Peter Ryan is a brother I’ve never met. If there is one living writer whose hand I would like to shake, it is him. I suspect strong spirits might be involved thereafter, the whiskies long overdue.
But alas, though we have trod the same ground in Africa and Argentina, it has never been together and we live on opposite sides of the world—me in soggy South Carolina, him in craggy New Zealand, the South Island.
Peter Ryan is a writer who can wring joyous tears from a stone, be his subject hunters, dogs or game—furred or feathered. And speaking of stones, here’s a selection from the lead essay, “On the Rocks,” from his latest book, Hunting Life: Moments of Truth: “It starts where it always does, on the rocks. Ochre figures on a stone wall, spears and bows poised. In some caves there are deer in front of them, in others wild sheep or antelope etched into the rock. And around them are shapes with sharp muzzles and curled tails, hunting dogs of the ancient past, leaping with their masters.”
Ryan says we never remember the hunts but particular moments in each, and in each crystal moment there is Truth with a capital T. He makes his case to my satisfaction.
Given his location, most of the hunts—for both birds and big game—take place south of the equator, but the geography hardly impedes such matters of the heart. The waterfowling in New Zealand rivals that of any place on Earth, and ever the traditionalist, Ryan glories in his double guns, wool, waxed canvas, handmade calls and good gun oil. The artwork, paintings, sketches and photographs are by keen eyes—Bob White, Bill Buckley and Peter Stewart among them—and are as stunning as the language.
Hunting Life belongs on every hunter’s bookshelf. The book is that good.