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American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon Paperback – September 15, 2009

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American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon + Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter + Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385521693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385521697
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, December 2008: Before the 18th century, the American buffalo was the largest land mammal in North America, largely predator-free and roaming the continent in numbers estimated in excess of 40 million. In just over a century, widespread slaughter reduced the population to a few hundred head, and the American West lay beneath a till of bleached bones. When Steven Rinella stumbled over a buffalo skull in Yellowstone National Park, it sparked an obsessive search for the beast's past, from its migration across the Bering land bridge to its near extinction at the hands of western settlers. American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon is his fascinating chronicle, beginning with a search for Black Diamond (the doomed model for the Buffalo Nickel) and including an exploration of "buffalo jumps" (where thousands were run over cliffs by Native American hunters), and tales of bone piles--harvested from the plains for a thriving fertilizer industry--stacked 10 feet high, 20 feet wide, and a half-mile long. Rinella's history is deftly interwoven with his own literal buffalo hunt in Alaska's Wrangell mountains, complete with grizzly bears, raging, ice-rimmed rivers, and bouts of hypothermia and frostbite. Written in a spare style appropriate to the rigors of the frozen wilderness, American Buffalo is engrossing, informative, funny, and a welcome achievement of both natural history and outdoor adventure. --Jon Foro --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this spare, eloquent memoir, Rinella (The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine) describes his fascination with the American bison, which culminated in his tracking, shooting and butchering one. Rinella was one of 24 people in 2005 to win a lottery to hunt buffalo in the foothills of Alaska's Wrangell Mountains. So Rinella set off into the wilderness to fulfill his lifelong ambition. As he pursues the buffalo herd, Rinella also explores the long relationship between humans and an animal that they drove to the edge of extinction. In his journey through the wilderness, Rinella encounters grizzlies, white water rapids and frostbite; in his trek through history he depicts fur traders, early Native Americans and epics of slaughter that left the prairies littered with buffalo bones. Rinella's understated prose shows great flexibility, and he is by turns moving and downright funny. An experienced outdoorsman and hunter, Rinella writes with authority about the process of turning a living creature into steak, and easily renders an enormous amount of historical and scientific information into a thoroughly engaging narrative. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

That aside, the book is very interesting and well done.
D. Westfall
A full length, memoir style story about the author's buffalo hunt in the Alaskan wilderness, intertwined with a history lesson about these once nearly extinct animals.
Steven Rinella has written a fascinating story about his obsession with the buffalo and the history of the beast.
David Pruette

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By New England Yankee on December 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Like many - and like the author, Steven Rinella - I've been long fascinated by the buffalo, so when given the chance at a new book like this, I snapped it up. For anyone with such a fascination, this book will give you a fix, but be aware that a good portion of its content is written from not only a hunter's perspective, but describes the author's actual buffalo hunt and in detail, right down to the skinning and butchering - the latter down to skinning the head and emptying the eye sockets, for that matter. As someone who has hunted in the past and may do so again, I don't mind that, but a non-hunter may find this content off-putting. Rinella's language can also be a bit explicit at times.

The hunt, in fact, is a thread that runs throughout the book. Rinella starts the book with the hunt and returns to it again and again, touching on different aspects: travel to the hunt site, skinning, portaging (including his life-threatening encounter with the frigid Chetaslina and Copper rivers), etc. From chapter 11 on (about the last quarter of the book), most of the book is about the hunt.

Paradoxically, the last chapter is largely about yet another hunt, this time a Nez Perce treaty rights buffalo hunt in Yellowstone, in which the author tries to weave a number of disparate threads together, from protesters to thankful indians to his own thoughts on "letting the buffalo roam." I believe his intent here is to acknowledge the mixed feelings and motives that all hunters have, but to be honest, he is only partially successful, and I'm left unsure of his message (if any). A bit on holding a weeping protester's hand comes off as particularly awkward.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Schwartz on December 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished this book yesterday. A gift from my wife for Christmas. This is a marvelous work. I reflect on this book as an American, a 50 plus year old life-long outdoorsman, poet, and a member of the medical profession. Steve has done the difficult with this book and that is to tie a perfect knot with the truth of his
experience. I can say this with perfect candor as one who has walked similar trails as the one he describes.
To those that have been there, this book will reverberate and feed your soul. You will put the book down
and have remembered, as well as learned. He will give some words to things you have felt, but not said.
To those that look from the outside, that have not experienced the connection that all men have with their
fellow hunters and the prey they hunt, may it bring light to them as well. Your life is connected to another's
death, no matter how civilized or how abstract your perception. How you honor that death is important to your well being. How you guard that life, as well as take it is the full circle of the survival of all. He has
honored the Amercian Buffalo well with this book. Some connected to the buffalo's past were also honorable.
Some were not. This book looks to a brighter future for both man and this amazing creature.

Thanks Steve. I would walk, hunt, or share a meal with you anytime. dxr
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Reader VINE VOICE on December 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you grew up, as I did, reading the monthly tales from Warren Page and Jack O'Conner in the hunting and fishing magazines, you will recognise the story arc of this book. It begins with the crash of the prey falling to the thunder of the author's rifle, then moves in flashbacks to how it all happened. It is a familiar story because it can be a good story and this one is one of the best.

I have hunted white-tailed deer in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan. And lots of smaller game. I am ethically bound to eat what I shoot. I think it is fundamentally wrong to take "trophies" for the wall or to be listed in a record book, whether it fur or finned. I have seen elk and moose in the wild, but never hunted them because I knew it would be way more work than am prepared for if I did manage bring one of them down.

The American Buffalo is even bigger, and if it is a real hunt (not a farm shoot) it means even more work than an elk or moose.

Steven Rinella was up to the work and did a fine job of describing just what the task included. The remoteness, the cold, the difficult terrain, the real probability of grizzly bear or wolves taking the dead bison from him after the shot, are all related in an un-embellished style. Three days of hard labor to prepare 700 pounds of meat and bones and hide to pack out to a freezing river and transport it out.

Along the way he also gives a wonderfull back-story about the place of the Buffalo in human culture in North America. It dovetails nicely with "1491" a book which describes the Western continents just before the arrival of Europeans. Who knew in 1491 there was a city on the Mississippi River that was bigger than London of that time?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Flight Risk (The Gypsy Moth) VINE VOICE on January 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book, on the face of it an account of the author's successful solo buffalo hunt in Alaska, is a surprisingly good read. I expected a sort of elongated article from Field & Stream, but I got a whole lot more.

Steven Rinella, a writer originally from Michigan, was a winner in a lottery to hunt buffalo in Alaska, whose herd is sizable enough to cull through hunting. Only 24 permits were issued; only 4 hunters actually bagged a buffalo. And it isn't a job for sissies; Mr Rinella's account of the trek in to where the buffalo were - to say nothing of his solo hunt, the dressing, and the load-out, deep in the wild and all alone until the very end - is nothing I would consider doing for any amount of money. Arduous, cold, wet, dangerous - there were still grizzlies around - it is the kind of hair-raising tale where you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Thankfully, Mr Rinella, and his companions who went with him for the first few days, are consummate outdoorsmen. I would still be sitting in the car waiting for them to come out.

But "American Buffalo" is far more than an account of a gonzo hunter. Mr Rinella put a great deal of thought into the writing and content of this book, and I was fascinated. He leaves no stone unturned on the history and existence of the buffalo in America. His interest was first piqued by finding a buffalo skull during a hike in Montana years before; and he went to great lengths to determine the age and era of his buffalo skull's time on earth, even going so far as to taking it to England to consult with a geneticist specializing in buffalo. (I can't imagine the difficulties he encountered getting a buffalo skull through customs.
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