A sure comic touch permeates this motley omnibus of humor. Many of the tales and jokes will charm even the indoorsman, but only a sportsman will appreciate their abundance. The collection spans the long career of outdoor humorist Zern, a columnist for Field & Stream since 1958. The first part is selections from a half-dozen humor books--beginning with To Hell with Fishing--that Zern wrote between 1945 and 1964. The second is various magazine pieces, including some longer stories and travel pieces; the third, selections from a series of humorous ads he wrote for Nash automobiles; and the last is the best of ""Exit Laughing,"" his long-running column. Zero handles the standard topics--monster fish, chronic liars, laconic sages, dudes laden with equipment, pranks, smart dogs--and also takes a step beyond, throwing fairy tales, truth serum, and encounters with Beelzebub into the potpourri. His writing is generally spare, but with a few dashes of the playful baroque. He captures the cadences of tavern conversation and storytelling, and his pieces are rife with snappy lines. After explaining a certain aspect of his own hunting method to a stuffy Briton, Zern notes that his companion ""nodded politely, as though I had said I always put a little chocolate syrup in my whiskey highballs."" Nonetheless, more than a few of the ""Exit Laughing"" columns are lackadaisically crafted, too casual to have made the leap from magazine to book without looking a little underdressed. Zern also repeats himself--forgivable in a jolly uncle, but not a professional funnyman. Two long stories, three jokes, and a hefty handful of gags are served up more than once, evidence of poor editing. More substantially, what finally prevents Zern from reaching beyond joke-telling, to go from comedian to humorist, is his choice of comic characters. With only a few exceptions (the old man in ""A Day Fishing,"" among others), they are flat props. So, witty as they are, the stories finally lack a crucial element of humanity. Though limited in scope, Zern's good humor will be appreciated by those who share his obsessions: the sportsmen who agree that Bambi was a lousy movie, that worm-dunkers are an inferior breed, and that a lively rainbow trout is a far better catch than a lissome blonde.