by Tony Orman
I briefly reviewed this book earlier but delving into it again and again, because it’s such a quality book, there’s much more to be said about the man and his book.
Peter Ryan has hunted over four continents, among them Africa and South America and of course New Zealand, where he lives in the South island close to some pretty good hunting country. His two earlier books “Wild South” and “Hunting NZ” were highly rated by critics. His third and newly published “Hunting Life” continues the same high standard.
“Hunting Life” delivers superbly and sensitively written chapters on hunting, stepping adeptly from Africa to New Zealand and from African big game to red stags, tahr, chimes, wild pig, ducks and even rabbits.
This is very much a reflective book with the author in “The September of My Years” (a superb Frank Sinatra CD) proudly looking at his own children as he takes them outdoors and reflecting on his own spring years, a few decades ago, with rod, rifle and gun accompanied and tutored by his father.
And then of course there is the dog, in this case, Tom a young labrador.
“These birds and the dog had not been alive when I last stood n this place. Whole generations had come and gone since, but in a way nothing has changed.”
Wistfully and nostalgically he watches his son Jamie and Tom team up to retrieve a rabbit.
“There’s another moment that know only too well written on Jamie’s face as he gently takes his quarry, a glow of achievement cut through with a hint of regret—-I wander slowly taking it in—-It’s a strangely familiar picture. Then realise it’s the same one, my father would have seen a long time ago.”
The author delights in gently teaching his son just as he was taught by his father.
“The shape of a man’s character lies in his own hands but I can give him these things as a compass to steer by —- I watch the two of them with their prize—-I’ll linger a little longer, let them be together and watch their shadows stretching out along the road, just as mine did half a lifetime ago. Take it all in and breathe the cool evening air. I might even get the camera out for a quick photo, just the simple mage of a boy, a dog and their catch—-and then I will let this road take me home.”
While Peter Ryan takes the reader on adventures – from the jagged peaks and foot hill country of New Zealand’s Southern Alps to the deserts and jungles of Africa, “Hunting Life” is really a celebration of the deeper meaning and motivation for the true hunter. It’s not necessarily in the animal shot and while that is naturally important, it’s not the “be-all-and-end–all” of what hunting is about. In Peter Ryan’s own words, his latest book “a hymn to an old way of life, and a long love letter of sorts.”
He writes from deep down, indeed the soul, and in a manner that is heart warming.
The essays comprising the book are written in a sensitive manner with a deep respect for the wild animals and birds he loves to hunt, very apparent. There’s not the slightest suggestion of the crass “Gung-ho” style some hunting books indulge in. Peter Ryan is a diligent wordsmith carefully choosing his prose.
His two earlier books were highly regarded and this one continues that high standard. A delightful enhancement to the author’s absorbing tales and his own excellent photography are photos and illustrations by several renowned artists and photographers from around the world.
This is a top hunting book, which captures beyond the shot, the essence, intangibles and the greater experience of “just being there”, with rifle or shotgun.
And a word of praise for the publisher, so easily forgotten by reviewers. Bateman Books’ quality production really enhances the reader’s enjoyment. All round, thanks to author and publisher, this is a top hunting book destined for every keen hunter’s bookshelf.
Footnote: “Hunting Life”, subtitled “Moments of Truth” by Peter Ryan, published by Bateman Books, price $39.99.