Wonderfully evoked natural scenes and portraits of hunters from a free-lance writer. Fergus was 39 when he developed a ""strange, overpowering obsession with bird hunting""--which he hadn't thought about since he was a boy--and came home with a shotgun and a yellow Labrador puppy, Sweetzer, named after a mountain ridge in Idaho, where Fergus and his wife lived. Once Sweetzer and Fergus learned the fundamentals, the author decided they would attempt to hunt as many bird species in different habitats as is possible in a season. Thereupon hangs Fergus's picaresque tale, in which he and Sweetzer cover 17,000 miles in five months, from stalking chukar partridges on rocky Montana mountainsides to shooting snipe in the steamy Mobile delta. Fergus paints wonderful portraits of his hunting companions--from novelists Richard Ford and Robert F. Jones to Florida blue-bloods, from dirt farmers who gladly stop their work to take Fergus and Sweetzer on a quick grouse hunt to ""slob"" hunters who ride the roads drinking beer and shooting birds on the ground. The dogs here are also all memorable personalities, as befits bird hunters' closest partners. To his credit, Fergus presents the current anti-hunting arguments and talks them over with leading bird biologists; most contend that habitat loss, rather then hunting pressure, has been responsible for the declines in bird populations. Among his adventures, Fergus goes on several organized hunts in preserves (one with a group of grim big-city detectives, who blow every bird to shreds) and laments that so much habitat in the US is becoming privatized--a situation long extant in Europe, where bird hunting is an exclusive pursuit of the rich. A top-notch dog-and-gun-book, with sympathetic focus on humans and animals as well as some fine nature writing.