If you had followed my Africa’s Big Five series, you probably could have seen this coming. In those blogs I wrote about the “five most dangerous game” of Africa, which included Lion, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Rhino and Leopard. The articles were about the nature of these animals and the history/future of hunting them. Things have changed a lot since the original “African explorers” first traveled the “dark continent”. One man though was able to contain this essence of adventure and excitement in his writings, Peter Hathaway Capstick. His books would inspire a new generation of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. So for the month of May he will be the focus of our Capturers of the Outdoors blog.
I should preface, after the first preface, with the fact that he is one of my favorite authors. So yes, there will be biased shown in this blog. Just the same if I was to write a blog on why A-Wings are cooler than X-Wings or why Jurassic Park is the best movie ever.
Peter Hathaway Capstick was born in New Jersey in 1940. He passed away in 1996 in South Africa. When you look at those two things you see that he didn’t reach the age of 60 and didn’t pass on American soil. At firs this could be considered confusing, but once you read his works and know his own story it makes perfect sense. Capstick was born and raised in the United States. He attended University of Virginia and had a career working on Wall Street.
While selling and buying stocks can be its own adventure in its own kind of jungle, Capstick yearned for more. So he left the urban jungle and went to the Latin American jungle. He pursued his lifelong passions of fishing, hunting and traveling at this time. He also learned Spanish, which would be one of the several languages he would speak in his lifetime. After a couple years he returned to New York began a business arranging professionally guided hunting trips which caught the attention of Winchester Adventures. He worked there as a director.
From this he took his first trip to Africa and from then on his life would be forever changed. Many who take a trip to Africa can tell you just how amazing it is. A few different associates at our store have spoken about his, even though they didn’t have the words to explain it. You quickly realize that it is something you have to experience. Capstick would eventually become a professional hunter (PH) and game ranger in three different African countries.
Close to a decade after his first trip to Africa, Capstick published his first book: Death in the Long Grass. This books covers the dangerous game in Africa in several chapters. He fills his chapters with stories of his own, taken from others, historically documented cases and more. Being both a PH and a game ranger he clearly would have constantly been in close proximity to dangerous situations or others who had been in them. Death in the Long Grass was a success and is considered one of the quintessential books of African hunting.
When you read his work you can tell Capstick was well-educated and extremely passionate about his topics. His words can clearly bring a mental picture to mind as you read them. He would eventually write thirteen books and even dabbled in film, where his story-telling mastery came to life in front of you. He published six hunting videos, which before the time of every hunter having a TV show or YouTube channel was quite impressive.
His subjects ranged from the animals of Africa to the men that hunted them. One of my favorite books of his though is Death in a Lonely Land. This book is a compilation of some of his favorite and forgotten writings, so it ranges from fishing to playing with BB Guns. Besides publishing books and videos, Capstick wrote for Outdoor Life, Guns & Ammo, Petersen’s Hunting and American Hunter.
The last thing he did to share his passion with the world, was one of the last things he ever did. He was a keynote speaker at a banquet for Safari Club International. He suffered exhaustion and eventually collapsed. They were able to get him back to his beloved and adopted home of South Africa for an operation that in the end did not work. He is still remembered through his writings and honored through a special award given out for the promotion of responsible hunting and wildlife conservation.
Before my hunting trip to Tennessee I would find myself reaching for anything by Capstick. I took a few of his books with me on my trip and in between times in a blind or handling tasks around the farm I was deep into my book. His writings continue to inspire the passion and imagination of hunters. He truly captured the outdoors in every aspect of his life.