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Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner Hardcover – June 12, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Her writing is evocative and inspiring, and it will encourage all manner of nature lovers to forge a deeper connection to their surroundings. . . . These are the words of a true student of nature, and they're sure to make even hunting skeptics wish they could join McCaulou on one of her dramatic treks through the woods."―San Francisco Chronicle

"A thoughtful examination of the issues that surround hunting in modern America, an entertaining account of McCaulou's evolution from someone afraid of firearms to an avid hunter, and an inspirational guide for anyone interested in following suit.―Mike Stahlberg, The Register Guard (OR)

"[An] excellent memoir. . . Clear, well-crafted prose . . . A book that rewards readers with a wealth of interesting information along the way."―The Washington Times

"Combines hunting stories with entreaties to be thoughtful about where dinner comes from and grateful for nature's bounty."―Dwight Garner, New York Times

"Will resonate with many readers, female or male, who are trying to reconnect with the natural world, whether via hunting or other outdoor pursuits. . . . It turns out that facing death in its many guises is at the core of McCaulou's memoir, and this stubborn fact of life is explored in some unexpected ways. Not so unexpectedly, the book culminates with a big game hunt, though the patience and detail with which it's recounted will be appreciated by neophyte hunters wondering what this moment of truth might be like."―Langdon Cook, Fat of the Land

"Compelling . . . her reporting skills help readers gain a deeper and broader understanding of the complex experience of hunting."―Melanie Balog, The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)

"Eloquent debut memoir about a young woman's transformation from a New York City urbanite into small-town Oregon hunter with a conscience. . . A powerful story in which the author shapes a narrative of personal growth into a symbol of modern humanity's alienation from the natural world."―Kirkus Reviews

"If you have always wanted to try your hand at hunting, buying this book is a must. Lily takes you on a journey through the eyes of a novice growing into an experienced hunter, beautifully illustrating the excitement of being able to hunt the food that you eat in a sustainable way."―April Bloomfield, chef of The Spotted Pig and author of A Girl and Her Pig

"Lily Raff McCaulou has a good heart and a curious soul, and her story of learning to hunt touches every emotion in the spectrum. Call of the Mild is powerful, well-told, and a great pleasure to read."―Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia and Great Plains

"Lily Raff McCaulou has done the hard intellectual work of actually thinking about why she's hunting and what it means. A fascinating work, and a way into a debate often marked by obstinant close-mindedness on every side."―Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"Call of the Mild tackles a fascinating and complex subject: the ethics, experience, ecological implications, and, ultimately, importance of American hunting. Lily Raff McCaulou is such good company-articulate, thoughtful, funny, intelligent, fair-minded, and warm-hearted-that I would have stayed with her for many more pages, and then I would have happily gone hunting with her, something I had never once thought of doing. This is a deeply good book in so many ways."―Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and The Astral

"Call of the Mild puts into words the same kind of transformation from urban consumer to hunter-gatherer that many of us "adult-onset" hunters went through: The excitement, the doubt -- the fear -- and ultimately the satisfaction we derive from finding our food the way our ancestors did. Raff McCaulou knows as well as anyone that a meal won by hard work will always taste better than one bought in a store."―Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast

"In telling the story of how she learned to hunt, Lily Raff McCaulou shares the essential missing elements in the way we eat today: gratitude, joy, and responsibility. Call of the Mild is a compelling and honest work, a truly worthwhile read for anyone who wants to shift their relationship to the food on their plate."―Alana Chernila, author of The Homemade Pantry

About the Author

Lily Raff McCaulou lives in Bend, Oregon, where she writes a twice weekly column for the Bend Bulletin. In 2010, she completed a prestigious Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan, where she researched this book.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455500747
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455500741
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have a brother who hunts. We grew up in the same town as the author, Takoma Park, and I can tell you that NO ONE HUNTS.... not only that, but as tolerant as we proclaim to be, we really DO NOT LIKE HUNTERS. So for years, I have struggled with my brother who grew to love hunting and fishing over 25 years ago. He has tolerated teasing, even though we all devour his venison sausage... but finally after reading this wonderful book, I understand him, and I understand my own biases so much better.

I did not expect to find a balanced view of hunting, and certainly not a pro-hunting stance from Ms. Raff. Yet her reasoned arguments were impossible for me to unravel, and I found myself gaining a much richer understanding of the connection between those who hunt and fish, and those who are mindful of our environment. I found I could not put this book down, it pulled me in and was full of wonderful side stories that reminded me of the writings of John McPhee, one of my favorite writers. I found myself both laughing and crying, a range of emotions that I did not anticipate.

I heartily recommend this book for anyone who 1. wants a good read, 2. wants to be better informed about those who hunt and fish, 3. wants to come to a better understanding of our own liberal biases.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful American memoir and book on hunting. It strikes three significant cords:

1. A look at what hunting is and what it means to be a hunter in modern American society- including the resonant political, environmental, and cultural implications. From protesting, tree-hugging vegans to the NRA and shooting deer from you truck, McCaulou looks at every angle and view point with a researched and objective journalistic eye.

2. A self-inflicted gauntlet: McCaulou, a liberal East-coaster, moved to Oregon and decides to try hunting,which turns into a potentially life-long passion. How she gets there is like a literary version of "Survivor" except thoughtful, researched, committed and personal. McCaulou dedicates three years of her life to the challenge. She explores all of the needed preparation, many forms of hunting and the history of hunting. She hunts ducks, deer, elk, mushrooms and she fishes. She field dresses her kills. She deals with the emotional reactions she has to her new hobby humbly and honestly. It's easy to imagine being in her shoes whether you're an experienced hunter or a vegan - only she does it with an eloquence most of us lack. It's as much a lesson on where all our food comes from as it is an exploration of a new hunter's journey.

3. A memoir on life and death. No (good) hunting book should talk about the kill without addressing death. The extreme tragedies that befall the author midst her growing passion for hunting add new significance to the circle of life - a human issue, not just a hunting issue. She deals with the topic in an engaged, insightful manner.

Like reading Pollan with more humanity.
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This is a beautiful book, beautifully written and beautifully thought out. I'm not a big fan of the outdoors -- museums, books, and movies are more my style -- yet Lily Raff McCalou managed to take me along on her hunts, hikes, camping expeditions, fishing, skiing, in a way that totally charmed me. What I especially loved was how much of her personality shone through the whole book -- honest, funny, smart, loving, mature, thoughtful, ethical, introspective, and just the right amount of self-deprecating.

Most impressive was how she managed to write the scenes so vividly -- I especially loved her time in gun safety class, and her early forays into buying the gun and using it . And how she wove all the other non-personal bits of information -- conservation, the NRA, cooking, dog breeding, all of it -- so seamlessly into the main narrative. And in her Year of Death chapter, McCalou managed to discuss a series of awful family tragedies in a way that avoided anything but the most essential emotions, without oversentimentalizing anything -- which of course made it all the more powerful.

The final chapter -- she killed an elk! --included a field dressing scene that was so vivid I found myself occasionally skimming to get past the gore -- only to find there was still more gore to come. The pride and euphoria she felt when she and her husband got the whole elk dressed and in their car was palpable, and something I shared. In short, I was blown away by Call of the Mild. It's a thoroughly delightful book, and a marvelous achievement.
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Of the three books I've thus far read on what it means to become a hunter, I identify most with Lily Raff McCaulou's account. I appreciate both her consideration of the animals and the environment, her conviction that if she's going to eat meat she should be willing to look her prey in the eye first, and her willingness to struggle and suffer in the wild. As a non-hunter, whose only foray into the sport was when I was eight years old and I went squirrel hunting once with my Dad, while reading I was trying to remember why it was I only went with him that one time. Through Lily's descriptions, it occurred to me that I didn't like getting up well before dawn when it was still freezing cold, then having to sit very still and be very quiet for hours, in search of wild things. Lily reminded me--hunting is HARD. And being hard, and knowing what she went through in her persistence to be successful as a hunter, I found myself really respecting the author. And admittedly, being a little bit jealous of her husband Scott ha ha If only we all had such hardcore wives........

Seriously, though, if you've read books like "Fast Food Nation" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and then found yourself reexamining your relationship to food, and wondering what it might mean to become a do-it-yourself procurer of meat as well as butcher, this is the book I'd recommend to you. It's quite thoughtful without being overly sensitive. I really liked that Lily struggled so much with the very idea of what it meant to take an animal's life to sustain herself. She seems to be very much aware of the animal's sacrifice. She isn't out to thrill-kill or trophy hunt which I feel really dispels the stereotype most modern people have of hunters.
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