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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories and history from a hunter and buffalo enthusiast
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...
Published on December 1, 2008 by New England Yankee

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Personal Story of a Buffalo Hunt
The American Buffalo is truly an amazing animal, and I picked this up to learn more. In this book, the author tells a personal story of his fascination with buffalo, culminating in a hunt for a buffalo in the wilderness of Alaska. It is part history, part storytelling, and part a story of the outdoors. The book's concept was well conceived. However, I started to lose...
Published on December 13, 2008 by ironman96


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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories and history from a hunter and buffalo enthusiast, December 1, 2008
By 
New England Yankee (Northern New England) - See all my reviews
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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.

In the first 10 chapters, Rinella's focus is more on the buffalo itself, and on American and Indian history, on discoveries, cultural themes, and stories. It's easy reading, in the most positive sense, and backed by extensive notes and a bibliography at the back of the book. This is the content I was really looking forward to, there's a lot of it, and it is well-written in an evocative style. Rinella keeps quotes and excerpts to a minimum, re-conveying his source material in anecdotal fashion. As a result, it reads like a story telling. (His own hunt, of course, is a story in itself.) There are few photos, which left me wanting more.

I give American Buffalo five stars as a hunting book, or more accurately, a book written for hunters. I do it with some reluctance, as I would prefer to be reviewing the book for general readership. It is not a book I would recommend to non-hunters, however, and the extensive hunting content will inevitably limit its appeal.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Standing Ovation for Steve Rinella, December 27, 2008
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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story for hunter or history buff, December 26, 2008
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A Reader "snailgate" (Newark, DE United States) - See all my reviews
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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? Steven Rinella explains how the American Buffalo played an important part in supporting that population concentration.

Who would guess that the decline of frogs in American today could be related to the removal of the Buffalo herds from the American plains a hundred years ago? Rinella offers a flow of events that make the Buffalo an intimate essential for the ecology of North American and the culture of its human population for the last twenty thousand years.

Twenty four hunters were issued permits for the seven month season. Rinella and three others were successful. "How can I claim to love the very animal I worked so hard to kill?" Rinella asks himself. "I've thought of this often lately, yet I have not been able to answer it with force and conviction. For now, I
rely on a response that is admitedly glib: I just do, and I always will."

The North American that had Warren and Jack arguing over the merits of the 7mm Magnum Rifle cartridge against the .270 Winchester is long gone. It is our good fortune that Steven Rinella can remind us of what it costs to be a Buffalo hunter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bison bison 101, January 1, 2009
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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.) Along the way, he provides a concise history of the buffalo's contact with man, from earliest human hunters in America to the egregious killing sprees of the white buffalo hunters of the late 1800s, complete with some pretty amazing photos. It seems clear that his sympathies lie with both the buffalo and the Native Americans who first hunted them, while not holding back on the fact that the Native Americans could be pretty wasteful with the buffalo as well, sometimes only harvesting certain parts of the buffalo, a far cry from the picture that has been painted of their using every part of the buffalo - which I always took to mean EVERY animal they killed. As it happens, they did make use of all of it; just not all of each one, all the time.

The greater part of the book deals with Mr Rinella's investigation into the age of the skull he found, with the great asides of buffalo stories and history, and he writes exceptionally well. The final quarter of the book is almost exclusively his personal hunt, and as said before, it is a gripping and at times amusing tale of one man in the wilderness. Even with 21st Century camping equipment, it's still a tent in the woods with bears nearby, and I was on the edge of my seat reading it. The account of the successful kill, and the subsequent butchering, is not for the squeamish, nor indeed for those of tender sensibilities or anti-hunting leanings; but it was informative, and it is also clear that Mr Rinella knew what he was doing. I worried about him until he got out of the woods, and that tale too is a wild ride, but it was made very clear early on that he is a conscientious and thorough hunter who can handle himself and disturb the area as little as possible.

I found I could not abandon this book for very long, and was sorry when it ended. Informative, well written, with a wry self-consciousness and an enjoyment of life that was refreshing to read, I can recommend it to anyone interested in a good yarn about hunting that incorporates all aspects of the animal hunted, along with an honest account of the huntsman's foibles along the way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating View of America's Buffalo, December 22, 2008
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Steven Rinella has a life-long obsession -- and that's with buffalo. In the case of this book, that's a good thing because I've learned more about buffalo and the American West than I ever knew before -- and I live here!

The book gives so much fascinating historical information on buffalo and how humans nearly drove them to extinction as well as how the buffalo were saved that you'd think the book would be boring. Quite the contrary. Rinella weaves facts with excellent storytelling and has a quite readable style.

I really enjoyed this book. If you're anti-hunting, you may not like this book, but since I love buffalo meat, this is quite a treat to read. This is the story of Rinella's hunt in the Copper Basin in Alaska, but it is more the story of humans and their relationship with the bison. A great read. I recommend it highly. I only wish the photos were bigger.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All you ever wanted to know about buffalo, and then some, December 15, 2008
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Steven Rinella's work is a compelling book. He is a proficient writer, and a master of the simile. On the many occasions he would try to make something clear, he would do so masterfully. The book is filled with an exhaustive amount of information about the animal. My only quibble with the work is that on a few occasions especially early on, the book would sometimes get bogged down with more information than I could find interesting. The author spends a section going over the evolution of the buffalo and the scientific names for the buffalo throughout all the evolutionary periods. Occasionally his narrative would become a textbook. On the other hand, some of the information is genuinely interesting such as the fact that Ted Turner owns more buffalo than all that exist in the wild put together, or the flash flood in New Mexico that changed the direction of archaeology.
That aside, the book is very interesting and well done. I had thought it was more of a survivor/hunting narrative than it turned out to be so to a degree I was disappointed with the work. However, about halfway into the book I was hooked. For someone who is interested in the buffalo and an interesting account of one man's interaction with the beast this is an easy recommendation.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Personal Story of a Buffalo Hunt, December 13, 2008
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The American Buffalo is truly an amazing animal, and I picked this up to learn more. In this book, the author tells a personal story of his fascination with buffalo, culminating in a hunt for a buffalo in the wilderness of Alaska. It is part history, part storytelling, and part a story of the outdoors. The book's concept was well conceived. However, I started to lose interest about halfway through, and thought that the book could have been around 50-100 pages shorter. As a non-hunter, some of the details of the hunt were not that interesting to me. On the other hand, the places where history touched the buffalo were fairly interesting. On the whole, a decent book that felt a little too long.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excietment as big as all outdoors, August 16, 2009
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Starting with the bear tracks over his own, in the light snow of Alaska, carrying the meat from his successful hunt to his campsite, Rinella is an inspired exciting author. He uses all of the Bufffalo, and comes back to asses the health of the herd.

I spent a day looking for the pre-historic hunting site near Fulsom NM. because of his description. Hunting and gathering is a better way of life than trying to find parking spots where your doors wouldn't get dented. Go Steve!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Personal Narrative of "Che", January 11, 2009
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This is a very well-written personal narrative of one man's fascination with the Horned Grandfather my own Ioway tribe calls "Che," Buffalo. The main narrative thread is of Mr. Rinella's hunt for a Buffalo up in the Copper River country of Alaska, with side-jaunts into the natural and cultural history of the bison. His style is very easy to read, like a man telling the story of his hunt to a friend, but a man who also has really gotten into the story of the animal itself, its behavior, its economic history, its archaeology, its anatomy, its psychology, its relationship to the various cultures of this land, from ancient prehistory 14,000 years ago and more, up to the present. I liked the combination of careful research hung on the frame of actual experience; this kind of nonfiction style has become very popular over the last decade or so, with The Perfect Storm perhaps the most obvious example to the general public. I enjoyed for example, learning the true and little-known story behind the discovery of the famous Folsom archaeological site, by a forgotten black cowboy and self-taught scholar George McJunkin. I like Mr. Rinella's engaging writing style. I like the way he is realistic about the complex relationship between the North American Indians and Grandfather Che, in the woods (really!) and on the Prairie, an honest look at the spiritual and pragmatic complexity of the relationship. He pulls no punches. I don't agree with all of it necessarily, but he is honest in telling us what he found out, and that's what we must expect of an author. I would definitely read more of his books if they are like this one. Pi ke! (Ioway for "It's good!")
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Informative Memoir and Tribute to the American Buffalo, December 15, 2008
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Initially, I was put off by this book. I did not think I was interested in a hunting memoir. However, I have always been fascinated by the buffalo and, eventually, decided to read this book.

I was not disappointed. In 2005, Richella was one of 24 hunters selected in a lottery to hunt buffalo near Alaska's Wrangell Mountains. The book is in part the story of that hunt. But, it is much more than that. It is the story of a man and his obsession with an animal that he loves and reveres. This obsession, which was prompted by stumbling on a buffalo skull in Yellowstone National Park, leads Rinella all over the world to learn the history of the buffalo and the relationship between humans and buffaloes. All of this benefits the readers, as the final product of Mr. Rinella's wandering and research is a thoroughly enjoyable, fluidly written, and incredibly wise memoir/tribute to the American Buffalo.

Another thing I took away from this book was a new respect for dedicated hunters. The simplistic (and often negative) views of hunters and hunting I held as a youth do not do justice to folks who are willing to go out and obtain their own food. At one point, right after he has shot the buffalo, Rinella writes "This is how food is made". There are not many of us who are this close to the origins of our food and that is to be respected. Further, I found Rinella's honesty about the grief he felt after the hunt quite refreshing and real. In that vein, I saw several reviews indicating this book would only be of interest to hunters. I want to disagree. As a non-hunter, I found the information about buffaloes fascinating and the bits about hunting eye-opening. As such, I do not hesitate in suggesting this to any reader who is looking for an excellent book.
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American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon
American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella (Paperback - September 15, 2009)
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