Where a book leads

There is something about following an animal.

Here, the tracks cross a gurgling brook. There, they head for a thicket dense with softwood saplings. If you stop and look, you can almost see the animal, leaping here, pausing there.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hunter, hiker, wildlife photographer, or all three. There’s always mystery, always a tinge of excitement.

Sometimes in winter a deer or bobcat leads you across familiar terrain. Plainly visible in the deep snow, the prints meander down a valley. They pass a cluster of young maples where bucks pawed the ground in autumn. You guess that the animal will lead you straight through the narrow saddle just ahead.

But you’re never quite certain. When the tracks turn suddenly and ascend a thick, overgrown bank in great leaps, you wonder about what a Koyukon man once told Richard Nelson: “Every animal knows way more than you do.”

This book is starting to feel like that animal.

Two years ago, it was an idea: a few chapters roughed out, the others vaguely sketched.

One year ago, it was mostly drafted.

Now, it has taken on a life of its own. No longer a creature of my imagination, it’s headed out into the world and I’ve begun to follow. There’s that mystery, that tinge of excitement.

I don’t know every place the book is going, but I believe in the questions it raises—questions about food, animals, and the human place in nature.

And I do know a few of the places it will lead. Starting in mid-February, I’ll be talking, listening, and sharing stories and ideas all around New England, from Providence, Cambridge, and Newburyport to Northampton, Middlebury, and Montpelier. My first stop, on February 16th, just two days after the book hits shelves? Concord, New Hampshire.

If you live in the Northeast—or know anyone who does—please check out my events page for details.

More events are on the way. Portland, Maine, should be on the schedule soon. Got a favorite bookstore you want to suggest? Drop me a line. During the semester, I’ll be staying close to home, with maybe a weekend run as far as the tropics of New York City. After mid-May, who knows?

I hope to see you and your friends soon.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the video below. In October, Open Road Media sent a three-person crew up from Manhattan: fantastic folks. For two days, we had a blast talking, cooking, eating, and spending time in garden and woods—camera rolling. More recently, they donned their digital wizardry hats and crafted this glimpse into the terrain my book explores.

Nice work, Open Road.

© 2012 Tovar Cerulli


  1. Tovar! I get to see you in your natural habitat! What a spectacularly beautiful place, and what a lovely video. I hope to be there when you have an event close by — Providence, perhaps.

    And my most heartfelt congratulations. A book is a big hairy deal, and an accomplishment to be proud of.

    • Tovar says:

      Yes, that is my natural habitat. Hope to see you in Providence!

      And thanks for pointing out that a book is big and hairy. No wonder it’s starting to feel like an animal.

  2. Erik Jensen says:

    The video is excellent, it even provoked some discussion with my young kids about omnivores, carnivores, and vegetarians…I’ve been thinking about this, and I hope this book doesn’t just get some vegetarians and vegans to change their thinking, although it surely will. I hope it gets hunters, at least a solid chunk of them, to change their behavior. Could it be that eating too much meat is also anti-hunting, at least in a lot of circumstances ? Or an excessive consumerist lifestyle ? Other food choices that rely on turning grain into cheap junk food ? I remember a DNR staffer telling me a year or two ago how someone else in the office had pressured him into eating mostly organic because that was the pro-wildlife, pro-hunting thing to do. So the idea is definitely out there.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Erik. Like you, I hope the book sparks reflection and attitude-shifts among a wide array of people. It is not aimed at converting vegetarians to a different view. It is aimed at getting folks of all stripes and diets to think, hunters included.

      I saw an early review (of a digital galley version) by a Buddhist vegetarian in Australia. She said that the book made her consider returning to veganism and that she thought the author would take that as a compliment. She was right.

      I like your questions and thoughts about consumerism, and about what is truly pro-wildlife.

      • Erik Jensen says:

        I hope I’m not being nit-picky, but I do have a slight disagreement with a comment you made in the video, or more that it was a hair too broad of a generalization: that vegetarianism is driven by a desire to help the environment (or did you qualify it ?). It usually is, but I notice a certain layer of vegetarians make these broad health and environmental claims that are selective in their description of animal death, like making the case for veganism or vegetarianism based solely on factory farming. There is a group like this on campus where I work, it is clear they are talking about these issues to reach a bigger audience, but their motivation is really for their ideological purpose: they really don’t like humans being involved in animal death. From a health point of view, eating a good-sized serving of wild animal or fish protein every day would be one of the best things you could do. It’s just not possible or sustainable for most of the world, or even Americans, to do this.

        Of course, I have to criticize a good chunk of hunters on this same issue as well, which is what I hope this really great book will make some inroads on. During deer rifle hunting season, I see the NRA magazines (there are two, one caters to the hunters in the group, the other to non-hunters who love guns) because of one of the camps I go to. The “American Hunter” magazine has run a couple articles picking up on the trend of eco-conscious eating, focusing on that you can get vegetarians to eat some meat that they know you killed and processed yourself. The articles have this undercurrent of, “see, we were right all along, hunters are the sole true protectors of the environment and know how to wisely use natural resources”. Of course, this is the same group that opposes every wilderness designation and supports gutting the roadless rule and actively supports the overuse of nature’s resources. When a tax increase was on the ballot in MN dedicated mostly to conservation, the NRA had no position, even though every hunting and fishing group was campaigning hard for it, even the bottom feeder group Safari Club International.

        So, hopefully, we can get this book into the hands of some long-time good conservationist-type hunters, not just to co-ops and other places where there is a likely receptive audience.

        • Tovar says:

          In the video, I said that vegetarianism is rooted in the desire (1) to eat healthily, (2) not to harm animals, and (3) not to harm the planet. There are other motivations out there, but these seem to dominate, at least here in North America.

          You raise important questions about how accurate vegetarians’ (and hunters’) claims actually are, how selective their descriptions are, etc. And I think you’re right: people from all groups (vegetarians and hunters included) use ideas and information to serve sometimes-unspoken ideological ends, to prove what they already believe.

          (An aside: The video is a very brief, partial representation of what I explore in the book. By necessity, it leaves out a lot. It is its own entity, with imperfections including the words that came out of my mouth during hours of interviewing. For that matter, the book — like any account — is a partial representation, too! It doesn’t cover everything that’s relevant to food, hunting, animals, conservation, or my thoughts and feelings about them.)

          • Erik Jensen says:

            Sorry if I was being hyper-critical. I have never agreed to be interviewed for hours on end. The times I’ve been interviewed were in moments of political combat, when I was advised to keep it short, get your sound bite/punch in, then don’t say anymore ! If it was one of those rare friendly reporters, I’d have a longer off the record background discussion with them.

            Obviously, as a member of the pro-hunting camp, but a dissident one, I get pretty cranky with the tactics/antics of factions on both sides.

            • Tovar says:

              No worries, Erik. As I said, you make good points and raise good questions, as always!

              I don’t think being interviewed for hours on end is for everyone. I never imagined doing it myself.

              I, too, find a fair amount to agree and disagree with on all sides of these issues. Though I try to avoid getting cranky, I don’t always succeed. 😉

  3. Al Cambronne says:

    Congratulations on having a wild, free-range book out there! Looks like you live in an beautiful place. And what a lovely video. Glad I just ate, or I’d be hungry after watching it. (Except maybe for the scene with the vegetarian (?) hot dogs.)

    Time to “make tracks” to the bookstore. I was fortunate enough to see an early copy of your book, and I found it quite a meaty read. Like your blog, but on a larger scale, I think it will start many interesting conversations.

  4. Keith says:

    I’m an aspiring adult onset hunter. I’ve just completed my Basic Hunter’s Education course a few days ago. I find your blog thought-provoking. I’m looking forward to reading your book and possibly meeting you on your book tour.

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Pete. So far, no plans beyond mid-May and the Northeast. But I may be going to a conference in Nebraska in June, we have family to visit in Seattle, etc. So western travels and events are definite possibilities.

  5. Nicely done – and I was thrilled to be at your table with you. Happy travels my friend. Looking forward to you and your sweet wife coming back to Seattle and staying here!

  6. douglas says:

    Nice video Tovar! I can’t wait to get a look at your book. Hopefully it will be in Canadian bookstores, or at least available over the internet (?).

    • Tovar says:

      Thanks, Doug! Absolutely: The book will have full distribution in Canada. The best thing is to ask a local bookstore to order it!

  7. kmurray says:

    Congrats again Tovar! I loved the video. Really shows you for you 🙂 Looking forward to reading your book and if you are going to make it to Wisconsin, please let me know. I’d love to try to meet up with ya.

  8. Tovar I LOVE your trailer . . . and all the beautiful connections you make. Bravo and thumbs up!
    Beautiful book cover, too . . . please extend my compliments to the artist who designed it.

  9. Oh lord, yes, I’m still catching up on everything I missed during the finale of duck season. I’m reading the book now, and the video looks great – I’ll be sure to include it in my review.

    Congrats, Tovar!

  10. Motaki says:

    Been a while since I checked in with you. Hi!

    UPDATE: Went to a falconer’s meet on Dec. 10th, got to hold a Harris’ Hawk- super fun. Private hunt after we broke off from the main meet, we got a squirrel with my friend’s Red-tail, still fun.

    November- helped gut my cousin’s deer. Eugh. ‘Nuf said. Nearly tossed my cookies- stood by a tree and pretended to watch the guns. Until I was called in to hold a leg.

    Today- sent an email to my falconer-friend asking if she was open on the weekend on the eighteenth and nineteenth to come to my place. Eep.

    (The twelve-year-old that hunts deer and intends to acquire a homicidal raptor to murder rabbits, squirrels and various other game with, commenting on the former-vegan’s blog? Serious irony somewhere in there.)

    And you look/sound totally different than I thought. Bah!

    -Motaki, Aspiring Falconer (properly austringer) and Murderer of Wild Things (although I haven’t actually really killed anything yet)

    • Tovar says:

      Hey, Motaki! Eviscerating a large mammal is definitely an intense experience.

      Oh, yes, plenty of irony and surprises to go around…

  11. Lieing Wolf says:

    Thanks for the book donation at the past hunter ed banquet, wish you much luck. May you find yourself on the track!

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