Assistant editor Dave Rose
As a seasoned outdoorsman John Dunn has graced the pages of Australian Shooter with his entertaining and witty writings for more than three decades. For possibly longer than he may care to remember, as one of our senior correspondents John has been bringing the curtain down on the magazine with his monthly Jumbunna column.
Now he’s put together his second collection of those columns for readers to reprise at their leisure. As well as encompassing firearms reviews and serious hunting escapades, it’s comforting to know John can pen such illuminating encounters from his experiences in the Outback as well as numerous overseas treks to locations including Finland, New Zealand and Alaska.
The Jumbunna Collection Volume II: More stories from the bush picks up where The Jumbunna Collection left off back in 2000. The monthly anecdotes travel down the years until the latter part of 2020 and one of the joys is you don’t have to read it from cover to cover, just can pick and choose any tale you fancy.
And there’s no shortage of choice in a volume which spans just shy of a healthy 300 pages. Hunting is one of John’s passions with his pursuit of deer to the fore and his frequent references and recollections of sambar sum-up his feelings: “Like a lot of mountain hunters, I long ago succumbed to the magic of the sambar,” he writes.
It’s startling to learn John penned his first column for Australian Shooters’ Journal way back in 1988 before his tales continued via Australian Shooter where his penchant for colourful prose continues to this day. His earlier career as a Ranger and Project Manager with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service afforded plenty of scope for his articles but as he notes in the foreword: “I’m quite sure nobody expected it (the column) to be around some 33 years later. I know I didn’t but it is and for that I’m truly grateful.”
As he explains, Jumbunna is an Aboriginal word from the Ngarigo dialect of south-eastern New South Wales which means talking together and that seems the perfect platform for these evergreen observations on his forays. This book is the fourth off the production line for John and follows Hunting in Australia (1989), the aforementioned Jumbunna Collection (2000) and In the footsteps of my father ‑ stories from an Australian hunter (2019).
Contained in this edition are an assortment of concise and riveting episodes. John doesn’t even need to be hunting as observing country life in general fits the bill with wagtails, fairy wrens, thorn bills and other birds all appearing on one outing, while errant wild dogs or prowling foxes variously distract him from the task at hand.
And his eagle eye doesn’t miss much. “No matter how brilliant a documentary may be, it can never emulate the magic of seeing animals alive and real in their own environments,” is his philosophy. “It doesn’t take much to keep me amused,” he admits in one passage, “a decoy, a duck blind and a hog deer hind filled the afternoon nicely.”
A less than successful shooting outing on the range is chronicled in the chapter headed: Optimism v Reality where John realises his shooting talents are not what they were in days gone by. Things start off quite perkily when he declares: “With the possible exception of whining opposition politicians, the majority of people are essentially optimistic. We all like to think situations are never as bad as they sometimes seem, that we’re invariably better or more highly skilled at all sorts of things than we actually are.” In the end he concedes: “Being an optimist is fine but it’s realists who reap the results.”
There’s even time for fishing and John’s delight at helping his then six-year-old nephew land his first rainbow trout rubs off on him as much as young Justin’s unbridled joy at hauling his catch from the stream. John’s versatility and passion for travel are ever-apparent and he credits his late father as a major influence. “When we were kids growing up in the 1960s my Old Feller made a point of teaching us how to hunt and fish,” he says. Even an enforced move of house from rural surrounds to a more urban setting hasn’t dampened John’s spirit. “I have lots of different interests to occupy my tiny mind and vegetating isn’t one of them,” he proudly declares.
With Christmas just around the corner this book of recollections by a talented raconteur would make an excellent stocking filler for any SSAA member or general outdoors enthusiast. The book is priced $35 including postage and packing. Order via email at [email protected] or the SSAA Online Shop.