Classic New Zealand Game Trails by Dave McClunie

Published 2003 | RRP$34.99

Classic New Zealand Game Trails is Dave McClunie’s second and follow up book to his first, Classic New Zealand Mountain Hunts (2001). Both are autobiographical and together cover Dave’s hunting career.

Although Classic New Zealand Games Trails could be read as a standalone book it is advisable, but not essential, that his books are read together or in sequence, because this book is effectively an extension of the first.

Dave is one of New Zealand’s most respected hunting guides and trophy hunters, featuring in Kinsley Field’s book Hunting with the Best: Kingsley Field talks with top New Zealand hunters (1999).

In Dave’s own words, from his 2012 submission in favour of establishing the New Zealand Game Animal Council, he states that he is a “hunter/environmentalist who has had lifelong involvement with recreational hunters and advocating for their interests. [He has] been an active Mountain Safety Council firearms safety instructor for over 30 years, a paid up N.Z.D.A. member for most of [his] adult life, a government hunter and field officer, [and] a registered hunting guide”.

Growing up in the North Island, Dave learned to hunt red deer there but soon came to hunt the South Island’s rugged alps for deer, chamois and tahr and Fiordland’s glacial carved valleys for wapiti. His first expedition to the Southern Alps was in 1964 and, it seems, like most hunters who have had similar experiences, hunting the high basins and peaks for bulls and bucks was his ultimate calling.

He honed his stalking skills as a culler even though at the time he did not agree with the government’s policy of extermination nor the various game animals’ designation as noxious pests to be eradicated.

When reading this book you soon understand that he is an advocate for clean, one-shot kills, respecting his quarry and of a firm view that there is an enduring place in New Zealand’s wilderness for big game. In each case, something I agree with.

Unlike his first book which, for the most part, documents Dave’s and his hunting mates’ most significant personal hunts and trophies, the focus of this book is (in equal measure) about his time guiding many foreigners and local clients onto trophy chamois and tahr on his beloved “Coast” and explaining in reasonable depth Dave’s personal and family history as he moved around the South Island for work. This book also imparts more of Dave’s hard learned knowledge and he shares his recommendations on rifle calibre selection and what gear is essential to hunt in South Westland.

The time period covered by this book ranges from the mid-1960s to the early 2000s, but the chapters are not in chronological order.

One of Dave’s sons, Michael, contributes Chapter 15 (The Emperor’s Gift) to the book, writing an interesting piece on Alpine Chamois and hunting them.

Stories and photos of Dave’s sons are frequent and his sons have harvested some impressive heads from a young age under their father’s watchful eye.

This book comprises 18 chapters, each illustrated with many black and white photographs. In addition, six colour plates are included and reserved for the best and most interesting photos. Many photos are of live animals but, as you would expect being written by a guide, there are plenty of trophy photos of world class heads to drool over too.

The years of hunting on both a professional and personal level have resulted in many interesting anecdotes which make up each chapter.

David has a succinct, factual and descriptive writing style. His passion for hunting, the animals he hunts, and the regions he hunts them in, jumps off the page as one reads.

Classic New Zealand Game Trails was given to me as a gift a decade ago and it was the first book in my collection — reading Dave McClunie’s amazing stories and seeing his inspirational images of big game animals and back-country scenes were a watershed moment that sparked my passion for hunting literature and collecting hunting books. I hope that all hunters read this book and find it as rewarding as I have. I also hope readers will adopt his philosophies around big game hunting, their management, and future.

This autobiography is highly recommended — it is one of my personal favourites and makes the Classic Hunting Books list.

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 8 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 4 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 4 out of 5
  • Writing quality and style: 3.5 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 4 out of 5

Publisher’s Blurb

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

In the beginning there were no wild game animals to complement the spectacular New Zealand landscape. Because of the cultural, historical and spiritual value to most people, Wapiti deer, Chamois and Tahr were introduced by early settlers to fill the void in the ecological system left empty since the eradication of the large herbivorous ground birds during earlier times.
Acting on flawed untested theory the government declared these creatures “noxious” in 1930 and commenced an ethnic cleansing program which has continued for over seventy years. When the author sought a career in game management in the 1960’s, Dip Flat hunter training camp was all the government had to offer. Ten years employment with the wild animal section of The Forest Service, working with senior staff strengthened his understanding that the government ideology was flawed. More recent intensive scientific research supported his belief.
The author has trod countless game trails on both major islands. Along with many others he believes that when sustainably managed these magnificent creatures are a national treasure of incalculable value. “It is not hunting or killing, but simply the privilege of living among wild creatures that so hugely enriches human existence. Without them our special places become a stark botanical nightmare”. So join the clan McClunie as Dave McClunie follows up the outstanding success of this first book Classic New Zealand Mountain Hunts and takes you down some Classic New Zealand Game Trails.

Bibliographic information

Title: Classic New Zealand Game Trails
Author: Dave McClunie
Editions: 2003
Publisher: Halcyon Press, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1877256307, 9781877256301
Format: Softcover, 208 pages, 16 pages of plates, illustrations (some colour), 22 cm

Book review of Classic New Zealand Game Trails by Dave McClunie book review