Gerald Almy: Three new books for sportsmen

Gerald Almy

If you’re looking for some good reading from an actual book, instead of on the internet, three fine works have crossed my desk recently that might be of interest to Shenandoah Valley hunters, fishermen and conservationists. One is on the experiences of wildlife biologists in the field, one on tracking wounded deer, and one on wild salmon.

“Bear With Me, My Deer: Tails of a Virginia Wildlife Biologist,” was written by David Kocka. I met David many years ago when my wife Becky and I first bought a piece of land in western Shenandoah County near Little North Mountain. We wanted to get some advice from wildlife professionals on how to make the property attractive to deer, turkeys, bears, waterfowl and small game animals. David was then the regional biologist for Shenandoah County. Since then he’s been replaced by the able Fred Frenzel, when he was transferred to another region.

David and local forester Joe Lehnen provided me many pages of recommendations, quite a few of which we followed in subsequent years to make the property attractive to wildlife. But while giving advice to landowners and helping the game department manage the state’s various game and non-game wildlife populations, Kocka has had many adventurous and sometimes humorous experiences.

One of those took David to the top of a parking garage while chasing a black bear, and another to the middle of a college campus to extract a rut-crazed deer from a building. This book recounts these and many other adventures in the field the biologist has experienced, documenting how they can occur any time at day or night. Through his 30 years as a biologist, Kocka has met many interesting people, too, and some of those are also profiled in this book.

More information is available from the publisher at its website, christianfaithpublishing.com. The book is also available at amazon.com.

“Tracking Wounded Deer,” is the third edition of Richard P. Smith’s classic work on how to find deer that don’t fall immediately after being shot with a firearm or arrow. I’m fortunate to have met Richard Smith also, when we shared a three-day deer hunt in Georgia hosted by Realtree founder Bill Jordan. Interestingly, Smith even mentions one of the two bucks I bagged on that hunt in his book, describing how we followed the blood trail to retrieve the deer, which had not gone far.

This book has much to offer for novice and experienced hunters alike. That’s why it’s still in print and on its third edition. Many color photos will also help with this task when you’re faced with it — finding a deer that you hit but can’t immediately locate. The photos also show how hair varies on different parts of a deer’s body. That can give you clues as to how the deer was hit.

No one likes the thought of having to track a deer. But every hunter must know how. This book will tell you everything you need to know about it to successfully retrieve your fallen quarry. It’s available from major book sellers, or through the author’s website Richardpsmith.com.

“Upstream, Searching for Wild Salmon from River to Table,” is the final book I’d like to recommend. It’s written by Langdon Cook, author of “The Mushroom Hunters.” Cook is the one author out of these three that I haven’t met. But I would definitely love to. He’s a superb writer.

In this book Cook takes an in-depth look at how these beloved fish — salmon — have nourished humankind through the ages and why their destiny is so closely tied to our own. He travels from the glacial rivers of Alaska to California’s drought-stricken Central Valley and many places in between, covering both sport fishing and commercial fishing as well as the conflicts between environmentalists and sport anglers and Native Americans. He offers an engrossing account of how salmon nourished humanity through the ages, and why we need them in the future.

Here is a sample of his writing, in this book published by Penguin Random House:

“Skins of several freshly killed mule deer hung from a nearby chain-link fence, their ribs crackling on the grill. A woman sold fry bread for two dollars; another sold jewelry. I ate a big piece of fillet with a plastic fork while a man next to me used his fingers to carefully extract all the meat from a charred salmon head, its eyes cloudy white. He licked his fingers and looked up. ‘Good,’ I nodded. We all washed our food down with Dixie cups of fruit punch. There wasn’t a drop of alcohol in sight.”

Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.