WHITETAIL NATION by Pete Bodo, c. 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $25.00-$31.50 Canada, 320 pages.
If it were any other day, you’d doubt your own sanity.
What other reason can there be for someone to get up hours before the sun does, leave a warm bed to creep through an unheated cabin, dress in layers, grab a container of tepid coffee that will soon match the chilly temperature outside, douse himself with urine, and go sit in a tree?
The answer? As author Pete Bodo says in his new book, “Whitetail Nation,” it’s all about the antlers.
For most of his adult life, Bodo was “content” to hunt white-tailed deer with his friends in New York and Pennsylvania. Both bow and gun hunter, he usually shot the first legal deer that crossed his path, took the meat and ended his season.
But always, in the back of his mind, Bodo wanted what all hunters want: the monster buck. The one that goes in the Boone and Crockett Club record books. The one with the rack that causes family feuds long after the hunter has hunted his last. The buck of legend.
Fifteen years ago, Bodo “splurged” on a trip to Saskatchewan and, though he missed shooting the legendary “Picket Fence,” the trip injected deer fever into his blood. Over the years, he hunted regularly and bagged a few decent deer, but he always thought about having that trophy on the wall. Two years ago, a 50th birthday put a sense of urgency in him, and Bodo started hunting for the best place to hunt.
White-tailed deer are mostly cold-weather creatures, the “greatest” of which come from northern climates — Saskatchewan, Alberta, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine and Montana — and Texas grows ’em large behind fences. Still, there were monster bucks in Bodo’s home state of New York, and rumors swirled around Pennsyl-vania.
Dressed in Trebark (what the original camouflage pattern was called), Bodo compound-bow-hunted with a man who made his own recurve bow. He gun-hunted in his own rural neighborhood, and just missed bagging a buck in “the act.” He traveled to Texas, where high-fenced deer farms can almost guarantee a buck for a fee. He hunted in Montana, where mule deer are as plentiful as whitetails.
But did he get his monster buck?
I’m not telling. Read the book. Seriously, if Bodo aims to entertain — and he obviously does — he hit that target dead-center with “Whitetail Nation.”
But that’s not all. Bodo also explains why deer hunting season is held in the fall, and how laws and regulations often vary across the country. He lovingly describes the beauty that surrounds him from atop a stand, he gives readers a basic lesson in zoology, and he’ll make you laugh with descriptions of deer camp and other embarrassments. He also gives hunters plenty of ammo when it comes to anti-hunting rhetoric.
If you love tromping in the woods or if you dream about The Big One, this is a book you’ll want. “Whitetail Nation” is worth the hunt.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.