Book Review by: R. Cade Powell for Western Hunter Magazine
Hunting season in Wyoming for me is officially over until April. I might go shoot a cottontail or 2 with my kids or call in a coyote, but for the most part it’s over. Yesterday it was 15 degrees BELOW ZERO. All my old haunts are currently taking a winter’s nap buried under snow and ice as they await the sun to slowly start hanging in the sky for an extra minute or 2 each day.
Eventually the snows will recede and hungry bruins will emerge to chase the tender shoots of green grass as far up the mountain as the snow drifts will allow. Blue grouse will put on their gaudy make-up in the form of bright air sacs and eye combs for their spring rituals. I’ll emerge from my winter doldrums to start pounding the hills in search of new haunts that few hunters venture to find. Any long-haired bruin to cross my path, lost antlers hidden under a mahogany bush or extra pounds stored up from Christmas dinner that choose to stay in the hills will just be a bonus. Until then it’s a great day to curl up close to a dry Fir log crackling in the corner as the long-trapped heat from the sun is released and pierces every corner of the room. Days like today are meant to sip cocoa and read hunting stories, so that is what I’m doing.
I had planned on buying and reading Steven Rinella’s latest book when it came out over a year ago. Not sure why I didn’t get around to it but this winter as hunting season started to slow down, I went online (www.theMeatEater.com) and ordered “Adventures From the Life Of An American Hunter”. I have read several articles by Rinella and have even watched a Youtube clip or 2 of his TV show, Meat Eater. I have never read either of his other books or seen a full episode of his show; in fact I haven’t watched a full episode of any hunting show for 5 or 6 years. I grew tired of watching even the ‘so-called’ experts of Western Big-game being paraded around on big private ranches as their guide shows them big critters. More importantly the guide tells them the critters name and shows them 3 or 4 years’ worth of photos that should hang under the mount of every serious trophy hunter. Yeah, I’m really tired of what the experts keep telling us the ‘culture’ of hunting should be.
After reading his articles and watching a couple hunting clips, I decided I liked how he portrayed hunters and the hunt. I had the feeling his book was going to be a collection of real hunts, hunts that he earned the hard way. When my book showed up in the mail, I started thumbing through the pages. The first couple pages were condensed – 1 or 2 sentence reviews from others who had already traversed its contents. As I read the reviews I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Booklist were some of the first reviews to jump out at me. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I thought of some money tycoon from the WSJ sitting in a bistro in New York as he sipped tea and pondered whether he wanted 1 or 2 dainty crackers topped with seaweed and fresh tuna for dinner. All the while his hand thumbing through this book, lain very carefully on a freshly pressed doily, with stories about hunting, killing, cleaning, cooking and other barbaric rituals hidden in the pages. After I quit chuckling, I laid the book down on my desk and didn’t pick it up for a couple weeks. How could I? After all, I’m sure I wouldn’t like it if people from several different “liberal” media outlets enjoyed reading his book.
A couple weeks later, I was over my ‘liberal media bias’ and needed a good hunting fix. I picked up his book and started reading. I read over 50 pages that night and finished the book 2 nights later. A couple things that really jumped out at me: 1) He is a very good writer who can craft his tale and make you feel like you are there. When that bear started huffing at him on a spring Montana turkey hunt, I could almost sense the hairs on the back of my neck rise.
2) He is an addict to the outdoors. He uses cooking and consuming his prey as his method to, excuse the pun, feed his addiction, but pure and simple he loves everything about the outdoors. He doesn’t hunt for score, inches, or to enlarge his alter ego. He hunts because it’s who he is.
3) He doesn’t come across as braggadocio, a know-it-all, or high and mighty as most of today’s hunting ‘experts’ try to appear. He talks about past mistakes and how he learned and bettered himself because of those mistakes. He has had the privilege of hunting some amazing animals in spectacular country that most hunters only dream about. He always seems to pay homage to the wild animals and their wild places as it should be. Most ‘celebrity’ hunters want the country and critter to honor them when they lack the skills and understanding to pursue these spectacular animals on their own terms.
4) One last point I’d like to make that jumped out at me after looking a little more into what Steven does and who he is. Somehow the old adage of ‘keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer’ has been lost on the vast majority of hunters in the United States. We all tend to seek out those that hold similar beliefs and values and ignore the rest of the human segment on earth, except to throw a snide comment their way. Steven moved to Brooklyn for love, in doing so he has immersed himself in a culture that should make his skin crawl. It has been just the opposite. Steven has been able to educate and inform the masses about these grand traditions that all hunters should hold near and dear.
He has been able to tiptoe across ‘enemy lines’ and immerse himself in the trench warfare that is NE America’s media. And he is winning. He is garnering support and winning recruits for hunting, fishing and the great outdoor lifestyle. Thank you Steven for being willing to win over recruits in places that 99% of American hunters never would have dared to venture. I should have shouted out loud that he has been able to get The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Booklist to read a book about hunting, not turned my back and shunned it.
Since I finished Meat Eater, 2 buddies and my brother have all stolen it to read for themselves. They wouldn’t give it back so I could even finish my review! I may not have the same clout of WSJ, but I also give my stamp of approval.