BOOK REVIEWS THAT INTEREST THE EVERYDAY HUNTER. If you have a book you'd like reviewed here, email

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Kill It & Grill It: A Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, by Ted & Shemane Nugent

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen

Published by Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 2002; 203 pages, 22 chapters; indexed.
Underlying the cooking theme is Nugent’s reverence for wildlife and his unapologetic explanation of what it takes for wildlife to thrive in the modern world.
Love him or hate him, the rock & roll legend Ted Nugent is probably the most outspoken advocate for “blood sports” today. And when he turns to the domestic side of hunting — the preparation and cooking of wild game meat — you’ll find it a lot harder to hate him because you’ll love the dishes he prepares and the way he talks about them.

My first exposure to Nugent as a hunter was in the pages of a print magazine and my impression was — let’s just say it could have been better. Since then, he has grown on me. I learned that if you come to him with expectations, you’ll be disappointed. If you come with an open mind, he’ll sidle up to you and share some wit and wisdom in a way that no one else can. In fact, I must admit that he has turned some phrases I wish I could have written.

The attitude of this book is “Life is a BBQ” (a direct Nugent quote), and most of the 22 chapters are followed by one or more recipes. Underlying the cooking theme is Nugent’s reverence for wildlife and his unapologetic explanation of what it takes for wildlife to thrive in the modern world. Nugent argues that habitat destruction, not the hunter, poses the greatest threat to wildlife; that the cruelty of nature offers no reason for man not to participate; that hunters are the greatest conservationists; and that wildlife is a renewable resource. These are truths that hunters should shout from the mountaintops.

This book is both serious and fun. He isn’t afraid to tell you what he thinks. (Check his opinion about Janet Reno on page 66.) And despite a liberal helping of run-on sentences and made-up words, you always know what he is talking about. Here’s a typical sentence: “With long, coarse hair in black, brown, red, gold, silver, calico, brindle, and varying combinations and shades of all of the above, accented with spectacular razor-sharp ivory jutting out of their prehistoric lips, and a disposition that only me, their mothers, and God could love, these huge, ornery beasts are just what the good BBQ doctor ordered for a weary old rock ‘n’ roll guitarboy to cleanse the soul and humble the heart.” In case there remains any uncertainty about what meat he is praising, he continues, “If nature heals, pork exhilarates.”

Although this old rocker and roller is a true family man who advocates clean living, think of his book as having a PG-13 rating for it’s occasional use of language and erotic imagery. Shemane (Mrs. Nugent) offers her point of view in a couple of chapters, and she is as entertaining as Ted himself. Don’t miss her story about bison hunting on their honeymoon (Chapter 11), or her own view of fresh flesh (Chapter 14) along with a few dessert recipes. I plan to try her recipe for “Coca Cola Stew” in Chapter 13. Chapter 3 (by Ted) is about do-it-yourself butchering, which will be of particular interest to hunters who’ve finally decided to butcher their own deer. The book also includes 8 pages of trophy game photos and ends appropriately with an appendix of conservation organizations every hunter should be familiar with.

Kill It & Grill It is worth having in your kitchen. It’s a unique cookbook for sure, and every game-feasting hunter should have a copy. It is available from The hardcover is just $14.93 and the paperback is only $11.53 (32% off the list prices).

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Coyote Soul, Raven Heart by Reg Darling

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
"I knew, long before I could articulate it,
that what happened in the woods was healing."
Coyote Soul, Raven Heart: Meditations of a Hunter-Wanderer, by Warren, PA philosopher and traditional archer Reg Darling, is an assembly of essays and journal entries -- part autobiography, part nature philosophy and part social analysis.

Some readers will be disappointed. If you're uncomfortable with controversy, you'll be antagonized. If your worldview is pro-business or exclusively Western, you'll find yourself in principle disagreement. If you are an animal rightist -- or not -- you'll be frustrated. If you find his occasional profanities gratuitous or stumble over his references to the joys of certain human behaviors, you'll miss the value in this book. Darling is a maverick and he prides himself as such. In the tradition of mavericks, he is a combination of humility and arrogance, and he'd like to challenge you.

Let none of that stop you from reading this book because Reg Darling is an uncommonly good writer. If he ever becomes widely known (and he deserves to be), some of his meditations will be classics -- on par with the best of outdoor writing. He releases sentence after sentence like arrows into the heart of the target. His piece entitled "A Fletcher's Meditation" is one example. "That the perfect flight of an arrow loosed with courage, confidence and concentration can bring us sustenance from the land is a great wonder."

"Camo" is another essay that repeatedly hits the mark. He views brightly colored noisy nylon clothing as disrespectful and irreverent toward the land, and goes on to say "Camouflage is simply the visual component of quietness." Clear, direct, substantial, and poetic. If you're fishing for quality sentences in quality essays, here is deep water loaded with lunkers.

While most of his views are understandable, occasionally he offers something mystifying, such as this journal entry relating to his teenage son: "Coffee is an adult treat Oren is allowed only on cold hunting days." It strikes me as oddly patronizing and controlling, especially given Darling's resistance to cultural norms and the confession of some of his own personal propensities.

A few of his descriptions seem unlikely, almost unbelievable, such as his account of hearing a coyote breathing as it paralleled him in the dark. But he admits later, "I look for meaning in things. I am probably excessive in that habit, and sometimes stretch desire-driven speculation pretty thin…."

Reg Darling is part child of the 60's, part Pleistocene man who shuns mechanical weaponry. Non-conformist blood runs in his veins. Hunting is a spiritual matter for him, but he is a little pessimistic about where it is headed. Not every hunter will identify with him and you don't need to agree with him in order to appreciate his writing -- but he might just change your mind about a thing or two.

You won't be able to pigeonhole Darling even after you have read his book, but you'll probably respect him and his philosophy. Perhaps the topic sentence of the entire book is on page 3: "I knew, long before I could articulate it, that what happened in the woods was healing." If you believe that, you'll get along with Reg Darling.

Coyote Soul, Raven Heart ends with a 7-page bibliography. The references it lists are not overtly cited in the book's 180-plus pages, so a paragraph on why it is included would be helpful. It seems to be a listing of the most formative works that brought Darling to his worldview, and offers an exceptionally good reading list for the thinking hunter.

I can't resist one more line from the quotable Reg Darling: "The meat matters. It is the umbilical cord that connects the hunter to Mother Earth." I like that. Coyote Soul, Raven Heart is published by iUniverse (2005) and is available online at