“The Elk Hunt: The Adventure Begins” is the first book in “The Adventures of Wilder Good Series” by S.J. Dahlstrom. I was intrigued by this story, as I grew up in rural Montana, but my children are growing up in urban Massachusetts. There are many things about my childhood that are greatly removed from theirs, not the least of which is growing up in a “hunting culture.” The main character, Wilder Good, lives in southern Colorado, with a lifestyle very similar to that of my youth, and I was pleased to read a story that felt like an old pair of well-worn jeans and boots, familiar and comfortable.
The story is a well-written, descriptive account of a young boy’s first elk hunt. It starts in the early morning hours before the hunt and continues through the next morning, following the ups and downs of the day. The emotions and tensions of 12 year old boy’s initial experience hunting elk were very similar to some of mine when I was in the mountains with my father at the same age, and I was impressed by the true-to-life representations without gratuitous gore or language.
“The Elk Hunt” is listed as appropriate for 9 year olds. From a reading level point of view I would agree. I would probably edge closer to 10-12 (depending on the child) from a content point of view, as there are some descriptions of processing elk meat that might bother a younger child, if they aren’t already familiar with the details of hunting.
My 13 year old son is at a good age and of a nature to read and appreciate this story. He enjoys being outside and fishes at the pond at the end of our street whenever he gets the chance. However, he has not had much opportunity to learn about hunting. “The Elk Hunt” is a little bit of a coming of age story for him, in a Western sort of way. He was easily drawn into the author’s descriptions of people and terrain, and wished that the book had been a bit longer.
My son noticed that the Wilder Good website promotes a “Be Wilder” motto, which to him suggests less of the video gaming, “indoor life” of some of his peers, and more getting outdoors, and enjoying and paying attention to the world around you.
As a mom, I appreciated the moral tone of the book. It isn’t at all preachy, but it models healthy relationships between generations, loyalty, bravery, perseverance, responsibility, and respect for wildlife, without going overboard in any direction.
If you live in a hunting culture, your children will find this book to be authentic. If you don’t live in a hunting culture, but your children want to learn more about it in story fashion, they will find this to be an enjoyable and informative read. I will also state the obvious: if your family is vegetarian or a vegan, this probably isn’t the book for you.