We review John Dunn’s latest book

Hunting high and low

Esteemed firearms writer and hunter John Dunn has been entertaining SSAA members for more than three decades with his wry insights into life on the land. As one of Australian Shooter’s senior correspondents, John has shared his tales of country life in his monthly Jumbunna column which has ran in every issue since 1988, the colourful and often whimsical look at country matters never failing to strike a chord with readers.

Now John has put together a book recalling numerous hunting adventures from Australia and around the world. In the footsteps of my father ‑ stories from an Australian hunter is a 200-page sweep through a rollercoaster ride traversing the great southern land as well as memorable hunts abroad including in North America and New Zealand.

It’s clear John’s father was a major influence. In his foreword John says he feels grateful to have grown up when he did, learning the ropes on putting food on the table through trapping or shooting game, catching fish and prawns, harvesting mushrooms, berries and home-grown vegetables.

This book is John’s third, following on from Hunting in Australia (1989) and The Jumbunna Collection (2000) which collated various articles written for Australian Shooters’ Journal and Australian Shooter between 1988 and 1999. This time round John recalls how he became involved in hunting as a child then passed on the art of hunting and fishing to his children.

Drag-netting for prawns with his father at Lake Illawarra on the New South Wales coast was John’s introduction to landing food for the fridge and from there we’re on our way as he teaches his son the wonders of the great outdoors.

John’s hunting adventures began on home soil and he explains that most of the game animals in Australia are introduced species and lauds the varieties on offer, from bunnies to buffaloes. In the early 1980s his job with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service intertwined perfectly for him to undertake numerous helicopter shooting programs targeting feral pigs, goats, buffaloes and wild cattle.

But it’s the pursuit of deer which holds a special place in his heart. “For a long time deer hunting was the spur that drove my hunting life, especially sambar deer,” he recalls. And that spur hasn’t diminished down the years as John now extracts just as much pleasure from simply taking what he needs for the table.

Deer feature prominently in the 32 pages of glossy photographs, all complete with cross-references to the text the pictures refer to. There are stunning scenic views depicting the author in breathtaking panoramas of the New Zealand high country and Alaskan ranges along with snaps from days gone by.

John’s fondness for New Zealand is evident in these pages as he hints he’d like to have spent more time hunting across the Tasman if work commitments had allowed, scrambling over rugged terrain on the path of chamois clearly a tricky assignment which he recalls vividly.

The narrative is just as gripping when he flies into back country Alaska to hunt moose, a mission that had been 45 years in the making and one he truly savoured. As an encore John outlines trips to Utah, Wyoming and Montana for back-to-back hunts which yielded elks, mule deer, whitetail deer and pronghorn antelopes, trophies which had been on his radar for years.

Many will be familiar with John’s engaging style through his Australian Shooter articles and this highly entertaining book - clearly a labour of love - is packed with more of the same.

The book is priced $25 plus $10 P&P and is available by emailing the author at [email protected]

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