I suppose the tradition of sitting around a campfire swapping tall tales probably began shortly after Early Man figured out how to hunt for survival. Fast forward several thousand years and hunting has become more recreation than necessity, but the stories of the 'one that got away' are still spun year after year with the tradition of "deer camp".
Nearly everyone who has pursued big game has had exciting moments and close calls, but there haven't been a lot of books written about the experience. Whitetail Nation by Pete Bodo is a surprising gem in the male-driven world of hunting and hunting stories, given its straightforward and, dare I say, humble nature.
This non-fiction work follows one season in which Bodo, a lifelong New York resident and outdoor writer, decides that he is going to finally fulfill his dream of harvesting a buck worthy of record books. Although the premise of the story seems pretty common, how honest Bodo is about his many mistakes is not.
Traveling from his own local woods to Montana, Texas, Pennsylvania and even Saskatchewan, Bodo is frustrated, inspired and outfoxed by North American's most beloved member of the Cervidae family, which also includes elk, mule deer, caribou and moose. The love-hate relationship this avid sportsman has with the whitetail deer becomes more endearing even as his many attempts to find a monster buck mostly come up empty.
The book is far more than a testosterone-laden tale of man vs. beast. It dissects the many facets of deer hunting using both firearm and compound bow, offering a back-to-basics explanation of bullet calibers, broadhead design, treestands, and calls. He also explains in detail some of the biology behind the sport: the herd hierarchy before and during the mating season, or rut, antler growth, deer behaviors and even how weather factors into a successful hunt.
Bodo's travels take him through all sorts of terrain, which he describes so vividly that you can nearly smell the sun -drenched field grasses and hear the crunch of snow under his boots. During visits to colleagues, he reflects on the pros and cons of managed (high-fence ranches) hunts, the political future of the sport, and a "deeper understanding of the natural world that had such a shaping influence on my nation's history and my own life."
Whitetail Nation is a unique blend of laugh-out-loud funny stories and eye-opening, even harsh realities. Both seasoned hunters and novices, as well as anyone with an appreciation for our native fauna, will enjoy it.
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin