THE bright leaves of New England autumn crackled crisply underfoot as hunters in Maine and Vermont took to the woods and meadows in search of rabbit and pheasant. In Wisconsin and Oregon the hunt was on for grouse and quail. In Virginia and Maryland, packs of foxhounds were ready for the classic chase. Along the great flyways of the nation, ducks headed south. From California to the Carolinas, observers reported ground-game population on the increase as hunters and dogs prepared for one of the best seasons ever for the U.S.'s third (after fishing and bowling) most popular participation sport.

Over the years,...

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