I didn’t grow up in Michigan, my father has never hunted anything bigger than an aphid on a garden plant, and I don’t have two older brothers with whom I’ve spent a lifetime trapping, fishing, and hunting. But after reading Meat Eater by Steven Rinella, I wish I had. In fact, I almost feel like I did.
Rinella, author of American Buffalo and The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, has again produced an exceptional book, this time documenting some of his many adventures from his life as a hunter in America. In Rinella’s own words, “this book uses the ancient art of the hunting story to answer the questions of why I hunt, who I am as a hunter, and what hunting means to me.” The hunting stories that follow are organized chronologically and begin with opening day of Michigan’s squirrel hunting season when Rinella was ten years old. The stories – and the development of Rinella as a person and a hunter – progress through childhood, the teenage years, the lean years of college, and on into the present. They capture the challenge of trapping, the arbitrariness of fishing for admiration, fishing and hunting for sustenance, and trophy hunting.
Throughout this book, Rinella often refers to his brothers and his father. Most of his stories involve one or the other, or both. At one point, Rinella describes his father: “He was no bullsh***er.” Neither is Rinella. He writes openly and honestly about his convictions, his mistakes, his faults, and his strengths. He does not try to excuse any of his actions, nor does he attempt to preach much about the personal choices other hunters make. (There are occasions where Rinella’s feelings come out about particular habits associated with some types of hunting. This makes him all the more human and had me chuckling, too.) That said, Meat Eater is not a how-to guide to hunting and it is not a guide to life. Rather, it is simply Rinella’s attempt to explain himself as a hunter by means of storytelling.
I highly recommend Meat Eater by Steven Rinella. Rinella’s writing is flawless and engaging. His storytelling abilities harken back to those times when telling stories was the main form of entertainment. While reading this book, I felt drawn into the stories to the point I could almost say I walked the very same woods, waded in the very same rivers, and climbed the very same mountains as I searched not only for animals, but for the answers to my own questions.