Dennis Cutchins and Eric A. Eliason, Eds. Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009. Pp. xxi + 230, black and white photographs, index. $48.00 cloth.
This book is a collection of essays from a wide variety of academic contributors who deal with the cultural, psychological, and physical ways in which contemporary North American people interact with, shape, and are impacted by their natural surroundings. As the authors of the individual articles reveal, interactions between man and nature occur for reasons of both sustenance and sport. Editors Cutchins and Eliason have chosen to include articles on such diverse topics as the development of a new species of coyote-hunting dog in South Dakota and the many important rituals and traditions associated with seasonal hunting camps throughout North America. Another interesting story included in this volume is about the implementation of outdoors skills programs for at-risk women that equip them with basic survival and camping skills, while at the same time raising their own self-esteem in all realms of their everyday life. The great variety of interesting topics addressed by a multitude of voices in this volume keeps the articles engaging, while at the same time providing specific information that falls under the broader scope of hunting, the outdoors, and humans’ roles in these areas.
The book opens with an “Introduction” written by the editors, and the body of the book is divided up into three parts for ease of reading and accessibility of information: “The Issues,” “Field Studies,” and “Reflections.” It is likely that the scholar or layperson picking up this book and looking at the table of contents for the first time will be immediately drawn to one specific article or section that pertains to his or her specific interests, as there are such a vast array of subtopics covered in this book. For example, scholars studying hunting or fishing generally in the United States and Canada would be interested in this book, as well as would those who are studying specific types of hunting in North America, including coyote-hunting, deer-hunting, or poaching traditions. Several contemporary cultural and sociological issues are also addressed in this book. These issues include rites of initiation and membership at deer-hunting camps and the manner in which fly-fishers choose to share (or to not share) certain privileged pieces of information pertaining to their sport. Researchers interested in the psychological and sociological elements surrounding such recreational groups should read the pertinent articles contained in Wild Games.
Even a person who purchases or borrows this book with the intent of only reading the articles of direct relevance to his or her own interest areas would be well served to read all of the articles. Someone who is concerned with even a very small, specific hunting or fishing tradition in North America would benefit by learning about other specific practices on the continent, in order to better understand the unique (or the more general) qualities of the research area of particular interest. Other scholars who may be interested in reading this book would be those in the fields of American Studies, those interested in the sociology of hunting, fishing and other recreational pursuits, and those groups who personally participate in these activities and wish to compare their own experiences to those of others.