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