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Old Railroads – Hunting Railroad Right-of-Ways

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148 – June 2017


I like hunting along railroad right-of-ways. Not, obviously, the main lines with their 100 car unit trains every 15 minutes or, for that matter, any active rail line but rather the little abandoned spurs that meander through the countryside, the ones where, if the tracks are still intact, the ties are rotting and the rails are bright orange with rust.

In some areas, the 100 feet of railroad right-of-way is the only available habitat for small game, game birds and songbirds alike as row crops are planted right up to the edge of the railroad’s property. In other areas, these spur lines are the only easy route through an overgrown tangle of switch grass, brush, and plum, prairie rose and buckthorn thickets.

These areas are fun to hunt for a number of reasons. The walking is usually pretty easy, they’re almost always easily accessible, they’re quiet–you’re often well away from roads and certainly the normal decibel levels of urban life, and they frequently provide reminders of long forgotten experiences. Some of my most memorable hunts have occurred along abandoned rail lines as well as one of the wildest.

About half the time, these railway hunts were made over my Chesa- peakes, a fact that drove my late Nebraska hunting partner, Bill Baxter, to distraction. Bill was a purist’s purist when it came to hunting upland game. It was to be done over pointing breeds and never with anything larger than a .20 gauge side-by-side shotgun. That I hunted upland birds with an over/under shotgun, albeit a .20 gauge, and at least as often over the retrievers as the Brittanys and I sometimes carried the shotgun I used for waterfowl hunting, a .12 gauge autoloader, when pheasants were flushing wildly, was, to Baxter, pure sacrilege. If I happened to shoot quail over the Chesapeakes that was simply beyond the pale in his view. He often predicted that the hunting gods would punish me for such heresy. The fact that we shot roughly twice as many pheasants over the retrievers as we did over the Brittanys did not sway his convictions on the way upland hunts were to be conducted one scintilla even though for the last twenty years we hunted together, before cancer added Bill to its long list of victims, pheasant roosters seemed to have emerged from the shell wearing track shoes. Only dogs whose attitudes toward these gaudy feathered versions of Usain Bolt were “You can run sucker, but you can’t hide,” stood a decent chance of getting them airborne before it would have required the range of the guns on a battleship to bring them down as they simply ran away from the Brits’ points.

Click here to read the complete article
148 – June 2017

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Posted by on Jun 16 2017. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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