To many in Western Pennsylvania, autumn is more than beautiful foliage and a growing chill. Fall marks the onset of deer season, the annual migration to State Game Lands or private tracts in pursuit of America’s most ubiquitous game animal, the whitetail deer. Few activities are so shrouded in myth, misperception and controversy. For hunters and non-hunters alike, Carnegie Library has scores of interesting and informative titles.
In my own reading I was lucky with an early find, Bloodties: Nature, Culture, and the Hunt by Ted Kerasote. If you can only read one book about hunting, this is it. My own recent path into hunting was a winding and twisted one, from dalliances with vegetarianism all the way to some sort of neolithic spirituality couched in the desire to consume vension. Reading Kerasote’s book was a great relief; other people had wrestled with the same concerns and arrived in similiar places. The book is something of a survey, illuminating a spectrum between Inuit subsistence hunters and wealthy American businessmen on the hunt for record-breaking trophies abroad. Kerasote also spends time with anti-hunting activists and shares his experiences with the nature surrounding his Wyoming home. This book is a must-read, especially for non-hunters.
Controversy between hunters and non-hunters seems trite compared to the bitter debates between hunters, other hunters, the biologists working at the behest of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and anyone either concerned with PA’s habitat or just upset because the deer keep eating their shrubbery. This fascinating book, Deer Wars: Science, Tradition, and the Battle Over Managing Whitetails in Pennsylvania by Bob Frye, provides the ins and outs of these contentious issues. How many deer can Pennsylvania’s various habitats support? How many should be hunted, how many bucks vs. how many does?
Hunting is fascinating if only for the links we can trace to our hunting and gathering ancestors. It’s hard to even imagine what it must have been like to live before farming and its surpluses changed things so profoundly. Some anthropologists make their careers out of reconstructing how people might have survived back then. CLP has a gem of a book by one such individual, George C. Frison, pioneering founder of the University of Wyoming Anthropology Department. His fascinating book Survival by Hunting: Prehistoric Human Predators and Animal Prey is packed with details about prehistoric hunting. An unexpected treasure is the first section where Frison relates his life experience, especially during his youth, around animals and hunting. Frison grew up on a farm during the depression and describes a completely alien world to most of us city dwellers.
Finally, for hunters new and old, CLP has all sorts of books with advice and instruction, for bowhunters too, and some very helpful guides to processing and getting the most from deer. The library also boasts many, many books to help anyone in the woods more fully appreciate the habitat. It’s nice to know what kind of trees you may be looking at, or leaning against and dozing off. There are some great books on tracking and sign, which will help answer the question, “who left that poo there?”
Don’t forget these titles celebrating whitetails:
I just can’t get enough of these creatures.