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VINE VOICEon 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.

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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on December 27, 2008
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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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.) 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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VINE VOICEon 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? 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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on February 10, 2016
I first became aware of Steven through his tv show MeatEater. I greatly enjoy his intellectual curiosity and thoughtful approach to hunting and eating game animals. This book covers so much ground, documenting the history of the bison and of early native American life and the effects of the westward expansion of white settlement on the populations of both bison and Indians. Interspersed are Steven's personal experiences hunting and killing a wild bison in Alaska. I found the book fascinating.....non-hunters be warned that the harvest of the bison's meat is decribed in respectful detail, I did not find these passages non-appetizing as I am a hunter myself.
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on July 19, 2016
Amazing book by Steve. Extremely well written. Covers a vast wealth of information on the American bison, from prehistoric to modern times, including the wholesale slaughter of bison by American Indians and people setting the "New World". I have a strong interest in American bison and bison hunting, so I was very excited to read about Steve's journey to discover more about the buffalo and hunt one in the wilderness of Alaska. I had a hard time putting this book down, and finished it in two days.
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on April 12, 2016
I am almost done with this book. A lot of history in it, and a lot stuff i would have never known about the great creature. I love his take on hunting and the detailed account of the hunt, I am right there with him on the ridge watching for Buffalo in the Alaskan wilderness. If he writes more books i will be buying them.
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on March 29, 2016
Great book. I found it interesting in both the hunting perspective and what I was more surprised how much historical and genealogy data Steve provided in the book. Well written and kept me wanting to read more. In fact, I have purchased additional books and short stories by Mr. Rinella. You won't be disappointed if you are hunter or non-hunter and just want knowledge.
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on March 1, 2015
super excellent book i loved it and gave a copy to the guy that sold me my new truck.its life a history lesson an adventure and life the way it should be,like before everybody decided that they would take no responsability to feed and keep themselves and ther kin.you will be reading nonstop cover to cover.
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on June 18, 2015
I thoroughly recommend this book. If you like outdoor writing, (I guess that's what you would call it) Steven is great at it. Lots of great information about the American Bison, historical facts, hunting stories, etc.
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