Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coming up in 2012: A cool new book about hunting

At the risk of appearing cruel, I've got a great new book I want to tell you about. What's cruel about it? The book doesn't come out until June. The good news is you can pre-order it.

"Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner" (Grand Central Publishing) is Lily Raff McCaulou's tale of moving from New York City to Bend, Oregon, to take a job as a newspaper reporter.

There are two things she discovers very quickly in Bend: One is her husband-to-be, Scott, and the other is that hunting isn't at all what she had always thought it was, having grown up in an uber-liberal suburb of Washington, D.C.

Scott introduces Lily to fly fishing, and Lily decides on her own that she'd also like to try hunting, which Scott doesn't do. So without a specific mentor to inspire and guide her, she goes for it.

Wow - totally intrepid. I love her already.

This book is an important read for many segments of the hunting community for many reasons, the first being the most obvious:

Every hunter I know loves the vicarious thrill of reliving his or her own learning experiences through the tales of another new hunter. When that hunter is an articulate adult, so much the better.

I've also met about a dozen new huntresses this year who I'm pretty sure will relate to this tale as well, because they're still in the thick of learning this strange new world.

It's not just the vicarious thrill that's important here, though: Lily's tale demonstrates just how hard it is to break into hunting when you don't know a soul who hunts.

Some of this difficulty is inevitable: We all have to go through learning how to shoot straight, learning when to shoot, trying out gear, and learning how to process game.

But some of the difficulty could be avoided if state wildlife agencies, non-profits and even gun stores recognized that not all new hunters were raised in hunting families, that they really do need everything spelled out explicitly - and patiently.

For example, Lily goes to three gun shops before she finds someone who respects her wishes (she wants to shoot a 20 gauge), patiently explains things like how to shoulder a gun, and recommends a place to practice shooting and find mentors.

And because she decided to start hunting after the one and only adult hunter ed class that year has been held, she ends up in a children's course. Really? One adult class per year?

Another audience that needs to read this book is politically conservative hunters, even though they'll chafe at some of what Lily has to say. (I don't know if she would call herself a liberal, but she's clear that her upbringing was, and she reminds me of a lot of new hunters I've met who come from similar backgrounds.)

Why should they read this? In general, I believe it's important to understand the thought processes of people you disagree with, but more importantly, we need to understand that there are plenty of people from liberal backgrounds who can embrace guns and hunting if we'd just stop berating their politics long enough to let them in.

Really. It's OK. We don't all have to belch "Barack" to be hunters.

Finally, hunting organizations need to hear what Lily has to say.

She quickly becomes an advocate for hunting, and being a journalist, she really knows how to do the research to back up her opinions. But she also holds up a mirror to some hunter-based organizations. She really wanted to join some, but found so many of their messages to be off-putting, particularly those geared toward trophy measurement and record-keeping.

I think all hunters who are active in these organizations know that funding conservation is an important, if not the most important, thing that most of them do. But it sure doesn't look that way to Lily, and if that's the message she's getting from these organizations, you can bet non-hunters don't see them in any better light. I know it's not just Lily who feels this way: I work with a lot of new hunters, and they ask the exact same kinds of questions she does.

Now, I may have just made this book sound like broccoli - something you should read, not necessarily something you want to read - but I promise you it's not. The reason I'm reviewing this book is that when Hank passed it to me (he got an early copy for review), I devoured it in two evenings. And unlike some books I've read, this one didn't make me swear even once - even though I don't agree with all of her positions on hunting issues.

Lily is curious, intrepid, smart and articulate. She's a fantastic addition to the hunting community, and I think you'll enjoy her story as much as I have.

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Sounds great, Holly. Looking forward to it!

Holly Heyser said...

And I'm looking forward to the release of your book on Feb. 15! (I know I'm totally reviewing out of order here.)

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Thanks for the tease! I had received a gift card for books over the holidays and came here to see what you've recommended/reviewed (I've already poured through a number of books you have listed here). I was beyond thrilled when I saw this listed in your book widget just yesterday, clicked on the link...darn! June is so far, but looks more than worth it for this 'adult-onset' huntress.
Also, good point on the existance of liberal hunters. I'm not a fan of the gun registry here in Canada, I hunt, but I'm also likely more 'left' than your average liberal. This seems to put me, and many other more left-leaning hunters, in a space between where our politics keep us out of one camp and our hunting and gun ownership, the other. Well, at least amongst the academic-y folks I'm often around.

All to say: great (if not teasing) review, looking forward to June. And Feb too with Tovar's book (as a fellow vegetarian-turned-hunter)!

Holly Heyser said...

I know what you mean about not fitting in: I'm to the left of most hunters, and far, far to the right of most college professors, which means I just piss off everyone.

I would definitely pre-order the book. I know from watching Hank's book sales this year that pre-ordering is a terrific way to support an author.

Blessed said...

Thanks for another good book recommendation - I'll be remembering this one!

RachelP. said...

Awesome :)
Thanks for the heads up. I can't wait!
And you described that really well. It is indeed a strange feeling to seem far "left" of the established hunters, while being so far to the "right" of my friends and peers.

Pete said...

Have you read Girl Hunter by Georgia Pellegrini? Also, I'm not fond of the title, but the photographs (portraits) and personal narratives in Lindsay McCrums' Chicks with Guns are interesting.

Ryan Sabalow said...

I've been hunting and around guns my whole life and I really don't like going into most gun stores. Too political. Too many gun-nut weirdos. The shops' workers also are prone to treating you like a dumbass when you have basic questions about stuff, especially when it comes to shotguns. Gun shops, in my experience, cater to pistol packers, riflemen and collectors. Once I brought an 870 into a shop for some minor fix and the owner basically ran me out of there, said my little $200 pumper wasn't worth his time. I didn't have very nice things to say to the a-hole. And I'm 6'4" and a dude. I couldn't imagine how intimidating it would be for a lady, especially a gal who'd never encountered his ilk before.

Anonymous said...

The book sounds interesting. I think it is good to understand where other people are coming from. However, I want to see it myself before I fork over my money. I don't want to buy something that I find out later just irritates me.

I am to the right of most of those posting here. but I don't belch "barak" either.


Holly Heyser said...

Blessed: I'll put out a reminder closer to June. There's much more I could say about the book, but I really wanted to get Lily on people's radar screens now. (OK, actually, I just can't resist the instant gratification of blogging what I want to say as soon as I want to say it.)

Rachel: I was thinking of you a LOT as I wrote this.

Pete: Yes, and agreed! Though it was funny: I know one of the women in "Chicks" and if I hadn't read the narrative I wouldn't have known it was her - she was so highly made up, and retouched (as is standard with portrait photography). I love the idea, that women and their guns can be art.

Ryan: I've been very lucky - all three gun shops I go to have been super nice and helpful. But I've heard horror stories about Bay Area gun shops. I'm thinking perhaps they get more belligerent as the ambient level of liberalness increases? No, wait, that doesn't explain gun shops in your area...

Jean: I don't think this would irritate you. And what a shame - I would love to see you belch "Barack." That would make awesome video.

Anonymous said...

My belching contests are pretty much a thing of the past. The last one was in a drafting room bullpen where a fellow and I competed on belching the alphabet and vowels in an IBC rootbeer challenge. The "and sometimes Y" was the killer for me.

Alas, the early nineties, my youth and most drafting room bullpens are gone.


Rich Mellott said...

This political leftness always affected me, even as a kid in the sixties...I would go duck hunting, and be the only long-haired, semi-hippie kid out there. I got a lot of stares, although nobody messed with me because I was armed! I also got into trouble as a young adult, because I wasn't a racist, and went hunting antelope with my friend, Ray, the postman, who also happened to be African American. We were out hunting, and a bunch of rednecks from the same town stopped and talked to us, and we thought, "friendly." Only they said something about me hunting with Ni***r Ray, and I practically threw down on the bunch of them. Ray just laughed it off, saying they were obviously a bunch of ignoramous punks, but it did put a strain on the day. I'm still finding my hunting buddies tend to be college educated, highly intelligent people, who just happen to like hunting. Only one of my hunting buddies is a real redneck, but he's tolerable in small doses, and is a dynamite duck hunter.
I recently took a young ladyfriend to the shooting range, and she was happy to have someone finally go to the trouble of following through on her oft repeated request. I don't know if she'd be amenable to hunting in the future, but it seems like she's pretty excited to shoot straight, and hit the target. We'll have to see. In the meantime, thanks for sharing about the book. Take care, R

Holly Heyser said...

Jean: I say next time we hunt together we revive the tradition. (Sigh, I used to be such a nice girl. It was way back in junior high, I think.)

Rich: I'm always amazed to hear about people who want to hunt not being able to get their hunting friends to take them out - good for you for working to get her out there!