What is O.K. to hunt, when and why? The Fair Chase isn’t a book about ethics and philosophy, but Dray does a fine job introducing his readers to the issues in play ... The Fair Chase can be frustrating at times. Dray’s historical method involves a bit of overlapping and backtracking, and he sometimes seems more interested in the literary description and public presentation of hunting rather than the act itself. Hunting is an emotional, blood-racing activity, and Dray seems happy to leave the intense feelings it provokes to in-the-field writers ... Still, he isn’t afraid to lay out hard truths, including the ways in which the National Rifle Association, once a hunting group, has hijacked an important and honorable pastime for gun-selling ends.
The author has written an excellent overview of the history of hunting ... The engaging text, which covers the creation of the National Rifle Association and the National Audubon Society, is enhanced by hundreds of excellent, annotated chapter notes ... Vital reading for all interested in natural history, conservation, ethics, American history, and firearms. Highly recommended.
How hunting came to hold an iconic place in American culture in the first place is an interesting tale, and in The Fair Chase Philip Dray explores it with a balance and fair-mindedness that is unusual for such a contentious subject ... Mr. Dray’s approach to such material is mostly anecdotal and impressionistic. He is not always careful to distinguish between the things hunters said about themselves and the things they actually did, and it takes more assiduous digging than he has done to get to the experience of hunting as it existed outside the pages of the sporting gazettes ... The great strength of this telling is the author’s ability to see that little about his story is black and white. He makes a strong case for the credit due to sport hunters for successful campaigns to save the American bison, halt the wanton slaughter of birds for their plumage and set aside land for nature conservation ... In predicting the imminent demise of hunting due to evolving “ethical” attitudes, Mr. Dray, I think, underscores the historical inadequacy of his equation of American hunting as a whole with the elite sport hunting movement. He barely touches on the history of hunting in America before the late 19th century.