I probably derive about as much inspiration for the outdoors from engaging with thought-provoking writers as I do from planning my next trip. I sometimes bring a book to the treestand or blind with me, and it is always in some way themed around the outdoors and conservation. These books are out there, but sometimes they’re harder to find.
There are many writers whose passion for hunting, fishing, and the outdoors finds its way into their texts. Some write more philosophically about conservation ethics, some interweave strong wilderness motifs throughout their stories, and others approach the subjects more directly. I thought I would share a few of my favourites and post Outdoor Life’s list of “The Top 20 Books for Hunters and Anglers“, a great list for anyone wanting to explore aspects of the outdoors through the words of some wonderful writers.
In no particular order, here are probably my top three books about the outdoors.
1) The Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner, by Lily Raff McCaulou
In a thoughtful and honest account of her journey to becoming a hunter, Lily Raff McCaulou engages with a number of important reflections and emotions that arise for hunters. Her story is one many of us can relate to, growing up in a non-hunting household, and then coming to the hunting lifestyle on our own through a careful and honest examination of our own ethics. She manages to explain the sometimes paradoxical feelings around hunting that many of us experience, and puts into words why those feelings just make the lifestyle more meaningful. This is a great read for both hunters and non-hunters.
2) American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, by Steven Rinella
It’s not very original for me to post something of Steven Rinella’s anymore, but here it is. What I like about this book is Rinella’s ability to provide both a scientific and affectionate look at one particular species, perhaps as a sort of microcosm of the way we all ought to engage with conservation. He is simultaneously honest about the shameful history of buffalo mismanagement in North America and prideful about people’s efforts to bring back healthy populations of buffalo on this continent. He describes how he became fascinated by buffalo, and weaves a great account of a buffalo hunt he goes on in Alaska throughout the book. The story of the hunt makes this book worth reading on its own.
3) Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau
This is a classic that many are familiar with, and it was hard to choose between this one and A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold (see what I did there? Snuck in a fourth choice). Thoreau goes on a bit of a personal experiment in this story: he builds a cabin in the woods and spends a couple years living there, contemplating society, human nature and development, and observing the way of life. Written in 1854, Thoreau did this for the philosophical value in it, and he reflects on his experiences without the self-congratulations common in many of these types of stories.
So those are just three of my favourite hunting-related pieces of writing. Each of the examples I’ve given is different in tone and purpose, and they’re all valuable pieces of writing for anyone interested in the outdoors. I also need to give gratitude and pay homage to one of my favourite writers of all time, Farley Mowat, who wrote a great deal about the Canadian North. Farley Mowat died in 2014, and he wrote some of my favourite stories with a sensitivity and passion for the lands he visited, and with an unapologetic honesty about some of the political issues he encountered while there.
Enjoy the rest of the season!