HOW TO BE AND FIND A GOOD HUNTING PARTNER
There were seven of us seated at the high-top table. We weren't hunting, but all of us were hunters. We sat at that table, listening intently to two wise men with some stories to tell.
One of the most important things in hunting is what we pass on in our tales. Even more, is the weight of value in each piece of information. This table was the Exodus crew at the Great American Outdoor Show. That evening we talked about point strategy, botched shots, tolerant wives, and goals of places we hope to hunt. But our friend, Ryan Springer, said something that will stick with me for good.
We had all been swapping stories, and when Ryan took a turn to talk, he referred to his good friend John. He said, "It's so crucial to find a friend that knows how to suffer well."
We talked about that subject there at that table for a while. Since then, I've done plenty of thinking on that topic to share some details of gaining a good hunting partner, or partners, that will bring meaning to your hunt. You might be an introvert, but even if you are, there is something you can learn from this article.
REMOVE THE PLANK
I'll be the first to admit that I don't do the best job of checking myself all the time. I'm a planner, and I like to know fine details. That's sometimes caused tension on a few hunts with friends who are the fly by the seat of their pants type.
To gain a hunting partner who can suffer well, you have to be one first. If you can't figure out your own problem, how will your buddy ever learn to grow from you? One example I'll share is forgetting pieces of gear. I bring seconds of things I know my buddies might forget. I bring the extra not because I want to care for them but because I know it will annoy me. But a good partner should bring extra items with a helpful attitude. Or better yet, if you don't bring spares and your buddy is missing something, give them the one you have or leave yours in the truck.
It might suck to have cold hands because they forgot their gloves or have that hairy teeth feeling because they're missing a toothbrush for an overnight hunt. But when you put your nose to the grindstone, the person you hunt with will want to do the same.
What are your hunting goals? I love to hunt with all kinds of people—many of whom have differing ideas of what "the hunt" means to them. But I have a handful of buddies, my closest hunting friends, who share similar views. There are even a few that I don't hunt with regularly, but it's important to throw those goals on the table right away.
If the fella you're planning an out of state hunt with doesn't know you'd rather rough it and tent camp instead of staying in a hotel, how can you get mad when he wonders why you didn't book a place to stay?
There are so many small details that might matter to you. Figure them out and talk about them with your pals.
Hunting isn't just a young man's sport, but it often starts that way. Life happens; there are marriages, kids, career changes, or even interest changes. That might change your friendship in hunting, and you should recognize that. Hunting isn't worth losing a good friend if your ideas of hunting begin to grow apart.
Remember, you might be the one changing. It's always critical to do a self inspection whenever conflict or annoyance arises. Also, there doesn't need to be a come to Jesus pow-wow with your buddy. Growing apart is part of life, but the thing is not to let it cause hatred between friends.
Have you heard the phrase, "hunters shoot holes in their own boat?" I'd be willing to bet that, in many cases, the holes were made among friends when there was a disagreement.
IRON SHARPENS IRON
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." As I mentioned, I have a healthy amount of friends that make me better.
I want set trail cams in mid July on pressured public land plagued with rattlesnakes, sweating my butt off while mildly dehydrated. I'll wake up at ungodly hours to go on a roundabout hike for the best possible access. I won't miss a workout if I know it would mean not being able to keep up with my hunting buddy.
I don't say these things to tell you how tough I can be. I wrote them to show you the kind of friends that are in my ring. I hunt that way because the people that I've chosen to hunt with helped to make me that way. I return the favor by sharing those same values. Together we sharpen each other as hunters and as friends. Think about a hunting community like that one.
PASS IT ALONG
The good thing about hunting is that it will spill out into the rest of your life. Those disciplined values you've etched into the woodwork will help your hunting friendships and those outside of the hunting world. Who knows, maybe you'll help make a few new hunters yourself!
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hat Team Member