Hunting, Fishing and Camping
by Leon Leonwood Bean
with Updates by Great-Grandson Bill Gorman
One Hundreth Anniversary Edition
Down East Books, hardcover, 112 pp., $19.95
In his writing classic, The Elements of Style, famous Maine author E. B. White wrote about the book’s original edition, by William Strunk Jr., that “its vigor is unimpaired and for sheer pith I think it probably sets a record that is not likely to be broken.” The same could be said for another famous Mainer’s book Hunting, Fishing and Camping by Leon Leonwood Bean, first published in 1942 and recently re-issued in a 100th Anniversary Edition by Down East Publishers. You won’t find a book on the same subjects with this much pith in a hundred years.
It is obvious from the introduction that Mr. Bean eats and breathes brevity: “The object of this book is not to bore my readers with personal yarns and experiences but to give definite information in the fewest words possible on how to Hunt, Fish, and Camp.” He provides only “major information” because “minor details are easily learned by practice,” and then claims the book can be read in eighty-five minutes! James Michener, he is not.
Forty-four chapters seems a lot for a book of 112 pages, but most of the chapters are two pages long. Chapter One covers “Deer Hunting on Bare Ground” (stick to beech ridges if it is a “beech-nut year”), and the last, Chapter Forty-four, “Bobcat Hunting” (“Cat hunting is a very rugged sport for able-bodied men only”). Bean discusses topics such as getting lost, signals for hunters, camp recipes, how to pick a campground, and what equipment to bring. He is partial to fly-fishing, but also covers bait fishing and trolling. He tells you how many people to take with you, what kinds of guns and shells, rods and hooks, to bring, and what times of day are best.
Bean wrote when hunters and fishermen ate what they killed and caught. His great-grandson, Bill Gorman, who hosts a television series L.L. Bean Guide to the Outdoors, provides a more contemporary perspective on his great-grandfather’s book by commenting in the margins as well as in smaller sections of his own about, to name two, using GPS’s (L. L. Bean told only how to use a compass) and conservation. His comments, direct and informative as his great-grandfather’s are not so pithy, but still well worth reading however and add much to the original book:
First published in 1942, Hunting Fishing and Camping has lost some of its practical use as a hands-on manual in this twenty-first-century age of Gore-Tex rainwear and graphite fly rods (although a surprising amount of its advice still holds up today). But as a nostalgic look at a bygone era in the Maine woods, this book knows no equal. That’s one of the reasons we have decided to bring it back into print, with updated information about the ways our favorite outdoor pursuits have changed since L.L.’s day—and the ways they have stayed the same.
Included are black and white photographs of L.L. Bean and companions, sometimes human, sometimes not, and color photographs of old Bean products, such as the pack basket (a basket with shoulder straps), a can of Bean’s Angleworm Food, a red Taylor Compass, a tube of Bean’s Gun Grease, and a plaid Maine Hunting Coat. Many amusing covers of old L.L. Bean catalogs showing hunters and fishermen in tight spots, also accompany the text. A few misprints and one photograph shown twice might annoy the reader, but not for long. Most of the time he or she will be enjoying a trip into the past and learning how to better enjoy the outdoors. As Bean wrote, “To my mind, hunting and fishing is the big lure that takes us into the great open spaces and teaches us to forget the mean and petty things of life.”