By Aaron Farley:

It seems counter intuitive doesn’t it? Practice, not reading, is what improves our hunting skills, right? I believe that being an avid reader has helped me grow quickly as a hunter. I also think that reading can help you too, let me explain…

Book smarts vs street smarts, is a battle of the ages. There were always those kids growing up who kept their nose in a book and knew tons of facts – we called them “book smart”. There were also kids who seemed to know their way around better than most adults and understood culture – we called them “street smart”.

In life and business, we still deal with book smart and street smart people. The book smart guys are typically the engineer types who can quote algorithms, speak in computer code, or explain chemical resistance charts. The salesman who is quick on his feet, or the business guy who can’t exactly explain to you what he does for a living are grown-up versions of the street smart kids.

There is a similar split among hunters. There are guys who know the latest products, read tons of magazines, and keep up with celebrity hunters’ facebook pics. Then there are the guys who spend all their time in the woods and can instinctively look at a ridgeline and tell you which three trees the bucks like to pause beside to check the wind. In the hunting world, maybe we could call it Magazine Smart vs Woods Smart.

I believe that, just like with most things, there is a middle ground between the two. In that middle ground, grows some great hunters. Too often experienced guys reject new gear/tactics as fads. Just as often, the magazine junkies neglect the wisdom of experience. Why can’t we have the best of both worlds?

It seems counter intuitive: read instead of doing, to get better at doing. That’s not the way it works. I mean read and do to get better at doing. The trick is to read it, then do it, read-do. Don’t read so much you forget about the doing. Don’t do so much you forget to read and learn more.

I have learned a boat-load of information from personal experience in the field. I would also say that I have learned just as much from others’ experiences I’ve read about. In the written word, we have an uncanny ability to share in the experiences of others. If we are smart, we will learn from their experiences and improve our own. If all we do is read, we’re kidding ourselves. If we neglect to read and lean solely on our own understanding, we lose opportunities.

Reading and doing together helped me to make progress fast as a new hunter, here’s why…

Learn new tactics

As a beginner, I was hungry for ideas and hunting methods. Reading books and magazines helped me to learn about wind, ungulate vision, and deer behavior. I was able to put information in my cranium that would have taken years to figure out by experience.

As a more seasoned hunter, there is always some new idea or strategy that pops up in my reading. For example, Marc Anthony has me seriously considering hunting from the ground in a ghillie suit this year.

Understand my own desires

One big benefit of reading is understanding myself. Have you ever heard someone say something and thought, “I couldn’t have said it better myself”? Or maybe, “That’s what I’ve been trying to put into words.” Simply hearing from another perspective can often help us articulate our own thoughts and feelings.

I am much better at sharing my view of hunting and killing my own food because I’ve read Steven Rinella’s books. By hearing him articulate the honesty of hunting, I more identify with it myself. Thanks to Tom Kelly’s books, I understand my love for the woods and the bond I feel with other hunters. Being able to hear my feelings stated clearly to me, affords me the ability to then share them crisply with others.

Being able to share our views, thoughts, and principles effectively is fast becoming the duty of hunters in our society.

Recall Information

I can’ tell you how many times something has come up, and in the moment I remembered reading about it. If you had asked me just a few minutes prior about that same thing, I couldn’t have answered the question. Yet when I needed the information, my memory recall was ready and able to fill in the gaps. This is an observed scientific phenomenon that relates to any area of learning, and hunting is no exception.

When a squirrel is burrowed up in that hole, you’ll remember some technique you read about a few months back to pull it out. When that buck you just arrowed has vanished, you’ll recall a story of someone who climbed downhill and looked up at the disturbed leaves to help track deer through timber.

I am not able to remember most of what I read on demand. However, I am constantly recalling information I’d forgotten I knew – because I read.

Have I convinced you to read more yet? Good. Here are some excellent resources for reading about hunting that I highly recommend:

Websites: has compiled a list of our top 10 hunting websites for 2013 here

Hunters: Marc Anthony, Randy Ulmer, Mark Huelsing

Books: Chris & John Eberhart’s books on deer hunting, Al Cambronne’s DEERLAND is a fact filled resource, Tom Kelly’s Tenth Legion is a humorous journey into a hunter’s mind, Steven Rinella’s books have done more to help me articulate my views of hunting than anything I’ve read, Robert Morgan’s biography of Daniel Boone is a thick book worth every page. It is a glimpse at the lives of the first American frontiersman that mark our history as hunters so distinctly.

Magazines: Eastmans Bowhunting, Deer & Deer Hunting, Bowhunter Magazine

Podcasts: Hunt Fish Journal, Peterson’s Bowhunting Radio, Wild Game Hunting Podcast

– Aaron Farley,