When I initially picked up Peter Ryan’s first book, Wild South, I have to admit I was unaware its praises had been sung far and wide by reviewers and editors the world over, so it was without preconceptions that my interest was piqued by a gushing foreword written by Bob South, editor of Fish & Game New Zealand magazine.
In short, this book deserves the hype, it is a seriously good read and a welcome addition to the top shelf of my hunting library.
After reading the last page I flicked back through the many photos with a twinge of sadness knowing there were no more chapters to read (for now, let’s hope).
Peter’s writing ability and style stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries. There is an art to retelling ones successes without being boastful and Peter is a true artist when writing about his experiences of big game hunting across Australia, Africa (mainly Zimbabwe), Argentina, New Zealand and around the South Pacific in Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.
Because The Hunter, A Hunter’s Review has a dedicated New Zealand hunting focus this review will cover those aspects, but for completeness we touch on the other elements Peter writes about too (and although not relevant for this review, it is worth noting that fly fishing forms a significant part of this book).
Of the few chapters dedicated to New Zealand’s big game, Peter writes about securing his first ‘royal’ 12 point red stag and later a magnificent Otago-type 14 point red stag. His most impressive trophy is a South Island free-range fallow buck of 23 points with strong palmation.
Noticeably absent were trophy tahr and chamois stories, two of New Zealand’s premier species, and although alluded to it seems Peter is yet to either secure, or at least write about securing, these home grown alpine species.
There are engaging and insightful asides on gun dogs, wooden rifle stocks, hunting guides and their clients, musings on guiding in general, and Peter’s sako rifle chambered in .375 H&H magnum — the most popular rifle cartridge invented by Holland & Holland and introduced in 1912 as a Nitro Express for dangerous big game hunting. Each of these chapters adds complexity and depth and present an enjoyable change from the usual ‘stalk, shoot and stats’ script of hunting books.
For those with an interest in, or aspirations of, hunting big game in other parts of the world, you will find content on shooting buffalo (cape and Asiatic water), lion, kudu, various antelopes, sable, European boar, blackbuck, rusa, warthog, and eland — each story is as interesting and educational as it is captivating.
There are many professional quality colour and black and white photos and illustrations, both of live animals and trophy images. Additional photos are available to view on Peter’s website, Faraway.
It is worth pointing out that the publisher, Bateman, and its design team have put together an attractive book, which will set the standard from now on.
The only detraction for the New Zealand hunting book reader is the small proportion of New Zealand content.
This book is recommended without reservation and I hope others enjoy it as much as I have.
Peter Ryan’s writing and images have been published in books and magazines around the world, including Gray’s Sporting Journal, Sporting Classics, Field Sports and Sporting Rifle. He is a columnist for Fish & Game New Zealand and Dallas Safari Club’s Game Trails.
The Hunter’s recommendation is: buy it
The Hunter’s ratings are:
- Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10
- Photos and illustrations: 4 out of 5
- Trophy quality: 4 out of 5
- Writing quality and style: 5 out of 5
- Page-turner status: 3.5* out of 5
(* Note: lower rating because of fly fishing related chapters, which were glossed over)
For your information the following is the book’s blurb:
While based in New Zealand’s stunning South Island, Peter Ryan’s writing and images have been published in books and magazines around the world. In Wild South he reaches out to the great hunting and angling destinations of southern Africa, New Zealand, Australia, South America and more. These are big places and Peter Ryan covers big ground – from scrabbling around dizzy mountain heights after elusive deer; encounters with buffalo, elephants, lions and rabid hyenas; to reflections on the qualities of gun dogs, gun stocks and hunters themselves; or just the pure pleasure of fishing peaceful back-country lakes and rivers. Wild South is an absorbing insight into a world and lifestyle that captures perfectly a love of fly-fishing, bird hunting, gun dogs and big game in some of the last great frontiers. Peter Ryan was born in Australia and began to travel at a young age, combining any available work with hunting and fishing. After time spent in New Zealand and Australia he volunteered for an aid project in southern Africa which led to an epic series of solo journeys across Africa and South America. He lives in a restored colonial farmhouse in New Zealand’s South Island, close to his beloved Southern Alps, with his wife Vanessa, son James and daughter Holly. His writing and images have appeared in some of the world’s best outdoor books and magazines. Wild South is his first book.
Bibliographic informationTitle: Wild South: Hunting and Fly-Fishing the Southern Hemisphere
Author: Peter Ryan (1965–)
Publisher: David Bateman Limited, New Zealand, 2013
ISBN: 1869538390, 9781869538392
Format: Softcover (dustcover), 206 pages, illustrations (some colour), 24 cm
Book review of Wild South by Peter Ryan book review