Classic New Zealand Mountain Hunts by Dave McClunie

Published 2001 | RRP$39.99

Classic New Zealand Mountain Hunts is an autobiography by Dave McClunie about trophy hunting successes and the highlights of his guiding career during the period from 1965 to 1996.

Dave is one of New Zealand’s renowned big game hunters and also a prominent figure among hunting guides. He features in Kinsley Field’s book Hunting with the Best: Kingsley Field talks with top New Zealand hunters (1999).

You know you’re in for a great read when turning to the contents page you see chapters with titles the likes of ‘An Unexpected Monster’ and Three Record Book Chamois in Three Days’.

The cover images speak a thousand words summing up the subject matter far better than words can — that is, expect expedition style trips set in the South Island’s snow-capped alps for trophy class bull tahr and buck chamois along with journeys into the heart of Fiordland’s Wapiti Blocks for bugling wapiti bulls.

Comprising 15 chapters in total, each is generously illustrated with many black and white photographs.  There are eight colour plates reserved for the best and most interesting photos. Obviously Dave was a keen photographer (or with someone on each hunt who was) because all of the stories are accompanied by photos showing scenes, camps, people and game animals.

A wealth of exceptional trophies fill the pages. The following list summarises the location, year, and species of the most notable heads:

  • Copland, Karangarua and Douglas rivers, 1965, 11″ chamois buck with 3 5/8″ bases, Douglas Score of 29 1/4
  • Whataroa valley, 1967, two bull tahr with Douglas Scores of 46 3/4 and 45
  • Wild Natives Wapiti Block, Fiordland, 1971, 12 point wapiti bull of 50″ length and Douglas Score of 350, and 15 point wapiti bull with Douglas Score of 347 1/2, 42 3/8″ of length, 43 1/2″ of spread, and 6 1/4″ beam
  • Landsborough valley, 1987, guiding clients for 12″ bull tahr
  • South Westland, 1992, 14″ bull tahr with a spread of 11 1/4″ and Douglas Score of 44
  • “Trophy Creek”, somewhere in South Westland, 1996, bull tahr with hooks of 13 3/4″ and Douglas Score of 42 1/2

In addition to the trophies mentioned above, and many more for you to discover when reading the book, Chapter 12 (A Mystical Wild Natural Place) recounts an epic, yet typically understated hunt in the Catseye Wapiti Block and ‘Bull Creek’ area. Here Dave carefully stalks and secures a 14 point wapiti-type bull sporting a rack of 46 1/2″ length, 45 1/4″ spread, beam of 6 1/4″ and a Douglas Score of 383 1/2.

Dave has a long-running outdoors background and seems to have always made his living from working in the outdoors. It is a credit to his temperament that many of the stories are about helping others selectively shoot a trophy of their lifetime.

Interestingly, there was a period of two years when Dave was employed to build bridges and river crossings in remote valleys and gorges. During this time he constructed 30 such crossings and upon leaving the job there were a total of 80 in the back-country. There is no doubt his contribution saved a person or two from the “New Zealand disease” of drowning.

Two chapters are written about Dave’s uncle Joe McClunie’s expeditions into Fiordland during wapiti bugles.  Joe’s hunts occurred in the late ’60s, a time that is now known as the final years of the great herd before helicopter meat recovery decimated it and allowed red deer to interbreed and dilute bloodlines. These chapters tell of hunts at Casswell Sound in ’68, Sutherland Sound in ’69, and the famous George River block for the bugles of ’70 and ’71.  Joe’s ultimate success came during the 1970 bugle when he stalked and shot an impressive typical wapiti-type bull.

Michael and Wayne, Dave’s sons, feature in many of the chapters and photos, either in the capacity as assistant guide to Dave or as the lucky shooter of a trophy. Dave is proud of his sons and the final chapter (The Young Hunters) is about them.

It seems to me that given the level of detail in each chapter, for example precise dates and weather conditions, Dave must have kept a diary of his hunts. These details add authenticity to the book in a genre often filled with a touch of creative licence.

Each chapter can be read as a standalone story because the book is not in chronological order. This makes it the ideal bedside companion to be picked up from time to time.

Classic New Zealand Mountain Hunts is a highly recommended, enjoyable, inspiring and easy-reading book. Those interested in alpine or wapiti hunting are especially in for a treat.

Dave’s follow up book, which itself is a recommended read, is entitled Classic New Zealand Game Trails (2003). You can find The Hunter’s review here.

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 4 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 5 out of 5
  • Writing quality and style: 3.5 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 4.5 out of 5

Publisher’s blurb

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

Dave McClunie loves the mountains, the animals that inhabit them and the freedom and challenge they represent. From a rural background he moved to the West Coast of the South Island to become a hunting guide to spend more time in the mountains he loves. As a guide, his principal quarry have been the tahr and chamois that roam the high country. As a hunting guide he has developed an international reputation as an ethical fair chase hunter. As a father he has introduced his sons Michael and Wayne to the mountains and valleys of the South Island. Instilling in them a respect for the animals, environment and the uncertainties of hunting.
In this book the hunting experiences of the “Clan McClunie” after wapiti in Fiordland chamois and thar in the southern Alps are recounted. The successes and failures, the family hunts and the guided hunts with clients. Told with honesty and respect for the wildlife and the high country they inhabit.

Bibliographic information

Title: Classic New Zealand Mountain Hunts
Author: Dave McClunie
Editions: 2001
Publisher: Halcyon Press, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1877256080, 9781877256080
Format: Softcover, 176 pages, 16 pages of plates, illustrations (some colour), 22 cm

Book review of Classic New Zealand Mountain Hunts by Dave McClunie book review