Outdoor reading for the naturalist, survivalist, hiker, hunter and more
I admit it: I’m a sucker.
For good books that it.
My library is large, varied and always growing, with new books added to the collection often faster than I can keep up with reading them. Doesn’t matter.
Whenever I see or hear or read of a book that sounds interesting, it gets added to a personal wish list. Then, eventually, it makes its way into my house.
Heck, I even write a few, and maybe more, on occasion.
If you are the same way, here are some new books you may want to check out.
Camera Trapping Guide: Tracks, Sign and Behavior of Eastern Wildlife, by Janet Pesaturo, (282 pages, softcover, color, published by Stackpole Books).
Deer hunters the nation over know all about “trail” or “game” cameras. They’re passive, infrared cameras that shoot photos and videos whenever an animal passes by.
Just check out social media in the weeks leading up to hunting seasons. You’ll find thousands upon thousands of photos of deer, with those with the biggest antlers generating the most enthusiasm.
But as Pesaturo — a biologist and tracker by trade – notes, trail cameras are great tools for observing all kinds of wildlife for all kinds of reasons. And it’s her instruction on how to use cameras what makes her book unique.
After laying out what features to look for in a camera, she profiles 40 species common to Eastern fields and forests, ranging from chipmunks to moose. Each critter gets the usual treatment common to any field guide, namely details on life history, tracks, diet, habitat, breeding and the like.
But Pesaturo also provides “camera trapping tips” on how and where to set up a camera to get good shots of each species. She lays out how to find opossums in urban and suburban versus rural areas, for example. She also describes beaver dams as likely crosswalks for everything from coyotes to black bears.
Then, you’ve just got to go look.
The information will get you in the neighborhood for seeing wildlife, whether you ever use a camera or not.
How to Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation, by Bear Grylls, (448 pages, softcover, black and white, published by William Morrow).
Anyone who’s ever watched a survival show on television has probably heard of Bear Grylls, a former member of the UK Special Forces. He travels the world, often with celebrities in tow, and teaches them how to stay alive in various situations.
Sometimes, the situations he finds himself in are extreme.
So it is with this book.
The beginning chapters are devoted to the routine aspects of survival, meaning the skills and gear anyone who ventures outdoors any in the world might need to stay alive. He writes about what to pack in a survival pack, how to make fire, purify water, tie some key knows and navigate over various terrain.
That’s important, if fairly standard, fare for books of these types.
Then, Grylls goes off the grid, in a fun way. Want to know how to land a helicopter in an emergency, or escape one that crash lands into water? Survive a kidnapping, shark attack or chemical attack? Handle yourself in a fight? Drive off road?
Grylls discusses all of those things, too.
He ends each chapter wit ha “Keep It Simple Stupid,” or K.I.S.S. set of bullet points summarizing what you need to know.
Chances are you’ll never need to know most of what’s in the book. But the idea of being prepared is to know how to handle the unexpected, right?
And it’s fun reading in the meantime.
Waterfalls in Pennsylvania: A Guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes,” by Johnny Molloy. (233 pages, softcover, color, Falcon Guides).
Molloy lives not in the Keystone State, but in Johnson City, Tenn. So he might seem at first an unusual choice to write about Pennsylvania waterfalls.
But he travels the country to do just this kind of thing, and his experience shows.
He describes 54 hikes. There’s not a lot of poetry to the writing with any of them. That’s by design, though. Guidebooks like these are meat and potatoes affairs, heavy on details about how to reach each trailhead, the distance to the waterfalls, how tall they area, they’re respective “beauty,” that kind of thing.
The idea is, after all, not just to describe each falls, but make it possible for readers to visit them themselves.
That said, the photos of the falls, and Molloy’s appreciation for them and the places they exist, inspire you to get out and explore.
Some of the falls he writes about are relatively close to parking areas and easily accessible. Others are more remote and take some effort to reach. After reading this book, you’ll likely want to see a bunch of them.
The Hunter’s Way, by Craig Raleigh, (189 pages, softcover, black and white, Harper Collins) and The Perfect Shot for Dinosaurs, by Phil Massaro, (192 pages, softcover, color, Safari Press).
So OK, here are two hunting books from opposite ens of the spectrum.
Raleigh has hunted and fished for more than four decades and has his share of stories to prove it. He relates many of them in this book.
This isn’t a how-to volume, though.
Rather he writes of his experiences as the backdrop for exploring what it means to be a hunter, especially in today’s modern world.
Hunting’s history, at least in the last 100-plus years, is a story of conservation. But how to reconcile saving wildlife while also pursuing it, with deadly results? That’s one conundrum he delves into, among others.
Reading his book is like chatting with an old hunting buddy, and being able to express what the outdoors means.
The Perfect Shot for Dinosaurs is something different. It’s a small book, 4-by-6 inches, and feels like the kind of thing you’d read on a plane, casually at hunting camp or even, well, in the bathroom.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek takeoff on books that describe how to take big game in North America and far-flung locales like Africa that actually exists. And it’s fun for all that.
Massaro, who’s hunted all over the world, takes aim at dinosaurs. He describes 20 species, talks about where they lived and what they ate, and offers suggestions on what firearm you’d use to shoot one, and where you’d have to place the shot to survive the encounter.
Were you to chase a Spinosaurus, for example – a carnivore that stood 14 feet tall, stretched 60 feet long and weighed 23 tons – you need to shoot it in the brain with the largest gun you can carry, like a .577 Nitro, he writes. He even tells how to know where the brain is.
And if you miss?
Well, there are rarely survivors.
40 Knots and How to Tie Them, by Lucy Davidson, (144 pages, hardcover, black and white, Princeton Architectural Press).
Every outdoorsman or woman knows a few knots. They’ve vital to fishing, securing a boat to a cartop, battening down a tent and more.
But, wow, the person who seems to know a bunch of knots, and when and where to use each?
Those people inspire awe in campsites the world over.
This book offers you instruction on how to become that super camper. Davidson describes 40 knots, in four categories: classic knots, camping knots, climbing knots and maritime knots. There are step-by-step instructions for each, with illustrations, too. There’s also information on what each knot it specifically good for.
Of course, learning to tie knots takes practice, something that can become tedious. So Davidson provides games of sorts, or projects readers can create.
So, see anything you might want to read?