Both before and after Izaak Walton plagiarized his masterwork, men have concocted stories about the biggest one that got away and about the toughest kill. Most of the 20 pieces in this Christmas-gift anthology are about the kill--that is, they're success stories--but toward the end the editors bring in a refreshing realism, and Richard Wentz's ""The Candy Jar"" (about pheasant-shooting outside Chicago) and Thomas McIntyre's ""Across the Line"" (about hunting caribou in Alaska), by their psychological honesty and reportorial naturalism, speak to a wide, non-hunting audience. There are 4 short stories, 16 reminiscences. Both kinds are written with verve and affection by men who not only love to hunt but also, alas, keep asking what it all means in this day and age. John Randolph's day out with Vermont deer-slayer Larry Benoit suggests that a real hunter eludes all adjectives; like most of the other pieces, this one loses its power in its author's self-conscious verbosity. E.A. Proulx (""The Unclouded Day"") and Craig Woods (""The Endless Cover"") offer skilled fiction no less believable than memoirs but marred by the same sentimentality that disfigures the whole collection. Between moralizing about hunting--It is right? Is it just? Is is meaningful? Does the hunter hunt to eat or eat to hunt?--and sentimentalizing about the land""--It seems stupid to think that a piece of land can fill some of the void left by the recklessness of human relationships. But it can, of course. . .""--the authors make the scope of their material smaller than its quality. Joseph Fornelli's conventional drawings, which would be more appropriate on a set of highball glasses, confirm the point. Depicting the middle-class, white hunter's paradises from Montana to Africa, these anecdotes will remind a fireside believer of past pleasures, but they won't convert the heathen. Unlike Norman McLean's A River Runs Through It, they don't express the failures, strengths and subtleties of human character as it develops under the challenges of field and stream. Audubon, too, shot birds, but look what he made of them.