EVART — Sheldon McBurney is getting close to 81 but he’s still young enough to follow up with his passion of bird hunting

The rural Evart resident has lived in Osceola Township for 21 years. He’s from Rochester and came to Osceola County for his retirement from General Motors. He had previously bird hunted in the area.

He’s been a hunter for about 60 years.

“Once bird (grouse and woodcock) season opens (Sept. 15), I’m liable to be out six or seven days a week,” he smiled. “It depends on the weather and how I feel.”

In years past, he also rabbit hunted.

“My oldest son will be up here opening day of bird season,” McBurney said. “I don’t get that much of a chance to hunt with him much anymore.”

As for the number of birds he expects to see during the season, “they’re not really at the top of their cycle. They’re supposed to be at the top of the cycle. I really haven’t seen that many birds. I had the dogs out this morning (in late August) and I didn’t see anything.”

McBurney has owned bird dogs for 61 years.

“I started out with pointers,” he said. “Then I went to vizslas, a Hungarian pointing dog. Then I went to the setters. That’s probably the breed I’ll stick with. The reason I went to the English setter from the vizsla is the vizslas I had didn’t like the hard heavy cover.”

McBurney recalls getting interested in hunting dogs through the father of a high school classmate.

“If I didn’t have a bird dog, I probably wouldn’t bird hunt,” he said. “To me, the pointing dog is bird hunting to me. It’s fun to see the dogs work. I usually train my own dogs.”

The bird numbers are down, but McBurney says he still finds them.

“When I first started, there were a lot more birds,” he said. “I don’t know what it is. The DNR claims it’s habitat and I think is a part of it is. The woods get matured, the grouse and woodcock don’t have good cover. They like the second growth after it’s been cut and stuff starts coming back up again.”

McBurney is a rifle hunter for both bow and rifle seasons. He’ll have his bow ready for the Oct. 1 opener. He said “there’s quite a few deer” out, big and little. The biggest buck he shot was a 9-pointer in the thumb area.

“It had a pretty good sized rack on it,” he said, adding that he likes bow season the best. “It’s nice weather and it’s relaxing.”

He’s anticipating a good 2011 deer season in the area.

McBurney also enjoys fishing, especially on the ice.

“I would do more fishing in the summer, but I have a big garden and a fairly sized yard, so I walk behind a lawn mower,” he said. “I fish during the week in the winter time, mainly bluegill fishing, right around the area. It was a pretty good year last winter. There’s always a dead spell up in the middle of winter.”

The Evart area has been providing McBurney with what he’s looking for in hunting and fishing opportunities. For his 80th birthday a year ago, he was featured on the TV program Michigan Outdoors for his bird hunting skills.

“As long as the dogs do a good job and I find some birds ... I’ll be 81 in October and I’m just glad to be able to get out into it,” he said, while adding with a laugh, “like I told my priest, I’m not afraid of dying but I’d like to catch a few more bluegills before I do.”