From Hoon to Hunter by Vern Wilson


Published 2013 | RRP$34.99

Vern Wilson first appeared in New Zealand hunting book literature as a hunter featured in Kingsley Field’s book The Master Hunters (1991).

From Hoon to Hunter is the first book Vern authored and in it he writes about the hunts for big game trophies which made him worthy of inclusion in Kingsley’s book.

An autobiography, Vern starts his book with a chapter entitled ‘A Hunter is Born‘ and this details the “hoon” part of his life represented by the first part of the book’s title. We learn that Vern was somewhat of a trouble maker until he was taken on a back-country deerstalking trip. On that trip Vern enjoyed success, fun, humour and role models — the keys to hooking a young person on a hunting life.

The rest of the book recounts the “hunter” part of the title  — each chapter focuses on Vern’s hunts after a particular big game species — sika; wild sheep; chamois and tahr; white-tailed deer; feral pigs; fallow, rusa and sambar; red deer (one chapter about Ureweras and another about South Westland); and wapiti.

It is clear that Vern, although successful as a trophy hunter, was more enamoured with the chase and kill rather than collecting trophy heads. Many times throughout his book he remarks an exceptional head (which he had just secured) was left in the fork of the tree, placed on a mossy fence post or given away, never to be seen again. Maybe this was because he shot numerous heads thereby having diminished value to Vern? This frame of mind is hard to understand for the average stalker, no doubt.

One head, a wapiti bull shot in the 1980 bugle at Bligh Sound (Wild Native River) with dimensions of 42 inches in length, 40 inches in width, and carrying twelve-points, held special value to Vern. He writes, “today my trophy room contains over thirty mounted heads and many un-mounted ones but if for some reason I could only keep one, without hesitation it would be that wapiti”.

As to the book’s style, it is in the vein of the comic kiwi yarn. Vern’s writing focuses more on amusing events or asides which he experienced on his stalk or roar trip rather then describing the hunt, animal or the places he visited. In fact, I think it would have been interesting to the reader, at least, if Vern had included more details about his heads (e.g. their measurements, etc) but, again, I don’t think they were all the important to Vern so he didn’t emphasize them.

In summary, it is a good book but probably one to be borrowed from your local library rather than to be purchased to sit on your bookshelf because you’re not likely to read it more than once.

Vern has also written a follow up book entitled The Travelling Hunter (2015) where he writes about hunting big game in North America and Africa. To me, that book is a more enjoyable read.

The Hunter’s recommendation is: borrow it

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 3 out of 5
  • Writing quality and style: 2 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 2 out of 5

Publisher’s blurb

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

“It’s those ones that frustrated you, beat you, and got away — they’re the ones that keep you going back to the bush and the mountains and that you remember more than anything else. It’s also the memory of the magnificent country you saw them in. It is this philosophy, this need to keep going back to the wild country of New Zealand to hunt again and to be in the wide open spaces that has made Vern Wilson one of the master hunters.” – Kingsley Field, The Master Hunters, Viking Pacific, 1991. Vern Wilson describes himself as more of a “Hoon” than a hunter when he first went into the bush. Thanks to some sympathetic guidance and early success the hunting bug gradually took over. To the point where work got in the way of hunting, so he would only take jobs where he was allowed to take time off for hunting. Time in the hills honed Vern’s skills, bigger and better antlered deer fell to his rifle. Trophy hunting became his focus and several NZDA trophies including the Severinson Trophy for the best Wapiti, have graced his trophy room. So join Vern for a trip into the hills in this book, as he recount how it all began, how a hoon became a hunter. The hunts that were successful, and enjoy the humour, relive a near tragedy, meeting many fine hunters along the way. His thoughts on rifles, other hunters, clients and the future of hunting.

Bibliographic information

Title: From Hoon to Hunter
Author: Vern Wilson
Editions: 2013
Publisher: Halcyon Press, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1877566330, 9781877566332
Format: Softcover, 176 pages, colour illustrations, 24 cm

Book review of The Travelling Hunter by Vern Wilson book review