Chopper Murphy by Ross Curtis

Published 2010 | RRP$29.99

Chopper Murphy, Murphy in the Air and Other Stories, is the sixth book in Ross Curtis’ “Murphy Series”.

As with the preceding five books, Murphy, as in, ‘Murphy’s Law’, features regularly, personified by people or events which cause angst and consternation for Ross as he goes about the many tasks connected with hunting red deer.

Set in the Nelson and Tasman regions of the South Island, this book builds on previous titles recounting Ross’ experiences in the New Zealand Forest Service (NZFS), now known as the Department of Conservation.

The book focuses on Ross’ personal experiences in deer hunting and deer control, imparting his observations on the impact of utilising air based hunting on his district, starting with the introduction of fixed-wing planes to supply hunters via airdrop to ultimately using helicopters to access hunting grounds and harvest or cull deer.

Ross, a long serving ranger with NZFS, eventually became fed up with NZFS’ bureaucracy and false promises and so resigned and took up a job as forestry manger of Rabbit Island’s pine plantation in Nelson. At this point the book diverges from hunting and focuses on Ross’s management and “breaking-in” of pine forests, albeit in the hard-working-Curtis fashion we have come to expect.

Throughout the book Ross touches on his own flying experiences with fixed-wing planes — Cessnas, Austers, Piper Cubs and the like. Ross also writes about many memorable moments while flying with other pilots, providing interesting anecdotes about bush landings, near misses, supply drops and the pilots themselves.

The balance of the book is about Ross guiding his children in the back-country to secure their first red deer — it seems a Curtis family tradition to shoot a deer by age 12.

Two highlights in this book were Chapter 11, Disaster! A Helicopter Crashes, where Ross extinguishes a raging alpine fire sparked by a helicopter crash, and Chapter 19, NZDA Youth Training Trip, while teaching a group of young boys to hunt, Ross pulls off a masterful 500 metre shot using a .222 calibre rifle on a running chamois, perpetuating the Curtis hunting legend.

As always, Ross writes well and with a touch of humour and cheek.

Not a standalone book, Chopper Murphy is best read as part of the series. As a standalone book it doesn’t deliver enough hunting orientated material to satisfy the average hunting book reader but it will be of interest to those following Ross’ hunting career.

For those interested in the subject, there are many books that provide insights into hunting in New Zealand using helicopters, including Rex Forrester’s The Helicopter Hunters (1987) and The Chopper Boys (1983),  Hurricane Tim (2005) by Neville Peat, The Last Great Southern Adventure Helicopter Hunting, Fiordland (2011) by Olivia Page, and Chopper Chatter (2012) by Ken Tustin, to name just a few.

The other titles in Ross’ series are Ranger Murphy (2008), Murphy Strikes Back (2004), How I Met Murphy (2002), Murphy on my Back (1999) and Murphy’s Law & The Hunter (1997). Ross is the brother to renowned deer-culler, New Zealand moose hunter and author, Max Curtis, who himself has written Beneath the Mountain Mist (1996) and Beyond the River’s Bend (1991).

The Hunter’s recommendation is: borrow it (or buy it if you’ve read the earlier books in this series)

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 5 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 3 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 1 out of 5
  • Writing quality and style: 3.5 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 3 out of 5

Publisher’s Blurb

For your information the following is the book’s blurb:

Ross Curtis shot his first deer at the age of eight, by the age of 12 he was keeping the family in meat by hunting and doing his schooling by correspondence. Not surprisingly deer and deer hunting continued to play a major part in his life. 
Author of the highly successful books Murphy’s Law and The Hunter, Murphy On My Back, How I Met Murphy, Murphy Strikes Back and Ranger Murphy. 
This book covers the latter years the author spent as a New Zealand Forest Service Ranger in North West Nelson, his interest in flying and how the arrival of the meat-hunters and their helicopter influenced his daily routine. Then a change to forestry and the stresses of the job relieved with family hunts – with Murphy always in close attendance. 
Told with humour and a deep affection for the people places and events he describes. This book is filled with a wide variety of stories from numerous hunting trips both on the job and off, as well as anecdotes from every day life as a forest ranger and forestry officer. Inevitably Murphy has the last word.

Bibliographic information

Title: Chopper Murphy: Murphy in the Air and Other Stories, Issue 6 of Murphy Series
Author: Ross Curtis (1928–)
Editions: 2010
Publisher: Halcyon Press, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1877566063, 9781877566066
Format: Softcover, 224 pages, 18 pages of plates, colour illustrations, 22 cm

Book review of Chopper Murphy by Ross Curtis book review