"WHAT IS IT THAT CONFERS THE NOBLEST DELIGHT? What is that which swells a man's breast with great pride above which any other experience can bring him? Discovery! To know that you are walking where none others have walked; that you are beholding in the human eye has not been seen before; that you are breathing a virgin atmosphere. To give birth to an idea, to a discovery of great thought-an intellectual nugget, right under the dust of a field that many a brain-plough had gone over before. To find a new planet, to invent a new hinge, to find a way to make the lightnings carry your messages. To be the first-that is the idea...." There are books so alive that you're always afraid that while you weren't reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away. No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?

The Innocents Abroad (1869)

About our Name...
The king of upland game birds, the ruffed grouse, wears the scientific name Bonasa umbellus.
     Bonasa means "like a bison," and refers to the bird's drumming mating call sounding like a thundering herd of buffalo. Umbellus describes the umbrella-like Elizabethan ruff of black feathers around the bird's neck....

Stories Of The Maine Outdoors
And A Few From Far Away...

Albert Poudrier • Frank Conroy Illustrations

From the Introduction


The Sporting Life is a book of autobiographical short stories. Each story represents a moment in time, sometimes writ-ten soon after it occurred, sometimes written from memory long afterwards. Writing trained me to observe and value details, to stop and smell the roses along the way. It taught me to notice the small stuff, the incidentals. I’m convinced those incidentals determine that quality of life. These stories also told me something about myself that I wouldn’t have seen without first writing it down. Writers write about their obsessions, and my stories leave no doubt as to the true nature of my passion. These stories add perspective, a sense of what is really important to me in life.

In the day to day humdrum of climbing the corporate ladder, family expectations, household chores and a host of personal responsibilities, we easily forget that within each of us is an adventurer that longs to stalk a solitary and wise old buck, an upland hunter that waits behind a German shorthaired pointer frozen on point, waiting for the inevitable explosion of wing and brush. In the age-old search for the meaning of life, the premise—to thyself be true—is central.

Everyone has a compass in life, a bearing that points where he or she is heading. In retrospect, the compass that I used to find direction in my life was far less important than I thought. Far more important were the people I met along the way, the vacation days taken from work, and the hours spent sitting in the wedding garden with a glass of Bordeaux, watching the hummingbirds work the bee balm. Details are the composition of life, the building blocks. Details happen along the way.

Most of all this is a book about the good life, the good times I remember. For me, hard times seem filtered by some intricate cranial mechanism. When coupled with the passage of time, only residual pleasant memories remain in the conscious mind. Now that I think about it, that’s just fine with me.

Attitudes have certainly changed since the 1950s and that change is most noticeable in society’s relationship with firearms. The late ‘50s were a time when you did bring your guns to school, even if you rode the bus. Sister Superior asked that they be kept in her office, along with the ammunition, so that the guns would be safe. After school a few friends gathered into one car to head for the pheasant fields of South Hadley or the backwaters of the Oxbow. The late ‘50s was a time when firearm safety and common courtesy were taught in the home at a very early age, a time when parental responsibilities were practiced daily.

One memory of a bitterly cold winter cottontail hunt stands out in my mind. When I look back at the circumstances of that day, the contrast is nothing short of amazing. Consider the following as if it happened today, not in rural Maine, but in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts where the hunt actually occurred.

I walked several miles across town to hunt cottontails along the Connecticut River. The freezing wind was steady and biting. Only a fool would hunt on such a day. The good rabbit cover was now windswept, snow-covered ground devoid of all tracks. Nothing moved. The area was desolate, even the thickets showed no signs of activity. After a torturous one and a half hour of walk in the snow, my body required warmth, and soon. Without a second thought, I turned to follow my tracks back to civilization; every step chilled me to the bone. My body shivered uncontrollably. My hands were numb.

Warm, freshly killed rabbits were a long forgotten dream of early morning and dreams would not prevent me from pausing long enough to get warm inside a downtown store that I passed on my way home. Once behind the doors of a pharmacy and card shop on Main Street, the clerk greeted me with an invitation to take as much time as I needed to get warm. Even the manager came by to joke about my misplaced dedication on such a cold winter day. Few people, customers included, paid any attention to the uncased double barrel twelve bore that I was carrying.

The liberal news media was alive and well back then, just as it is today. Most news anchormen didn’t have an inkling of what rural or small town America was all about. Today, in the national news, all guns are portrayed as bad, and they are generally seen only as part of an urban environment, or in PETA hunting protests. Back in the late ‘50s Boy Scouts proudly displayed Marksmanship Merit Badges. Shooting was a sought after summer camp activity. Fathers taught sons and daughters to shoot early in life and hunting was a common pastime. Marksmanship fed rural families. Everyone knew that meat didn’t come from the store in a plastic bag. Many also realized that without hunting, we would simply increase our domestic production, demanding more from the land, and in the process taking the very land and waters that house and feed our wild game. Look at the decline of any species and you will find the same answer: loss or destruction of habitat. Because urban newscasters treated sporting pursuits as commonplace events, not news, in the 1950s, we were able to develop a more realistic view of the role played by sporting arms in a polite society. I miss those days more than anyone will ever know.

Perhaps that’s why rural Maine is my home today. The small towns where neighbors stop by to visit, the woods and fields so near to my backdoor, all are an attempt to recapture the familiar countryside and social attitudes of my youth.

The sporting life is the theme that runs throughout this book. As a boy I whiled away the hours of countless summer vacations shooting woodchucks and crows, fished native trout from pristine small brooks, and kept the fire burning at deer camp. Some might call this recreation. For me, sporting pursuits are a big part of life and these pages are filled with personal adventure. When the snow flies and the wind howls outside my door, I move to an overstuffed chair by a warm fire to relive my adventures. The Sporting Life is not a book of fiction. The details are very real, indeed. You’ll find the gamut of visceral reactions within these pages. This book stirs and excites me at every reading, even today. A sporting life is a life well spent, a life filled with the one luxury that everyone can afford: the luxury of excitement. I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it.


Al Poudrier

September 2003



Table of Contents



Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Reflections Of Fall

Chapter 3

Fort Popham Blues

Chapter 4

The Stand

Chapter 5

The Alien Under My Doorstep

Chapter 6

Quiet Waters

Chapter 7

Woodcock Along The Lower Churchill Stream

Chapter 8

Tennessee Bobwhites

Chapter 9

A Story From Away

Chapter 10


Chapter 11

The Vintagers

Chapter 12

The Vintage Experience

Chapter 13

Sea Ducks, Vintage Style

Chapter 14

More Sea Ducks

Chapter 15

The North Country’s Drug Of Choice

Chapter 16

The Last Black Powder Buck

Chapter 17

Of Dogs, Grouse & Hammerguns