To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing by Eric A. Eliason (review)
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To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing. By Eric A. Eliason. Photographs by Scott Squire. Foreword by Stephen Bodio. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016. 112 pp. Photographs, bibliography, index. $40.00 cloth.

This publication is a cross between a conversation-evoking coffee-table book and a cultural portrait of a sparsely known subculture of hunters in the Great Plains. The book is self-identified as an ethnobiography that describes hunters who use dogs to hunt coyotes (coyote coursing). Coursing refers to using dogs that hunt primarily through sight rather than scent. Hare coursing has a long history in the United Kingdom, though the practice has recently been banned. Despite living in Nebraska for over 10 years, I had never heard any mention of coyote coursing, even though I participated in the subcultures of trapping and wildlife damage management. I commend Eliason for his work to introduce outsiders to this small, and likely soon to be eliminated, subculture of the hunting community.

Eliason introduces readers to this secretive world of coyote coursing by relating comments obtained through interviews and overheard conversation. He then periodically reflects on those comments using insights from evolutionary and cultural anthropology perspectives. His description and analysis of coursing is objective and somewhat dispassionate. He neither condemns nor praises the activity, except to write of it in a respectful and thoughtful way. Nevertheless, readers should prepare themselves for an emotional, if not visceral, reaction to reading this book. I was surprised at my own reaction. Though a supporter of fur trapping and animal use, I found myself in the strange position of questioning the morality of this activity as well as questioning why I was questioning it. I would encourage readers to reflect deeply regarding their own reactions and inquire whether it is based on a legitimate moral concern or whether the umbrage flows from a cultural bias or bigotry.

The text does have a few weaknesses. First, the author and photographer should have put more effort into protecting their subjects from potential harassment from animal rights extremists. While the author and photographer are not responsible for potential political repercussions, they could have ensured that license plates were blurred to reduce the likelihood that individuals would be harassed. Second, Eliason's attempt to connect coursing with evolution was confusing because he did not distinguish between cultural and biological evolution or micro- and macro-evolution. Third, his analysis neglected the religio-spiritual aspects of coursing among the practitioners.

While these criticisms are valid, they should not dissuade readers from the book. The book is very short and one should assume that much content never made it in the final draft. Squire's photographs illustrate the passion, landscape, and excitement surrounding coyote coursing. By themselves, they make the book a worthy purchase. In sum, readers should see the book as a quick, not a complete, glimpse of another culture of the Great Plains.

Stephen M. Vantassel
Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC
Lewistown, Montana
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