American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon

American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon

by Steven Rinella


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From the host of the Travel Channel’s “The Wild Within.”

A hunt for the American buffalo—an adventurous, fascinating examination of an animal that has haunted the American imagination.
In 2005, Steven Rinella won a lottery permit to hunt for a wild buffalo, or American bison, in the Alaskan wilderness. Despite the odds—there’s only a 2 percent chance of drawing the permit, and fewer than 20 percent of those hunters are successful—Rinella managed to kill a buffalo on a snow-covered mountainside and then raft the meat back to civilization while being trailed by grizzly bears and suffering from hypothermia. Throughout these adventures, Rinella found himself contemplating his own place among the 14,000 years’ worth of buffalo hunters in North America, as well as the buffalo’s place in the American experience. At the time of the Revolutionary War, North America was home to approximately 40 million buffalo, the largest herd of big mammals on the planet, but by the mid-1890s only a few hundred remained. Now that the buffalo is on the verge of a dramatic ecological recovery across the West, Americans are faced with the challenge of how, and if, we can dare to share our land with a beast that is the embodiment of the American wilderness.

American Buffalo is a narrative tale of Rinella’s hunt. But beyond that, it is the story of the many ways in which the buffalo has shaped our national identity. Rinella takes us across the continent in search of the buffalo’s past, present, and future: to the Bering Land Bridge, where scientists search for buffalo bones amid artifacts of the New World’s earliest human inhabitants; to buffalo jumps where Native Americans once ran buffalo over cliffs by the thousands; to the Detroit Carbon works, a “bone charcoal” plant that made fortunes in the late 1800s by turning millions of tons of buffalo bones into bone meal, black dye, and fine china; and even to an abattoir turned fashion mecca in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, where a depressed buffalo named Black Diamond met his fate after serving as the model for the American nickel.

 Rinella’s erudition and exuberance, combined with his gift for storytelling, make him the perfect guide for a book that combines outdoor adventure with a quirky blend of facts and observations about history, biology, and the natural world. Both a captivating narrative and a book of environmental and historical significance, American Buffalo tells us as much about ourselves as Americans as it does about the creature who perhaps best of all embodies the American ethos.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385521697
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/15/2009
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 12,106
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

STEVEN RINELLA is the author of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine and a correspondent for Outside magazine. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, American Heritage, the New York Times, Field & Stream, Men’s Journal, and He grew up in Twin Lake, Michigan, and now tries to split his time between Alaska and Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt


In the past week I’ve become something of a buffalo chip connoisseur. The perfect specimen has the circumference of a baseball cap, with folded layers like a sheik’s turban. It’s as dense as a gingersnap cookie, with the color and texture of old cardboard that’s been wet and dried out again. Of course, when I say “buffalo chip,” I’m talking about buffalo dung, or what’s left of vegetation after it passes through the digestive circuitry of North America’s largest native land animal, also known as the American bison (Bison bison). These chips will burn with an orange-colored halo of flame surrounding a coal black center; they let off a good heat, not many sparks, and a blue-hued smoke that smells nothing like you’d expect it to. At times I’ve dipped my face into the smoke and picked up the odors of cinnamon and cloves, dried straw and pumpkins, and sometimes the smell of walking into a bathroom after someone smoked a joint.

If I were to leave my buffalo chip fire right now, it would take me about a half hour to stomp my way through the thickets of spruce and alder that separate me from the Chetaslina River, a fast-flowing torrent of glacial runoff that drains a collection of fourteen-thousand-foot peaks in the Wrangell Mountains of south-central Alaska. If I tossed a stick into the Chetaslina River, it would drift through three miles of narrow canyon before dumping into the cold gray swirl of the much larger Copper River. From there the stick would flow more or less southward, past a couple of small villages and dozens of fish traps that were recently dragged onto the banks by their owners to save them from the crushing floes of winter ice. After dodging past mountains and winding through canyons, the stick would enter the Gulf of Alaska outside of Prince William Sound. As the crow flies (or, as is more likely in these parts, the raven), that’s about eighty miles from here. Along the way, the crow would cross one two-lane highway and any number of wolves, coyotes, lynx, black bears, grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain goats, Dall sheep, and moose.

And perhaps a herd or two of wandering buffalo. Earlier in the morning there were about twenty of them in this valley; one of them, a cow, or female, is now lying just uphill from me within arm’s reach. Probably about six hundred pounds of hide, bone, horn, and innards. Another four hundred or five hundred pounds of meat. When it fell dead, after I shot it, it slid down the steep slope across the wet slush and crashed into a snag of aspen trees. I’ve been working on it all day. I made skinning cuts up the legs and then opened the carcass from the underside of the tail to the chin before removing the entrails. With short, fast slices from my skinning knife, I pulled the hide away from the upper half of the carcass as if I were slowly turning down the covers of a bed. I skinned over the brisket, ribs, and paunch, then up and over the shoulder all the way to the animal’s spine. If you touch the base of your own neck and feel the pebble-like shapes running up the center of your backbone, you’re feeling the neural processes of your thoracic vertebrae. On a buffalo, those things can be over twenty inches long; they act as a sort of mooring post for tendons that support the animal’s shag-haired, curve-horned head. The hump gives the buffalo its distinctive look, its front-heavy, bulldozer, mass-shouldered appearance.

I’ve been rationing my food for the last few days, and now I can eat all I want. I cut some slices of fat from behind the hump and then pull the hide back in place to keep the carcass from freezing too solid to work on. The fat has an orangish color, not like the white fat you see on grain-fattened beef. The orange is from a diet of wild plants that are rich in fat-soluble carotene, the same substance that colors a carrot. The heat of the fire liquefies the fat and leaves the cracklings floating in the oil of my pan like if you melted hard candy and all the wrappers came to the surface. Whenever a crackling becomes rendered out, I pinch it out with the pliers on my Leatherman and blow on it until it’s cooled off and crispy. I was keeping my salt in a film canister sealed with duct tape, but sometime over the last week, when I was crossing a river or standing in the rain or snow, the salt got wet. I scrape a chunk out with my knife and then grind it back into grains between my fingers. With a bit of salt, the cracklings taste like pork rinds but much better. They taste wilder.

You can say all you want about Coca-Cola and hot dogs and apple pie, but this is the real original American meal right here, buffalo meat; when the first Americans arrived in the Western Hemisphere, having crossed from eastern Siberia to Alaska, buffalo meat was one of the things that they were after. The animals were bigger then, with longer horns and probably shaggier hair, but it takes a trained eye to tell those skeletal remains apart from the ones I’m cleaning up with my knife.

The red-stained snow and the odor of blood in the air mean that I will not be alone here for long. Already gray jays are squawking around above my head and zipping in and out of the spruce trees. I hear the croak of a raven passing by. Yesterday morning I saw a wolf; last night I saw two grizzly bears, not a half mile from here. The bears were eating rose hips on a hillside in the falling snow. They were young but good-sized, a couple of four-hundred-pounders. I’ll bet they hear these excited birdcalls. When the sun ducks down toward the horizon, the thermal currents are going to switch direction and carry the smell right to them.

After I eat the fat and fry some little squares of meat, I load about a hundred pounds of the buffalo into my backpack and start through the trees toward the Chetaslina. From there it’s about a three-mile walk down to my main camp along the Copper River.

When I get to the Chetaslina, I see just what I didn’t want to see: two sets of grizzly tracks in the fresh snow, circling around near the riverbank. I check the air; sure enough, the tracks are downwind of the carcass. They already smell it. Shit. I unload the meat on the riverbank and drape it with some well-worn clothes and a sleeping bag to give it human odor. I light a little fire next to the meat and then march back up to the carcass and strip down out of my long underwear. My skin breaks out in gooseflesh before I can get dressed again. I drape the pants over the buffalo’s horns and make a little scarecrow with the top. Then I piss on a few trees to mark my territory. That’s as much as I can do, unless I want to sleep here and take my chances in the dark.

And nope, I don’t want to sleep here. I gather up my pack and head back to the Chetaslina. There’s a set of grizzly tracks on my boot prints from just an hour ago, backtracking up my trail and then veering off into the spruce trees. I’m going to have to come back up here first thing in the morning, and I’m not looking forward to it. I get a rush of adrenaline at the thought of sorting out who’s going to get this buffalo meat, them or me. I’m planning on it being me.


I first became interested in buffalo because of a kick from my brother Matt’s boot on a mid-September afternoon in the late 1990s, at an elevation of about nine thousand feet above sea level in the Madison Mountains of southwest Montana. Matt and I, along with our brother Danny, had been up there for a few days bow hunting for elk. Snow had been on the ground a few days before, but it had turned sunny and you could smell the heat coming off the pine needles. The lodgepole pines on the mountainside were so thick that we sometimes had to turn sideways to pass between them--people call them dog hair pines when they’re like that. The slope was steep, but here and there the ground leveled off into room-sized benches. As we were crossing one of those benches, Matt kicked at something on the ground. It was just a half-assed kick, and he didn’t even slow down.

As I passed that spot, I looked to see what he had kicked at. It was a small circle of bone poking out of the forest floor. I gave it a kick, too, but it didn’t budge. I gave it a couple more kicks. Still nothing. The circle of bone looked like it might be the eye socket of an old elk skull. I was wondering if there were any antler stubs attached, so I pushed a stick into the circle and pried. The stick broke. I dug away enough dirt to see that the hole was actually a foramen magnum, the opening in the back of a skull where the spinal column passes through to the brain. But this foramen magnum looked different from an elk’s. I dug a couple gallons worth of dirt from around the object’s perimeter. After I wiggled it a few times, it popped free from the little roots with the sound of dry spaghetti snapping in half. I stood up with the skull and held it at arm’s length. It was the color of hot chocolate mix. The whole thing was woven over with green moss and roots. Everything below the eye sockets was missing: no jaws, no nose. But the moment that I saw it, I knew I’d just found a buffalo skull.

Ever since that day, I’m always a little surprised by the ways in which buffalo can come out of nowhere and suddenly pop up into one’s life. It’s actually become a game that I like to play with other people. The game has to do with random associations. I’ll be talking to friends or acquaintances at a party and I’ll try to seduce their interest with compelling buffalo-related facts and trivia. For instance, I might explain that there’s a town or city named Buffalo in eighteen states, though the most famous of these, Buffalo, New York, is the only one that never had a population of wild buffalo living in its vicinity.

Such discussions often make my partners in conversation uncomfortable or bored, and it’s amazing how often they bring up the word tatanka as an avenue of participation into the conversation. Tatanka is a Lakota word for buffalo. It was popularized by its frequent and animated use in Dances with Wolves, the 1990 film starring Kevin Costner. When a friend mentions this word, I build on the conversation’s momentum by adding a related tidbit of my own: during the filming of Dances with Wolves, I’ll say, which was shot in Canada, the filmmakers used buffalo that were owned by the Canadian-born musician Neil Young. Young once recorded a popular song called “Cortez the Killer” (1975), which was banned for a while by the Franco regime in Cortes’s native country of Spain. Hernando Cortes is of course the famed Spanish conquistador, and in A.D. 1519 he happened to be the first European to ever see an American buffalo. The animal was housed in the menagerie of the Aztecs’ godlike chief, Montezuma, in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which now lies in ruins beneath Mexico City. Cortés had no way of knowing it, but the captive buffalo was hundreds of miles south of its native range. Cortes hung around Tenochtitlan for a few years before he completely destroyed the place, from the Aztecs’ written records to Montezuma’s collection of hundreds of thousands of human skulls.

Before he recorded “Cortez the Killer,” Neil Young was an influential member of the band called Buffalo Springfield, known for their instrumental interplay and vocal harmony, put to use in antiwar songs such as “For What It’s Worth” (1967). The band’s name was inspired by the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company, an American manufacturer of road-building equipment founded in 1916 with the merger of the Buffalo-Pitts and Kelly-Springfield companies. To put the words “Buffalo” and “Springfield” together was an interesting choice, however coincidental. The Springfield Armory of Massachusetts manufactured many of the weapons used by the Union in the Civil War. After the Civil War, many of those federal soldiers took their Springfield weapons westward and provided the military backbone for the suppression of the remaining free-ranging indigenous buffalo-hunting cultures on the Great Plains.

By now I’ll be on a roll: The most famous Plains Indian of all time was Crazy Horse, I’ll continue, the renegade Oglala Sioux warrior who was instrumental in the annihilation of General George Armstrong Custer’s command at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. As it happens, Crazy Horse was also the name of the band that Neil Young usually performed “Cortez the Killer” with. Crazy Horse, the man, would have certainly used the word tatanka, though most other assertions about his life are, as the novelist Larry McMurtry put it, “an exercise in assumption, conjecture, and surmise.” However, it is fairly certain that Crazy Horse had an affair with a married woman named Black Buffalo Woman. It’s less certain but still possible that his maternal grandfather was named Black Buffalo, and his maternal grandmother was named White Cow (as in white-colored female buffalo). It’s also rumored that one of Crazy Horse’s maternal uncles, One Horn, or Lone Horn, was gored to death by a buffalo. Crazy Horse himself died from bayonet wounds. There’s a legend that his deathbed statement mentioned the Tongue River. I used to live less than a mile from where the Tongue River flows into the Yellowstone River, in Miles City, Montana. When I lived there I liked to visit a place where Indians chased buffalo over a cliff’s edge hundreds of years ago. The buffalo jump, as such cliffs are known, is on the property of my brother Matt’s employer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory. The laboratory takes its name from Captain Keogh, an Irishman who was rumored to be the last of Custer’s men to die while battling Crazy Horse at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Often, my game associations will take me to a discussion of the most famous buffalo in all of American history--that is, the one who touched the most human lives. Black Diamond was the buffalo from the buffalo-head nickel. His path to fame began in 1911, when the U.S. Mint was seeking a replacement for the Liberty-head nickel, which had been in circulation for twenty-eight years. The mint commissioned the sculptor James Earle Fraser to come up with a concept. Because the Liberty-head nickel had a Romanesque theme, Fraser thought that something more “American” was in order. He began researching his nickel in 1911. “And, in my search for symbols,” he later explained, “I found no motif within the boundaries of the United States so distinctive as the American buffalo or bison.”

Looking back on it, Fraser’s choice was peculiar. He was crafting a coin based on what was then a national embarrassment, as if today the U.S. Mint were to strike a coin featuring the American prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Customer Reviews

American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
GBev2009 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
American History in the vein of Ian Frazier's "Great Plains." Rinella does a good job with the basic history of the American Bison and mixes it well with his personal story of a Buffalo hunt. My only quibble is that I don't get a broad sense of who the author is.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steve Rinella is a correspondent for Outside magazine, a hiker, a hunter, and a naturalist with an apparently insatiable curiosity about the buffalo. In 2005 he won a lottery to hunt for a wild buffalo in the Alaskan wilderness. He takes the reader along on his journey, dispensing a great deal of buffalo facts, trivia, and lore along the way.The information you learn about the buffalo and its role in early America is fascinating. He reports, for instance, that many of the original passages west were not formed from Indian trails but from buffalo paths, which are not only nicely wide and flattened, but led pioneers to resources they needed: water, salt, meadows, and optimal sites for river crossings. He tells a great story about early American efforts to connect the east and west with telegraph wires: buffalos loved to scratch themselves against the poles, and would keep at it until the poles toppled over. Officials then drove spikes into the poles, but apparently the buffalo liked the spikes even better!Native Americans don¿t fare any better than early hunting non-natives in the history of the buffalo¿s slaughter. Even before Native Americans got horses and guns from the Spanish, they had many techniques to kill buffalo, including the old drive-them-off-the-cliff method. And Rinella, who claims to love and revere the buffalo, gives you a blow-by-blow of his slice-and-dice when he finally kills one. But admittedly, the hunter mentality is something so alien to me I cannot comprehend the logic.Rinella also doesn¿t leave out any specifics about his camping adventure, down to his eating, dressing, sleeping, and bathroom routines. But this does have interest from a survivalist perspective. And in the midst of all the ¿then I ate a burrito¿ details, we get lots and lots of information about the buffalo, including background on the ten-year bloodbath for hides that nearly killed off all the buffalo in the late 1800¿s. (By the time sculptor James Fraser was commissioned to create the Buffalo nickel, there were only 2,200 or so buffalo left out of an estimated 32 milion in the Great Plains alone.) There¿s not much chaff to separate out of the wheat; you will be amazed at how much there really is to know about the buffalo, and about how interesting it is.I can¿t say I ever warmed up to Rinella as a person, but I was edified by the book, and glad to have read it.
Wrighty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I first received this book I was curious to see if a hunting enthusiast would write a story that the average, non-hunter could relate to. I wasn't sure if this topic would be interesting to me but I was pleasantly surprised. Steven Rinella wrote a memoir about a lottery he won in 2005 to hunt wild buffalo in Alaska. Before his trip only 3 hunters has succeeded in killing a buffalo. He became the fourth.The author's fascination with the majestic animal began when he was a child. While on a hunting trip with his brothers he unearthed part of a buffalo's skull. He's been hooked since and even commented on the frequency of buffalo coming up in conversations. He's developed his own word game of random association of related facts and trivia. I was surprised that there were so many ways to do that. (I live near Buffalo, NY so that's one I can think of.) Steven has gone to great lengths to learn every possible fact there is. As he describes his trip in the Alaskan wilderness he interweaves within his chapters all of those details of the history of the buffalo in North America. From the Native Americans to current times he explains everything about how they have hunted this huge animal and why. Because of their size, over one thousand pounds, hunters have had to be creative over the years. Sometimes weapons were used and sometimes they were able to use the land to their advantage. Indians used the "buffalo jump" to effectively kill many animals by gently herding them across a plain and then creating a stampede to drive them over a precipice, an act much more complicated than I would have imagined.Although this does not emphasize the brutality of hunting and killing, it is described in detail. Growing up on a farm I'm no stranger to using animals for a food source but I do adore animals and don't even like to squash bugs. The stories of how buffalo were hunted, injuries they sustained and how the body was cut up and used after a killing bothered me. I was impressed though when all parts of the animal were used in as many ways as possible. Everything from the fat used as grease, and hair for stuffing in pillows, to buffalo "chips" used to burn in fires.Steven Rinella's story telling is enhanced with black and white photos and footnotes. He has a dozen pages for his notes for each chapter and the bibliography. Although some of the information he provides may be more interesting to fellow hunters and nature lovers, it's by no means boring to those of us who aren't. He knows his subject well and is a very effective storyteller.
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: In the past week I've become something of a buffalo chip connoisseur.When most people are asked to name the first visual image that comes to mind when someone says, "America", I would imagine that the bald eagle or the Statue of Liberty is at the top of many lists. They aren't my first choices. My first choice is the buffalo. When I was ten, my grandparents took my mother and me on a road trip across the country to Grass Valley, California. I will never forget coming over a rise outside of Cody, Wyoming, and seeing a herd of buffalo grazing out on the prairie. That has been one of the supreme Kodak Moments of my life.Steven Rinella is also fascinated with buffalo. In 2005, he won a lottery to hunt for a wild buffalo in the Alaskan wilderness. One of only four hunters who succeeded in killing one, he found himself contemplating his place among 14,000 years' worth of North American buffalo hunters and the place of the buffalo in the American consciousness. The result is this book.Not only is this book a memoir of that hunt, it is also filled with humor, anxiety, and fascinating facts about buffalo. From time to time, I found the transitions between buffalo lore and his hunt in Alaska to be a bit abrupt, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book. I have to admit that I chose to read American Buffalo with a bit of trepidation: although I grew up hunting with my grandfather, the only type I do now is behind the lens of my camera. I wondered why, if Rinella is so fascinated with them, he would choose to kill one. It is a question that he raises himself in his book, and I appreciated the answer.After reading American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, not only do I know a lot more about the creatures that so catch my imagination, I also know more about the rigors of camping and hunting in the Alaskan wilderness. It's also reminded me that there's a herd of wild buffalo at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I really want to see them!
iubookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was the perfect Thanksgiving time read. The U.S. lays claim to the symbolism of several animals including, of course, the turkey. Then there is the eagle, a symbol of freedom and strength, that beat out the turkey to become our national bird. The buffalo conjures images of the American West and our pioneering spirit. Though the buffalo is fraught with American symbolism, I had never given much thought to its history and relationship to humans.In American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, Steven Rinella charts the course of this symbolic animal through American, and pre-American, history. After years of fascination with the American buffalo, Rinella won a coveted permit to hunt one in Alaska. American Buffalo begins with his success in the hunt and then takes us back to his first personal encounter with a buffalo.Rinella is skilled at making the history of the buffalo on the North American continent both interesting and relevant. His search for the buffalo's meaning has taken him across the country several times making for a personal connection throughout his narrative. Interspersed with the buffalo's history is Rinella's hunting tale, which is also compelling. I can't imagine being alone in the wilds of Alaska yet felt as if I were right there beside Rinella.I grew up in northern Indiana with a hunting father so Rinella's detailed description of his hunt, and more specifically, his kill didn't really bother me. If you are anti-hunting or have a weak stomach, you may have difficulty with some of the later passages in the book. This is just fair warning, however, because I still think you should read this book. Rinella gives great insight into the American buffalo and its ties to our history. I'll be watching for future contributions from this author.
Bitter_Grace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In American Buffalo, Steven Rinella recounts his experience of hunting bison in Alaska after winning a lottery in 2005 for the opportunity to do so. He describes the difficulties of tracking buffalo while avoiding predators such as wolves and grizzlies, as well as the problem of surviving the frigid Alaskan wilderness. Peppered throughout the story are various asides and bits of trivia that tell you more than you ever wanted to know about buffalo ¿ seemingly every buffalo-related piece of information that exists.His writing style, which is conversational, draws you into the adventure, although sometimes it seems like the detail is excessive. Take for instance: ¿I continued along northward until I hit I-90, and then I headed west, crossing the Continental Divide and dropping down into the town of Butte, where I bought a bean burrito.¿ He makes fun of himself in the beginning of the book for being a fright at parties whenever he manages to turn the subject to buffalo, and the warning is apt as some parts of the book just felt like Rinella was trying to get everything in, without being willing to spare the reader a single detail. However, his descriptions are vivid and often entertaining enough that you can¿t help but feel his enthusiasm. I also found it fun how his apparent loathing of clichés leads to some very surprising similes, such as ¿¿my skin feels like the inside of a wet plastic bag full of mushrooms,¿ and ¿¿the boulders in the river are getting capped in opaque layers of frozen froth that remind me of shower caps from cheap motels.¿The strength of the book lies in his contemplation of the cultural significance of the buffalo, from its place in Native American society to its role as a national symbol today. He points out some interesting things I never knew about, for example, that Native Americans, while maintaining the reputation that they used every part of the animals they killed, did not actually use every part of every animal and sometimes just took the hide or the tail. He also looks at the relationship between the animal and modern hunters: how you can simultaneously revere an animal and feel a sense of achievement on killing it.This book is an interesting mix of adventure, fact, and human insight, and you don¿t have to already be a buffalo enthusiast to take something away from it (although I suppose that would help quite a bit). Release date: Dec. 2, 2008Many thanks to Spiegel & Grau for this advance copy.
chilemery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This fantastic story about Bison bison (aka, the American buffalo or bison) and the hunting of said animal is based on a lot of luck. The author and hunter, Steven Rinella, was lucky enough to be awarded one of only 24 hunting permits, was lucky enough to actually be able to make it to the hunting grounds and, most importantly, was lucky enough to actually bag a buffalo (one of only 4 of the permitted hunters that did so). Then he was lucky enough to have the opportunity to write a great book about his adventure.And this book is more about adventure than hunting. Living in the Alaskan wilderness with only what you brought or what you could find while stalking a monstrous beast in his territory and keeping an eye out for poachers is not for the faint of heart. And while I am not a hunter but thoroughly enjoyed this book and as such I don't agree with some reviewers that feel that Rinella's detailed descriptions of the hunt and the subsequent cleaning of his kill might be unappreciated by non-hunting readers. (Though at the risk of sounding sexist, generally speaking it will probably be more palatable to the male audience.) Rinella educates us on the once-glorious American buffalo and the impact it had on our country's ecosystems and native peoples.When I was a little kid, my parents and grandparents used to take us to the Ft. Worth Stock Show and they would always buy my brother and I a 'grab bag' prize -- they paid a buck and we grabbed a brown-paper bag out of a large bin which had some to-be-treasured little trinket inside. I remember that one year I got a buffalo cast of hard plastic that was about the size of the palm of an adult's hand. We had seen a buffalo at the stock show and I had been impressed by its menacing size and look so for years that cast buffalo was counted among my worldly treasures and I have been interested in the great animal ever since. Rinella's account made rich with ample and detailed background information took me back to those days. The author really makes you really feel that we Americans have really lost something with the near-disappearance of this living 'lost icon'.
janemarieprice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author¿s personal search for every experience and bit of information about the buffalo frames this narrative style nonfiction. The story follows the author on a lottery-won buffalo hunt in Alaska. Throughout the descriptions of preparing, camping, tracking, and killing the buffalo are a plethora of facts on the history of buffalo and their importance to the formation of America. I was particularly impressed by the passages dealing with Rinella¿s ongoing attempts to reconcile his love of hunting with his love of animals. While it did not bother me, there are very detailed descriptions of the butchering of the buffalo both in history and Rinella¿s hunt. I would suggest anyone who is squeamish or anti-hunting to pass on this book (or at least the last couple of chapters).
sparksphotog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I approached American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella with anticipation. I've been fascinated with the American Buffalo for a long time and even had an encounter much to close for comfort.Mr. Rinella weaves an engaging tale of a very difficult hunt with an interesting, and eye-opening, history of the animal. There were many things that I thought I knew only to have been proven wrong by Mr. Rinella's meticulous research. It seems Rinella visited every historic, and oddball, place relevant to the American Buffalo. It's a trip that must have been a lot of fun.The books starts just after Rinella shoots the buffalo. After that I quickly devoured the rest of the book wanting to know what happened on the hunt. My only disappointment was coming to the last page, it was too short. When the book is released in a few weeks, I plan on picking up a couple copies for my friends. I can recommend this book with no reservations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like a good outdoor adventure mixed with fun facts and history read this book. I enjoyed this book. Find myself tellling anyone who will listen the story and historical tidbits. Colorado guy. I am heading out to some of the places mentioned in the book come spring thaw.
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GHaag More than 1 year ago
Very well written. Steven has done his research and his own hunt was well written..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Steven is a wonderful writer and this is an excellent book! The big BUT is that the look and feel of the book is awful! The printing is hard to read and the touch of the book is not top of the line, as one would expect for the cost of this book.
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