I’ll date myself by revealing one of my favorite hunting movies. “Bowhunting October Whitetails” was released back in the 1980’s and featured Gene and Barry Wensel, twin brothers who shot recurve bows exceedingly well. I haven’t watched the film in awhile, and I know by today’s standards the production values weren’t superb. But there was some great footage, solid hunting advice, and most memorably for me the charismatic, fun-loving presence of Barry, who wore his hat cocked sideways and mugged for the camera by arching his eyebrows. I’ve watched a lot of TV shows and videos since, and I’ve yet to see a better on-camera persona.

So I was tickled, 20-plus years after seeing that video, to meet Barry at the Wisconsin Deer Expo this spring. And also to get a copy of his newly-released book “Once Upon a Time: The Crooked Hat Chronicles.” My visit with Barry was brief, but I have spent a lot of time with the book and have enjoyed it immensely. “Once Upon a Time” is aptly named; this is a story book; full of memorable hunts from a lifetime of chasing big game with a bow. This is not an instructional, how-to book (though you can learn an awful lot if you’re paying attention, and I was), but a sort of highlight reel that details some of Wensel’s finest adventures.

I’ve always appreciated great hunting tales, but I particularly enjoyed this book because of Wensel’s honesty. He does not tag every buck he sets out to kill, and happily admits it. This, in my eyes, is the sign of not only a veteran hunter, but a classy one. Wensel is known for his outstanding ability as an instinctive shooter, even on running game (another subject he discusses in detail) yet he’s not afraid to admit whiffing a chip-shot at a standing buck. He details hunts where he falls over stuff, gets wet, and bluff-charges bears. In short, Barry Wensel is a man comfortable with himself, happy with life, and simply loves hunting. When he says he passed a shot on a giant buck simply because he didn’t want his season to end too early, you believe him.

If you’re looking for a great summer read, or a gift book that will please any bowhunter, I’d recommend “The Crooked Hat Chronicles” in a heartbeat. To order a copy, visit