I was inspired to re-read and review Colin Davey’s first book Deer on my Doorstep because it has just been published by The Halcyon Press as a reprint edition fifty years after first hitting hunters’ bookshelves.
Here’s what Halcyon Press have to say:
“Originally published by A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1965, this is the first of a new series of books by The Halcyon Press, ‘Halcyon Hunting Classics’.
“Voted one of the best ten hunting books of the twentieth century, Halcyon have re-issued, in a modern format, this classic hunting tale.
“The book still resonates with the adventures and original thinking of a dedicated trophy hunter.”
There is no doubt that Colin’s book deserves its accolades, and merited a re-print for today’s readers to enjoy. In fact, it makes classic hunting books list.
The image displayed for this review is of the original ’65 cover, and it’s worth pointing out the dust jacket is usually damaged, showing normal wear and tear along the black bottom edge. The paper also seems susceptible to tears so it’s rare to find a copy in good overall condition.
The 2015 edition is published in black & white format and is of cheaper, card-cover construction. It has a recommended retail price of $39.99, so with second hand ‘reading quality’ copies of the 1st edition obtainable for around $15.00 it could be a savvy option to purchase a ’65 copy at a sizable discount.
As for the book’s readability, it’s a standout. Its style was ahead of its time — Colin is humorous at times but always paints a vivid image when retelling his hunting experiences.
Due to the massive number of hunting hours undertaken, he has many amusing or unusual anecdotes to share. These stories are about hunting red deer in the Wairarapa and South Westland and wapiti in Fiordland during the 1950s and 1960s. To quote Colin, at the time of publishing, he reckoned he’d spent 1,500 days in the bush, 9,000 hours on hunting trips, including 127 days in Fiordland and 35 in South Westland.
Because Colin was a prolific hunter he had the opportunity to intimately observe deer behaviour. On this subject he was willing to share his tips and opinions with readers and he sets out a pithy month by month chapter on red deer habits.
Colin had an inquisitive mind so at his own cost undertook vegetation surveys (involving chemical analysis of leaves) to determine why deer produced vastly different quality antlers. His findings showed that plants in different valleys (or even within a valley) have variations in levels of calcium, phosphate and protein, etc, and so resulted in variable antler sizes. In addition, over population depleted available fodder thereby affecting antler quality and growth too. Based on his research Colin soon became a key campaigner for intensive culling operations, especially of the wapiti herd in Fiordland. This was forward thinking and only now are we seeing the results of this approach through the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation’s culling efforts in the Wapiti blocks.
All of the above aside, Colin was a very successful trophy hunter and he recounts his stories of securing many 40″ length Wairarapa red deer heads and an outstanding 52″ wapiti bull rack.
What makes this book extra special are Colin’s photos. Colin was able to capture some amazing live animal images and so this book has many more images than its contemporaries.
Overall, it’s one of New Zealand hunting literature’s great reads.
Songs of the Stags (1995) was also authored by Colin.
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: 4 out of 5
- Page-turner status: 4 out of 5
For your information the following is the book’s blurb:
Colin Davey is a deershooter who has had more than the usual share of the ups and downs of shooter’s luck. His home block is in the Wairarapa hills and gullies of New Zealand’s North Island, and for holiday sport he goes after wapiti trophies in the Fiordland of the far south. He has shot deer for sport, and to supply venison to the market; but his greatest interest is in the build-up, by intelligent culling, of red deer and wapiti herds that will produce outstanding trophies for the sportsman, in areas where these animals are not a menace to soil conservation. This book abounds with racy stories of shooting days — some comic, some serious. Some of them are both. For example, there was that moonlight night when Colin and a friend prepared to shoot up a bunch of wild pigs in a clump of manuka… But over and above the stories of day-to-day sport this book contains the account of how Colin Davey began to consider the inter-relationships of trophy sizes, body weights, herd numbers, and the availability and palatability of various kinds of feed. From records kept in one area over a number of years, and from the analysis of leaf-samples, he has built up certain conclusions and recommendations on future herd-control policy. Not all shooters will agree with these in detail; but all who are seriously interested in the future of the sport in New Zealand will study them with attention, and find in them much food for thought and further discussion. Mr Davey’s style reflects his own personality and his outlook, on a shooter’s life. It is vivid and vigorous, “Kiwi” to the core, and full of natural enthusiasm and good-humour.
Bibliographic informationTitle: Deer on my Doorstep
Author: Colin Davey
Editions: 1965, 2015
Publisher: A. H. & A. W. Reed, Auckland, New Zealand
Format: Hardcover, 174 pages, illustrations, black & white photos, maps, 23 cm
Book review of Deer on my Doorstep by Colin Davey book review