Stag Doo: All New Rip-Roaring Yarns by Big Al Lester

Published 2016 | $38.00

Stag Doo: All New Rip-Roaring Yarns is the latest book by Big Al Lester. A prolific writer, this is in fact Lester’s 9th book.

Big Al is now clearly the modern day master of the good kiwi hunting yarn.

Like all of Lester’s previous books the ‘campfire tales’ feel continues as the foundation of each chapter of Stag Doo, except that rather than his own experiences Big Al retells stories he’s heard from others and for the most part hands the pen over to the story teller. So you could say this book is best characterised as a compilation edited by Big Al.

Largely text, there are a few colour plates inset into the middle of the book relating to some of the stories. These are typical candid, photo-album-type shots you would eagerly share with family and friends. These photos, although not of great aesthetic quality, sit well in the context of this book.

Big Al’s usual conversational writing style and easy going pace continue. Like all of his prior books, it will appeal to any reader who likes the ‘odd’ beer or whisky (or more), some high jinks, and lads hunting trips. It would not necessarily appeal to someone wanting to read about big trophy heads or epic back-country missions.

It is a credit to the publisher, Penguin, that it is well edited and has correct grammar and syntax. This is something often missing in a lot of recently released hunting books which seem to be rushed to the printing press.

I have to say, I immensely enjoyed some of the stories. A lot of the time while reading I found I had a wry smile on my face. I even had the odd laugh-out-loud moment too. There are not that many books that can bring such responses from readers.

Some of the highlights include a chapter written about helicopter deer recovery, another about feuding farmers poaching each other’s deer, and my personal favourite was retold by a professional guide who had trained a trophy stag to appear on cue in order to be shot by a well-paying, overweight, American client.

There are two tales of woe, which have important lessons. A couple of hunters recount their rescues after serious falls. In each case relying on their hunting buddy to either seek help or activate a locator beacon. All hunters should have a beacon on them at all times.

As with all of Lester’s books this one too is a recommended read. I think he has struck on to a great formula and I get a sense we’ll have the pleasure of reading many more books by Big Al.

Other books authored by Big Al are: Hunting in the Raw, Yarns from the Great NZ Outdoors (2003), A Bum in the Bush (2004), A Hard Shot in the Hills (2006), Off the Track, More Tales from the New Zealand Bush (2008), Arse-Up Creek, Bush Lies and Half Truths (2010), A Sting in the Tale, the Best of the Bush from Big Al Lester (2011), Mad Men of the Mountains, more Bush Lies and Half Truths (2013) and It’s a Bit Rugged, Mate (2014).

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it (but you could get away with borrowing it from a mate or library)

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 6 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 1 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:

Many times I have sat by a campfire with its coarse smoke etching into my eyes and tears streaming down my face. The tears not caused by the smoke, though, but by laughing so hard at the oddball, strange, hilarious or simply outright bizarre yarns told by my hunting mates. As the evenings pass and the tide-line in the whisky bottle drops, the yarns get increasingly more hilarious. This book contains a number of yarns gleaned from these fireside sessions, and a few from other interesting characters I have had the good fortune to encounter.
Once described as ‘Barry Crump meets Fred Dagg’, ‘Big Al’ Lester is the modern-day master of the hunting genre. His books are for those with a good keen sense of humour and a love for New Zealand’s wild outdoors. Plenty of off-the-wall adventure for the hunting mad and hard case!

Bibliographic information

Title: Stag Doo
Author: Big Al Lester (1960–)
Editions: 2016
Publisher: Raupo (Penguin Group), Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 978-0-14-357406-4
Format: Paperback, 240 pages, illustrations and photos (some colour), 24 cm

Book review of Stag Doo by Big Al Lester book review