Cover Image: The Age of Deer

The Age of Deer

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Member Reviews

My thanks to NetGalley and Catapult/Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull Press for and eARC copy of this book to read and review.

I live in a state in the US that is just FULL of deer. Like FULL. They are like giant rats with really skinny legs that have a really bad habit of standing in front of cars while they are traveling at a high rate of speed, killing themselves and ruining the car and the driver's day in the process. Bodies of deer who commit suicide via car are always on the side of the road where I live. It's impossible to miss seeing. (The area I live is not one where roadkill is picked up and used to it's fullest, so once a deer is down, it takes a few days for the local authorities to pick up the bodies and dispose of them. My area also doesn't have carrion scavengers to "circle of life" the dead deer. I live in a non-wild except for deer, Canadian geese and squirrels area. It's sad, but I also don't have to drive 50+ miles to get to the local grocery store, so there is some compensation I guess.)

I was going through a mini-book slump when I was attempting to read this book, so I admit, I didn't finish it. Not because the book was bad, it just didn't grab me. It also had a lot of the history, and current, humans are only good at killing things vibe, though apparently deer were so bad off and people regretted it, so they literally SHIPPED IN deer from areas where the population was still doing ok to the areas where they were non-existent and now POOF deer are so plentiful they are a nuisance because the predators of said deer were not also shipped in. So now cars are the main predators. So yay, we didn't make the deer extinct, but now we have given auto-body workers much more steady employment than if deer didn't exist.

I think I am too heavily negative to deer to really enjoy a book that seems to be positive towards them. I think if I lived in an area where hunting was the norm and deer were a major source of food for me, I would feel differently. I DO think it is cool that people are trying to re-learn if they don't know already, the way to live off of the land and to use a dead deer for EVERYthing, to respect the cycle of it's life and death. But that's not me. Oh, I have flights of fancy, if I was isekai'd into a world where I had to survive off of the land, if WWIII happened and I survived, how I would ruggedly "live off the land", but those are just fantasy. I would hope if those things happened, I could figure out a way to survive, but it would be VERY difficult for me. I respect those who CAN do that. Hats off to you. Can we be friends? You keep me alive physically, I keep you mentally and emotionally stable by being your friend and giving you an outward goal of keeping someone helpless alive? No? Shrug, just thought I'd ask.

So. Would I recommend this book? If you are into nature, want to learn about the multiple uses for a dead deer and you appreciate when they are alive because BAMBI IS TOO CUTE, then yes, this book would be very interesting and informative to you. It just didn't work for me.

2, it was interesting but a book slump killed it for me, stars.

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Deer are one of the animals, alive or dead, that I encounter most frequently where I live (thankfully, I have never hit one with my car). Mostly centered in the US, this book combines first-person investigative reporting with cultural criticism and environmental philosophy, and I absolutely loved it. You should pick this up if you’re interested in deer, but also if you’re interested in perspectives on climate change and ecological history, consumption, and human-animal relationships in general.

Howsare looks at deer from many angles here, but all focus on interspecies intimacies between deer and humans. Though deer farms exist (and Howsare dives into them), deer are typically considered wild (the word “wilderness” has “deer” at its core), yet in reality, deer have evolved in tandem with us, shaped inextricably by human-driven habitat changes, hunting, and more. Indigenous controlled burns often created the ideal conditions for deer. Human-deer intimacies can be reverent, as in myths about deer, or uncomfortable—deer can be a nuisance to gardeners, for example. Deer are endlessly adaptable, leading Howsare to dub them “Anthropocene heroes.”

Chapters focus on topics from deer and vehicle collisions (not just cars—whitetailed deer are the most dangerous animal to US aircraft!), methods of deer population control, disease, and at greatest length, hunting. Howsare considers the cultural, ecological, ethical, and affective dimensions of deer hunting. She learns how antlers are scored, visits a high-fence ranch, and accompanies her own brother on a hunt. I’m not sure if I recommend reading this book while eating … but maybe I do, if you eat meat, because this will make you think about what that means without trying to persuade either way. I learned a lot of interesting facts from this book, but I was even more captivated by its questioning, by Howsare’s poetic prose and ability to be rigorously informative without didacticism.

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