Much of the narrative describes Hemingway's adventures hunting in East Africa, interspersed with ruminations about literature and authors. Generally the East African landscape Hemingway describes is in the region of Lake Manyara in Tanzania.
The book starts with Part 1 ("Pursuit and Conversation"), with Hemingway and a European expat in conversation about American writers. Relations between the white hunters and native trackers are described, as well as Hemingway's jealousy of the other hunters. Part 2 ("Pursuit Remembered") presents a flashback of hunting in northern Tanzania with a description of the Rift Valley and descriptions of how to field dress prey. Hemingway kills a rhino, but his friend Karl kills a bigger one.
The literary discussion moves to European writers such as Tolstoy, Flaubert, Stendhal, and Dostoevsky. In Part 3 ("Pursuit and Failure") the action returns to the present with Hemingway unlucky in hunting, unable to find a kudu he tracks. He moves to an untouched piece of country with the native trackers. In Part 4 ("Pursuit and Happiness") Hemingway and some of his trackers arrive at seemingly virgin country. There he kills a kudu bull with huge horns (52 inches).
Back in the camp, he discovers that Karl killed a kudu with bigger horns. He complains that Karl is a terrible hunter with infinite luck. On the last day he learns that many of the guides consider him a brother.