In our Media Diet column, Zero Point Zero Production asks prominent hunters about their reading and media consumption habits. What hunting magazines are they reading? How do they get their news when they’re at home? What about when on a hunting trip? What is on their Netflix queues? The answers to all these questions, and more, lie ahead. Up next, Ben Long. Ben is a father, conservationist and writer. He is co-chairman of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the sportsmen’s voice for wild, public lands, water and wildlife. Primarily, he hunts and fishes in the northern Rockies and Great Plains in his home states of Idaho and Montana.
The Tiger: A True Tale of Vengeance and Survival, by John Vaillant. It’s like a modern-day Jim Corbett story of an under-gunned warden tracking down a man-eating Amur (Siberian) tiger in the frigid taiga of the Russian Far East. I think the author imparts a little too much human motivation on the part of the tiger, but it’s a thrilling ride to the last page, in a fascinating setting with great character development, human and otherwise.
A Thousand Deer, by Rick Bass. Bass is a master of capturing the natural rhythm of the hunt, infused with rich metaphor, humor and why-didn’t-I-think-of-that description. We both hunt the snowy jungles of northwestern Montana, so that appeals to me.
And then there’s fiction. Every few years I have to re-read Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and I’m always sad when it ends.
If you had to recommend 5 books for someone new to hunting, what would they be?
The Art of Hunting Big Game in North America, by Jack O’Connor. Cactus Jack offers clear, well-written advice that has withstood the test of time. No frills, b.s. or pulled punches.
Bushcraft, by Mors Kochanski. Canadian Kochanski is a recognized master of teaching fundamental wilderness skills to be safe, comfortable and confident when you leave your truck far behind. Even if you only retain 10 percent of this book, it’s probably enough to get you out of trouble in the North Woods.
A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. Leopold is considered the father of modern game management. This primer on conservation, steeped in hunting and fishing, helped define the land ethic that underpins modern sportsmanship.
Beyond Fair Chase, by Jim Posewitz. “Poz” is the Philosopher King of American hunters and here he explores terrain between legal and illegal, right and wrong, without being preachy.
Make Prayers to the Raven, by Richard K. Nelson. To me, animals are far more than meat, targets and B&C scores. Nelson opens new ways of seeing the natural world with this portrait of the complex relationship between the Koyukon people of Alaska and their wild neighbors.
What about magazines? Which ones do you read?
I write for Bugle and Montana Outdoors, so I’m always happy to see them in the mailbox. I learned to read on Outdoor Life/Field & Stream and haven’t shaken the habit. I like nature and wildlife more than guns and gear, so I subscribe to National Geographic and Smithsonian. If I feel like splurging, I pick up Gray’s Sporting Journal. The Backcountry Hunters & Anglers magazine, Backcountry Journal, is an up-and-comer.
What websites do you go to regularly?
Hunt Talk at On Your Own Adventures. This is a chat room full of well-informed, opinionated folks from around the country who are more interested in helping each other than arguing or posturing. For conservation news, I follow: Hal Herring at Field & Stream and Matt Miller at The Nature Conservancy. For keeping up on public lands issues out West, I visit the aggregator site Mountain West News and High Country News. I’ve been trying to teach myself Tankara-style fly-fishing this summer, so I’ve been spending time on Tankara USA. Outdoor Hub is another goodie.
Is it difficult to keep up with the news while hunting?
To me, that’s the point. Too much mass media messes with your head and the mountains are the best place to scrub it clean. For me, hunting is a digital detox.
How else do you get news and other media? Do you use social media?
I spend more time than I should on Twitter and Facebook. I try to cast a wide net on Twitter, as it’s hard to learn anything if you’re surrounded by people who agree with you all the time. I enjoy Facebook, connecting with new friends and keeping up with scattered hunting partners from decades ago.
Do you watch TV? What shows?
The last show I watched regularly was Cheers. I heard Seinfeld was pretty good and I always meant to watch it but never did. So I’m pretty far behind when it comes to TV.
Do you ever go to the movies?
I took my 10-year-old to The Lego Movie on the big screen, which was a gas. I do see a few more movies via Netflix and Amazon. The last outdoors-oriented film I streamed was All is Lost, a sailing misadventure starring Robert Redford. I thought it was pretty good, given the deliberate pace, and the fact it had three words of dialogue and one character.
Fill in the blank: I’d like to see _______ answer these questions.
Hal Herring (freelance writer), David Petzal (Field & Stream), Shane Mahoney (Conservation Force), Andrew McKean (Outdoor Life).
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