BY JIM MATTHEWS
Durwood Hollis, a long-time guns, hunting, and knife writer from Rancho Cucamonga, died while napping the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 22. Many sportsmen across Southern California and the country knew Hollis from his hunting and knife writing and hog hunting seminars. He was 80.
He wrote five books on hunting, including Upland Game & Waterfowl, North American Big Game, Hunting Knives, Elk: Strategies for the Hunter, The Complete Game Care Guide, and Hunting Monster Mule Deer (co-authored with Duwane Adams), and two books on knives, Knifemaking with Bob Loveless, a world famous knife maker, and Hunting Knives. Hollis hunted all over North America and had traveled to Africa and Europe in pursuit of stories.
Tributes and comments from Hollis’ writer friends in the hunting community poured in to the Hollis family since his death. Many of these well-known hunters were hosted and mentored by Hollis, when he co-owned a remote ranch on California’s Central Coast and actively hunted wild hogs on public lands.
Craig Boddington, one of the world’s foremost hunting writers today, hunted with Hollis at the beginning of both of their writing careers. He wrote:
“Durwood lived off to the east and often worked odd hours. I lived a bit north of L.A., so we’d gather at my house, sometimes as late as midnight, and head up I-5. Our goal, always, was to hit one of our hunting spots just before daylight, sometimes, for hogs or deer, as far north as King City or, during duck season, Mendota. You don’t have to be completely crazy, but it helps: We all worked day jobs, and Durwood, alone among us who made these journeys, had young children. We cherished the chance to get away from the city and into the back country, even for a day. Often, it was just a day: We’d hunt hard morning and evening, maybe catching a nap during midday hours. And then, after dark, we’d turn back south toward the L.A. Basin. The “we” varied: Often, Payton Miller, Bob Robb, Todd Smith; a couple of times Jack Lott, maybe Jim Matthews, or another of Durwood’s friends from the east side.
“During those long drives in the wee hours you get to know people pretty well. It was on such a drive that Durwood suggested he might try his hand on a “knife column” for Petersen’s Hunting magazine. That was the beginning of a long and successful second career as an outdoor writer! Our friend Durwood was a dedicated, serious, and hard hunter… and fascinated by the smallest details: Game care and recovery; ferreting out new hunting spots in a state where, let’s face it, such knowledge is precious, and hard-earned; and uniquely able to instantly grasp the value of a new, seemingly mundane piece of equipment… and turn it into a good story! Durwood Hollis was a very good writer. Just yesterday, learning of his passing, I read one of his final columns, “Knives & Other Sharp Things,” in the current Safari magazine.
“It was a great little piece on a favorite knife he constantly carried and, as always, I was impressed by the detail. I read it carefully, twice, and I learned a few things. It carried me back to those long drives up to the Central Coast… and the many things I learned from Durwood Hollis at the dawn of my own career. Now we better figure out how we’re gonna get this boar on our pack frames. Durwood, did you have to shoot the biggest one? So long, old friend.”
Bob Robb, an equally well-known hunting writer also met Hollis at the dawn of Robb’s long career. He wrote about his old friend:
“Durwood and I had so many adventures – and misadventures – in the outdoors over the course of our 40-some year friendship it’s hard to summarize them. He helped start the hog hunting craze in California, and he and I drove all night north up I-5 on so many Friday nights – five hours each way – after work to hunt pigs on the central coast at dawn on Saturdays for a few hours. I can’t count them all. We did low-budget do-it-yourself hunts for deer and pigs and quail and doves, even drove several times into old Mexico to hunt quail and waterfowl, with no money in our pockets, barely enough gas in the tank to get back for forth, smiling and laughing and heckling each other while drinking Diet Dr. Pepper and eating Fritos Chili Cheese Chips like a couple of college frat boys.
“What I remember – and miss – most of all about Durwood is that he was a loyal friend, a hard-working and humble man who loved his family, and his country. He is one of those friends, if you ran out of gas at midnight and needed a ride, you could call him up and he’d bring you five gallons – even if it meant driving hours to get to you. How many friends do you have like that? I will miss him. A lot.”
Steve Comus, the current editor of Safari Magazine, and a long-time friend of Hollis’ wrote:
“Durwood was a true character in the most admirable sense of the term. Individuality matters and Durwood was unique. This industry used to have hosts of true characters, but that has changed in recent years. In that respect, Durwood was among the last of a breed that enriched the industry for so long. We shared hunting camps through the years and he provided the kind of spark that livened the banter in ways that strengthened the bonds of kinship as hunters for all who were in those many camps. When it came to sharp things (knives and such), Durwood knew his stuff as well or better than anyone else in the industry. But most of all, I think of Durwood for his humanity. He was a joyfully complex individual who will be missed by those who knew him. RIP Durwood. It was a great ride. Glad to have been with you along the way.”
A number of other writers and friends all commented on three things about Hollis. They were things that shone through, even in the often crass atmosphere of hunting camps and gatherings of gun and hunting writers: Hollis always prayed before eating, there was no swearing, and he didn’t drink alcohol. He was a man who lived his principles.
Hollis had been undergoing dialysis for kidney failure for the past 18 months and had an ongoing heart condition. He’d just celebrated his 80th birthday. Hollis was born in Los Angeles July 8, 1940 and graduated from Westchester High School before attending El Camino College where he earned his associate degree. He then attended Brigham Young University and then Cal State Los Angeles, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in May, 1969. Durwood also served in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Durwood worked for the Los Angeles County Health Department Investigations for 35 years, retiring in 2005. He worked as a private investigator before working for the county. Throughout those years at the Health Department also wrote and traveled extensively.
Hollis is survived by his wife Anita, children Kailea Hollis, Dustin Hollis, Brendan Hollis, Karlynda Thornburg and Kristen Black. He also has 18 grandchildren.
Durwood Hollis’s memorial service was held 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 at Upland Lighthouse Church, Ontario, where he faithfully attended church every Sunday – unless he was away hunting.