Drums of the Morning, by respected and highly experienced Zimbabwean professional hunter Wayne Grant, is a must read. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any sport hunter interested in classical fair-chase lion hunting, should consider this book as required reading.

It’s not often that a really good hunting book hits the shelves, but this one certainly steps up to the plate – in no small measure.

Readers familiar with Wayne’s writing will no doubt have read his equally superb Into the Thorns, a book widely regarded as the most definitive work to date, on hunting the African leopard.

Now, we are fortunate to have his latest book Drums of the Morning, written and presented in much the same vein, but with the focus this time being on lion hunting and lion conservation issues.

Having spent the last forty years guiding hunting safaris across much of East and Southern Africa, Wayne is eminently qualified to write a book of this nature. His relaxed style of writing is fluid and easy to read, and his book is highly informative – a real mine of information relative to every aspect of lion hunting, for both seasoned hunters, and neophytes alike.

In the opening chapters, Wayne describes some of his youthful experiences growing up in the once-proud country called Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). As 1978 drew to a close and the Rhodesian war raced inexorably toward a final crescendo, Wayne left school and joined the army to do his compulsory military service. After passing officer selection and completing officer training at the School of Infantry, he was posted to the Rhodesian Light Infantry as a troop (platoon) commander. The RLI was an air mobile unit which introduced and perfected the highly effective anti-guerrilla tactic known as ‘fireforce’ – (vertical envelopment of the enemy by helicopter and parachute).

Throughout the last year of the war Wayne experienced constant combat as a young officer commanding equally young soldiers both on fireforce operations inside Rhodesia and on ‘external’ operations into Mozambique and Zambia.

In his first book Wayne did not cover the Rhodesian war in any great detail, but in Drums of the Morning he devotes a whole chapter explaining the circumstances which led to the war, and some of his experiences while serving his country. When the war came to a halt in 1980, Wayne commenced his career as professional hunter.

Drums of the Morning isn’t only for those interested in lion hunting. It’s also an important historical record of how much wildlife conservation and its future in Africa has changed over the last forty years. Sadly most of these changes have been for the worst. When it comes to using facts to illustrate gross mismanagement, corruption, and poor governance, the author doesn’t hold back. And quite rightly so.

Due to the future of Africa’s wildlife currently looking so bleak, the days of shying away from constructive criticism for fear of being branded ‘politically incorrect’ are over. Any true sport hunter concerned about the situation regarding Africa’s wildlife, and the future of safari, would do well to read this book.

In this book Wayne takes an objective look at the controversial captive-bred lion hunting operations in South Africa, and he also puts the whole sorry ‘Cecil the lion’ saga in Zimbabwe, into perspective.

His anecdotal style of writing, coupled with a dry sense of humour, periodically brings a smile to the reader, and importantly, the author includes his family, and his hard working loyal staff in many of the stories.

I found it interesting that Wayne ends his book by identifying practical remedies that could halt, and rectify, the rapid slide of Africa’s safari wilderness areas into overgrazed barren ground. The measures he talks about are not new, and they are not just ‘pie-in-the-sky’ impractical dreams – many of these ideas are already being implemented by committed hunter-conservationists, but Wayne points out that these solutions need to be put into practice far more widely, and quickly, before it is too late.

From my perspective as someone who has witnessed firsthand, the regression of some of Zimbabwe’s finest hunting concessions (like Chirisa) into poached-out empty land, I found this chapter extremely thought-provoking, and it leaves the reader with an optimistic, positive hope, that committed hunter-conservationists may be able to turn things around.

Drums of the Morning – like Into the Thorns – is a hefty (589 pages, 1.5kg), with an attractive eye-catching cover. It has been well crafted and bound by Tien Wah Press; and is full of interesting photographs, and superb illustrations done by Wayne’s son Lucas – a gifted wildlife artist. I have no doubt that Drums of the Morning will be well received, not only by hunters, but also by collectors of Africana.

I have only one minor criticism of this excellent book – the maps of Zimbabwe and Tanzania are a bit small, and the printing of place names on those maps are very difficult to decipher – especially for us older folk! I’m guessing that this was just a ‘techno’ glitch gremlin that crept into the works.

Drums of the Morning can be purchased from drumsofthemorning@gmail.com