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Book Review

The Elk Hunt by S.J. Dahlstrom has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Adventures of Wilder Good" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Twelve-year-old Wilder Good lives in rural Colorado. His mother has been battling cancer for the past five years, and the family makes frequent trips to Denver for treatments. Gale Loving, a 72-year-old elder in Wilder’s church, has befriended him and taught him to be an outdoorsman. As the story begins, Wilder and Gale are leaving for the boy’s first elk hunt.

Wilder says he has listened and observed as Gale and other seasoned hunters share their stories. He knows this is why Gale gives him the freedom to hunt with dangerous weapons. Wilder manages to shoot an elk, but his shot isn’t solid. This means his wounded animal is still roaming the woods. He and Gale must track it and finish the kill to keep it from suffering. They follow the trail of blood, and Wilder kills the elk.

Wilder realizes they have serious work ahead of them now. They must skin the animal and cut the meat into manageable pieces so they can get it back down the mountain to the truck. Since it is a large elk, they know they must hurry before daylight is gone. They have to make at least two trips.

Wilder desperately wants to keep the elk head, but Gale insists they get the meat down first. Gale loads meat onto himself and Wilder for the four-mile trek, quickly realizing he has probably given them too much to haul all at once. Wilder trips and injures his foot. Gale binds it, and they carry on. Gale secretly regrets loading them up so heavily and hopes the boy will survive.

As they continue trekking down the mountain, Gale spots a wildcat stalking them. They know trying to shoot the animal is risky. Gale manages to scare it away. When they finally reach Gale’s truck, Wilder falls asleep. Gale takes him to the clinic in town to get his ankle stitched up. When Wilder wakes up late the next morning, his mom tells him Gale and Dad went back up the mountain for the head and the rest of the meat. Gale pays a large sum of money to get Wilder’s elk head prepared for him by a taxidermist.

Christian Beliefs

Wilder knows Gale from the church his family attends. As he prepares to shoot an elk, Wilder wonders if God will punish him for killing an animal this way. While urging Wilder not to curse, Gale jokes that God almost drowned the whole human race, and did it without using bad language. As Wilder cuts up the elk carcass, he says he likes the smell. It seems holy to him, like the sacrifices and burnt offerings mentioned in the Old Testament.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Wilder’s mother is a fighter who has been battling cancer for several years. His father cares for her and the children, frequently taking her to appointments in faraway Denver. Gale is an elder at the church Wilder attends. He took Wilder under his wing when the boy’s mom got sick and has taught him to hunt. He encourages Wilder not to use bad language.


When Wilder says something sucks, Gale immediately tells him not to use that word. As Wilder prepares to stalk his elk, he thinks Oh God. He says it bothers his conscience that this is more of an exclamation than a prayer.

The elk’s blood and dead carcass are mentioned in a few scenes. Wilder bleeds when injured on their hike back to the car.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 13


S.J. Dahlstrom






Record Label



Paul Dry Books


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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