthy of your game. Which boils down to a gentleman's agreement between you and the bird, never forgetting that it is the bird that has everything to lose. It consists of things you feel and do, not because someone is looking or because the law says you may or must not, but because you feel that this is the honorable way to do it.
  • If you can approach shooting as something to be enjoyed, not a frustrating obsession, it can enrich your life.

Troubles with Bird Dogs (1975)

  • I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren't certain we knew better. They fight for honor at the first challenge, make love with no moral restraint, and they do not for all their marvelous instincts appear to know about death. Being such wonderfully uncomplicated beings, they need us to do their worrying.
  • My gun diary indicates how many grouse were moved each day these dogs hunted, each productive point they made. For me, this is what gunning for grouse is about, not dead birds to tally up – to gun for grouse with a dog, not just over him, and once that has been savored, anything less seems watered down.
  • The man must learn to know his dog as a personality, not a formula. I have no objection to a grouse dog swinging on his cast and coming in from behind me – a misdemeanor by trial standards. Grouse terrain is such that if it can best be covered by the dog’s working in an unorthodox manner, I consider him intelligent if he does so.

An Affair with Grouse (1982)

  • Ruffed grouse dogs are bred, not born, and once born they are developed, not made.
  • Time that gives so much and Time that takes so much away has put its mark on this place that is Old Hemlock almost without altering anything. In that gray-black blend of night-to-dawn I lie and think of all that Kay and I possess, aware that what is good is not what is new but what is loved and used, with a patina from hands and years.
  • I know, as I've always known, that a gunner’s paradiso lies within himself, involved in his attitude toward his dog, his reverence for his bird; the boundaries are mental, not physical.
  • Without quality in life, there is only Death waiting at the end for all of us, like the bird. Being one of those fortunate men whose existence burns more brightly because of gunning grouse, I have learned that the place to look for quality is within yourself.
  • When you are very young, you tend to accept standards for such momentous judgments as to whether a girl is beautiful; when you reach the age of experience you come to know beauty in the sense that “knowing” is to possess. Beauty does more than reflect light, it is the action of energy on form, glowing as a total function. This is singularly true of a grouse dog in his consecration to his bird.
  • A gunner owes consideration to the birds and to the land itself. He usually does not own the deed, but in a strange way he possesses a grouse covert as he is possessed by it, holding special title to that particular corner of this earth, a carry-over from the age when man discovered wild land and made it his.
  • A gun, no matter how rare, a dog, no matter how brilliant, cannot mean fulfillment without keenness in the man. It takes the sportsman’s edge honed fine, an “eye,” a sense of what is good, the ear for what is right – the heart. There is something about the wilderness, something in the blood that draws nourishment from the game.
  • The child tells what he got for Christmas, the mature man tells how he spent the day; the immature hunter tells how many birds he shot, the mature gunner tells of the experience. If I can impart a sense of gunning values through my writing, I urge the gunner at any age to lift himself above the childish state of mind, thinking only of himself and not what he is doing to the birds.
  • Each of us has that ember within him to create his own Camelot, to form his life by taste. Being different from the crowd, like quality, is not a vice. Tradition and standards shape shooting as surely as manners make the man.
  • Quality grouse shooting cannot be evaluated by numbers any more than diamonds can be measured by the pound. It is not a process but a reflection – a reflection in the gunner from the dog he shoots over and the gun he carries, and above all a feedback from the grouse. When these things happen well, looking back at end of day is to be as content as it is given a man to feel. It has been my past, it is my life and my hereafter, like these mountains endless in their splendor.
  • A grouse deserves better than to be shot on the ground.
  • Grouse shooting is what it is for you, not for someone in some fabulous faraway place. Grouse gunning can be either a game of numbers or identification with a live bird somewhere ahead. It can be a mindless urge to wipe out a string of birds, or it can be the instant when one bird and the dog and the gun exist in unity.
  • To shoot a grouse exacts something from the thinking man. It requires principle, which like good manners is not old-fashioned and never has been. It is something in your heart and in your head. The perceptive gunner is immersed in the style and charm of his dog’s work and in the shot, but with it all, he is one with what happens to the bird. His shooting is not vindictive, a getting-even because the grouse is so hard to hit. To regret a miss is normal animal response to temporary failure, not to be confused with sentient “the bastard got away.” Emotions are drawn to such thin threads they reach the breaking point, but when finely-honed tensions balance, shooting becomes a spiritual thing between you and the grouse.

Grouse Along the Tramroad (1986)

  • Seventh and Ninth generation Old Hemlocks, I see in them all of those ancestors, not just the bloodline and shape of the skull, but the character, the way they feel. […] They are all in my heart, not gone to some vague afterland to enjoy a happier life, for they were happiest with me. If I could have l kept one of them with me for all Time, it would have meant missing all the others.
  • Some men dream of wealth and power. I tell of days. Of woods taking me where they wanted to go, hawthorns scarlet with October, the lacy loveliness of hemlocks, old lanes gold with Autumn, fall colors like stained glass showing through the leaded lines of black branches, each tree a love, each leaf a now, the dry-bone look of maple twigs in winter, the silent snow. For more than seventy Indian summers I have begged each one not to go, even as I spoke, the leaves showered down around me.
  • The gunner tends to live with Death without giving thought to dying, the shot heard so deeply it is not heard at all. The gunner is the grouse while the grouse is living; he dies a little when the grouse is dead. They have that in common, the bird and he, and he had better know if he is worthy to terminate that glorious life. It is a responsibility not easy to face, yet he doesn't dare not face it.

October Fever (1989)

  • There is time, and you must take it,to lay your hand on your dog's head as you walk past him lying on the floor or on his settle, time to talk with him, to remember with him, time to please him, time you can't buy back once he's gone

George Bird Evans Introduces (1990)

  • In pursuing the wraith that was Paul Curtis, I more than ever was aware that what lives after a shooting man is what has been published of his writings. Memories of the man grow dim and not too rarely become confused […] almost but not quite capturing for me a presence that surfaced like a zither theme in a suspense movie.

Grouse on the Mountain (1994)

  • I have not written this book as something that is over. When you have lived like that, it will be present always, like the gun I shot and the dogs and those grouse living in the subcellars of my brain.
Wikipedia has an article about: