From my weblog, Genesis 9:2-4 Ministries
I received a promotional copy of Whitetail Advantage: Understand Deer Behavior for Hunting Success by Dr. David Samuel and Robert Zaiglin for review yesterday. I have been digging through it, and I must say that the world has come a long way. Up on my shelf is over a quarter century's worth of collecting books on whitetail deer. I am not a serious collector by any means, but I started out my life as a hunter trolling for books at used book stores. I have a few gems and more than few duds. In many ways, this Whitetail Advantage makes an impressive comparison to the best.
Foremost in my mind is the authority of the book: Samuel and Zaiglin are both professors in the field of wildlife management. This is a long way from the mostly biographical texts of 150 years ago, and the focus is no longer recounting a lifetime of hunting experience. Although a lot of it is written in the first person, there is very little anecdotal about this book. It is a book written by experts for the purpose of digesting the latest information available on deer behavior. This is not a book of myth.
The most striking thing about Whitetail Advantage is not its content; it is its form. The layout, style and typography use color photography and color printing throughout to point the reader to important information. So many of the books on my shelf have pages filled with hastily gathered snapshots, mostly posed, thrown in to break up a page. This is an extremely well-executed book. The digital photography is clean and crisp and most of all: pertinent. A lot of the photos, blown out to a larger size would make a wonderful coffee table book. What these photographs telegraph is that somebody is getting around a lot of deer and getting very intimate with them. I have a wonderful book from the Seventies that is illustrated in its entirety with pencil drawings from a then well-known artist from the Saturday Evening Post. Wildlife photography was simply non-existent in those days, since few people saw deer, let alone got a chance to put a camera on them. It was trying to do for its day what Samuel and Zaiglin are trying now. However, the body of knowledge it attempted to cover amounted to: go in the woods, find some tracks and follow them.
Please don't confuse my gushing over the layout and infer that this book is all form and no content.
Whitetail Advantage is not a beginners book. It was written for successful hunters who want to make sense out of what they are seeing in the field and take their game to the next level. Each chapter stands on its own and takes a single topic into much greater depth than I have seen from these authors' magazine work. Do not think you can pass this book up, just because you've read the authors before in Bowhunter or Deer and Deer Hunting. There is a lot of new information here and a better way of looking at deer hunting as a whole.
Rubs, Scrapes, Beds, The Rut, Funnels-- the buzzwords have been floating around deer hunting for 40 years. Whitetail Advantage is not the first book to try and bring them all together into a cohesive picture. However, I would say that Samuel and Zailin have done the best job to date of succeeding. This book also discusses all the new gimmicks and technologies, but I feel that it gives them proper perspective. One of my peeves with contemporary sports writing, and sports media is the emphasis on consumerism, as if you can go to a store and buy something that will make you a better hunter. This book is about the truth of deer behavior; when properly applied it will focus your hard work and improve your hunting success.
As you get through the latter chapters, there is a lot in this book that brings the subject up to date and discusses issues I have not seen in books of other eras. If you dig through Depression era books, you see a lot on self-reliance, improvised equipment, and making due with what you have. Books from the Fifties and Sixties tend to discuss all the new rifles and cartridges and traveling to distant venues to hunt the pockets of burgeoning whitetail herds. Whitetail Advantage has chapters on Chronic Wasting Disease, getting the family involved, and the future of sport hunting. With current trends in loss of huntable habitat, and loss of interest in the sport, I must say that the future of deer hunting as they see it is bleak, and I agree. However, the picture they paint is accurate and there is plenty of good information to get the deer hunter motivated to take action, and to pass the tradition on to those he loves.