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If you’ve followed the Rok Blog, you know that I advocate reading in the off-season.  No better way to perfect your craft than studying other hunter’s experiences. While many of the books I read fall into the “How-To” category, occasionally I’ll find one that breaks the mold, going deeper than just learning. 

That is how I’d describe Ben Walter’s “November Below Heart Mountain.”  It is a hunting story of one man’s journey from childhood through manhood and how hunting not only shaped him as a man, but may have saved him from a darkness only few can understand.  

Set in Idaho, it was bound to capture my heart.  I found that I’d unknowingly shared many a stomping grounds with Ben. The history he shares about hunting Southeast Idaho took me back to a youngster following my own dad around the deer woods.  Anyone with a love for the West will enjoy “visiting” the places Ben uses as a backdrop for his story.  

 

The book opens with his earliest childhood memory: buying his first gun—a Daisy Model 299 BB gun—at the ripe old age of four.  This isn’t the only firearm story.  You’ll read about everything from hard-hitting .338 Winchester Magnums to his gullible father’s single shot “Handi-Rifle”.  You’ll also learn about a very special 30.06 that sights only through empty scope rings.  

Ben’s emotions in the chapter “Opening Day” will make you wish your next opening day was tomorrow.  You’ll likely remember pulling the same stunts in “Bloodthirsty,” that Ben did as a young hunter.  Ben also tells many interesting and candid stories of his family forays into the mountains of Idaho and Montana chasing everything from cow elk and antelope to mule deer and bull elk.  His stories are not trumped up in a fashion that glorifies the hunter in any way.  In fact, you’ll hear about dozens of misses, wince at a few gut shots, and even read about a fist fight or two.  A few paragraphs could be rated “R” for language.  This is reality hunting in it’s purest form.

Ben weaves plenty of humor in his stories.  In the chapter, “Late Season Elk”, you’ll find yourself in stitches.  Read about why it’s never a good thing for grown men to sleep in the same hotel bed, no matter the circumstances.  Find out what Ben’s father did, causing him to miss a chip shot on a cow elk at less than 100 yards.  You’ll find it is possible to shoot a half box of shells through a single shot rifle at just one elk.  Ben’s wit and candid humor keep you turning the pages. 

While you’ll read about everything-big-game hunting, “November below Heart Mountain” goes deeper, way deeper, than the hunt and the kill.  It shows how hunting can be an anchor for a troubled soul.  Ben candidly writes about his personal life and how his own bad choices made hunting a bitter experience he’d eventually abandon. Ben will take you into his head, into the thoughts that drive and sometimes destroy him as he weaves a tale of redemption—a redemption made possible through hunting, a good woman, and the family and friends that bind us all together.

As with all good stories, there is a happy ending from which the book draws it’s title.  After three decades of trying, Ben takes his first bull elk below Idaho’s Heart Mountain.  The story is far more than the kill as it ties together a fractured relationship with his father, Ben’s culmination of hunting skills, and a rekindled love for hunting.

“November below Heart Mountain” is a balance of humor, hunting lore, and the dark thoughts only a person who’s experienced deep depression can fully understand.  I highly recommend Ben Walter’s book. 

You can purchase it through his website at Ben Walters.  Let him know Rokslide sent you.

If you’re feeling lucky, Ben has donated three copies of his book to the Rok Blog.  All you have to do is comment below and give his Facebook page a glance (it’s an interesting page) and you’ll be entered.  Don’t know what to comment on?  Tell us how hunting positively impacts your life.

I’ll draw sometime in early January.  Don’t forget to “Subscribe to blog” upper right of this page under “Fitness/Other” links to receive email notification when I post anything to the Rok Blog.  

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 Ben, a former wildland firefighter, now resides in Idaho Falls, Idaho with his wife and two sons.  He teaches at Idaho Falls High School.

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Robby Denning
Robby Denning started hunting mule deer in the late 1970’s, only missing one season in 35 years. At 25, he gave up the pursuit of all other big-game to focus on taking the best bucks possible. He began hunting the West on a DIY budget hunting an average of 30 days a year for mule deer. Robby loves the hunt as much as the kill and the entire process from research to scouting to hunting. He’s killed four bucks over 200 inches in the last 15 seasons, mostly on easily-obtained tags. He owns a public-land scouting service and runs a private-land outfitting business helping other hunters in their pursuit of deer and elk. Robby has scouted and hunted literally thousands of square miles of mule deer country and brings a wealth of knowledge about these experiences with him. To him, the weapon of choice is just a means-to-an-end and will hunt with bow, rifle, or muzzleloader – whatever it takes to create an opportunity to take a great mule deer. He is also the author of "Hunting Big Mule Deer" available on Amazon. Robby believes all of creation is from God for man to manage, respect, and through which to know its Creator

26 COMMENTS

  1. Looking forward to reading a copy. I grew up with a hard bound copy of The Old Man and the Boy and wound up with my life partly following it by be farmed out each summer to help on farms and taught various ” skills ” by my uncles.

  2. I look forward to checking it out! Thanks for sharing. Always nice to have good reading material to help pass the slower winter months.

  3. This sounds like it would be a good book for someone with PTSD. Something Idaho N Heroes Outdoors Inc could use maybe?

  4. Hey all – Ben W. here! If you do get a chance to read it, I sure hope you like it! Bruce, PTSD is mostly what I’ve struggled with – bad stuff, and I think Idaho N Heroes Outdoors Inc could really use it. In fact, one of my hopes is to help out military men and women and their families (and in fact, anyone who’s had to deal with PTSD and anxiety) who struggle with this. I want to put it out there that I’m willing to take anyone hunting, some people [i]need[/i] hunting, even if they don’t know it 🙂

  5. Ben, thank you for putting feelings to paper, I look forward to reading your work. I have been blessed to host several disabled vets these last two years. I have seen how getting them out into nature along with hard hunting and camaraderie helps with the healing process. Please contact Monte Bruhn the founder of INHO. http://idahonheroesoutdoors.com/ Monte helped me get into hosting disabled vets.

  6. Sounds like a good read, and I agree with the reading, it’s very helpful, one of the many reasons I follow the Rokblog!

  7. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy, either by winning or purchasing. Thanks for the recommendation and opportunity!

  8. No one in my family hunts. I started at the age of 19 with a bunch of cull friends. So I learned about hunting the wrong way. I didn’t turn around my ways until my first daughter was old enough to understand and that was it for me. If it hadn’t been for hunting taking up my time in the fall and spring of Idaho’s mountains, I’m not sure where I’d be.

  9. I took time away from hunting with job pursuits. Almost lost my family, work took a back seat faith and family took front seat and hunting has brought me closer to my faith through the trials and time of being with my own thoughts hunting solo.

  10. Tom, what you said, “hunting has brought me closer to my faith through the trials and time of being with my own thoughts and hunting solo,” has very often been the reward of the hundreds of days I’ve spent alone in the mountains.

  11. Sean, good to hear and I too think hunting has made me a better person. As a late teenager, it gave me an interest in something besides partying. Hard to get up at 4:00 and go hunting if you were out late the night before!

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