My Stalking Memories by Major R.A. Wilson

4th Reprint (3rd Edition) | RRP $40

When first published in 1961 the author, Major R.A. Wilson, was told that My Stalking Memories would have limited appeal, however a 2nd edition containing extra stories was published a mere two years later in 1963.

The volume read for this review — for the third time — was the 4th, 2008 reprint made available by the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association for contemporary hunting book readers because of the scarcity and desirability of this title.

The book describes expedition style hunts during New Zealand’s red deer stalking glory days, between 1910s and 1930s, in Otago and South Westland of the South Island.  The author retells his fortune in securing many ‘royal’ (12 pointer) or better stag heads of 40 inches of length and 40 inches of spread, the ‘trophy’ benchmark of the time.

Roar after roar, Major Wilson follows the expansion of the world famous Otago red deer herds’ range as it populates new valleys and mountain ranges, seeking to better his best trophy and those of his fellow stalkers.  In the book’s forward, Major Wilson describes his philosophy best “the first goal of the stalker, to shoot a stag of any sort, soon gave way to a desire to shoot a better head than I had previously obtained and lead me to the rugged country of the Southern Alps”.

The desire for better heads soon took Major Wilson to Fiordland and hunting elk in the wapiti bugles of the late 1930s where in 1938 he shot one of New Zealand’s greatest wapiti heads of 15 points, 52 1/2 inches long and 48 inches wide, with a 7 inch beam (a photo of which graces the book’s cover).

In Chapter IX: The Burke River, Major Wilson writes that it is his wish for the book to give the reader “some idea of the fascination of this class of deer-stalking, combining as it does the delights of exploration, stalking and mountaineering in one” and there is no doubt that his wish was granted.

A relatively short book when compared to modern counterparts, the writing style is straightforward and matter-of-fact but fulsome and well written. Above all else this book is enjoyable to read.

Black and white photos of the impressive trophy heads are included. These photos are not only amazing due to the quality of the subject matter but because Major Wilson had the foresight to take a camera with him and record his hunting successes.

This is one of New Zealand’s classic hunting books. It is a ‘must have’ for any avid hunting book enthusiast’s collection.

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 9 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: 4.5 out of 5

Publisher’s blurb

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

In My Stalking Memories Major Wilson recalls the Golden Age of deer stalking in New Zealand when distinguished sportsmen from all over the world were drawn to this country in search of trophy heads. Todays generation of shooters it will seem in vivid contrast to present conditions when the Dominion’s game animals are classed as vermin to be exterminated with poison and bulls by government-paid killers. The author regrets this indiscriminate slaughter, more especially of wapiti, whose numbers are easily controlled and whose magnificent heads excel those now obtainable in their native America where the herds are regarded as a national asset.
For a number of years Major Wilson made annual expeditions to stalk red deer in such famous South Island game areas as the Dingle, the Hunter, the Wills, the Makarora, the Landsborough, the Burke, the Hokitika and the Macfarlane, and he later hunted Wapiti in the Glaisnock. His descriptions of the country and the people he knew in those years will be of interest to all New Zealand sportsmen.

Bibliographic information

Title: My Stalking Memories
Author: R. A. Wilson, Major (Robert Adams) (1875–1964)
Editions: 1961, 1963 (revised, enlarged), 1978 (fax reprint, new foreword and notes), 2008 (fax reprint)
Publisher: Pegasus Press, Christchurch, New Zealand
ISBN: None
Format: Hardcover, 137 pages, 40 pages of plates (black and white), maps (sketches), 23 cm

Book review of My Stalking Memories by Major R.A. Wilson book review