It is clear that Chris Phillips has put all of his heart into his autobiographical book, More than the Odd Round Mate.
When reading you’ll soon learn that Chris is never without his Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, motorbike (two or four wheel), beat up short wheel base Landcruiser or faithful German shorthaired pointer companion, and each of them feature prominently in the book’s colour photos.
Once you get past the ‘all-too-common-in-recent-hunting-books-personal-history-more-suitable-for-family’ first chapters this book improves. In short, it is a non-chronological collection of anecdotes centered around hunting pests for a living – including rabbits, hares, pigs, stoats, possums and wallabies.
It starts with Chris pestering the local Pest Destruction Board for a job at 16 years old, finally being offered ‘depot boy’ role, and finishes with Chris, now an accomplished professional hunter, guiding his teenage son onto a red deer stag – a moment that Chris confesses is his proudest.
Some of the writing is strangely bamboozling. I have yet to work out what Chris means by “I continue to suffer from the cacophony of bureaucratic maladroital behaviour that uninvitedly gets downloaded onto myself and many lovers of the simple things in life by scheming, inept and incorrigible anthropoids who so inherently lack a sense of morality and humanity that is the vital backbone of the beliefs carried by the likes of you and me”.
Unusual writing style and often weird similes aside, the underlying stories are quite enjoyable, often insightful, and sometimes humorous.
Chapter 12: To Track a Pig is the most entertaining chapter, where Chris explains a stint trapping pigs using a custom made steel cage that he designed. He sold carcuses to the Animal Health Board to be tested for Tuberculosis (also called TB). On one occasion a surly sow managed to disarm Chris and a comedy of errors ensued.
When you have spent your entire working life in the hills and gullies hunting and shooting you are going to encounter some interesting scenarios, near misses, and implausible situations. This book is about those times but expressed in Chris’ raw and unpolished way.
This book is heavy reading at times. Chris could have benefited from the guidance of a co-author, similar to the successful team of Peter Harker (a South Westland deer culler and guide) and Keith Eunson (editor of the Otago Daily Times newspaper), because an articulate pen could have turned Chris’ experiences into something special.
Not to everyone’s taste, this book is nevertheless recommended to those with an interest in New Zealand’s pest control days of last century, of which Chris may well have been the last of his kind to be hired before health and safety, OSH laws and bureaucracy put an end to it.
The Hunter’s recommendation is: borrow it
The Hunter’s ratings are:
- Overall rating: 4 out of 10
- Photos and illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
- Trophy quality: 1 out of 5
- Writing quality and style: 2.5 out of 5
- Page-turner status: 2.5 out of 5
For your information the following is the book’s blurb:
Chris Phillips was one of those kids that could never settle to schoolwork. He was always dreaming about the outdoors and when he wasn’t dreaming he was in the bush, which was not a good thing for the possums and rabbits he encountered. He became (in his words) a shooter: “My work history basically revolved around shooting. Now here, I wish to clarify an important point before one gets me mixed up with a real hunter. I have always considered myself a shooter more than a hunter because of the commercial implications of my actions and the resulting money that drove me to continue to pull the trigger. I spent most of my working life shooting with dog and gun, night shooting, trapping and occasional poisoning for Mount Wendon Pest Destruction Board, South Canterbury Wallaby Board and Environment Southland Animal Health Board. I’ve shot deer and pig for human consumption, hares and rabbits for the pet food industry and culls by way of private treaties with run-holders. Rabbits to roos and hedgehogs to harriers, anything that would pay the dollars. I wore out more than my share of 10/22s, Mini14 Rugers and Remington .30-06 autoloaders.” Outside of work hunting in a truer sense of the word has been an important part of his life whether relaxing or bringing up his kids and introducing them to the great outdoors while instilling an ethical attitude to the game they hunt. Chris is currently working on endangered species programs in wild parts of New Zealand.
Bibliographic informationTitle: More Than the Odd Round Mate
Author: Chris Phillips (1961–)
Publisher: Halcyon Press, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1877566632, 9781877566639
Format: Softcover, 232 pages, colour illustrations, 23 cm
Book review of More than the Odd Round Mate by Chris Phillips book review