Peter Harker’s deeds as a professional hunter in South Westland are recounted in Hunting with Harker, the result of a collaboration between Peter, the title’s namesake, and Keith Eunson, an editor at the Otago Daily Times newspaper.
Complied in 1976, the book was finally published in response to public demand at the time. The aim of the book was not only to satisfy the public’s appetite for Peter’s adventures but to immortalise his weekly articles penned as ‘hunting correspondent’ during the early 1970s for the Christchurch Star newspaper.
The book records the many experiences, successes, close calls and characters that Peter endured as a meat and skin hunter (by foot, fixed-wing plane and helicopter), trophy hunter, big game guide and live game recovery specialist in South Westland.
Not to be confused with a government employed ‘deer culler’, Peter was a ‘professional hunter’ who sold each kill for its meat, skin or horns and antlers, in order to make a living.
In the book’s preface Keith states his “task has been to try and capture the essence of [Peter’s] expertise in one of New Zealand’s most rugged hunting regions and to select, from the hundreds of stories he can recall, a representative series which illustrate a unique career and which give some insight into the dramatic changes which have occurred in hunting, both recreational and professional, during the [1960s and ’70s]”.
Part way through his hunting career, and therefore the book, Peter somehow found himself as a hunting guide by virtue of his reputation and local knowledge, plus his desire to supplement an often dwindling bank account balance. An interesting related comment was the structured guiding fee arrangement where ‘cheap’ Kiwis paid the least (if anything), Aussies a bit more, but Americans and Europeans paid top-dollar for his services.
Not all animals shot were exported overseas in a cold chiller, as leather or as a trophy mount. Most notably Peter includes pictures of his own bull tahr and buck chamois trophies, with Douglas scores of 46 and 30 respectively. Both of these heads would qualify in the top echelon of NZDA record book heads.
Other than the many interesting and well written stories there are a generous number of photos of a professional standard that showcase all facets of Peter’s adventures. Favorite subjects are the chamois, vistas, shelters and companions.
With the influence of Keith’s editorial experience, this is a well written and structured book and is an enjoyable read. It is quite factual in its style, which means that 40 years later it now acts as an informative guide to South Westland’s hunting history.
A hunting classic, this book is highly recommended (if you can find a secondhand copy because it’s no longer in print).
As a testament to Peter, there are many streams, spurs, tarns, and even a pass which carry the Harker name, or names suggested by him to mapmakers throughout the South Westland region.
Peter Harker’s writing and images have been published in newspapers, books and magazines around the world. Together Peter and Keith have also written Harker Hunts the Coast (1982) and Peter, on his own account, authored Those Were The Days (2001) and Random Shots (2005).
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: 3 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:
Peter Harker, still in his mid-thirties, has had what most people would reckon to be a lifetime’s experience in the horrendous bush-and-mountains country of South Westland. It was the hunting that drew him there in the first instance, but the Lands & Survey Department were quick to enlist the help of a man with an unparalleled knowledge of the remote and virtually uninhabited mountain terrain; overseas manufacturers of hunting weapons and equipment induced him to field-test their products under the uniquely adverse conditions of the Coast; but meat-hunting, safari work and live game capture were his primary occupations until he decided that at thirty a man was getting too old for the rigours of the life — fulltime. He still goes back whenever he gets the chance… Peter’s time in meat-hunting is of particular interest, for it coincided with the rise of decline of shooting from helicopters, a topic of bitter controversy among the trophy men, the conservation enthusiasts, and those who believe that alost anything can be justified if it fosters a profitable export industry. His views are typically individual, clearcut and logical, understanding of the other fellows’ right to their opinions. The pros and cons of meat-hunting are only one small facet of this book; another of immense practical value to any hunter who is tempted to take on the special hazards of South Westland is the appendix of “Harker’s Handy Hints” — shrewd advice distilled from years of adaptation to the fickle climate, the treacherous rivers, and the savage mountain terrain. But the main body of this book is the recall of the field years — shooting, flying, climbing, photography, guiding, survey work, live-game capture, the comedies and near-tragedies, the fun and companionship of young men pitted against the wildest environment of all New Zealand. The 124 photographs and the cover picture are all from Peter Harker’s cameras. They vividly complement a hunting record of unequalled interest and appeal.
Bibliographic informationTitle: Hunting with Harker
Author: Peter Harker, Keith Eunson
Publisher: A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington, New Zealand
ISBN: 0589009508, 9780589009502
Format: Hardcover, 137 pages, black & white, colour illustrations, 26 cm
Book review of Hunting with Harker by Peter Harker book review