The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game (Volume 1: Big Game) By Steven Rinella.
Spiegel & Grau, New York, NY.
Reviewed by G. David Parris(To reach Dave, email him at: Email)
Steven Rinella is probably best known for his television show, “Meateater”, and perhaps another television series, “The Wild Within”. His television work is certainly remarkable in the huge swath of hunting, fishing, and general outdoor programming available today. Many who have seen his work say, over and over, “He’s the real deal.”
He does not jump out of helicopters or deliberately get himself in trouble, but he does showcase and explain elements of common-sense outdoor survival. What really humanizes him for viewers is that he is well-known to show the reality of hunting: the cold and discomfort, injuries, consequences of stupid mistakes, and spending weeks out in the backcountry just to come home empty-handed. When he does harvest an animal, there is no hooting and jumping around that is all too common (and off-putting) with a lot of hunting shows out there. Instead, he treats the subject with a palpable reverence and respect that any ethical hunter can relate to. In addition to the television shows he’s hosted, he also produces shows and appears as a guest on others’ shows.
What may be surprising to a lot of his viewers is that he truly shines as an author, and has a writing style that is relatable and down-to-earth. He has written numerous articles for a wide variety of well-known national magazines, and not all of them were directly outdoor-related content. Prior to this book, he has written three excellent books that I would recommend to anybody, hunter or not, outdoor enthusiast or not, simply due to their readability and informative entertainment value: “The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine”, “American Buffalo”, and “Meat Eater”. In all of these the reader will find a rich blend of history, biology, backcountry skill, personal reflection, and a healthy seasoning of wry humor. It would be untrue to suggest that I haven’t laughed out loud while reading his work, and I don’t often laugh out loud while reading.
For Rinella’s latest project, he has compiled just what the title promises, a “complete guide to hunting, butchering, and cooking wild game”. The sections are organized well, beginning with “Gear”, a comprehensive explanation of environment-specific equipment to bring along (and leave at home) for any budget. The second section, “Tactics and Strategies” outlines various techniques used by hunters for thousands of years, with many suggestions for different species following in the third section, “Big Game: Species and Methods”.
The fourth section, “Butchering”, covers everything from field-dressing and skinning, to proper removal of a javelina’s musk gland, to utilizing as much of the animal as possible (such as fat and internal organs), to proper cuts and long-term storage. The fifth section, “Cooking Big Game”, is full of great mouth-watering recipes that can be applied to a wide variety of species. It even has step-by-step instructions for coal-pit cooking a deer’s head for the more daring and industrious game chef who is committed to using every part of the animal whenever possible.
The entire book is full of high-quality photographs, and clear illustrations and step-by-step diagrams. There are also “guest” sections offering advice and experience from many hunters around the country. It would be easy to conceive that a person with little to no experience could study this book and come out with a 100- to 200- college-level understanding of the many aspects of hunting wild game. Of course, they’d still need field experience with a seasoned vet, but this would save them a lot of confusion and bumbling that many of us experienced in our early years. As to those seasoned vets, they can get a lot out of the book, too, as nobody knows everything about anything.
Constant self-education and furthering of knowledge is essential to any pursuit. As we are open to new knowledge, we can only improve our game, taking in new techniques and sometimes discarding long-held beliefs based on myth and misinformation. If you decide to buy this book as a gift, buy two so you can keep one for yourself.
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