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Bottomland Book Club: Big December Canvasbacks

big December canvas backs book

Shawn Swearingen

My copy of Big December Canvasbacks arrived from Amazon and was quickly devoured. A good hunting friend had referred me to a book by fellow Oregonian, Worth Mathewson. Since then it has become a Siren calling me home to the Pacific Northwest while living in Virginia. It is continually on the top of my list to any waterfowling friend with an appreciation of history, the art of decoys and boat building and a love of adventure. What Worth describes of the wild winds, rains, hail and unforgiving tides draws you in and makes you question our sanity as hunters in such conditions. 

Worth’s deep knowledge and experience of waterfowling extend beyond the Northwest. He opens on the pothole prairies of Alberta, in his camper after chasing birds for the day as he starts his writing process. The book focuses on his hunting the coastal regions of Oregon and Washington, with each chapter on specific duck species, decoys and boats. In order to tell the complete stories of canvasbacks, Brant, sneak boats and Barnegat Bay boats, the tales weave through their origins, health of the populations or where they were historically hunted. Through this the salt marshes of New Jersey, the native Americans in the Great Basin, hunters along Vancouver Island are all a part of the story. 


You can find your own copy of Big December Canvasbacks in paperback on Amazon, or if you are lucky enough you can find a hardcopy on Ebay or Thriftbooks. Of course there is always reading on Kindle, but to be as immersed in the story telling, a reader needs to be able to see the pencil etchings of waterfowl scenes throughout the book by Worth’s waterfowling friend and artist, David Hagerbaumer. 

Worth’s list of books and magazine articles are expansive from the 1970s through 2000s. If you enjoy his storytelling, you can find him covering subjects such as band-tailed pigeons, snipe, upland birds, on collections of historical hunting tales, and of photographer and conservationist William L. Finley.

The effortlessness of his storytelling with his ability to draw on historical facts with ease draws you further and makes you wish to read more tales within each chapter. Whether you’re reading Big December Canvasbacks to get you through the season splits or in the doldrums of summer, you’ll find yourself sculling after Brant with Worth, your neck wet with rain and saltwater as the whistles of wigeon cut through the breeze and the distant breakers crashing. 

Read More: The Outlaw Gunner: Bottomland Book Club

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