Call of the Mild
Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner
By Lily Raff McCaulou
(Grand Central Publishing, Hardcover, 9781455500741, 336pp.)
Publication Date: June 2012
When Lily Raff McCaulou traded in an indie film production career in New York for a reporting job in central Oregon, she never imagined that she'd find herself picking up a gun and learning to hunt. She'd been raised as a gun-fearing environmentalist and an animal lover, and though a meat-eater, she'd always abided by the principle that harming animals is wrong. But Raff McCaulou's perspective shifted when she began spending weekends fly-fishing and weekdays interviewing hunters for her articles, realizing that many of them were more thoughtful about animals and the environment than she was.
So she embarked upon the project of learning to hunt from square one. From attending a Hunter Safety course designed for children to field dressing an elk and serving it for dinner, she explores the sport of hunting and all it entails, and tackles the big questions surrounding one of the most misunderstood American practices and pastimes. Not just a personal memoir, this book also explores the role of the hunter in the twenty-first century, the tension (at times artificial) between hunters and environmentalists, and new models of sustainable and ethical food procurement.
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.
"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.
-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."
-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."
-Fat of the Land
"Compelling . . . her reporting skills help readers gain a deeper and broader understanding of the complex experience of hunting."
-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."
"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