The hunting story follows human language back to the very beginning. And luckily for us bibliophiles, there’s now a hunting book, app, and Kindle to tell it.
Hunters know that stories abound the world over — and most spin plenty of tall tales of their own. It’s easy to search the web and find a whole swath of hunting books sitting at the top of the charts. And those books about hunting are often entertaining, educational, and important.
But it turns out that there are plenty of books that tell hunting stories without entirely branding them as such. Perhaps the hunt involves a cinematographer, a camera battery at 50 percent, and an elk rut shaking out around her and the hunters she’s documenting. Perhaps it’s a lauded gourmand recapping his life with bird dogs and expensive bottles of wine.
It could also be a 1984 expedition into the Arctic, where a writer walks among natives — both wildlife and human — to learn the ways of their northern world. Or it could simply just be a collection of classic tried-and-true hunting stories, collected into one place for all to enjoy.
I gathered up a few of my favorites that walk the line and tell the tales. Among these best hunting books, I hope you find a few new favorites of your own.
Best Hunting Books
‘Traplines: Coming Home to Sawtooth Valley‘ by John Rember
I picked up “Traplines” off a bookshelf in the back of the Polebridge Mercantile outside of Glacier National Park. That weekend, it became a fast favorite.
Author John Rember tells the tale of his life spent in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley. And he masterfully (and hilariously) weaves in the history of Sawtooth Valley, the plight of the salmon, learning to hunt with his father, and more.
I love this book. I reread it every year at least once. And it deserves a place on that coveted bookshelf.
‘American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains‘ by Dan Flores
If you’ve ever flown over middle America and stared down at the neverending grid of corn and suburbia, wondering what this place looked like before we plastered “for sale” signs and white picket fences all over it, this is the book to pick up.
Flores is a masterful writer and storyteller, and he delves into the wild history of the great plains. And, more specifically, he parcels out how the wildlife that makes its home there has fared through the colonization of the plains.
If hunting a bison or a pronghorn is on your list, get this book in your hands to better understand their plight.
‘Great American Hunting Stories,’ Edited by Lamar Underwood
I like essay collections, and this one is particularly cool. It includes a lot of writing by big names in history like Theodore Roosevelt, Zane Grey, and William T. Hornaday.
This collection spans the globe, from getting charged by lions in the African bush to bird hunting in the American South. This particular collection published just this summer, so it’s hot off the press and ready for readin’ by a roaring fireplace.
‘My Place Among Men: Misadventures in the Wild‘ by Kris Millgate
Kris Millgate works as a journalist, covering hunting, conservation, public lands, and more. Her work puts her squarely among professions where women are rare — thus the title. This book is chock full of stories from a behind-the-lens perspective.
There are moments in “My Place Among Men” that knock you off your feet. One that springs to mind is Millgate navigating a motherhood moment while teaching her young son how to dance on a dirt road. It’s poignant. The middle school fears of the first dance are very present, and the whole scene shifts from that that primal sense of prepubescent awkwardness to joy.
This woman’s perspective of working among men — from both of her sons to hunters in the elk woods, fishermen, biologists, and a male grizzly waking up from a nap — is enlightening and makes for riveting reading.
‘The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine‘ by Steven Rinella
The doyen of contemporary hunting writers, Steven Rinella’s first book remains my favorite. He wrote “Scavenger’s Guide” back in 2007, before television shows and outdoor media mogul status and best-sellers.
And this book retains a familial and gritty charm, as Rinella takes on navigating and carrying out a wild game feast like no other. He chases down pigeons, snapping turtles, stingrays, and more to create a meal built on recipes from Escoffier’s 116-year-old “Le Guide Culinaire.”
‘H Is for Hawk‘ by Helen McDonald
This is (1) a beautiful book and (2) a book about an interspecies relationship with a primordial hunter. McDonald weaves her way through mortality and relationships while training and hunting with a goshawk.
The writing within this book is both stunning and crisp, and it won, oh, about a billion awards. If you haven’t read it, it’s a killer read, and both the paperback and Kindle versions are under $6 each.
‘Off to the Side: A Memoir‘ by Jim Harrison
If you haven’t read Harrison by this point in your life, shame on you. And if I’d left him out of this list, the shame would be on me.
Harrison is a personal favorite writer of mine for both prose and poetry. And his memoir is fun, elegant, and delightfully twisted in a way that leaves you wishing you were tableside, stories rolling, a fire roaring, a glass of good wine in hand, with bird dogs sleeping at your feet.
He takes on a variety of his personal obsessions throughout. And, to be frank, I’d give this an R-rated review if it was a movie. He does dedicate an entire section to strippers. But he also dedicates an entire portion of the book to his own sporting tradition. And it’s pretty darn spectacular.
This book is a bit of an underdog, and you likely haven’t heard of it. But I love it.
Ron Mills is the old West as it lives in this moment, and this book is a gift from that tradition. His life on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front is full of “campfire and horse sweat,” as the lauded writer Hal Herring puts it in the foreword. And Mills is certainly and definitively not a writer.
But that’s what makes this book so charming and deliriously fun. These are campfire stories, written down. They’re colloquial and cozy, and they’re full of grizzlies, floods, hypothermia, hunting, and much more. He covers the gamut of his life, and it’s just a kick in the Wranglers. Promise.
‘Arctic Dreams‘ by Barry Lopez
I’ve loved this book for years. My copy is old, it’s ragged, and the edges of the pages are in that tired state of use that shows a certain kind of love for the writing.
“Arctic Dreams” hit the shelves in 1984, yet the book feels crisp, new, and prescient when it comes to the climate issues the Arctic faces today. Lopez digs deep — 496 pages deep — into the life, wildlife, hunting traditions, and cultural world of the Arctic Circle.
Frankly, it’s a spectacular, deliberate, and stunning literary opus that — in my very important opinion — is a perfect example of the highest echelon of writing. Can’t say much more. And y’all, it’s free to read on your Kindle if you have an Amazon Prime membership.
‘A Hunter’s Heart: Honest Essays on Blood Sport,’ Edited by David Petersen
I list this book almost entirely because of the inclusion of my all-time favorite hunting essay “The Heart of the Game” by Tom McGuane. But, of course, it holds a swath of other great writers including President Jimmy Carter, Rick Bass, Terry Tempest Williams, and Ed Abbey.
I’d be doing it an injustice if I didn’t mention that the collection itself is impressive. But McGaune’s essay is particularly perfect. I found it over a decade ago in the collection “The Best of Outside: The First 20 Years.” It categorically changed my former non-hunter views on what hunting could be. And, really, it was the lead-in to my own journey as a sportswoman today.
You can read McGuane’s full essay here, but it’s worth putting it on your shelf. And if you’re putting it there, you’re certainly not making a mistake by having it live in this particular collection of hunting writing.
‘The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance‘ by Tovar Cerulli
I love this book for one primary reason: It’s a clear-cut outlier in the world of the traditional hunting story.
Cerulli documents his life as both a vegetarian and an eventual vegan. This book goes through the ins and outs of how our food relates back to the life cycle. It takes the reader through Cerulli’s deeply personal journey of deciding to put his own meat on the table through hunting.
This is the kind of book anyone and everyone can read and understand from an eating perspective. And voices like this have the power to change the public’s relationship with hunting.