Pete the Bushman by Peter Salter with Nigel Zega

Published 2014 | RRP$39.99

Peter Salter’s book, Pete the Bushman, Hunting Tales and Back-Country Lessons from a Wild West Coaster, is an interesting and well written autobiography.

Pete — or at least his Bushmans Centre, its infamous possum pies, and his tame bull tahr, chamois and red deer — will be known to those hunters who have travelled the West Coast of the South Island. If you need a reminder, or introduction, you can visit Pete’s website, The Bushmans Centre.

This book follows Pete on his journey to becoming a “Coaster”. It recounts his most significant adventures when hunting, guiding clients (both on horse treks and hunts for red deer) and his business ventures in opening The Bushmans Centre cafe and museum.

Perhaps the most interesting chapters were his exploits when involved with helicopter deer recovery — first as a shooter and gutter, and later as the pilot and owner. On this subject Pete recounts many close calls and interesting anecdotes.

The most unusual chapter detailed Pete’s assistance to the Army during a two week period of training and mock battles in the West Coast bush. He helped a platoon take a strategic target under the guise of “sympathetic local”, and although he wasn’t supposed to (but typical of his nature) he managed to get his hands on a machine gun.

Pete is infamous for his possum pies and wild game foods, and he retells the story that lead to his prosecution for illegally “selling” possum meat — something that became prohibited shortly after he had made a success from making possum pies on a commercial scale.

The book closes with Pete recounting his protests against the use of 1080 poison in the bush surrounding his home. Pete, along with other locals, formed an anti-1080 group whose aim was to disrupt the Department of Conservation’s contractors from applying the 1080 poison by helicopter assisted air drops. These actions divided the community with Pete losing his former best friend over the conflict. In the end, despite the valiant efforts of Pete and the group, the 1080 poisoning went ahead.

Included as a novel style of appendix are some of Pete’s best personal wild foods recipes.

There are two sets of colour photo plates which are best described as photos from Pete’s family photo album. It would have been good to have seen some more photos of Pete’s hunting exploits.

The book is well written and edited. It is an enjoyable and diverse read and offers an insight into a well-known West Coast resident, aka “Coaster”. The only detraction is that it is not fully dedicated to hunting, but the non-hunting chapters were still thoroughly entertaining.

This radio interview with Pete may be of interest and gives an insight into his book.

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 6 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 2 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 2 out of 5
  • Writing quality and style: 4 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 4 out of 5

Publisher’s blurb

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

Pete the Bushman lives in an isolated town on the rugged West Coast. You’ll find it south of Hokitika, between Lake Ianthe and the Waitaha River. When you get there it won’t be bustling. The population numbers exactly two.
Pete didn’t move there to get away from people. He moved there to get away from people telling him how to live his life. He’s been there now for 35 years, trapping, hunting, fishing, eking out a living from the bush.
These are his stories and his lessons, most learned the hard way. They involve weather and woman, mountains and helicopters, wild horses and gelignite, bureaucrats, possum pies and the politics of poison.
Strap in and take a ride with a true Kiwi bushman!

Bibliographic information

Title: Pete the Bushman: Hunting Tales and Back-Country Lessons from a Wild West Coaster
Author: Peter Salter (1949–), Nigel Zega
Editions: 2014
Publisher: Random House New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1775536823, 9781775536826
Format: Softcover, 241 pages,illustrations (some colour), 24 cm

 Book review of Pete the Bushman by Peter Salter book review