I’ve always been a fan of books. I sincerely hope they never “go away,” as some predict they will with the advent of the digital age. A good book inspires me, especially when it’s a good book about hunting. Bernie Barringer’s book, The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY Strategies for the Traveling Whitetail Hunter, is a good book about hunting, and it makes me want to go hunting.
I’ve served as editor for many hunting and gun books in my day. I’ve read many good ones and at least as many stinkers. The good ones all had the same thing in common: they relayed information as well as took the reader along on the hunt, making it relatable.
Before we get into the information within the pages of the book, there are a few key things that should tell you the reach of the author and why he should be trusted to teach you something new about hunting. Take a look at the guys who either supplied blurbs for the book, or the guy who wrote the foreword, Tom Miranda. Other notable names include archery legend M.R. James, Bob Robb from Whitetail Journal, Miles Keller, and a friend of mine, Gordon Whittington from North American Whitetail. If you were unaware of the author before seeing this book on the shelf, these names alone should be enough to convince you that it’s worthy of a look.
But you probably have heard of Barringer. He’s been writing for a long time and has is the author of 11 hunting, fishing, and trapping books. He travels North America hunting and fishing, and blogs about it on his website as well as for OutdoorHub and other websites and magazines. In other words, he’s got the stuff. I’ve long said that to make it in this business, you either have to be a skilled writer, or know your stuff. Luckily for me, and you, Barringer both knows his stuff and can write about it, too.
What is a “freelance bowhunter?”
The term “do it yourself,” or DIY, is almost overused these days. When you think about the term “DIY hunt,” it seems like a vague topic. There are a lot of variables. For writers such as me, the term “freelance” means quite a bit. It means you’re going to, on your own, take on the responsibility of a project, go through all of the steps on your own, and achieve the reward of the outcome after you put in the hard work.
For Barringer, the term “freelance bowhunter” means being a hunter who seeks out the best hunting destinations, travels there, and pursues his intended target to the best of his ability, all without the assistance of a guide or outfitter. The book starts out by really hammering the point that you, as the hunter, need to define what you want to do and what level of effort you’re willing to put into a hunting trip.
How many times have you sat around with some hunting buddies and talked about doing a DIY hunting trip? I’ve done it so many times that I can barely remember them. Back when I worked for Cabela’s out in Sidney, Nebraska, that was pretty much all of the water cooler talk that went on. Of course, when you’re easy driving distance to Wyoming, Colorado, and the Dakotas, DIY hunting trips are part of the norm. Where Barringer starts you to thinking is getting you to ask yourself whether you really want to make the commitment to do a freelance hunt.
What commitment is he talking about? It’s all about expectations. Is it about a good hunt, or is a trophy buck hanging on the wall the only measure of success you’ll accept? Barringer admits that his goals have changed over the years, and that now, for him, the hunt itself is the reward. Scoring a big buck is awesome; don’t get either Barringer or myself wrong. But the book does a great job of preparing you for the possibility that the hunt will be extremely hard work and you may not bring home the biggest buck—or even a buck at all.
“I had a terrific buck 10 yards from my tree no less than three times and there was nothing I could do about it,” Barringer said. “Nothing of course, other than resolve to never let that happen again.”
This quote is from a chapter in the book where Barringer is talking about a hunt where he was leaving his gear in a tree to go have lunch and he ended up being caught bowless while a 160-class buck chased a doe around his tree. I’ve been in almost those exact shoes myself, so I can relate. Freelance hunting is hard work, and sometimes you aren’t going to take the buck.
Worth its weight in gold
The part of this book that should make you go out and buy a copy for yourself and another for each of your hunting buddies is the state information. Barringer lists information from 16 top bowhunting destination states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Gathering in-depth state information isn’t a new concept. There are plenty of books and websites that will give you basic state hunting information. What makes Barringer’s book so valuable is the advice he gives about each state from someone who has spent time hunting these states as a freelance hunter.
The tradition of face-to-face, “oral advice” from fellow sportsmen is an important one. Back in my Cabela’s days, we often went and asked questions about specific hunting areas from people who had been there and done that—just so we could have boots-on-the-ground experience to draw from. Barringer compacts that kind of advice into this book. That’s the kind of information you can use as a blueprint for planning hunts for many years.
In my office, I have a bookshelf loaded down with title after title. The average titles that I hold on to for one reason or another occupy the bottoms shelves, and a few fancy gift-books (most of which I never read) occupy the top shelf. But the middle shelf, which is eye-level to me when I’m sitting at my desk, is loaded down with the good books that I reach for all the time. These books are by the truly great authors who know how to write and know their stuff. The middle shelf in my office has a new book, one by Bernie Barringer. And it makes me want to go freelance bowhunting.
Image courtesy Bernie Barringer