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

Monday, June 26, 2006

Super Slam! Adventures with North American Big Game by Chuck Adams

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by IHunt Communications, Clanhassen, Minnesota, 2003; 351 pages, 28 chapters. Hardback with pictorial cover.
One of its biggest values is to remind us
that faraway continents are not the only places
to experience hunts for exotic animals.
Field experience is the bread and butter of the top outdoor writers. I learned that from my Alaska moose hunt, succeeding in placing two stories in national magazines. Do that once, and it's small time. Do it over and over again and it's big time, and for big time bowhunting experience, no name is bigger than Chuck Adams. With more than twice as many animals in the bowhunting record books than any other hunter, his archery exploits are legendary.

Borrowing a term from baseball, when a hunter harvests all four North American sheep subspecies, or four wild turkey subspecies, it's labeled a "grand slam." So Adams' latest book "Super Slam: Adventures with North American Big Game" is an extension of that idea. It's named for the feat of arrowing all 27 big game animals on our continent. Most of his trophies have antlers, horns or skulls that score high enough to make the bowhunting record book. Several ranked number 1 at the time of harvest, and he still owns the top spot for Rocky Mountain Elk. He was first to complete the "slam" in 1990 -- and since then few others have joined him.

His vast field experience has resulted in nearly 5000 magazine articles and the all-time best-selling bowhunting books -- and even won him an honorary doctorate from Williamsport's Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Penn State.

Even so, it doesn't come without having some considerable advantages, paying hefty dues, and a bit of luck. If you're interested in how Chuck Adams got his start, the challenges he's faced, and what keeps him ticking, you might be interested in his biography by Gregg Gutschow called "Life At Full Draw". But if it's stories you want, you'll be hard pressed to find a bigger collection than what you'll find in "Super Slam."

For some people, records are anathema when it comes to hunting. For sure, the animals we hunt deserve respect for reasons that go beyond keeping score. Score is merely an indicator of the maturity of an animal and an attempt to honor the animal as a prime specimen of its type. Too often, the well-intentioned attempt to honor the animal results in honoring the hunter.

That's not to say that "Super Slam" is without value. One of its biggest values is to remind us that faraway continents are not the only places to experience hunts for exotic animals. North America offers some truly great hunting opportunities for game animals that match the variety and the beauty of animals anywhere in the world.

Adams writes about such exotics as muskox (more people have climbed Mt. Everest than have shot a muskox with a bow) and polar bear (only four people had put one in the record book at the time Adams made his hunt). All of Adams' hunts are exciting, none more so than his hunt for the giant Alaskan brown bear. His bear ranks number 3 all time in skull measurement -- tied with a brownie harvested by bowhunting pioneer Fred Bear. Fittingly, the longest chapter in the book is on whitetail deer, the most prolific and most widely hunted big game animal in the world. He also spends plenty of pages on the five subspecies of caribou, the most accessible large antlered game animal anywhere. And the chapter on elk makes clear -- it's his favorite big game.

The chapter I enjoyed most is the one on Sitka blacktail. Alaska's Kodiak Island has generous bag limits for these cousins of our whitetail deer. One day in 1986, Adams shot a world record Sitka, and the next day shot a bigger one. At the 1987 measuring session for archery records, Adams walked away with the number one and number two spots. Since then, another archer has taken over the top spot.

I met Chuck Adams a year ago, and I asked him if he feels pressure to take only large animals. He said that he felt no pressure at all. That's easy to say, now that Adams has accomplished his Super Slam. But while he was pursuing it, he admits he felt the pressure of others trying to accomplish the feat before he did. For me, hunting is not about pressure.

"Super Slam" is not among the greatest in hunting literature, but it's a worthy read. Here's one piece of advice: twenty-eight chapters and 351 pages of hunting stories tend to run together when you read large blocks at one sitting. You'll enjoy it more if you read leisurely, a chapter every 2 or 3 days -- and that's especially true if you want to benefit from his field experience. Order Super Slam at a 37% discount from

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Whitetail Wisdom by Dan Schmidt

Reviewed by Steve Sorensen
Published by KP Books, Iola, Winsonsin, 2005; 224 pages, 12 chapters. Paperback.
"Most of these [celebrity hunters] are
merely blessed to have access to great
land and unpressured deer."
At last --
someone has said what I've long believed.
It's reading season. You may be about to while-away hours in a car or on a plane headed for vacation. Your derrière may find its way to a beach chair. Or, maybe you're looking for something to keep on the nightstand. Wherever you do your summer reading, the everyday hunter has some recommendations that should make you a better hunter.

"Whitetail Wisdom" by Dan Schmidt, editor of the top whitetail magazine Deer & Deer Hunting, is one of the few deer hunting manuals both simple enough and comprehensive enough to be called a true handbook. Its subtitle is "a Proven 12-Step Guide To Scouting Less and Hunting More." No question about it -- that gets the attention of any serious deer hunter who has lots of claims on his time.

Two big emphases in Whitetail Wisdom are key issues for me. One is the importance of a non-obsessive approach to deer hunting. That's not to say that Schmidt undervalues a serious game plan -- any knowledgeable hunter can list countless details that need to be analyzed and taken seriously. But Schmidt keeps hunting in its proper perspective. He recognizes that any hunter scratching out a living while raising a family doesn't have the time or money he'd like to devote to hunting.

Schmidt doesn't believe that big antlers -- or any other standards of deer hunting prowess -- are the measure of a hunter's worth. Nor does he believe deer hunting should be considered a sport. Sports are about numbers. He insists it's a pastime, "an activity that has been in our blood since Day 1."

In fact, Schmidt offers one statement that suggests the enormous respect he has for the everyday hunter in an age when many are obsessed with high-scoring antlers: "No hunter in North America, especially the so-called celebrities, could regularly kill mature deer from most of the properties most of us hunt.... Most of these guys are merely blessed to have access to great land and unpressured deer." At last -- someone has said what I've long believed.

His other emphasis is on enjoying freedoms -- freedom to appreciate all aspects of the hunt, freedom to hunt without the pressure of living up to someone else's standards of accomplishment, and the freedom of simplicity in an approach to hunting. The longer I hunt, the more important these freedoms are to me.

He has a minimalist approach I like. Figure it this way: if the editor of the number one whitetail magazine, a magazine that needs advertising dollars from all the new gizmos that some along, says that he favors a minimalist approach that leaves behind all but a few essentials, he's probably worth listening to. He prefers a few well-organized cargo pockets rather than a backpack overstuffed with gear that gets little or no use. A bonus of minimalism is the clearing of clutter from the mind.

What about the nuts and bolts of Schmidt's scouting-less-and-hunting-more strategy? He covers much more than I can mention in my limited space, but I'll itemize a few of his points. He brings what he calls a "5-point pyramid" to all scouting. It includes weather, food, habitat, human pressure and deer biology. A scouting effort that includes these basics will always outperform one that doesn't.

For the hunter from a crowded state such as Pennsylvania, Schmidt makes several points worth noting. He says that you won't find consistent success by pounding the same spot on the same property hunt after hunt. That's especially true today. He says the successful hunter should be acutely aware of how and where other hunters hunt -- again, true in a crowded state. And if someone finds your favorite spot, be patient and don't fret. He is just as likely to abandon it.

Schmidt has many tips I've never known anyone to offer. For example, he says that the seed pods on locust trees are an overlooked food source -- as are the leaves and twigs of aspen trees. And he says that the deer hunter should use a good guidebook to trees. (I've actually thought of that myself, and I own a couple of them.)

Available at a discount from, Whitetail Wisdom is a 224-page primer (complete with photos) on deer hunting that will school the hunter who's just getting started. It's also a digest of principles for the veteran with many seasons under his belt. And it's organized around a realistic philosophy of hunting that recognizes few hunters will become pros. Like any good guidebook, it's well-indexed and will give you many opportunities to thumb through for the information that almost guarantees you will become a better hunter. Order Whitetail Wisdom today!