Rinella aims for the impossible, scores a hit

 

Book Review:
Meat Eater, Adventures from the life of an American Hunter
By Steven Rinella
231 pages; Spiegel & Grau. 2012

Periodically, an outdoor writer aims for the impossible: to explain the why of modern hunting, as opposed to producing just another “how to” book.

The task is impossible because the motivations behind hunting are as individual as each hunter and go deep into the human psyche.

Most writers wilt at the challenge. Exceptions include Jose Ortega y Gasset, Ernest Hemingway, Tom McGuane and David Petersen. Put Steven Rinella’s new title, Meat Eater, on the same shelf as the classics.

Rinella is the host of MeatEater on the Sportsman's Channel, which has distinguished itself as a thoughtful program in a genre saturated with ego, ignorance and poor taste.  

But the written word allows Rinella to showcase his literary talent. A fog bank sweeps across an Alaska ridge “so thick and solid it looked like it could scrape up my tent and carry it away.” An Arizona puma takes a step “as lightly as a balloon touching the ground.”

Rinella is a history nerd, gonzo adventurer and urbane foodie, wrapped in a boyish glee for hunting and fishing. Although born in the Midwest and living in New York City, Rinella honed his writing skills at University of Montana’s famed Creative Writing Program. This book would have been impossible without the rich wildlife habitats of the American West, which provide setting for his most colorful yarns.

Meat Eater tackles not just the question of if hunting and fishing is ethical, but when is it ethical and what makes the difference.   

These are more stories than essays. There are sometimes several little plots crammed into each page, even the footnotes. Many surround Rinella’s Michigan upbringing, his dad (a hardboiled WWII vet) and his two equally gonzo brothers. (Which makes the reader wonder about, and sympathize with, his mother.)

Hunting is very much a part of the western psyche, but still a large gulf separates those who “get it” and those who don’t. Rinella’s thoughtful and entertaining prose erects a bridge over that gulf for those hungry enough to cross it.

[If you are in the Denver area on Sept. 13, see Steven Rinella read from Meat Eater at 6:30 p.m. at Sportsman Warehouse in Thorton.]

 Image: Cover of Meat Eater, courtesy of Spiegel & Grau.

Ben Long is an author, outdoorsman and conservationist in Kalispell, Mont. He is senior program director of Resource Media.

High Country News Classifieds
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • VERDE RIVER PROJECTS TECHNICIAN
    The Verde River Projects Technician (VRPT) provides technical assistance to Verde River Program staff in implementation of the Verde River Streamflow Monitoring Protocol. This consist...
  • 8 FIELD PROJECT SPECIALISTS (POSITION FORMERLY TITLED TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISOR)
    Are you passionate about environmental conservation and connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with outdoor leadership...
  • SOUTHWEST REWILDING ADVOCATE
    WildEarth Guardians is seeking a full-time advocate in our Wild Places Program to advance a new paradigm of forest management and protection based on the...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org