The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 1: Big Game
As a new hunter and huge nerd, I've been on the lookout for really good, soup-to-nuts resources that would help me grow as a hunter. In the midst of that search, I encountered Steven Rinella's podcast and TV show. I've enjoyed them both thoroughly and was excited when I found his books since I was certain I'd enjoy them, too.
If you're a new hunter, these books are a great purchase though - if I'm being honest - they fell just short of what I was truly hoping they'd be.
The positives are many...
At a technical level: The writing is excellent. Topics are covered in depth and with excellent clarity. In the midst of every discussion, great stories and anecdotes are woven such that you feel like you're reading a beautiful cross between a manual/textbook and a hunting memoir. It's an engaging read that I found hard to put down. The book is VERY well organized and the ideas flow into one another in a very sensible way. As the author states, you'll want to read this book from cover-to-cover without skipping things. Concepts and illustrations build on the material that came before it, and there's a lot of information you can apply from one discussion (say hunting something as seemingly foreign to me as an East Coaster like bighorn sheep) to another (like the more recognizable whitetail deer).
Similarly, the last section of the book on butchering is clear, detailed, and beyond helpful... Principles for butchering large animals are presented in general terms where needed so you can apply concepts to whatever animal is in front of you. But specifics are given where appropriate, too.
In addition to the technical aspects of the book, it's absolutely beautiful. The photography, layout, and colors draw you into the book and make it all the more engaging. I'm not usually someone who gets into aesthetics, but this book's got 'em and I'm sure people who enjoy that more than I do will be well-pleased.
Throughout the authors make a beautiful case for conservation of both these beautiful animals and the public lands on which they can survive and be enjoyed by us all.
But, there are a couple of places where I felt the book just fell short of being EVERYTHING I'd hoped. For one thing, there's nothing on identifying sign and tracking... There's reference to rubs, scrapes, trails and the like in the varied sections on different animals. However, I can't think of a place where a photograph of any of them. As a novice woodsman, a big part of locating productive grounds and the animals that inhabit them will include being able to know what to look out for (short of an animal's silhouette slipping through the brush) and how to read the story it's trying to tell you. For example, I found what I thought was a scrape in the woods and, all excited with my newfound woodsman skills, showed it to another hunter. At a glance they said, "That's not a deer scrape. It's from a turkey." I'm sure that I'll make more mistakes like that in the woods until I have more experience - after all, nothing's better - but I think this is a definite gap in the book's content as a 'complete guide'.
I also think a little more practical examples might've been helpful... I'd have appreciated something like an example hunt for one of the more popular animals in the book (say elk, mule deer, or whitetail). Seeing pictures of a map and how the authors dissected it, where they entered, what they found scouting, how they approached the hunt based on that info, etc would've help me put the excellent information in the book in order inside my head.
So, if you're a new hunter, I think this book is a must read... I'm sure there are other, species-specific books that will include more nuggets pertaining to your animal of choice. But, I'm also confident that none of them will do more to make you a well-rounded hunter and put you in a better position to utilize the game you harvest than these books will. AND you'll just have a ton of fun reading it along the way.
(Side note: I have a decent background in firearms use and think that the firearms treatment here is very good - especially for the novice. However, I wonder whether some of the information - like understanding caliber, cartridges, etc - would've been better treated in a separate volume in order to focus more on the hunting-specific aspects of shooting or to leave room for some of the topics I thought were omitted. It's hard to figure out if I'm being biased here, so I just offer this as a note rather than a praise or critique.)