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Skinnin' and Grinnin' Buck Tales from Mount Eddy by Sandy Hough Shepard and Tom Hough
Stories of deer hunting on Mount Eddy by and about the hunters

As Sandy Hough Shepard and Tom Hough write in Skinnin’ and Grinnin’: Buck Tales from Mount Eddy, every fall on the slopes of Mount Eddy in California’s Siskiyou County, something changes. Hunters shift their attention towards blacktail deer in the same way our ancestors did in the distant past when survival depended on their working together to feed their families. Hunting season arrives, and the ancient camaraderie between hunters, their sons, daughters, and families reemerge.  And as the interviews Sandy collected from the people who hunted on Mount Eddy show, this camaraderie is still important in this remote area of Northern California.

The conversations in Skinnin’ and Grinnin’ are what drive the story of hunting on Mount Eddy forward. The men, women and children talk about “The Eddys,” the animals, the roads, vehicles, cooking, camping, the guns, and the hunt itself.  But most of all they talk in a way that reveals their affection for each other, the outdoors in general, and Mount Eddy in particular. This is the case whether they talk about getting lost, first kills, the one that got away, first day of the season, or legends of the mythical “Benchleg Buck.”

Skinnin’ and Grinnin’ is about much more than just hunting, deer, and Mount Eddy. It is about the people who come to the mountain in pursuit of the deer, and more importantly to recreate the ties between families, and generations.  It is about how on Opening Weekend on Siskiyou’s Mount Eddy these are all tied together as a past, present, and future. --Tony Waters, Professor of Sociology, California State University, Chico

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I stumbled on to an incredible local book earlier this month at Blackbird Shopping Center in Medford. It’s titled Skinnin’ and Grinnin’ –Buck Tales from Mt. Eddy. If you don’t have it, get it. 

It’s about a Mt. Shasta family and their friends, the place they hunted and the times they had during the glory days of deer hunting in California. The story telling brings readers into the middle of each hunt and each camp and the laughs are plenty. It’s about life as much as it’s about deer hunting.

Like many of you, I’ve poured through many outdoor books and periodicals including some of the classics from North America and Africa and some local stuff as well. For me, this book typifies California deer hunting during the heyday period and many of the hunting families I know throughout the North State will be able to relate well. However, the affection toward each other and the place this group hunted is truly unique.

Skinin’ and Grinnin’ is a must have if you love deer hunting and are connected to the North State, its history and traditions. Or, maybe you just want to get a feel for what small-town deer hunting in California was like not too long ago or step into a slice of life from the period. This book will give you that glimpse. 

Other families should take note because oral traditions and histories can only preserve so much. Something is always lost. This book is dedicated to the authors’ late brother who loved to deer hunt, was good at it, and seemed to inspire a great many people. They did him proud by gettin’ the words down.

I cannot say enough about this book but won’t give away more. A list of retail outlets and book order information can be found on skinninandgrinnin.com. Jason Haley, MyOutdoorBuddy.com

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There's a new book that tells of one family's hunting experiences in the shadow of the Eddy mountains in Siskiyou County. Skinnin' And Grinnin'  is about tracking the often-elusive deer of those parts, the legendary "ghosts of Eddy."

It's also about the camaraderie of hunting with family and friends on crisp fall mornings, and about the post-hunt ritual of swapping stories around the campfire over bowls of Dinty Moore stew.

The co-authors are a brother-and-sister team who grew up in Mount Shasta. Although she grew up in a family of hunters, Sandy Hough Shepard, 68, has never fired a rifle. She's a former ski instructor and a retired K-12 teacher. Her brother Tom Hough drove heavy equipment for the Siskiyou County Public Works Department in his younger days. Now, at 66, he works seasonally with a U.S. Forest Service road crew in his adopted state of Montana, where he is still an avid hunter.

Their older brother Lonzo staked out the family hunting grounds in the Eddy range back in the late 1940s. It's where their father and their uncle worked as tree fallers.

Sandy Shepard may not have been a hunter, but she participated in the experience all the same. "The best times I can remember were when everybody gathered at Mom and Dad's to tell their hunting stories. And when they brought deer to the house, the whole neighborhood came around to hear the stories and share in the bounty," she says.

Voices come through

For her book, Shepard interviewed the surviving members of her extended family (Lonzo died in 1995) and pieced together their story in the form of edited transcripts of the interviews. Tom contributed a half dozen stories of his own, provided photos, and fact-checked the text.

Because the book is in the form of an oral history, the voices of these hunters come through loud and clear: You feel their enthusiasm for the hunt, their pleasure in the companionship of fellow hunters, the joy of being out in the woods on those crisp mornings.

Quite a bit of this 127-page book is devoted to the first hunting experiences of the boys in the family - with few exceptions, this was a male sport. One's first kill was an important rite of passage, and the kill didn't really count if it was any place other than the family's traditional hunting grounds at Fawn Creek.

Bob Manley married into the family. His (now former) wife, Jolie, was Lonzo's daughter. Manley hunted with the family at Fawn Creek in the 1960s and '70s and remembers it as a kind of "tribal experience." Other clans - the Spinis, the Pigonis, the Chitwoods -had their own hunting grounds nearby and respected each other's boundaries.

The Hough clan had its own distinctive way of dressing for the hunt: black or blue Levi's jeans, flannel shirts and cowboy hats adorned with pieces of antler from a deer they'd killed.

Dennis Smith was a longtime family friend. In the book, he shares fond memories of hunting the Fawn Creek area: "The hunting begins when it is light enough to shoot, and the stillness and quiet of the predawn woods is a wonderful experience. The air is always cool, clean and crisp. Walking through the woods alone on the first morning of deer season is like a hunter's dream."

With that attitude, it could be a good day whether you got your deer or not, although a successful kill was always cause for celebration: "The picture taking, laughing, hugging, and storytelling party goes through dinner and right on to the evening campfire 'til bedtime," says Tom Hough in Skinnin' And Grinnin.'

The hunting tradition, as Shepard writes, goes back to when "venison was a necessary staple in freezers that got families through the long winter." And very little was wasted. Tom remembers some neighbors stripping the carcass of its last bits of meat to make a delicious soup.

Slice of culture

The book, in bookstores from Chico to Mount Shasta, has sold 600 copies since December. Not surprisingly, it's been a bestseller in the Houghs' home territory.

Skinnin' And Grinnin' vividly portrays a slice of this region's culture and history, a tradition and a lifestyle that's slowly fading away.

Although there are still a few Hough family members who show up at the clan's old hunting grounds on opening day, many in the family, like Tom, have moved away. And hunting itself is on the decline: Statewide, purchases of deer kill permits, or "tags," are half what they were 50 years ago.

So it's probably a good thing that Shepard got it all down when she did. "I am not a hunter, but love a good story," she says. "I feel privileged that these people shared their stories and pictures with me. And as I go around to bookstores, or talk with hunters who bought it, I get to hear their stories. I could easily--and happily--write another book." --Tom Holt, Redding Searchlight

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Click to order Skinnin' and Grinnin' $15.95 ISBN 9780979338755

Order Skinnin' and Grinnin' by Sandy Hough Shepard and Tom Hough

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