The New Zealand Wilderness Hunter by James Passmore

Published 2014 | RRP$39.99

James Passmore’s second book is The New Zealand Wilderness Hunter, a collection of stories about his hunting adventures in remote New Zealand wilderness areas interspersed among chapters on what it means to be a modern hunter testing ones abilities and applying ones ethics in the wild.

In James’ first eponymous chapter he sets the theme of his book characterising himself as a “wilderness hunter”. A wilderness hunter is one of three categories of hunter, according to James. The other categories are utilitarian hunters and sport hunters. A wilderness hunter is someone who hunts, often in solitude, just to be in nature and among animals, and not with a primary motive to shoot.

There are many hunting stories, each afforded their own chapter, where James gives accounts of trips into the Hollyford valley for red deer, guiding a novice hunter on to a ‘royal’ 12 point red stag,  tahr hunting in the Karangarua valley and Ben Ohau range, searching (unsuccessfully) for elusive moose in Dusky Sound and red deer stalking in the Pyke valley.

James lives in Dunedin so it naturally follows that his hunting trips revolve around South Island locations.

Each hunting chapter is standalone and written in a style typical of, if not more suitable for, hunting magazines where each stage of a hunt is recounted in detail from start to finish. Some of the stories were long-winded, including times when the reader is drawn into a story only to find it ended in the shooting of an animal for the ‘pot’. Not something your average hunting book reader appreciates. That is not to say such stories were not enjoyable or badly crafted, but maybe just not right for this medium.

The balance of the book is about exploring the minutiae of hunting and being a hunter. The subjects of ratting for fallow deer, respect for harvested animals, analysing the connection a hunter has with the natural order of life and death as compared with non-hunters, river crossings, and what makes a ‘trophy’ — one of the most topical subjects of all among hunting circles. These chapters are thought provoking and James has done a commendable job distilling complex issues and putting forward his views.

This is another book to add to the list of books grappling with being a hunter in New Zealand today and the ethics and philosophies that go with it, similar to Tony Orman’s A Hunting Life (2011) or Greig Caigou’s Hunting Adventures (2009). However, there is yet to be an author that fully and satisfactorily explores contemporary New Zealand hunting ethos and sub-cultures.

This book is well presented and includes many colour photos of back-country vistas, sporting rifles and game animal photos, both on the hoof and trophy, but was deceptively quick to finish reading. On inspection the book’s font is larger than usual and there are many full page images, which explain why, although seemingly the same size as other books, it was lighter on content.

Overall, James has written a solid follow up book to his first.

James Passmore is a regular contributor to New Zealand’s hunting magazines and he has also authored The New Zealand Hunting Rifle (2012).

The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it

The Hunter’s ratings are:

  • Overall rating: 5.5 out of 10
  • Photos and illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
  • Trophy quality: 1.5 out of 5
  • Writing quality and style: 2.5 out of 5
  • Page-turner status: 3 out of 5

Publisher’s blurb

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

“This is real deer country, right from the start of the bush edge. The walk is soft, the direction is constant, and you are just looking and tuning in to being in the bush and carrying a rifle. The roar is here, and  anything can happen.”
Chasing a trophy animal in the valleys of Fiordland is to both pursue an encounter with a magical creature and to attempt day to day survival in an environment that is both spiritually malevolent and harshly impersonal. To trek over the tops of Mount Titiroa or up into the alpine basins among the Skippers Range is to discover great tussock lands, tarns of limpid water and wind-sculpted spires of rock that constitute an immense landscape so alien that you are faintly surprised you can still breath the atmosphere.
In this book James Passmore explores some of New Zealand’s greatest wildernesses with expeditions into the Southern Alps for Tahr, South Westland for trophy stags and deepest Fiordland searching for the lost Moose.
The New Zealand Wilderness Hunter contains some of his finest deer hunting stories as well as descriptions of solo wilderness adventures and the philosophy of a passionate hunter.
James Passmore is an outdooors magazine writer based in Dunedin and author of The New Zealand Hunting Rifle.

Bibliographic information

Title: The New Zealand Wilderness Hunter
Author: James Passmore
Editions: 2014
Publisher: Halcyon Press, Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN: 1877566659, 9781877566653
Format: Softcover, 164 pages, colour illustrations, 24 cm

Book review of Wilderness Hunter by James Passmore book review