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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fine living in Western Canada: hunting, good music and a nice cabernet sauvignon

What is it that makes a perfect fall day in Western Canada?

How about a most enjoyable outdoor activity, a dynamite soundtrack to play along to, and a bottle of top notch wine (usually comprised of fringe grapes or made by an obscure winemaker) to finish it off?

This fall, and every fall, my idea of a perfect fall day in Western Canada revolves around hunting – bird hunting in particular. Whether the bird of choice is the wily Ring-Necked Pheasant, the always unpredictable Sharp-Tailed Grouse, or the swift Hungarian Partridge, my journeys take me to Eastern Alberta and farm towns like Oyen, Empress and Duchess, where hospitality reigns supreme and fowl is in plentiful supply.

While the hunting itself is probably enough – walking amidst the beautiful fall colours that adorn the Canadian Prairies and the seemingly endless river valleys and gorges that transect the Plains and experiencing the sights and sounds involved – I seem to need more. 

I need the sounds of a guy like Murry Hammond, a product of Ft. Worth, Texas, who, when he isn't working at his day job as the bass player for the now-legendary alt-country band the Old 97s, is cutting haunting, wind-swept music about trains, hobos, lost love and hell, even the devil. While my hunting soundtrack includes many other musicians, this year I kept coming back to Hammond's material. "Next Time, Take The Train" from his recent solo album I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm on My Way sounds like it was written for a sunset journey across the Plains.

Or if you prefer the safe confines of the Old 97s, Hammond's "The Color Of A Lonely Heart Is Blue" (from their newest album – Blame It On Gravity) may very well be the best song for a late day, post-bird cleaning glass of red wine on the edge of a coulee while the coyotes howl and geese fly by overhead. You get the idea.

Oh yeah, the wine. While potential wine selections are as limitless as the potential songs on my "Heartland" I-Pod play list, how about a 2001 cabernet sauvignon from little-known Napa Valley vintners Bill and Kathy Jenkins and their Wing Canyon winery. Bill and Kathy produce some of the finest estate-grown cabernet, merlot and chardonnay that I've come across. Better yet, they make their wines in a virtually inaccessible location on Mt. Veeder, high above the west side of the Napa Valley. A 4 x 4 is mandatory if you want to visit the winery, or Bill and Kathy want to leave. The wines are all made on-site, in a modest facility adjacent to Bill and Kathy's unique adobe-style home that was constructed with mud from the site. The wines are also reasonably priced (especially for Napa cabernet) and exhibit the unique and pungent minerality (and unbridled deliciousness) that sets Mt. Veeder cabernet apart from others grown in Napa Valley proper.

Pour yourself 4 inches of Wing Canyon cabernet into a plastic beer cup, listen to Murry Hammond emanating from the truck as you admire your birds and the setting sun and you have yourself a perfect autumn day in Western Canada.

Posted by Knox Harrington on November 25, 2008 | Permalink

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Comments

That sounds lovely, but there's no way an Ontarian would think that was civilized. Of course they see nothing wrong with racially segregating their schools and oppressing minorities in their Apartheid society. Free the West!

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-25 5:06:11 PM


"Pour yourself 4 inches of Wing Canyon cabernet into a plastic beer cup, listen to Murry Hammond emanating from the truck as you admire your birds and the setting sun and you have yourself a perfect autumn day in Western Canada"

Excuse me Knox, but I'd be much happier if you'd refrain from drinking that shit in your truck, with a loaded weapon. I have to work out there, and the thought of you guzzling rot-gut and waving a 12 gauge around makes hunting season an unpleasant time to work in the field. Especially when two of my sons are out there at the mercy of some drunk in a pickup truck.

Posted by: dp | 2008-11-25 5:11:11 PM


That's the Alberta culture I know and love. It's sad that some kill joy would associate this with drunks in a pick up truck.

Posted by: Lethbridge_Scribe | 2008-11-25 5:25:48 PM


Come on dp. You need to get out of the gym more often and lighten up.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-11-25 5:30:16 PM


That sounds lovely, but there's no way an Ontarian would think that was civilized.
Posted by: Zebulon Punk | 25-Nov-08 5:06:11 PM

But some hick from Nowhere Alberta who now lives in Alabama does. Bwahahahahaha

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-11-25 5:48:59 PM


All of us find ways to take our favourite moments of pleasure that get us in touch with our roots.

Knox's method is rather lame and rednecky but it seems to suit him and he enjoys it. Far from me or anyone else to criticise his favourite moment just because my own favourite moments are different and eminently more sophisticated (I prefer crystal wine glasses and classical music! Sibelius or Grieg or Dvorak is more my taste) but we do agree on the setting and the mode of conveyance so let us celebrate it! By the way, the sunset today was the nicest of the year, how I would have preferred a country prairie foreground to a suburb!

Epsi

Posted by: epsilon | 2008-11-25 5:55:14 PM


Oh my gawd!! Wine and shotguns? Run for hills! What about the children?

dp: Get some life experience. I grew up shooting road signs in a '77 camero with a bottle of whiskey. It's amazing what makes people insecure these days. We now have a culture of fear and cowardice.

Oh, and isn't Knox Harrington the video artist who did the vivi pictures?

Posted by: HST | 2008-11-25 6:08:40 PM


...for some reason I can't get the Pink Panther/Inspector Cousteau and the pigeon scene out of my head.

Posted by: tomax7 | 2008-11-25 7:55:14 PM


DP, some people, Dick Cheney for example, mishandle shotguns okay even without wine. :-)

Yes, hunting season is definitely my favourite. The crisp air, the misty mornings and smokey amber skies, and nobody but you and the forest creatures. B.C. is the best place in North America if you're a hunter, with the possible exception of Alaska. When I was a teenager twenty years ago, you could buy a shotgun at Canadian Tire. Not anymore.

Of course, while we rural hicks aren't without our pretensions, the urban ones are infinitely worse. What could be more laughable than an airbrushed Yaletowner walking a powder-puff dog whose tailored coat matches his own? Or watching scrawny vegans get anorexia, bulimia, or just plain malnutrition because they don't have enough protein in their diet? Or watching a grown man hiding under his own bed because he thinks there might be a burglar in the house?

What really gets me, though, is the "sophisticated" idea that a citizen can repel a violent attack with a scream, a whistle, a set of car keys, or that ultimate of personal weapons, the portable cellular phone. Let the yuppies think 911. I prefer to think 1911.

"Real guns have wooden stocks; real guns have iron sights; real guns have blued steel; and if God had wanted autoloading pistols to be double-action, He would have had John Moses Browning invent them that way in the first place."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-11-25 8:34:00 PM


DP - Knox is describing the pleasure of listening to his favorite music and having a glass of wine at the end of a civilized day of hunting upland game birds. These are the pursuits of a country gentleman. Perhaps you drink a glass of wine and start waving guns around but for the rest of us who didn’t spend our formative years at a finishing school for girls, we can safely and with a clear head navigate the "complexity" of storing guns and driving home after 3 ounces of the red.

Posted by: Has there been a sense of humour bypass? | 2008-11-25 9:42:59 PM


Shane-Single action, safe=up, fire=down. Safetys do not belong in the trigger, even though I own one.

First of all, drinking and driving is illegal. Second, most of the hunters these days are marginally safe when sober. Finally, anyone who drinks cabernet sauvignon probably should stay in the city.

I've spent my entire life tramping through bush, prairie, farmland, muskeg, and whatever. I'm always nervous during hunting season. Moose hunters are dangerous from a long way off, whereas bird hunters aren't deadly after about 50 meters. It's easy for some of you to critcize me for being upset at this guy, but it's me who's been in the line of fire for 35 years.

Speaking of having a sip after the kill, I came across some Indians near Peace River who'd just shot a moose. They took a pail, and mixed blood and wine half & half. The blood was still steaming. I declined when they offered me a drink, but if Knox were there, I'm sure he would have enjoyed it immensely.

Posted by: dp | 2008-11-25 10:00:01 PM


Excuse me Knox, but I'd be much happier if you'd refrain from drinking that shit from a plastic beer cup. Why bother dropping $40 on a fine Napa Cab-Sauv if you're going to adulterate the taste with plastic? What are you, a savage?
Nice soundtrack though.

Posted by: truewest | 2008-11-25 10:15:39 PM


Seems the greatest objections are from wine snobs, too funny. Firearms, bird hunting, music a beautiful sunset and your favorite spirits...
sounds like a perfect moment to me. Provided of course that we aren't talking about people with two brain cells guzzling whisky and shooting up the country side.

I like Shane's thoughts on this too:

"What really gets me, though, is the "sophisticated" idea that a citizen can repel a violent attack with a scream, a whistle, a set of car keys, or that ultimate of personal weapons, the portable cellular phone. Let the yuppies think 911. I prefer to think 1911."

Exactly....dialing 911 only takes a second. Waiting for 911 could take the rest of your life...

Posted by: JC | 2008-11-26 6:20:29 AM


DP, not sure what you mean by the safe=up fire=down thing. It's not really pertinent to me anyway; I prefer revolvers to pistols.

You do realize, I hope, the vanishingly small chances of being felled by a stray bullet in the bush? Especially if you wear blaze orange? Sure, the report of a rifle from close by can be a bit disconcerting, but take heart. If you hear the report, the bullet missed you.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-11-26 7:52:51 AM


Your ability to place an accurate shot drops of fairly steadily the more you imbibe. Why spend all that money on hunting gear, vehicle, firearms, ammunition, tackle, clothes, and take a week off work, only to blow it all because you didn't read the part where it says "sip, don't gulp"? Hold off on the booze and you'll only resent it till you get back to camp for the night. Wound and lose an animal because you were too drunk to shoot straight and you'll feel bad for the rest of your life.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-11-26 7:56:30 AM


Wow. While I was talking about sipping a dynamite wine at sunset alongside my truck once the hunting was over, DP is really on to something. "Drinking that shit in your truck, with a loaded weapon" and "guzzling rot-gut and waving a 12 gauge around" sounds like a lot more fun. Thanks for the tips.

Posted by: Knox Harrington | 2008-11-26 8:56:15 AM


Thanks for clearing that up, Knox. I now realize we're not on the same side.

In my day, we killed a bottle or two BEFORE rumaging for birds. And you didn't knock the piss out of any road signs.

You're killing my culture!!

Posted by: HST | 2008-11-26 4:33:04 PM


Sorry for messing up your little advertisement, but some things just don't amuse me. You should remember to drink resposibly, shoot responsibly, and advertise responsibly.

If that doesn't work for you, maybe this will. I never, never go into the field without some backup. You drunken assholes just need to remember that I'll see your weapons, but you won't see mine til it's way too late to say you're sorry.

Shane-I was referring to the 1911 safety position versus the pretenders. They're reversed, which causes a lot of confusion at the wrong time.

Posted by: dp | 2008-11-26 6:24:08 PM


Hey, dp, if this was an ad, I would have asked Knox to write about Mission Hill. They've got a bigger ad budget. Wing Canyon doesn't even have a website. :-)

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-11-26 7:13:14 PM


Wow; how does one go from a description of enjoying nature and personal satisfaction experienced AFTER a day in the field... to some alter ego drunken "Dukes of Hazard" like rampage across the prairie blasting everything in site with one hand and guzzling a 26 of whisky in the other...

Wing Canyon, hmmm. mIght have to pick up some plastic beer cups after all...


Posted by: McKlusky | 2009-01-19 9:04:55 AM



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