A writer recounts his experiences bowhunting—his pastime and passion—in this assemblage of brief anecdotes.
Debut author Yehyawi grew up in rural Iowa and was always drawn to the outdoors, though the genesis of his infatuation is mysterious since it was not inherited from his parents. During his freshman year in high school, he was introduced to bowhunting, and he was immediately transfixed by what would become a calling for the next quarter century. His adventures, chronicled in a lucid prose style that unabashedly communicates his enthusiasm for the sport, took him all over the world. He stalked caribou in Quebec, alligators in Florida, bull moose in Alaska, and gemsbok in South Africa. Some of his targets were notably dangerous, like cougars in Utah, the nearly invisible “phantoms of the forest,” and black bears in the northern tier of Alberta—he only successfully hunted one in his life. The author candidly recounts his failures as well as his triumphs—his first helicopter ride was the result of being nabbed by game wardens for hunting without a license on his person. Yehyawi’s memoir is dominated by tales of tracking prey, though he does occasionally share more personal details—for example, he suffered a sudden stroke as the result of a congenital heart defect. Nevertheless, even the hunting stories, conveyed with palpable emotion, seem almost confessional and intimate, and he often philosophically ponders life’s mysteries: “The secret to life is an age-old question, one whose answer is anything but universal. My response to that riddle has always been passion, for it’s the one attribute that keeps us going, the ingredient that fuels our fire and gives us hope.”
Yehyawi’s remembrances can be grippingly dramatic—he once thought he was being shadowed by hungry grizzly bears, and on another expedition he came face-to-face with a lynx, a moment captured beautifully on film. (The book is filled with gorgeous photography by the author and others showing the impressive animals and stunning landscapes.) He communicates his adoration of bowhunting and the wilderness with an effusive, infectious love that can be moving: “One day, I know these memories will fade like the embers of a flame. But as I sit here now, almost thirty years later, I can still remember that chilly, October morning as if it were yesterday. More importantly, I remember the people and places that made it possible.” The author delves deeply into the technical aspects of the sport—decoys, grunt tubes, and rattling antlers—and these excursions into granular details will only captivate those with comparable expertise. But the central theme of the book remains the pursuit of a fiery lodestar, a clarion call that provides a lifetime of excitement. One can feel Yehyawi’s dedication to bowhunting, particularly in his descriptions of the way he started to introduce his son Z.J. to it. Especially for outdoors fans, this is a thoughtful and affecting collection of reminiscences.
A meditative but rousing reflection on a life devoted to hunting that will surely appeal to those with similar enthusiasms.