FOR EVERY WINNER, there is a loser. Then again, sometimes the loser winds up being a winner and the winner ends up being a loser. And no, I am not talking about the Milwaukee Brewers being winners even though they lost game seven. The Brewers, even though they did lose that final game, are most definitely winners for their season-long body of work and the winning Los Angeles Dodgers, I predict, will become losers in five games to the Boston Red Sox.

Enough baseball drivel. The winners and losers I’m talking about today are the hunters and the hunted. Whether it be the fisherman vs. a walleye or muskie or the sportsman with the gun vs. a deer, turkey, duck or partridge, there will be winners and losers.

In the hunter’s eyes, winning often means putting something on the table to eat. In the eyes of the fish or the wild game, winning means eluding the pursuer to live another day.

I know all about losing when it comes to expeditions afield or on the water in search of putting something on the table to eat. I am actually quite the expert in coming home empty-handed from such adventures. That said, I occasionally, like the blind squirrel, come home with one or more acorns to show for my efforts.

Last week was a fine example of what I am talking about. It began on a wet, cold, windy morning. With less than a month to go in the fall turkey season, I figured it was high time to make a serious effort to find a gobbler. Actually, during the fall hunt when any turkey is legal game, I have no qualms about putting a tender young poult on the table if it gives me a good chance before I see a gobbler.

Despite the adverse weather conditions, I set out early that morning, determined to have turkey drumsticks for supper. I was driving a backwoods dirt road toward my hunting destination when, rounding a corner, I found a whole “herd” of turkeys waiting for me in the middle of the road.

I waited until they nervously walked off the road into thick brush cover, then pulled 100 yards ahead to a logging road where I quickly parked the truck, hopped out, loaded up with Magnum 4s and headed around a bend in the two-rut track to hit a ridge which, if everything worked out right, would take me out in front of the turkeys’ path.

It seemed like a foolproof plan. As most of my foolproof plans do, it backfired. Before I reached the ridge, just as I rounded a curve which would put me on it, there was my herd of turkeys.

Unfortunately, they were 75 yards ahead of me on a track that got them there quicker than I could. In seconds, there were turkeys running and flying in every direction, all out of range and very quickly all in heavy cover.

Ordinarily, that would have still left me in a great position, but as it always does, haste made waste and when I reached in my pocket for my call to start making kee-kee-run assembly calls, I found an empty pocket. In my rush to ambush the turkeys, I had left my mouth call back in the truck. Thoroughly defeated, I slunk back to my truck, head bowed, shoulders shrugged and mind saying over and over “You blew it, again.”

Bad luck dogged me again as recently as last Sunday afternoon. On a beautiful, sun-washed day, Gordie, the wonder lab, and I began a trek over hill and dale that was meant to find just one dumb partridge that would beg to become a partridge pie.

We did a lot of walking, but very little seeing. One partridge flushed from high out of a spruce tree after Gordie had already passed by. I never even tried to lift my shotgun. Instead, I turned to wish the bird a long, healthy life, at least until a day when we might meet again.

Well into our hunt we finally had a chance for success. Sneaking down to a woodland pond that, this fall, is full of water courtesy of our heavy summer rains, I found four mallards lazing on a fallen log. Knowing that I might make a duck sneak on our partridge hunt, I had purposely carried nothing but steel shot with me, so I was ready to have roast mallard for supper instead of partridge pie.

Everything went well with our sneak until we were about 20 yards from the resting ducks. That’s when Gordie decided it was time to make their acquaintance. Crashing through brush to the shore he put the mallards into full flight. Two blasts from my 12 gauge served merely as a salute of surrender to the rapidly departing birds.

Once again, I went home empty-handed. But did I? How could one possibly go home empty-handed from any hunt when one has properly earned tired muscles from a long hike? How could one call a hunt a failure when one has had the chance to do battle with such wonderful birds as turkeys, partridges and ducks?

Even without catching sight of a single bird of any of those species, how could a hunt be a failure when one has had the chance to walk for miles through welcoming woods that may, one day, be cold, wet and forbidding, while sun drenched and awash in color on another?

No matter whether a game bag is empty or full at the end of such hunts, the hunter is always a winner. Simply being there means a hunter has won. And as for the prey? If they escape the hunter unscathed, they have, for the moment, won. A coyote or a hawk might turn that triumph into defeat an hour after their successful win against a human hunter, but for the moment, they have won.

And even if they have lost to the hunter’s gun, they turn into winners when they are pulled from the oven and put on the table.

Yes, there seemingly are winners and losers when it comes to hunting, but in the end, prey and hunter are winners just for having been there.