Books for New Hunters Building Knowledge and Skill
Those of us who grew up in families where hunting was a long-held tradition often take for granted the enormous amount of knowledge that we have absorbed since childhood. For those that are new to hunting, gaining access to these insights can seem difficult and even a bit intimidating. That shouldn’t be the case with all the books for new hunters that have been written. As it happens, some hunters make fine writers too, and all that knowledge and history is available to you with little more than a library card. The 10 books and 2 cookbooks below are a great start to building your hunting knowledge. In one year, reading one book a month, you’d be well versed in the history of hunting in North America, the ethical framework of killing, maybe pick up a few hunting tactics, read some hunting adventures and even learned how to prepare the wild meat you worked so hard to harvest.
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Ethics and Conservation
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
No list would be complete without top billing for the Aldo Leopold classic, “A Sand County Almanac.” The book, a cornerstone of the modern conservation movement is a collection of essays ranging from personal narrative, philosophy and natural history. The whole book is a near perfect discussion on conservation, but two essays worth noting are “The Land Ethic” and “Thinking Like A Mountain.” When reading, it’s impossible not to marvel on how the issues that Leopold wrote about in the 1930’s are just as relevant today.
The Mindful Carnivore by Tovar Cerulli
The Mindful Carnivore is the story of one man’s journey from vegan to hunter, a journey that likely mirrors many new adult hunters who have come to hunting primarily through the lens of ethical meat acquisition. The author takes the reader through the many stages in his transition from vegan to responsible hunter and along the way describes his experiences and reactions to his rapidly evolving reality. One of the key lessons for the new hunter however is recognizing just how difficult hunting wild animals really is, that often times we go home empty handed but have gained the knowledge that the value of hunting is more than just a successful kill. That it is the process that really counts. This is one of the great books for new hunters that are struggling with the same journey.
The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
by Dr. Douglas Brinkley
This book provides an almost university level education on how the conservation movement started in North America, seen through the lens of Presided Roosevelt. A bit of advance warning, a reader has to carve out a pretty large chunk of time to tackle this book. It’s a hefty one, both in scope and length. The book highlights President Roosevelt’s lifelong love of the outdoors, science and hunting. The reader is taken on Roosevelt’s journey from sick child to ranchman and hunter and finally to the President responsible for saving 234 million acres of American wilderness. Roosevelt didn’t exist in a vacuum, rather he drew people to him like a moth to flame. Dr. Brinkley takes the reader on fascinating side trips into the lives of those that Roosevelt was drawn to, and drew to himself in the quest for conservation. Men like Sierra Club founder John Muir, forestry expert Gifford Pinchot, and the poet John Burroughs. The book is complex, but teaches a simple lesson. The American conservation movement started over a century ago on the backs of passionate people, and only through equal passion will it continue to thrive for another 100 years.
The Art of Hunting Big Game in North America by Jack O’Conner
Few names are as associated with North American big game hunting more than Jack O’Conner. O’Conner was the outdoor writer of the 1930s-1950s, authoring over a dozen books and more than 1,200 articles for hunting and fishing magazines. The book, published in 1967 can seem a bit dated to modern readers, but offers timeless advice on game hunting techniques as well as providing a glimpse into the mind of the man himself.
The Freelance Bowhunter by Bernie Barringer
This book covers an often overlooked aspect of hunting literature, the logistics and planning involved in putting together trips to new hunting destinations. Whether it is a dream trip out of state for Kansas whitetails, or putting together a hunt on a WMA down the road, this book is essential reading for those who don’t have the benefit of owning their own piece of hunting land. There is some good advice on strategies for hunting white-tailed deer but the book really shines in setting you up for success in the field by clueing new hunters into the pre-field planning process.
Backcountry Bowhunting by Cameron Hanes
If you’re planning a backcountry trip to the western states, then this book is a great place to start. Hanes, who has made a name for himself both as an archery hunter and an ultra-marathon runner, has a kind of fanaticism for backcountry hunting and putting his body to the test. The book is a great resource for strategies, tips, tactics and gear that will help the do-it-yourself hunter find success in the deep woods, far away from roads and other luxuries that hunters often take for granted. While not recommended as one of the first books for new hunters to read, it is a great resource when you’re ready to to head out west.
The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Game by Steven Rinella
What Jack O’Conner was to hunting writing in the 1950’s, Steven Rinella is to a new generation of sportsman. I can’t think of another individual who has done so much to show the value of hunting to 21st century America than Rinella. A huge part of that success is his highly intelligent writing, knowledge of history and highlighting the role of the hunter as the original and ultimate “locavore.” In “The Complete Guide,” Rinella and fellow hunters walk the reader through the entire process of the hunt, from pre-hunt planning stages to the end result of cooking and eating wild game. Chapters include firearm and equipment selection, hunting techniques for individual big game species, proper field care of game, and butchering after a successful hunt. It is easy to read, very visual and an invaluable resource for new and experienced hunters alike.
It’s a solid bet that one of the first stories told by man was a hunting story. Hunting and storytelling are at the core of our humanity and no reading list would be complete without some good, old-fashion hunting tales.
Horn of the Hunter by Robert Ruark
An icon of hunting literature, Robert Ruarks “Horn of the Hunter” is considered one of the finest African hunting adventures ever put to paper. The book tells the story of the author’s two-month safari into east Africa in the 1950’s. Joined by his wife, a professional hunting guide and native runners, the group traveled into the wild African bush after some of the world’s most dangerous big game. The author describes in great detail the sights and sounds, the fatigue and terror of an African safari. What results is not only a ripping adventure, but a glimpse into a time when the stakes were much higher and the hunting landscape vastly larger.
Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter, by Steven Rinella
In “Meat Eater,” author Steven Rinella poignantly shows that hunting stories are almost always more than just about hunting. Rinella is a thoroughly modern hunter, and “Meat Eater” is a thoroughly modern book. There are some great hunting stories in this book, of deer and bear hunts, and chasing elusive Dall sheep over the mountains of Alaska. The retelling of the hunts act as a setting for a discussion on man’s relationship to nature and to family, and how hunting played an integral part in the shaping of the American mindset.
The Man-Eaters of Kumon by Jim Corbett
Once you read Corbett for the first time, you become a fan for life. For some reason the author is not as well-known to American readers as other classic hunting writers like O’Conner and Ruark. I would guess that this is likely due to the fact that his stories were set in India rather than the more popular Africa or more familiar North America. There likely never was another hunter with the skill and luck of Jim Corbett. The British-Indian hunter turned naturalist made a career during the early 1900s hunting man-eating leopards and tigers; animals responsible for a death toll of over a thousand men, women and children. In “Man-Eaters,” Corbett writes with an almost unbelievable level of matter-of- factness and humility in the retelling of his adventures hunting animals that were also hunting him. Corbett wasn’t a type of hunter whose main goal was to wipe out predators from the landscape. He is in fact a perfect example of a hunter who held a deep respect and admiration for the animal he hunted, so much so that a National Park which protects endangered Bengal tigers, a park that he helped establish, was named in his honor.
The LL. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook by Judith Jones and Angus Cameron
This book has long been considered THE wild game cook book. It is a classic, albeit dated book of mostly easy to make recipes, with sections on almost every game animal in North America, from woodchuck to moose. Published in 1984, the book is very easy to find online, with hard cover copies going for less than a dollar on Amazon. That dollar goes a long way into making you a better game chef, and is great start in building your wild game cook book collection.
Hunt Gather Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast by Hank Shaw
If you are looking to up your wild game cooking, “Hunt Gather Cook” is the book for you. The cook book is a celebration of the wild harvest movement, the recipes work with ingredients ranging from wild game to mushrooms and wild plants, few of which are gathered in a supermarket. Shaw provides a great primer to wild edibles, with a heavy emphasis on the “gatherer” portion of what it means to be a hunter-gatherer of wild resources in an increasingly un-wild society.
When putting this list together, many many more books for new hunters came to mind on discussions of ethics, history and strategy. These twelve books are a good start and should send the new hunter down the rabbit hole of high quality hunting literature.
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