Wild Sport: Rambling and Hunting Trips Through the United States of North America
“We entered the Mississippi the second day, and soon left the state of Arkansas far behind us. Of all I had seen in America is was the one which pleased me most; I may perhaps never see it again, but I shall never forget the happy days I passed there, where many a true heart beats under a coarse frock or leather hunting shirt.” Wild Sport chapter 12, Friedrick Gerstacker
I have never done a book review here on the site but this one I just completed is pretty unique and I think will be of specific interest to those hikers out there who have hiked around Arkansas.
Wild Sport: Rambling and Hunting Trips through the United States of North America is the true recollections of Friedrich Gerstacker and his trip to the US in the 1830’s-40’s. Gerstacker was a sportsman and travelled throughout the Arkansas and Louisiana areas hunting bear, turkey, deer and more during his seven years over here before returning back home to Germany. Much of the book is spent in various areas of Arkansas eastern, southern and northwestern. Any hiker who is familiar with the layout of the land will recognize a lot of the locations he writes about.
My favorite parts were in the last half of the book where he talks about his time in the Ozarks, Hurricane Creek, and “The Devil’s Pathway” which from his description is the natural bridge in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness area of the Ozark Highlands Trail. Prior to this he also writes a lot about parts that are familiar to those who have hiked the Ouachita Trail.
The book reads like an adventure novel detailing his encounters with wild bear, American Indians, settlers, and the land in general before it became too civilized. A lot of the characters are entertaining and Gerstacker’s writing style is light and easy so that it has made for great reading just before bed the past month or so. I did not want to read it too fast because I didn’t want it to end. During one of the really windy nights a couple weeks back as the wind blew and I could hear the creaking of the big trees outside our house while I read it felt like I was right there with Gerstacker as he tried to stay warm under his bear skin blanket while camping along the Mulberry River in the snow.
Apparently there were once a lot of mountain lions throughout the state because in just about every place Gerstacker travels throughout Arkansas he encountered “panthers.” The book is written as a story about his hunting adventures but to me it read more like the account of his hiking and travels with hunting expeditions in between. I enjoyed the adventurous tales as well as finding the locations I was familiar with as he traveled along.
The book is probably as close as we can get to seeing Arkansas when it was still wild. I highly recommend this to mid south hikers out there!