Tag Archives: wing shooting

6 Great Books for Hunters and Anglers

Summertime means vastly different things to hunters and anglers. For the angler, it means casting flies till dark or taking the boat out with the family. For the hunter, however, it’s a slow and contemplative season where one is either stuck in the past or looking a little too eagerly towards fall. It also happens to be a great time to pick up a book. Here at ParksByNature, not only do we love nature, we also love good prose. Whether it’s hunting, angling, or general nature writing that interests you, these six essential books for hunters and anglers will dazzle readers with their style, wit, and insight into the mysterious realm of nature.

1.  A Sportsman’s Sketches by Ivan Turgenev

Image: en.wikipedia.org

[Image: en.wikipedia.org]

A classic of 19th century Russian literature not always on the radar of outdoor readers, this collection of pastoral vignettes and stories contains everything from wing shooting scenes to tales of the supernatural. The book made Turgenev famous and even played a small role in abolishing Russian serfdom. In addition to the marvelous hunting and fishing scenes, the stories as a whole form a moving testament to an agrarian society on the verge of collapse and revolution.

2. The Hidden Life of Deer by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Image: amazon.com

[Image: amazon.com]

Whenever we recommend this book to serious deer hunter friends of ours, the usual response is, “You mean that tree hugger?” If a tree hugger is somebody that spends more time in the woods than shopping at outdoor stores, then count us in. Instead of telling you how deer should behave, this book records how deer actually behave. In The Hidden Life of Deer, Thomas weaves personal memoir, anthropological perspective, and a certain observational grace into a beautiful and revealing portrait of deer in the woods of New Hampshire. We’re not ashamed to say that a lot of what we know about deer hunting and behavior comes from this unique book.

3. The Founding Fish by John McPhee

Image: www.dec.ny.gov

[Image: www.dec.ny.gov]

John McPhee is master stylist who has chronicled everything from basketball to the history of the Florida orange. He also happens to be a lifelong shad fisherman. The Founding Fish is a cultural history of American shad fishing that seamlessly blends meticulous scholarship with the ease and locality of travel writing. The book follows McPhee as he travels up and down the Eastern seaboard fishing for the mercurial shad and meditating on the fish’s importance to America’s dietary past. For instance, did you know that George Washington’s Continental Army might have starved if it wasn’t for the spring shad run of 1778?

4. A Man Made of Elk by David Petersen

Image: www.3riversarchery.com

[Image: www.3riversarchery.com]

This is an unusual and obscure entry into the annals of hunting literature. One of the reasons for its slow reception is that Petersen is a dedicated traditionalist who only hunts one animal—elk—and does so with a longbow, a form of technology unchanged since the 1300s. Since longbow hunting requires getting up close and personal with the animal, Petersen has learned to act and think like an elk. This is probably the closest thing we have to a book on elk hunting written by an elk.

5. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Conservationist icon Aldo Leopold [Image: fpdcc.com]

Conservationist icon Aldo Leopold [Image: fpdcc.com]

Leopold was a rare combination of philosopher, naturalist, conservationist, and hunter. A Sand County Almanac (1949) is a collection of personal essays about the wilderness of Wisconsin in which Leopold developed the modern philosophy of land conservation or “land ethic.” The book describes that era of conservation history when it was believed that the eradication of certain predatory species would increase the overall abundance of game. Leopold, as a hunter, was one of the first to see that an ecosystem was a far more complex matter.

6. The Longest Silence by Thomas McGuane

Image: www.barharborbookshop.com

[Image: www.barharborbookshop.com]

You don’t have to be a trout fisherman to appreciate the tension and tug of McGuane’s prose. The Longest Silence is composed of 33 essays written over an equal number of years that take you everywhere from trout ponds in Michigan to fly fishing for bone fish in Florida. But the real subject of McGuane’s book is that mysterious and infinite silence between bites that every fisherman knows all too well.

The Way of All Flesh

By Jack Kredell

The difference between store-bought meat and wild game is that the latter, even when it’s sitting in your freezer, is never really dead.

The pheasant bones in the stock I made are from the same pheasant that slashed my palm as I wrung its neck. The episode replays itself whenever I ladle out a bowl of soup. It’s a strange thing to be able to connect the food on your plate to the living animal whose life you took for this purpose. The pheasant persists in my memory of the hunt, and later, in the satisfaction of having had a delicious meal.

That feeling of ‘knowing’ the animal lingers long after you make the kill. By taking its life, you assume a responsibility to see the hunt all the way through-literally down to the last bite. You are both executor and inheritor of its flesh. You take on a debt to the animal that can only be repaid by eating it-or giving it away to friends.

Dead hen pheasant by rifle in field [Image Credit: Jack Kredell]

Image Credit: Jack Kredell

But while wild game is never really dead, store-bought meat can seem like it was never really alive. I’ll catch myself behaving under this assumption when I throw out store-bought leftovers that, had it been from a pheasant or deer, I would wrap up and put back in the fridge.

The fundamentals don’t really change with store-bought meat; while you are alienated from that animal’s death and all that follows, it was nonetheless done for you because you paid. Money assumes intention. The only difference between the pheasant and the factory-farmed chicken, when I really examine it, is that I “knew” the pheasant. I caused both to die, but the pheasant left its mark on my palm.

It’s a privilege to be able to have that perspective, one that doesn’t grant you the moral authority to call somebody a hypocrite for not shooting his or her own dinner. Even that deboned chicken breast comes from a place as real as the pheasant in my soup. The mark on my hand tells me that.