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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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!