And Now We Shall Do Manly Things: Discovering My Manhood Through the Great (and Not-So-Great) American Hunt by Craig J. Heimbuch follows Heimbuch on his journey to immerse himself in the culture of hunting that his family cherishes but he never enjoyed.
For those of you who know me in real life or remember my brief mention of hating hunting on my personal blog, it may surprise you greatly to know that I was not forced to read this book and in fact chose to on my own free will. I know, I shocked myself, too. The description and the cover intrigued me (every time Josie saw it, she shouted “A bear in a hat!!”), and I decided that this could be an opportunity to try to see another side of something that I had strong feelings about but had never tried myself.
Spoiler alert: I still dislike the idea of hunting and will never do it myself, but that doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good.
In fact, the book was great. If you had told me before reading this book that I would enjoy reading a book about hunting and gun use, I would have slapped you right in the face for insulting my honor. Imagine my surprise when I actually did.
What interested me most about this book was the reason for his experiment, his immersion in the world of hunting. Heimbuch explains “I don’t feel like a man. I feel like a watered-down version of a man. […] I do feel too willing to give in, too willing to cower, to hide from problems, and to shy away in the face of opportunity. I realize that, if I am ever to become the man, the husband, the father, the writer I want to become, I need to learn how to face life standing up.”
I love this sentiment, and while I was still not sure I believed he needed to learn to hunt to accomplish these things, I was interested in this goal he had set, and how he wanted to learn more about something that the men in his family were passionate about.
What sold me on this journey, I think were two main things. 1) He went about this process very deliberately. He studied carefully, really looked deeply into both hunting and gun cultures (and didn’t like everything he saw), and took his responsibilities as a gun owner and hunter seriously, and 2) he says early on in the book that he wants to “be a hunter, not a killer.”
In the end, it seems that this isn’t about needing to be a hunter to be a real man. It is about needing to find a passion for something in life to feel like a fulfilled person. I can get on board with that, for sure.
All in all, reading about a year-long journey to become a hunter turned out to be a very interesting thing that I never thought I would do. I’m glad I stepped outside my box and tried it, because not only do I now think I understand much more about how and why people choose to participate in this activity, but I found a writer whose voice I appreciate greatly. I will be looking for Craig Heimbuch in the future, and hope this is not the last I see of him.
[Okay, now that the review is officially over, I have to say that my junior high Principal’s last name was Heimbuch, and he looked a lot like Principal Belding from Saved by the Bell (or at least he does in my memory), and so the entire time I read this book, I imagined Principal Belding creeping around fields, trying to shoot pheasant. Try it. It’s distracting.]