Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

Travel to Terra Incognita With One of America’s Greatest Conservationists

Hornaday's outfit coming through MacDougal Pass within two miles of MacDougal Crater, looking north. Hornaday Mountains close by on the left. The e-book edition includes seven color plates reproduced from the original edition.

In the latest release from the Boone and Crockett Club’s Classics Series, hitch a ride with William T. Hornaday as he travels to an unexplored chunk of the Sonoran Desert circa 1907. There, he finds not just lava and sand but a world of robust beauty—plus a bipolar, flesh-eating dog named Rowdy.

If there ever was an outdoors Renaissance man at the turn of the twentieth century, William T. Hornady was that man. Conservationist, naturalist, explorer, taxidermist, and hunter, Hornaday was an outspoken champion of America’s wildlife. He was also a prolific writer, recounting his adventures abroad and in the U.S. In 1909, he published the classic Camp-Fires on Desert and Lava—a detailed, sometimes hilarious, scientific adventure. 

“This book represents an effort to show the Reader a strange, weird, and also beautiful country as it looked to me,” he writes. And he does not disappoint.

Photo of "The Finest Giant Cactus" taken by Hornaday.

In the fall of 1907, Hornaday and a handful of cohorts set out to explore a seemingly desolate region of the Sonoran Desert southwest of Tucson and just north of the Gulf of California. The landscape bulges with more than 500 basaltic cinder cones that stand out among the muted hues of the desert sand. In short, this region of the Pinacate peaks is a most uninviting landscape. 

Hornaday couldn't have cared less. The simple fact that no one from the scientific community had documented the area was reason enough for him to venture into it. What he finds surprises him. “This book represents an effort to show the Reader a strange, weird, and also beautiful country as it looked to me,” he writes. And he does not disappoint. 

Hornaday’s writing is meticulous and thoughtful. In a way, he convinces the reader to take a break from everyday life and join him. “In November, southern Arizona is fascinating, no less. The boundless space, the glorious sunshine, the balmy air, the cleanness of the face of Nature, the absence of dust, filth, waste paper, polluted streams, dirty humanity, and many other things that wear on Life in a great city, strongly appeal to me.” 

No book about exploration, or even camping, would be complete without man’s best friend. 

Hornaday devotes an entire (and hilarious) chapter to the camp dogs: Bob, Rex and Rowdy. Hornaday writes, “Of the two other dogs, Rex, the older one, was not so bad; but Rowdy was an unmitigated Case. He was a fully-grown but only half-baked pointer-cur, with a brain like an affectionate pet monkey and the appetite of a hyena.” Rowdy’s encounters later in the book show him baring his teeth as well as his backside. More than a century has passed since this book was first published, but the stories about camp dogs still ring true. Dog owners will undoubtedly relate. 

There is, of course, sheep and pronghorn hunting, along with a healthy dose of adventure while exploring volcanic craters in this diverse landscape. The book features dozens of photographs illustrating the journey. In addition, the eBook version includes seven hand-colored photos that bring camping in the desert to life.

As for Hornaday, he developed a zest for life outside at a young age. As a taxidermist, he pioneered the idea of adding natural elements to museum displays to illustrate the habitat of the preserved specimens. At 19, he killed a fourteen-foot American crocodile in Florida, stuffed it, named it Ole Boss, and the croc made its eternal nest in the U.S. National Museum in the Smithsonian. 

Sykes Crater, looking southeastward. The circumference of the rim estimated at nearly three miles. Hornaday's crew at the bottom foreground provides scale. Pinacate Mountains and Peak in the distance.

Hornaday's camp in the oasis below the Papago Tanks.

As a conservationist, Hornaday served the wildlife he studied. In 1889, he traveled to Montana’s Musselshell country to collect bison specimens. It was there that he witnessed the destruction of the herds by market hunters. Because of this, he established the American Bison Society in 1905, which worked to locate suitable bison habitat and relocate those animals there. With the help of President Theodore Roosevelt, the two men worked to set aside the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve in Oklahoma—the nation’s first large wild game preserve. Three years later, they worked together again to create the National Bison Range just outside of Missoula, Montana. 

A prolific author, Hornaday wrote books on exploring the jungles of India and Borneo (Two Years in the Jungle), hunting in the Canadian Rockies (Camp-Fires in the Canadian Rockies), conserving America’s wildlife (Wildlife Conservation in Theory and Practice), and many more. His adventures in the Sonoran Desert, recounted in Camp-Fires on Desert and Lava, is no adventure to overlook. 


More About the Classics Series 

In 2012, the Boone and Crockett Club launched our B&C Classics series of hunting and adventure books, including works from Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell, as well as William T. Hornaday, Charles Sheldon, Frederick C. Selous, and other adventurers from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Each title in the B&C Classics series is selected by a committee of vintage hunting literature experts and is authored by a Boone and Crockett Club member. Unlike other reprints of these hunting and adventure books, the B&C Classics series has been meticulously converted resulting in high-quality, digitally remastered eBooks and paperback editions. Many are complete with vintage photos and drawings not found in other editions. This attention to detail helps transport readers back to a time when hunting trips didn’t happen over a weekend but were adventures that spanned weeks, months, or even years.

Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt