Finding a Hunting Partner
Hunting Partners are the Greatest hunting Assets you can have
I have been asked many times “What the most important item or tool to take hunting with you besides your rifle or bow?” Without a doubt the answer is always “A sharp knife” and this is for obvious reasons.
But coming in a close second is “A Competent Hunting Partner”. Notice I said, “A Competent Hunting Partner”, this is an important point. I good hunting partner can increase your success rate, split the travel expenses 50/50, and provide a backboard to bounce hunting plans and generally make the trip more enjoyable.
On the other hand “An Incompetent Hunting Partner” can ruin the trip, cost you that trophy buck, ruin your equipment and even get you thrown in jail.
If you are having trouble as a solo hunter or a team hunter and things just aren’t working out the way you would like it may be that you are hunting with the wrong person or that you are the wrong person to hunt with them (your hunting partner).
If, as a solo hunter you are also finding that your success rate is faltering or you’re noticing that you’re making mistakes that are affecting your success rate, it may mean that you need to find a hunting partner to help both complement your skill set and to make up for a skill set that you may be lacking or may have fallen off un-noticed over the years of hunting alone.
As you read this article maybe you can glean from it some of the characteristics of a good hunting partner or maybe even notice some things that you may be doing that have caused your hunting partners to slowly disappear over the years.
Selecting a Hunting Partner
If people spent as mush time researching what they needed in a hunting partner compared to the research that they put into buying a new rifle or bow, I think they would end the season on a more positive note and be looking forward to the next hunting season.
In some cases it’s “fortunately” but in many cases it’s “unfortunately” that most of us select or default to hunting partners who are family members, co-workers or neighbors and we are somewhat put together by chance rather than choice.
I have a friend who is truly the most successful hunter I know, and he will admit that he only hunts with someone who “brings something to the table” or has something to contribute to the hunt. It may be property access, or equipment or maybe even a good positive personality but no one gets a free ride. In other words you have to be able to contribute something to the hunt or something to the hunting group. You can't just be the guy who takes game and never adds to the hunt or just shows up to camp every year and uses what’s available and goes home without contributing to the success of the other hunters in the group.
The Cookie Jar Theory
If you have a cookie jar and you start with 5 cookies and 5 hunters. If each hunter takes 1 cookie the jar is empty. But if every time you go hunting, each hunter adds one extra cookie for every cookie they take the jar just gets fuller and there is more opportunity for more cookies or in our case more opportunity for going on more hunts.
To clarify if you have 5 hunters who hunt together and everyone is basically on their own when it comes to the hunt, what you have is 5 people hunting by themselves but who just happen to be in a group. But instead if you have one guy who goes out of his way to buy a large wall tent (cookie #1) for everyone to use, and another guy who buys a cooking setup (cookie #2) for everyone to use, another guy may buy a travel trailer (cookie #3) everyone can fit in or at least use for camping, showers and bathroom, another guy who may have a side-by-side (cookie #4) and another guy who has a boat (cookie #5) and everyone working with a common goal of everyone having a successful hunt (filling up the cookie jar), you can see that this is truly a hunting camp to be enjoyed and a group of hunters who will hunt together until they all die of old age.
What is required of a Hunting Partner?
Knowing what is required of a hunting partner will help in you in selecting a new hunting partner and it will help you maintain yourself within a group of hunting partners. We all develop bad habits over time and it doesn’t hurt for a person to self-evaluate and take notice of things they may need to change.
A hunting partner must be able to pull their own weight both physically and financially. If one hunting partner is in phenomenal shape and the other one is a couch potato its just not going to work. Sure you can put up with it for a while but not long term. Select someone within the same physical abilities as yourself. This may include the same age but not necessarily it depends on their physical abilities. If you’re in great shape and you find yourself hauling all the weight or packing most the load out in and out, while the other guy drinks your last bottle of water, or finding out that he is too tired to hunt the next day when its your turn to bust a buck you’re going to be upset.
Everyone has financial troubles sometime in their life whether they admit it or not, so there may be times when this rule doesn’t apply because friends are friends and you help each other out. But if you find yourself constantly having to pay for all the gas, motel bills, lunch, coffees, or other fees it gets old fast. When selecting hunting partners you should be honest with yourself and the other person and just ask them if they are in a position to be able to go hunting as often as you are, and ask what kind of hunting trips they prefer. If you can afford to go hunting but want to tent camp and they want to spend each night in a motel this may get to be a little to expensive for you or you may simply see it as a waste of time compared to tent camping. Not to mention its way different sleeping in a bed (hopefully two queen beds not one) next to a person in a motel room and sleeping in your own little dome tent 30 yards away not listening to their night-time sounds.
Your new hunting partner should be able to have the same amount of hunting time as you. If your retired and he works 6 days a week, it might not work out. You would want to hunt more often than he can and he just wouldn’t be able to go all the time and it may develop hard feelings.
Is your hunting partners skill set equal to or greater than yours? This is a must, if your going hunting you need to be able to count on a person. There may come a time when the chips are down, and you need a partner who can turn to his skills and take care of business immediately not stop and google “how to apply a tourniquet”. Be selective and find someone you can count on, not someone you must train while in the field. Now I am not saying that you should never hunt with a novice, what I am saying is that there is a time for training and a time for hunting. All the training needs to be done prior to hunting, and by all means you should always try to take new people hunting but be reasonable. You don’t want to go on a backcountry deer hunt and find out your new partner has never spent the night in the woods, he won’t sleep, and neither will you.
Its okay to ask a potential hunting partner all the questions you can think of regarding their experience and their abilities to cover their costs. As a matter of fact if they become irritated or upset that you would inquire that’s a big Red Flag right there and I wouldn’t even consider them.
How do I actually find someone to hunt with?
I am so often asked via my website “How does a person go about actually locating another person to hunt with?” and this is the toughest question of all because it really does depend on where you live and what you hunt. What I usually tell them is that they are taking the first step by contacting someone and just asking. I will be honest with you. If your having trouble and your looking for someone to hunt with and my schedule permits, I will do my best to go hunting with you, so that’s a start. Another great way is to join a club. Now there are several hunting clubs that you can join that are anywhere from free to downright expensive. Facebook has many hunting groups you can join for free where you may meet other locals to hunt with, some of them may be okay but judging from some of their comments (I am in several of these groups) I would like to tell you it’s a risky situation and I am somewhat embarrassed as a hunter that some of these people are allowed to carry firearms.
Instead look at joining local groups within your community. There are very few actual “Hunting Clubs” that are local unless you join a Duck Club which are usually by invitation and run anywhere from $800.00 to $2700.00 a seat. Most “Duck Clubs” are a group of 4 to 8 guys who go in together to hunt a blind during duck season. You pay for your portion of the blind which is one seat. Yes, one seat runs about $800.00 a year on up. And you’re usually hunting with strangers. So that maybe something to consider but not for the new guy who’s just starting out.
What I would suggest is joining a like minded club like a local “Fly Fishing Club” or off road “ATV Club” or even an outdoor club where you can meet and go for hikes and such as that. These clubs are generally free to cheap and if you don’t like it you can go another direction.
A few years ago I decided to join Wilderness Unlimited, and I wish I would have joined it way earlier in life, but it just didn’t work out that way. Every year I have places to camp, fish, and hunt rabbits, pheasants, dove, waterfowl, deer, pigs and bear all on private property and all for less than what it would cost for the average price for one seat in a duck blind, and if your looking for someone to hunt with all you have to do is go on the private Facebook page and ask if someone will go with you. Yes, it costs money but I have learned that it actually saves me on the gas money because I spend less time driving around looking for places to hunt and the quality of the hunting and fishing is so much better that I am more satisfied so I hunt less. I traded quantity of hunting (trips) for quality of hunting (better experience) and I have meet a lot of new people to go hunting and fishing with.
Hunting Partners Do’s and Don’ts
I have had some really great hunting partners and I have had more than my share of terrible hunting partners. So believe me when I say that I can list thousands of things you should and should not do as a hunting partner.
Things that you may feel are acceptable that are not and things that only make a hunting partners irritating habits worse rather than better.
1) Always pay your way. If its your turn to buy gas then buy the gas, don’t sit on your wallet or act like you can't find your wallet until the other guy finally pays. Not paying your share of the costs is both un-manly and the absolute fastest way to find yourself on the “Do not Call list” the next time your buddy wants to go hunting with someone.
2) Don’t overpay more than once. If you’re in a situation where your new partner or old partner has shrugged off their financial responsibility and you end up having to pay for their gas. Call them on it. Say something and then don’t do it again. If they want to go, they have to pay it’s the rules.
3) You’re not on a date! Buy separate lunches. Don’t get in the habit of buying each other’s lunches. Before you know it one person will have bought 4 times and the other one only once. Or one guy always buys breakfast sandwiches for .99 cents each and the other guy seems to always get stuck with lunch for $20.00. This will lead to hard feelings later.
4) Do your share of the work. This includes driving and using your vehicle 50/50 and if you see your buddy getting tired at least offer to drive. If you backpack in, take your half of the community gear like tents and stoves. And if anyone shoots an animal you pack your half out or whatever the math is. If one of two people get a deer pack half that deer out. If one of four people get a deer pack your 25% of that deer out, its your share of the load. Don’t flake out on this, avoiding your share of the load is insulting to the other guys and makes you look like your taking advantage of them, and you are.
5) Don’t be a game hog. This a terrible habit and another great way to not get called again. When the birds are coming in, let others shoot don’t try to beat everyone to the shot and don’t claim every bird that falls.
6) If you smoke, find a hunting partner that smokes too, otherwise its doomed. Non-smokers hate to be confined in a truck or duck blind with a smoker no matter how nice they try to be, they hate it! And for the love of all things holy don’t spit your Copenhagen or anything else on the floor of a duck blind. Its nasty its horribly rude and after 105 days of waterfowl season the blind smells like the inside of a spittoon.
7) Keep the talk up-beat and interesting, stay away from the politics, religion and anything depressing, your out there to hunt not get more depressed, if you want to talk about your problems hire a therapist, and besides any advise your hunting buddy will give you is questionable at best.
8) Lay off the alcohol, I went duck hunting in a blind with three guys who wanted me to hunt with them because I had a good dog. Every time they shot a duck, they look a drink of Crown, yes at daybreak they started drinking. Every time they missed a duck guess what? They took a drink of Crown. After about 30 minutes I grabbed my gear and started walking to the truck, these guys didn’t even know I was leaving till I got to my truck. I left and never made contact with them again. There was no way I would hunt with anyone who drank and handled guns around me or my dogs.
9)Take care of your personal hygiene. Enough said
10) Be polite not just to the other guy in the truck but to everyone, the barista in the morning, the guy handing you a burrito on the way home and the guy driving by you on the freeway. Talk to other hunters’ network and communicate be willing to help a guy out if he’s broke down or has a flat tire. Your new hunting partner will notice, and they will take their cues from your behavior act the way you want your new hunting partner to act.
I truly could go on forever on this topic, but I think you can see what I am trying to say. Make a list of what you want and what you don’t want in a hunting partner before you just agree to hunt with anyone.
Re-evaluation of your hunting partners and making the “Hard Decision”
This is a dilemma that has haunted me for several years and finally I had to just make some difficult decisions and go my own way. This may be where you’re at right now and need that push.
There are people I have hunted with for years and we have just grown apart in our hunting strategies and other life changes and a few years ago I had to just start hunting less with them. Some aged out, they just got too old and can't keep up or can't put the effort in that they once could and that’s just life, no hard feelings because its going to happen to all of us eventually, like it or not.
Some got to sour and full of negativity and life is just too short to hear the constant complaining and feeling like there is a dark cloud of doom and gloom following you around on your hunting trip. It zaps all your positive energy and ruins the trip before your even out of the driveway.
Some just moved away, off to bigger and better things and good for them. So now I have decided that instead of having one or two really close friends to hunt with I will be hunting mostly Solo with the occasional friend going along so that I can hunt wherever and whenever I want and If I want to camp I will camp and if I want to motel it I will and if I decide I want to hunt a certain spot I can without having to run it by the other guy before I set out.
I think that this is just more workable for me and gives me more opportunity to do what I want, and it may actually be a good way to hunt for the average person as opposed to just one or two hunting partners.
Hunt by Yourself or with Man Best Friend
I know it’s a tough situation and it can be intimidating to hunt by yourself especially big game hunting. You never know what your going to run into and to tell the truth if your hunting by yourself even a small buck or pig can be a lot of work to try and get back to the truck. But I would hate for you to miss out on any day of hunting because you couldn’t find someone to hunt with so try and go anyway. Some of the most memorable hunts I have ever been on I was by myself and the reward of killing a buck, any buck, by yourself is one of the most satisfying feeling you will every know. If your young it makes you feel strong and powerful like Jerimiah Johnson. If your older it makes you feel young and healthy like you could whip Jerimiah Johnson but don’t try it, the Indians thought the same thing.
There is always one hunting buddy who will do with you every time you ask. They don’t take up much room and they never complain, this is your hunting dog. A dog will always want to go, they don’t eat much and if you decide to sleep in the truck, they make good sentries and help keep you warm. You don’t need to have the worlds best gun dog to enjoy hunting with a dog. You can have any ole family dog that isn’t gun shy. They will enjoy just spending time with you and you may realize that they add something extra to a hunt that is hard to describe. Currently in California you can hunt Waterfowl, Upland Game, Pig and Deer using a dog (you can use a dog while hunting Deer ONLY during rifle season). Dogs make for wonderful camp companions and I always take my dog when I go backpacking. She keeps the bears away and lets me know when one is anywhere near the camp.