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Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality, and Wildness in America 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1559637619
ISBN-10: 1559637617
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Natural-history writer David Petersen's Heartsblood is not so much about hunting, although that controversial subject is an important part of the book, as is a lively, deeply intelligent discussion of what it means to be a human animal aware of what lies outside. Petersen suggests that a true engagement with the natural world requires a keen knowledge of its workings--of how water flows, of how animal populations wax and wane--and a recognition of the realities of life and death.

An avid fisherman and hunter, Petersen has little patience with the yahoos who blast at anything in sight, those thoughtless persons who have given hunting a bad name. Neither does he suffer lightly those who maintain that hunting is morally wrong, for, he insists, in the absence of natural predators, hunters act as a necessary brake on overpopulation, which can lead only to suffering. He has little use for expensive gear, for GPS systems and top-of-the-line weapons, nor for most hunting magazines, which, he says, cater to just those yahoos with a taste for fancy goodies, and which he deems "greedy and increasingly immoral."

With all those peeves and qualifications, it would not be out of place for Petersen to assume a grumpy air. For the most part, however, he does not; he is cordial to those who disagree with his views, which he carefully backs with biological facts, philosophical and anthropological interpretations, and reflections gathered from a half-century's experience in the wild. His book deserves a wide audience, and the ideas within it merit much discussion as thoughtful men and women everywhere do what they can to protect what little is left of nature--a struggle in which hunting, Petersen holds, can play an important part. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Petersen brings an uncommonly broad perspective to this highly personal, passionate and deeply persuasive argument for responsible hunting. He reminds us that humans have been predominantly hunters for 99% of our species' history; by comparison agriculture occupies merely a brief moment in the human timeline and the era of shrink-wrapped supermarket meat even less. Biologically, we were built to hunt, he contends, a reality carved into the human genome as deeply as wildness imprints the genetic makeup of prey. Denying our genetic predisposition makes us less than fully human, he argues, which will undoubtedly strike many as radical. But Petersen is not a polemicist bent on pushing every citizen into hunting. In fact, he calls himself a "fence-straddler," an advocate of animal welfare (which he differentiates from animal rights) who has been criticized by antihunters as "rabidly prohunting" and knocked by hunters' rights advocates as "an anti in hunter's camouflage." Much of Petersen's argument (his delineation of the three different types of hunters, his criticism of holier-than-thou vegetarianism, his disdain of trophy hunting) treads a well-worn path, but this ambivalence lends his conclusions greater credibility. More unique and provocative is his contention that humans, far from evolving beyond the need to kill our own food, instead risk devolving when we avoid facing firsthand the deaths that sustain our survival. Though he goes overboard in strumming the mystical chord and seems at times too fond of inflated language, Petersen's ambitious analysis of this contentious issue is impressively well reasoned. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559637617
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559637619
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,500,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a curious non-hunter who worries about the hunters in my extended family and what they will teach their children, I turned to this book for insights. I was not disappointed. I found what I wanted from Petersen. He is respectful, knowledgeable, and he writes from experience backed by scholarship. I will send this book to my brother-in-law and hope it inspires him to teach his children to hunt in an ethical, respectful, environmentally sound manner.
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Format: Hardcover
Once again, Petersen proves he is a (the?) leading writer on the subject of why hunters hunt, drawing from the existing literature and expanding on the subject in a way that is both accessible yet scholarly, with wit to boot. Critical of both the "shoot anything that moves" camp and its supporters in the mainstream hunting press, as well as anti-hunters (although sympathetic to thinking non-hunters), Heartsblood is a must-read for those who seek clarity on why *they* hunt, or who seek insight into the mind of the hunter.
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Format: Hardcover
In Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality, And Wildness In America, author, editor, and wilderness expert David Peterson provides the reader with an informed, intensely personal, candid, and occasionally unsettling exploration on the subject of hunting in American culture. Petersen documents his observations with compelling first-person hunting narratives, as he also draws upon philosophy, evolutionary theory, biology, and scholarly studies on hunters and the "hunting culture". Hunting issues are as topical as today's newspaper headlines. Heartsblood is a welcome and very highly recommended contribution to familial, environmental, and political dialogues over the role of hunters and hunting in our lives, culture, and society for both good and ill.
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By A Customer on March 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
I found this to be a thoughtful and compelling analysis of not only the issues involved hunting but in man's overall relationship with the environment. Petersen deftly cuts through the hyperbole surrounding the hunting debate and presents fascinating insights into the subject, often backed by personal experiences. Must reading for anyone involved in (or for that matter against) hunting.
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Format: Hardcover
There is not enough space in this review block to enlighten the uninformed as to what propells an ethical hunter. Suffice to say it is a passion...a love of the wild and things wild and finding a niche in this timeless chain for one's self. If you don't hunt, this book will help you understand why your dad or neighbour or uncle will waste countless hours in adverse freezing conditions in a deer stand or a duck blind. However, if you do hunt, this book is worth it just for the expose' of the roots of the "Bambi" syndrome and the unethical mechanisms used to discredit a heritage freedom and a nobel and ethical pursuit.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
People often ask why I hunt. Do I enjoy killing animals? Anyone that knows me knows that love of all animals is at the core of what defines me yet I choose to participate in hunting and fishing, activities which often result in the death of one or more animals. I often find it hard to summarize my feelings in response to these queries but a lot of what Peterson writes seemingly makes us kindred spirits. His non religious but spiritual viewpoints speak to me and his anecdotal writing style is a joy to read. Much thought is given to the theme that taking a life must be done so responsibly and with reason beyond the thrill of the kill which many anti-hunters would have you believe must be what all hunters feel.

For hunters and outdoorsmen looking for guidance to grasp what they feel and why they love the outdoors to non-hunters looking to understand why Bambi must die (a book reference), this book is highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I say with sincere passion and humility when I say that David Petersen is my favorite author of all time. No one, in my humble opinion, gives me the ride I seek in literature like Petersen. His ability to deliver critical conservation, evolutionary and spiritual messages in this current state of our world is beyond compare. He is fun, brilliant and spellbounds the spiritual seeker in all of those who seek "the lessons that only nature can teach."
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Format: Paperback
Heartsblood is very well written, and as a hunter, it definitely struck a chord with me. Petersen does a great job examining the idea of thoughtful, ethical, and good hunting.

I couldn't give it 5 stars for two reasons: first, it seemed like a lot of what I was reading was just Petersen repeating what another author and/or thinker had already said (usually Dr Paul Shepard). To be fair, it's good material, and I found a lot of it thought-provoking...but when in some chapters one finds page after page of "as Dr Shepard points out," or "Dr Shepard tells us," one asks themselves what purpose Heartsblood serves other than to repeat someone else...why not just go read Shepard, or Abbey, or the others that Petersen relies on so heavily. Fortunately, the entire book isn't plagued by this, and Petersen does enough writing from himself to keep it interesting.

My second problem had to do with the inescapable but not quite blatant "holier than thou" tone of Heartsblood. It's hard to escape the insinuation that "ethical hunting" is what the author does, and if you're not a neo-animist living in a cabin and hunting with the same tools he uses, you're...just not quite doing it right.
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