SOME GOOD OUTDOOR READS
by Luke Clayton
Photo by Luke Clayton
Outdoors writer Bob Hood takes a leisure summertime float trip on the Brazos River. It might be a bit too cold for such endeavors now but the timing is perfect for reading about the outdoors!
As a full time outdoors writer, radio show host, outfitter for ducks and hog hunts here in Texas and elk in Colorado, I obviously spend a great deal of time in the outdoors. But when I am house bound during inclement weather I thoroughly enjoy reading. I have a passion for the outdoors; I bet you do as well. I can only keep you entertained and hopefully enlighten for a few minutes here with this column each week but I can share with you some of my favorite Ďoutdoor readsí to help keep you entertained by some of the masters.
I have about ten books that cover different aspects of the outdoor experience that I read time after time, much to my wifeís puzzlement. ďThere you are, reading that same book Iíve seen you read a hundred times,Ē she says when she sees me thumbing through the pages of Hell I Was There by Elmer Keith or The Corey Ford Sporting Treasury.
The truth is, when one reads with my intensity, itís easy to make friends with the characters and enjoy returning to revisit their lives time after time.
Whether I am hunting with the author via his written account of a hunt in the tall grass for Simba on the Serengeti Plains or stalking Mountain Goats in the British Columbia high country, each time I read the book, I remember bits and pieces of the authorís experiences and, usually discover something Iíve overlooked in previous readings. My habit of re-reading my favorite books might not be for everybody, but it brings me untold hours of pleasure when the weather is simply too rough to get outside. I usually spend thirty minutes or so each night just before bedtime relaxing with one of the classic tales of hunting or fishing. Although I have several favorite reads, I am always on the lookout for another good book to add to my collection.
If I had to choose one short story that is my all time favorite, it would have to be The Road To Tinkhamtown by Corey Ford. This account is of an old hunter obviously on his death bed reliving hunts with his favorite pointer, Shad for grouse in the beautiful fall woods somewhere in New England. Ford was a master with words and it is next to impossible for anyone that has ever loved a hunting dog not to tear up a bit after reading this masterpiece. In the book, Ford writes, ďthe past never changes. You leave it and go on to the present, but it's still there, waiting for you to come back to it.Ē
Not all Fordís work was this serious, for years he wrote a monthly humor column for a major outdoor magazine that he called ďMinutes of the Lower FortyĒ. His characters in this fictitious hunting and fishing club were actually spin offs of his real life hunting and fishing buddies. Itís impossible for me to read one paragraph of any of these short stories without smiling and thinking about guys Iíve hunted and fished with that could easily qualified as members of Fordís Lower Forty.
What would a cold winter be like without me re-reading One Manís Wilderness, the story of Richard Proenneke living in the wilds of Alaska and constructing a snug cabin from logs he cut around his homestead. Iím sure many of you have watched the documentary on public television about Proennekeís adventures in the wilderness. The book is a diary of sorts that chronicles an entire year of wilderness life. Proenneke begins his account of his adventures upon arriving at Twin Lakes in May, 1968. The book ends with his departure back into civilization a year later.
If itís sheer excitement youíre looking for, consider reading The Man Eaters of Tsavo by Lt. Colonel J.H. Patterson or Trails of a Wilderness Traveler By Andy Russell. Both books will keep you eagerly awaiting your next chance to turn your reading lamp on and spend a few minutes of high adventure with guys that lived lives that many of us only dream of.
I am currently reading The Best of Nash Buckingham and can readily see that it will become one of the books on my annual re-read list. Buckingham was a noted outdoors writer that cut his teeth shooting mallards and pintail in the Memphis area back in the glory days of waterfowling. I can guarantee you, if you pay close attention to his writing, you will glean tips that will help make you a better shotgunner. Nash was a master at what was then called wildfowl hunting (ducks and geese) as well as upland birds. He grew up during an era when the only bag limits placed of ducks were self imposed by members of the club where he and his father hunted. Fifty duck days were considered the norm back in those bygone years and Nash seldom failed to bag his limit!
If youíre in need of a good laugh, or many good laughs, pick up a copy of Gene Hillís A Hunterís Fireside Book. Hillís short stories such as The Old Duck Hunter or Keeping Warm are sure to cure your case of winterís cabin fever.
If you would like to learn more about curing hams at home, sausage making, etc., then Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by Rytek Kutas is a must read. Kutas walks the newcomer to sausage making through the basic steps of making great tasting sausages at home. You can also learn how easy it is to cure and smoke pork and prepare great tasting jerky. This is a thick, 500 page book and has served me well as a reference on game meat processing for many years.
If you are in an introspective mood and would like to go back to a simpler time, read THE POND by Robert Murphy. This classic is about a young boy learning about hunting and fishing and life on his fatherís hunting land situated a 2 hour Model T drive away from his home in the city.
Hell I Was There by Elmer Keith is a must read for any hunter. Keith was small in stature but had the heart of a lion and eyes of an eagle, one of the reasons for his fame as a long range pistol shot. Keith takes you back to the old west days when he grew up on a wilderness ranch near Salmon, Idaho, back when the west was really wild!
My yearly reading list includes The Best of Jack OíConnor. OíConner is best known as the gun writer that made the .270-caliber famous. His writing is crisp, clear and leaves little to the readerís imagination.
Oh, yes, thereís another book I read every year, its titled Texas Hunting and Fishing and was penned by yours truly. I wrote the book back in the mid to late nineties. Itís been out of print now for at least 5 years but copies are still available through Amazon and other used book markets. While my works wonít hold a candle to the works of the masters, it does give a pretty good account of the adventures of a writer who spent his life tramping the fields and exploring the waters of the Lone Star State.
Want even more of Luke's hunting/fishing tips and tricks, wild game recipes etc?
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