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

Friday, July 15, 2005

Life at Full Draw: The Chuck Adams Story by Gregg Gutschow

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by iHunt Communications, Clanhassen, Minnesota, 2002; 303 pages, 15 chapters. Hardcover.
"Could anyone be this good?" This book, an authorized biography, seeks to answer that question.
Chuck Adams. Any archer who doesn't know the name of the most prominent bowhunter today -- the one with the trademark smile and knit cap, the one often mentioned in the same breath as Howard Hill, Fred Bear and other archery luminaries -- isn't paying attention.

Adams has definitely earned his place in bowhunting history, and anyone who is intrigued by what it takes to have his amazing success wonders "Could anyone be this good?" This book, an authorized biography, seeks to answer that question.

How did Adams get into his line of "work"? As a 4.0 student in both high school and college. Adams could have and followed in the footsteps of his father (probably his closest friend) and had a comfortable life as an English professor. But from the time he was old enough to read, the articles in Outdoor Life convinced him he wanted to be an outdoor writer. An excellent education and knowledge based on field experience earned him his first job at Peterson's Hunting in 1974. Later he married, and could have settled down to a life with children, but could not have accomplished the goals he had with the responsibility of a family. And the incredible success of Chuck Adams has not come without sacrifice -- or controversy.

He knowingly sacrificed some joys for others, and the joy of children is one sacrifice he remains wistful about. A failed marriage was another sacrifice, although the book doesn't clearly address what role hunting played in that sad outcome. But the author of this biography shows no fear in addressing the controversial issues that have dogged Adams' career. As the first bowhunter to accomplish the "Super Slam," harvesting all 27 of North America's big game animals, Adams has had to overcome plenty of jealousy and criticism.

The bowhunting "Super Slam," countless articles in outdoor magazines, 111 Pope & Young entries, 5 bowhunting world records, and endorsements for archery manufacturers -- these have created strong opinions that range from admiration and idolizing to fraud and despising. Whatever your view, this book seeks to provide an accurate account of how Adams achieved his place in the world of bowhunting and attempts to answer many questions. What is Adams really like? Does he deal with doubt? Where did he get his work ethic? What is his attitude toward equipment? What do guides and outfitters say about him? What's that that toothy smile all about? And, perhaps the biggest question for many: Who finances Chuck's hunts?

One thing this book lacks is an index. Readers are always well-served by a good index so that people, places and events that the author found important enough to include can be easily referenced. A timeline would also be helpful in biographies. Those minor deficiencies aside, if you're wondering how this Superman with a stick and string has done it, this book will tell you. To get Life at Full Draw at a 34% discount, go to

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Wild At Heart by John Eldredge

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tenneesee, 2001; 223 pages, 12 chapters; indexed. Hardcover.
“For after years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion… and a man no longer believes he is a man.”
When a man sets out for adventure, whether through hunting, sailing, mountain climbing, dog sledding, or any other traditionally masculine enterprise, the age-old “battle between the sexes” often rears its head. Many women simply don’t understand what makes a man tick — and even though men might know what winds their clocks, they often don’t know why. The result is that both men and women misunderstand men. Whether you’re a man or woman, this book offers insight into why men are the way they are, and assure us all that it’s not only good, but necessary.

Some observations are in order: First, this book is only indirectly about hunting in that it focuses on why men enjoy their traditional masculine pursuits. Second, it contains a clear and unapologetic Christian worldview. That doesn’t necessarily mean the author’s views strictly religious, nor is it an attempt to convert anyone. But it’s worth noting before you buy the book that it contains many references to biblical narratives, along with plenty of literary and motion picture allusions that make it easy to read. Third, this book is a significant publication in what today is called “the men’s movement.” Some people ridicule and criticize that, but a person doesn’t have to wholly subscribe to something in order to see the value in it. If you can accept that men and women are created for different purposes, then it is obvious that they have different needs and interests, and consequently participate in life in different ways. That should be no threat to any man or woman, whether they agree with the author or not.

The main point in Wild at Heart is that men need (1) a battle to fight, (2) an adventure to live, and (3) a beauty to win. These three endeavors answer the basic question the author believes every man has: What is a man for? Sadly, the man of the 21st century is taught that he shouldn’t fight, that adventure is risky, and that women have little or no need of him. Women are not forgotten by the author; women yearn to be fought for, need an adventure to share, and desire to have a beauty to unveil. Men and women are equal but different, and they complement one another.

Eldredge teaches that every boy is called to become a man, and that a boyish heart must continue to live within the man. This is important, although it is criticized as immature in today’s American society. But perhaps the best account of what is wrong with contemporary man is found in the author’s portrait of a lion in a zoo, a proud and fierce animal which, in the confines of a cage, has lost its purpose. The author says, “For after years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion… and a man no longer believes he is a man.”

Eldredge says that men must relearn what it means to be alive and true to their inner selves, including the individual’s right relationship to the woman in his life. This book will do some good toward those ends. It will also help the hunter to understand his passion for the hunt and its proper place in his life. It's worth reading, and from, it's less than $15 -- a small price for what it teaches you about yourself.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Mapping Trophy Bucks by Brad Herndon

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by Krause Publications, Iola, WI, 2003; 191 pages, 14 chapters; indexed.
Since a master's degree in hunting mature whitetails isn't available, you can do no better than immerse yourself in this book.
Most Pennsylvania hunters don't consider themselves trophy hunters. But as long as the current antler restriction policy protects spikes, four-points, and six-points in many areas, we might as well hunt as though deer are older and smarter, because they are. And Brad Herndon's Mapping Trophy Bucks promises to help us hunt more intelligently and increase our odds of getting a shot at a 2½, 3½ or 4½ year old buck, a few more of which are roaming our woodlands.

His book could be a textbook for a master's degree in whitetail hunting. If it were, its course description would read something like this: "How to use topographic maps, aerial photos and plat books to develop a terrain strategy, giving consideration to wind and approach avenues, to find and predict when to use high-percentage stands for harvesting mature whitetail deer in forest and farmland." Since a master's degree in hunting mature whitetails isn't available, you can do no better than immerse yourself in this book.

According to Herndon, hunting mature bucks is all about terrain strategy. He ignores the products that promise to make us better hunters -- scents, calls, camouflage, cartridges, tree stands -- because these things are far less important than terrain and wind. If you don't handle terrain and wind correctly, your success may be dependent on nothing more reliable than luck.

The average hunter knows that certain things can't be changed. These factors include hills, streams, croplands and access to land. Topographical features — saddles, points, edges and benches — are givens. But wind is a variable, and the greatest unseen factor on the hunt.

The wind that snakes through our valleys and washes up and down our hillsides is a great betrayer. We have a very difficult time dealing with it, we are often tempted to ignore it, and it costs us more shots at bucks than we know. Wind is fickle, and it's easy to see why the hilly country that is home to our whitetails is such difficult terrain to hunt. We can be thankful that Herndon doesn't oversimplify the wind nor mention it as though all we needed was a reminder to hunt into it.

He says, "You can't change the wind, but you can understand how the wind changes." He explains how the unpredictable nature of the thermals and vacuums that drift around our hunting grounds interact with terrain features and how we can learn to use them to neutralize the whitetail's greatest defense — his nose.

With chapters detailing the many terrain features deer use, Herndon explains how to identify hubs, funnels, and other places where deer are concentrated. He explains why a stand at a double inside corner of a pasture or crop field is only half as effective as a single inside corner. He advises that your approach to a stand site is as important as identifying the site. He even covers how to make a trail that deer will adopt. The variety of terrain features and land uses make it critical that we understand how they relate to deer behavior and air currents. The more thought we put into our strategy, the more successful we will be because "Good thinking pays off," he says.

The book includes a chapter with a national perspective covering record book trophies — how to zero in on where they come from, how to judge them, and several stories about some of the biggest. This will not likely offer Pennsylvania hunters any advantage in hunting home stomping grounds, but it is interesting and it rounds out the emphasis on trophy whitetails.

The final chapter called "Dot-Com Deer Hunting" includes helpful information on how the hunter can access topographic maps and aerial photos online.

This 191-page, 8" x 11" book is well illustrated, includes numerous maps and drawings used as case-studies for the lessons Herndon teaches, and it even has an index, which always makes a good book better.

It's already time to begin planning your next whitetail season, and for about the price of a box of shells, Mapping Trophy Bucks is available at, and might be your best resource for positioning yourself within bow or gun range of a mature buck. Whether you're a trophy hunter or not, deer hunting is more challenging than ever and the lessons here will aid your success.