Hunting Camp Reading List


Since a large part of my hunting takes place several hours from home, I like to have a good book to read while I'm camped. Most of the time, I simply camp in the back of the truck in relative comfort, so a good hardback is fine. For backpacking trips, I'd rather take a paperback so I don't have to worry about damaging a fine book.

For whatever reason, starting this year (2002) I'll keep a list of reading material that I've enjoyed in camp. You may notice a tendency toward the African hunter/adventurer genre. That's a new kick for me that started this past Spring.

Archery Season, 2002-

Antoine De St. Exupery - Wind, Sand, and Stars
An excellent read about St. Exupery's experiences as a mail pilot in the early days of flight. Topics range from urvival in the desert (he and his radioman were stranded in the Sahara for several days following a crash), flying on the most basic instruments, and some interesting revelations about the human spirit. It was perfect reading while camping solo in the open country. Knock back a couple of chapters, then step out into the starry night. Good stuff, if a little "purple".
Peter Capstick - Death in the Silent Places
Peter Capstick is one of the staples of the hook-n-bullet genre. His tales from Africa are generally full of excitement and wit. This is a follow-up to Death in the Long Grass (which I read last spring during several pig hunts). As it suggests, the focus is on some of the legendary hunters and adventurers who've pursued and been pursued by deadly game (including human predators) in the Dark Continent.

Gun Season, 2002 -

Philip Caputo - The Ghosts of Tsavo
The legendary Tsavo Man-eaters have been discussed in most of the great books about Africa. Caputo's book goes in search of the truth about lions of this region, and to explore how and why they might differ from the lions of the African plains. Is there a predisposition to include humans on the menu?
Robert Ruark - The Old Man and the Boy b/w The Old Man's Boy Grows Older
This is my third or fourth time reading these books. Robert Ruark grew up in my home town (Wilmington, NC) and the majority of this book takes place in nearby Southport. But even without that, this book chronicles Ruark's education as a young boy at the hand of his grandfather (the Old Man). While his story takes place many years before I came on the scene, it's easy to connect his own adventures and love of the outdoors with my own. Tales of rowing alone in the salt marshes, hunting in the big swamp, and fishing on a September beach, when the first northwesterly winds blow the tourists away... I could go on, because this is definitely one (OK, two) of my favorite books of all time.
Terry Tempest Williams - Refuge, An Unnatural History of Family and Place
OK, so this one isn't the most manly/macho piece of literature. But Terry Tempest Williams writes about nature with a connection very few other authors can achieve. The book parallels the unusual events surrounding the Great Salt Lake flood and her mother's battle with cancer. Powerfully written, it's one of the few books that has ever made my eyes tear up. Call me a sucker? Read it yourself, and see if you don't get a little misty too.

Spring, 2003 (Pig hunting, Turkey Hunting, etc.)-

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt - Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter
Entertaining and enlightening account of Roosevelt's short stint as a ranchman in the Bad Lands of the Dakotas. It's hard to imagine a time when you could go out and shoot a mess of grouse with your revolver, or hunt geese on the plains with a 45-75 Winchester rifle. Roosevelt holds no punches when he describes life and hunting in the days before game laws, limits, or licenses. The whole time I read this, I couldn't shake the apparent irony that this man is supposed to be one of the "fathers of conservation" in our country. But time and again, the concern for the environment and the animals comes through.

Archery Season, 2003-

Ernest Hemingway - The Green Hills of Africa
This now ranks as one of the best hunting books I've ever read. It's auto-biographical Hemingway at his best, describing the final days of a hunting trip to Africa. Throughout the book, you'd be hard pressed to find the terse, even harsh stylisms so often associated with Hemingway's prose. Instead, you find a relaxed writer, describing a time and place that is obviously precious to him. He probably most wins me over when he's describing the frustration of not being able to kill his Kudu, and the desperation that comes in the final days of a hunting trip. His personality and humanity come through clearly, and anyone who's ever been on an unsuccessful hunting trip can certainly relate to his descriptions. Later, when he does take his Kudu (not one, but two), I found myself wanting to share that celebratory drink with him. Absolutely awesome.
Ernest Hemingway - Death in the Afternoon
Well, this is more like the Hemingway you study in school. Clean and terse, this treatise on bullfighting still tends to run on a bit. I found myself nodding in hunting camp, but that could have been the rum, and the fact that I'd been sleeping an average of 3 hours a day for a couple of days. Even so, it's great reading and very illuminating. It's not easy to compare this with Dangerous Summer, his earlier work about bullfighting, and at times it's even hard to believe both books were written by the same man. One point that I really enjoyed, however, is his subtle humor...tinged as it is with cynicism. I wish I'd read this book in college, since it would be fun to discuss. There are several social and literary references I'd love to have explained, although I don't feel I have to know who he's talking about to enjoy his turn of a phrase. Good stuff.

Hunting Road Trip, 2003 -

Ernest Hemingway - To Have and To Have Not
This is classic Hemingway. Nothing at all like the movie, by the way, but an interesting look at the "human condition". Hard times make hard men, and the hero of this tale takes this aphorism to new highs. It's hardly an uplifting story, though. Good read, but I think I needed Hemingway's hunting stories to prepare me for it.
Robert Ruark - Horn of the Hunter
The perfect book to read around the fire at Elk camp. Robert Ruark had the kind of life I dream about, complete with ups and downs. This book follows a safari in Nairbobi, but during the telling of the tale Ruark lets you see the relationship between hunter and prey, as well as the human relationships in hunting camp... hunter and guide (or PH), PH and staff, hunter and staff, and hunter and Mrs. hunter. Ruark's writing sometimes wanders, but you're never sorry you made the detour with him. And somehow, he always brings it back to bear. Awesome stuff!


By Phillip Loughlin
Copyright 2004 - Elwing Enterprises

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