I often long for the colors of autumn and for frosty, winter days as I walk through the uplands, hunting birds. Ironic, because I was born in Guatemala, a country of sun, heat, and tropical birds. I have for a long time, preferred the fall hues and brisk days as opposed to vibrant summer colors and balmy warm temperatures. Stories of exactly why we came to the United States vary. Most immigrants, at the time we came to this great country, typically gravitated towards the coasts. Not us, we opted for the middle of the country.
My father may have been holding a dart steady in his hand, carefully aiming at the Sunflower State. It was a match made in heaven. It sounds cliché, but my father introduced me to upland hunting. As a young impressionable boy, I remember sitting on the floor watching my dad organize his hunting gear. I recall the smell of Hoppe’s gun oil as it permeated the air as my father cleaned his shotgun. That memory filled aroma of my childhood lingered on my fingers. I longed to accompany him in the field.
As a youngster, I was allowed to join my father in the field. Most of my action consisted of shooting squirrel nests with my Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun. That gradually changed to being allowed to sit in the duck blind. That was short lived, as I couldn’t take the cold. I ended up watching from the warm confines of the truck.
My teenage years gave way to more important things such as friends, girls, and cars. Hunting took a backseat, but it was always in the back of my mind and a passion was slowly growing.
After college, I joined the Marines. During one such return home, my father asked if I wanted to accompany him and some family friends to hunt some pheasants. I recall the wind blowing leaves of different colors along our path, the scurrying of coveys of bobwhite quail, and rooster pheasants loafing along the ditches.
The first time I took hold of the Remington 1100 that my father was letting me “borrow” for the trip, took me back to a time when I followed him in the field. The cold metal and wood felt so perfect when I lifted the shotgun to my shoulder and fired. A long tail attached to a plump colored bird with a white band had fallen from the sky. At that very moment I had fallen in love with upland hunting. My passion for bird hunting grew with each passing season. During those early years, I became a police officer, while still serving in the Marine Corps Reserves.
From the beginning, my wife of over twenty years has understood my time in the fall is my escape. It’s my time to get away from work. She continues to support my love for the uplands and goes as far as helping with my new found “hobby” of writing and sharing my stories and experiences. I also get encouragement and occasional help from my two daughters. In fact, they are responsible for introducing me to Instagram. Both came up with the name “hunt birdz”, and from there it only fueled my desire to share my passion and adventures in the Kansas uplands through social media.
Besides my faith and family, I long to walk in those fall mornings, waiting for the sound of wingbeats and watching the dogs search for the smell of feathered game. It’s not whether I leave with a vest full of birds or empty hulls from missed shots, but it’s the sense of being out in the uplands. A limit of birds is not what drives me, but the beauty of the outdoors, the dogs, and the experiences I’m able to share with family and friends.
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Articles by E. Castillo
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