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The Roving Sportsman… Reading By the Fireplace

Temperatures are slowly trending downward, the daylight hours get shorter with each passing day, and soon the landscape will be covered in a layer of white. Many of us will reduce our time out of doors and turn to inside activities as the onset of winter doldrums sets in. A great pastime for the months of “cabin fever” is to settle into the easy chair next to the fireplace with a good book about the sports we love. One of my favorite authors whose books I love to read and highly recommend is Steven Rinella.

Steven Rinella, who many of you will recognize as the host of the increasingly popular TV show “MeatEater,” has long been a favorite communicator of mine. On his show, he is articulate and portrays a very positive image of hunters, outdoorsmen, and conservationists. He is a hunter who advocates “fair chase” hunting and always includes as part of each TV episode the field care or cooking of whatever he is pursuing at the time.

He shows continual respect for the animals that he hunts and thus presents a great example of what a responsible hunter should be. His writings are straightforward and are good examples of how we can share the ideas of hunting with our non-hunting friends — and even those who are anti-hunting — but perhaps, open-minded enough to listen. His books are both entertaining and extremely informative as well.

Because he is such an outstanding ambassador for hunting, I am very happy to recommend any and all of his books.

In 2005, Steven Rinella penned the book “A Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine.” It was inspired by the famous French chef and author August Escoffier. It chronicled Rinella’s humorous and often adventure-filled quest to collect the ingredients for a forty-five-course feast that was presented in Escoffier’s book, Le Guide Culinaire, written in 1903. This book remains today as the greatest haute cuisine cookbook ever written. All of that may seem a bit dull and uninteresting, but trust me, it really is an enjoyable read.

Rinella’s next book, “American Buffalo — In Search of an Icon,” was published in 2008 after Steven won a lottery permit to hunt a wild buffalo in the Alaska wilderness. Despite the odds, Rinella managed to kill a buffalo and then raft the meat back to civilization while being trailed by grizzly bears and suffering from hypothermia. “American Buffalo” is a narrative tale of Rinella’s hunt, but it also takes us across the continent in search of the buffalo’s past, present, and future.

Rinella is the perfect guide for a book that combines outdoor adventure with a blend of facts and observations about history, biology, and the natural world.

Published in 2012, “Meat Eater — Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter” tells us of Rinella’s lifelong relationship with nature and hunting via the telling of ten hunting adventures. They begin when he is an aspiring mountain man at age ten and end as a thirty-seven-year-old Brooklyn father who hunts in the remotest corners of North America. Stories include fur trapping, fishing for steelhead, canoeing in search of mule deer, and hunting the elusive Dall sheep in the mountains of Alaska.

Through each story, he reveals the role of the hunter in shaping America, the ethics of killing, the responsibilities that human predators have to their prey, and the disappearance of the hunter himself as Americans lose their connection with the way their food finds its way to their tables.

In 2015, Rinella wrote “The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game.” It is a two-volume set, with Volume One covering Big Game and Volume Two addressing Small Game and Fowl. Each of these volumes discusses gear and the basics of hunting tactics and strategies for each of the species covered. Then, a complete “how-to” illustrates field care and butchering of each animal, with a final chapter on cooking methods and recipes to maximize the flavor of the outstanding table fare that they yield.

If you are looking for some great reading material to help you overcome this winter’s cabin fever, any of Steven Rinella’s books will do just that. They are all entertaining, and you might just learn a trick or two along the way!