“You don’t have to squeeze the trigger to have a top hunting trip” said Tony Orman in his book About Deer and Deer Stalking.
I open this review with Tony’s parting words in the last chapter entitled ‘Deer are a Cultural Resource’ because it is an eloquent summary of the focus of About Deer and Deer Stalking. Tony uses this book to delve into, and emphasise the ‘means’ of hunting which make hunting enjoyable and rewarding to stalkers, not just the ‘ends’ (i.e. the kill).
This book is split into five distinct parts of equal weighing:
- Legendary Deerstalkers
- Contemporary Hunts and Hunters
- Deer in the Mountains
- About Hunting
- After the Shot
The parts are fairly self-explanatory by their titles except for ‘Deer in the Mountains’.
In that section Tony tackles the fallacies surrounding the Government’s and others’ policies of exterminating introduced big game animals. He argues that the scientific basis for their removal were, and remain, not sound because natural environmental influences (climate, earthquakes, rainfall, etc) are the overall cause of erosion and changes to ecosystems, not deer, chamois or tahr.
In reasonable depth Tony notes that New Zealand’s landscape was browsed by numerous plant-eating native bird and insect species, particularly the extinct moa, and that deer merely replaced its niche thereby returning New Zealand’s forests and mountains to their natural pre-extinction state. These arguments were supported by scientific research and papers from experts.
Tony chose to showcase Jack Forbes, the McConochie brothers, Newton and Alex, Geoffrey Orbell and Jim Muir, to name just a few, as role models of true sportsmen. He did this by retelling how each had influenced New Zealand’s hunting culture and the high standard of ethics displayed along the way.
Tony is both ‘book smart’ and ‘bush smart’ and it was really only upon re-reading this book for the second time, after initially purchasing it to read in 2002, that I understood what he was trying to impart: New Zealand’s proud hunting heritage, responsible hunting ethics, the future of deer-stalking and hunters, and respect for the game animals which are hunted.
The book finishes with venison recipes, Tony encouraging hunters to put pen to paper to advocate for hunting and New Zealand’s big game animals, and the perennial argument that deer in New Zealand should be treated as a cultural resource and not a noxious pest as they have been for the past 80 years.
As with all Tony’s books, it is written by someone with a deep knowledge and understanding of deer and New Zealand’s deer-stalking heritage.
Tony has spent a life time hunting and writing about the outdoors and this book is entertaining and a good reflection of these experiences.
Overall, I recommend that all deer hunters, especially those starting out, read this book.
Other hunting related titles authored by Tony are Reflections of a Deerstalker: The Essence of Hunting and a Plea for the Future of a Sport (1979), Memories of New Zealand Deerstalking: An Anthology (1981), In hindsight (1987) and A Hunting Life (2011).
Tony, as former editor of New Zealand Outdoor Magazine, compiled stories for Outdoor with Rifle and Shotgun: The Best from New Zealand Outdoor Magazine (1978) and More Outdoor with Rifle and Shotgun: A Second Volume of the Best from New Zealand Outdoor Magazine (1980).
The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it
The Hunter’s ratings are:
- Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10
- Photos and illustrations: 3 out of 5
- Trophy quality: 2.5 out of 5
- Writing quality and style: 3.5 out of 5
- Page-turner status: 4 out of 5
For your information the following is the book’s blurb:
Tony Orman, a forthright advocate for public hunting and fishing, has hunted for some 50 years and is still going strong, if not with the frantic pace of youth. From that half century of deerstalking, he brings many observations, supported by scientific views, to hunting deer, the animals and the forests they live in or near. This is a book that makes a bold statement for both hunting and the deer themselves. Tony Orman captures the essence of deerstalking in this, his 19th book. In it he tells of some great deerstalkers of yesteryear, sportsmen who serve as fine role models for today’s hunters, especially those just beginning. He also recounts some memorable hunts not only his own, but indelible incidents experienced with some friends. Though the pages, are interspersed tales and anecdotes often with some thought-provoking advice. Then there is a section that sets out to slay the dragon of myth that has shrouded the true position of deer in New Zealand’s mountains and hills. Well researched and quoting many scientists, the chapters on deer and their place in New Zealand’s 21st century ecosystem, will serve as references for deerstalkers taking up the cudgels against the spin doctors of the deer extermination faction and puts into true perspective the situation to do with wild animals.
Bibliographic informationTitle: About Deer and Deer Stalking in New Zealand
Author: Tony Orman (1937–); sketches by Jim Ayres
Publisher: Spring Creek Pub, Marlborough, New Zealand
Format: Softcover, 175 pages, colour illustrations and photos, 24 cm
Book review of A Hunting Life by Tony Orman book review