All work and no play makes Matt a dull boy! So I try to spend some time reading, listening and watching to good hunting media. Honestly, it feels a bit like we are in a golden age with the various media forms and number of high quality content creators. The ease with which anyone can create content to share is astounding! Of course this lowering of the barrier also means there is a lot of mediocre content to wade through (yours truly uhmmm). Below is some of the best hunting media I've consumed, hopefully it'll save you some trouble of trying to find some of the new and old good stuff.
Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, The Wilderness Hunter and Ranch Life and The Hunting Trailby Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt recounts cattle ranching and numerous hunts in these three books. Roosevelt is an engaging writer with a knack for describing hunting tactics, animal behavior and the amazing places western big game animals live! What shocked me the most was how unabashidly Roosevelt loved his days of cattle ranching and hunting. He enjoyed the clear warm Spring days as much as the cold stormy nights sleeping in wet buffalo blankets. Roosevelt says it is the whole collection of joyous and shitty experiences that build a man's character. Hunting and ranching give a feller plenty of opportunity to experience both.
You also catch a glimpse of a hunting culture on the brink of disaster. Roosevelt is aware of the immenent extinction of the buffalo if nothing is done and more or less writes the species off. He posits elk, grizzly and even wolf could likely go the same way. We can look back now and be thankful that Roosevelt would help create the Boone and Crockett club and advocate, along with others, to place restrictions on market hunting.
Although far from many of our hunting norms today, Roosevelt recounts some of his (and presumably that eras) hunting norms. For instance, when they needed meat in the Spring and Summer they tried to stick to only killing pronghorn! It's hard to imagine any modern day game regulations having a Spring hunt for pronghorn, deer or elk. He also recounts plenty of hunts where they ran just about every kind of game with dogs, taking copious numbers or running shots and harvesting handfuls of deer and elk in a given day. While these are things many modern hunters can't fathom, it's pretty easy to see how a mid-1880's hunter would just see these things as normal.
Roosevelt was hunting for the whole ranch often, running game with dogs was simply more widely accepted then and a successful harvest was arguably more critical. Supermarkets and freezers weren't part of ranch life in 1880 North Dakota. So why not use the advantage a dog could give you. Firearms, bullets and optics were nothing like they are today and being successful meant taking every opportunity one had on a game animal (running or not).
Of course, there are counter arguments to all the above and honestly its no more than a point of interest and contrast. The real marvel is that a man who would be president writes detailed accounts about dozens of hunting adventures. If you want to be transported back in time and ride across The Badlands, spend frosty nights wrapped in buffalo hides in The Bighorn Mountains or chase mountain goat in the peaks around Coeur d'Alene pick one or all three of these books.
I guess social media isn't all that bad! Zach came across my LinkedIn feed and we ended up connecting and chatting. He's worked in the field of artficial intelligence just as your's truly has for the last decade. Over the last few years however he has, well, gone feral (better than going wild like those spring breakers)! Turning Feral recounts Zach's transformation from one of tens of millions of suburban American's with little connection to the land to a rural woodsman harvesting his own meat and trapping fur! It's an engaging and quick read complete with some of fun learning mishaps that can be chalked up to acquiring experience.
Zach doesn't come from a family of hunters and wasn't surrounded by hunters or trappers. So his transformation is fun to read about and insightful. For those of us who are lucky to have hunting as part of the family DNA, this book will help you appreciate being born into a hunting, trapping or outdoor family. Learning to shoot a bow, read sign, camp outdoors, pattern animals, be prepared for the elements...the list of things to learn in the outdoors is endless. Picking these things up for the first time in your 30's isn't easy! Zach begins to learn these skills in Turning Feral and I have a feeling as he hones his outdoor skillset we'll get to continue reading about his journey. Also, for those who have spent time living in a small rural community, its a hoot to read about Zach's transformation from outsider to insider.
As Roosevelt said in the preface to The Wilderness Hunter:
In hunting, the finding and killiing of the game is after all but a part of the whole. The free, self-reliant, adventurous life, with its rugged and stalwart democracy; the wild surrounding, the grand beauty of the scenery, the chance to study the ways and habits of the woodland creatures - all these unite to give the career of the wilderness hunter its peculiar charm. The chase is among the best of all national pastimes; it cultivates that vigorous manliness for the lack of which in a nation, as in an individual, the possession of no other qualtiies can possibly atone.
I think he would hearitly suggest that more men and women follow the path of Zach Hanson. After all, the vigor of the nation depends on it.
Butcher's Crossing by John Edward Williams
This one is a little different, it is a work of fiction from an English Lit professor who wrote another very good book called Stoner. Butcher's Crossing follows the tale of a young ivy leaguer who feels a yearning to go West and come of age in the waning days of the buffalo market hunting days. The protaganist joins a small team that heads out to hunt the last remnants of buffalo on a quest to a hidden valley said to hold the last sizeable heard. If you sometimes yearn to go back to those old days, this piece of fiction will transport you there. However be ready to experience wilderness travel without satellite messengers, gps, trucks, quads, puffy jackets and everything else that makes hunting comfortable.
The articles are punchy, pithy, funny, slightly cutting and just good to read. I'm streaching to describe them but give them a read. FE is unabashedly doing epic shit and having a good time. Sure they mock public land hunters here and there, enjoy private land hunts, and will probably offend you. Honestly, a little good ribbing is probably what most of us need from time to time.
Clay Newcomb is a master story teller. I never thought I'd be itching to listen to a 3 part series on Daniel Boone or learn more about Colt Hollier. He often documents modern and historical hunting figures. His line of questioning, the guests, the production...its all just fantastic. If you want listen to a modern master of documentary style story telling on hunting topics, give Bear Grease a listen.
Robbie and the crew and Blood Origins due a great job of covering hunting topics all across the US and Internationally. If you want to understand how African big game hunting contributes to local economies, what threats there are to hunting in New Zealand or hear from the bioligists doing reintroductions of game species in the US, give Blood Origins a listen. They are a nonprofit so consider donating too! Also check out their videos which are artfully done and help tell the full story of hunting.
I'm pretty sure I've listened to every eposide. Rinella is just good. It's no wonder Meateater Inc. is the most prominent outdoor media company. Hunting stories, wildlife management, historians, archeolagists, fiction and nonfiction writers the list is endless. He's a fantastic interviewer, always well prepared and you'll learn more listening to this podcast than any other.
If you are a fan of the Alone series then you probably know Clay Hayes. Besides being a first rate woodsman, Clay is a first rate bowyer! Watching his videos on how to make stick bows may even convice me to try it again. I failed after thinking reading The Traditional Bowyer's Bible would magically transform me into a bowyer. It didn't. But I still occasionally shot my longbow.
He covers basic wilderness tips and hunting tips that are just dang practical. He hunts with his family a bunch which is just nice to see. He hunts for meat! Which is pretty much the only type of hunting I know how to do.
Brian Call and Ryan Lampers do some damn hard hunts and make it look kind of easy...but only kind of. The cinematography is great, the country is often wild and the light hearted bantering between them is fun to watch. These guys will make you think you can hunt the type of country they do. You can't but you might be dumb enough to try like me :)