Book Review: Year of the Pig

I’m no hunter, but Mark J. Hainds’ Year of the Pig sharply hits the mark, with each tale of the hunt more exciting than the last.  The book provides the detailed personal account of Hainds’ journey to hunt feral pigs in ten states, appropriately during 2007, the Chinese calendar’s Year of the Pig.  Hainds uses guns, bows and arrows, and even dogs and knives to hunt pigs in a variety of dramatic scenes, keeping the reader engaged as he pursues his lofty goal and unrepentant quarry.

A compelling read for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, Year of the Pig provides a wealth of natural history of the feral pig and its habitats. Most chapters begin with a charming description of the dominant plant species that will set the stage of the next hunt.  While Hainds admits that “most hunters’ tree identification skills range from weak to nonexistent,” Year of the Pig benefits from his experience as a research coordinator for the Longleaf Alliance.  In his pursuits, Hainds always hones in on “pig sign” like evidence of grazing and rooting, and his descriptions of his prey are so vivid the reader will surely picture, hear, and even smell the pigs in front of them.

During the course of his adventures, Hainds interacts with many characters, and he uses each to explore the facets of different attitudes toward feral pigs.  Encounters range from a friend who is content to hunt then leave “the stinky bastards” to rot in the field to hunting guides admitting that increased demand for feral pig hunts has turned a pest into a hot commodity.  Although Hainds eventually shares his personal philosophy on feral pigs as an invader versus a commodity in the waning chapters of the book, it may have benefited from a little more introspection throughout Year of the Pig to learn how his experiences affected his worldview over time.  A year-long pursuit (bordering on obsession) is bound to have considerable influence.

Overall, Year of the Pig should provide an enjoyable and educational read to hunters and invasivores alike, filled with riveting accounts and useful tips on pursuing and preparing feral pigs.

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