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New to Hunting - Buddies

By Russ Van Orman

Choosing your hunting buddy is no easy task.  This is especially true if you are new to hunting. A friend of mine equated it to finding a trophy buck, standing in a field, on public land, an hour into opening day. Another friend who was new to hunting related the following story to me:

“A friend at the office had talked endlessly about his hunting prowess. To me, it seemed like he was trophy hunter.  In fact, that is one of the reasons I became interested in the sport. I love the outdoors and to harvest my own game seemed very interesting to me. So, with my friend’s advice and my own research on the Internet, I purchased equipment and attended a 2-day hunter safety class. Opening day rolled around and at 4:00 a.m. I was ready to go.  We had agreed on this early hour ahead of time, however, I waited and waited and waited. My “friend” didn’t show up until 5:30 a.m. That should have been a warning sign, however, I was pretty darn excited so I accepted his excuse and we left. We had set up our stands ahead of time. All we had to do was dress and spray down with some scent elimination product and head into woods. Two hours later I shot my first whitetail buck. Immediately, I called my “friend” and got no answer. He had previously promised to help me drag and field dress a deer if I got one. I called three more times with no answer.  I remembered reading a couple of articles on field dressing so I managed to clean my buck myself. It took me two hours to drag it back to my “friends” truck. Where was he? Passed out in the truck! He hadn’t even left the truck that morning and had drunk himself into a stupor. Needless to say, I never hunted with him again.”

What to look for in hunting buddy?

First….. is the individual safe with firearms. Nobody wants to get shot. A buddy of mine tells of a duck hunting adventure with his cousin. This individual almost shot his dog and did manage to shoot a hole in the duck blind. Anyone who hunts with a firearm needs to take a hunter safety course and handle firearms safely.

Is the individual a “team player”?

Hunting can be an individual sport or a team sport depending on where and how you hunt. There is no place for jealousy while hunting. A few years ago a friend shot a 6 X 6 elk about four miles back in from where our car was parked. We were hunting in knee-to-thigh deep snow with the temperature -20 degrees during the day. Three of us packed that elk out and we didn’t get back to the truck until 2:30 in the morning. Maybe I or my other friend didn’t pull the trigger but it was our elk too. We had just as much pride in that elk as the one who had been lucky enough to pull the trigger.

A potential hunting buddy needs to dependable. Does he or she show up at the agreed upon time? Will he or she help you get harvested game to the vehicle or camp? Also, they need to be able to be reliable in emergency situations.

Ethical hunting is only way to hunt. Are they ethical?

Does the individual abide by the game laws? Does he or she use the harvested game that they have taken? Many years ago my friend’s dad shot a small doe that was running through the woods on his property. He had gotten excited and shot the doe without thinking. The individual had a doe tag and to me it was a no brainer; put your tag on it and take it home for processing. I was close by when I heard the shot so I headed over to see if I could help out. When I arrived at his location, he was piling leaves over the dead carcass. I ask him what he was doing and he replied that the doe was too small so he was just going to leave it. I didn’t have a doe tag so I couldn’t tag it. I never hunted with him again and left shortly after my discovery.

Do they share in the responsibilities around camp and preparations for the hunt?

No one should be left with all the cooking or cleaning chores. Agree ahead of time on who does what. This goes for preparing for the hunt too.  Purchasing groceries, finding a place to hunt/camp, and other duties should be shared. In other words, everyone should share the load.

So where do you find someone to hunt with?

I was very fortunate to have a father that taught me how to hunt. He was my best hunting buddy. We hunted many years together so we each knew what to expect from the other. A father, wife, son or daughter can make a great hunting companion provided they share the same interest in the sport that you do. There are also many sportsman and gun clubs that one can join. These clubs are excellent places to meet people that share the same interests that you do. Neighbors and co-workers can possibly make great hunting companions, too.

How can you tell if someone else is a safe, responsible, dependable, ethical, and a team player?

One of the best ways to tell is to participate with them in another sport and see how they behave. This will give you both a chance to determine if you want to hunt together. I did ski racing for over three years with a good hunting buddy before I finally asked if he hunted. He told me he had hunted with his best friend until his death. We went shooting at the local gun range that spring. After target practicing with him and his son, my dad and I asked them to join us the following fall for a deer hunt on our property. 

Just remember….. whoever your hunting companion is, be safe, have fun and enjoy the great outdoors.