The rules to help you find your partner in the backcountry.
A lot of controversy surrounds the topic of hunting buddies and understandably why. There are a set of unwritten rules that we as hunters, in a perfect world, would like everyone to follow. We especially want our hunting buddies to follow these rules. Some of the rules are more of a personal set of rules, whereas the others are more universal throughout the hunting community.
Rule 1- You must be willing to suffer at the same amount of suck. For me, although most of these rules are extremely important, this rule I have listed as my number 1. I love to go into the back country or in areas that are tough to get to. As one of my newer hunting buddies has described me on our last hunt in Montana, I love to do things the hard way. Even though I may have been leading us into the hard way head first, neither of my hunting buddies faltered and both were willing to suffer equally with me.
Rule 2- You will not go into a hunting spot that you have not found or that your buddy has introduced you to. This rule goes along with, “if it ain’t yours, don’t touch it.” Good hunting spots are unbelievably hard to find. I have had, on occasion; some “buddies” that I have brought into some of my prime hunting spots, admit at later times that they have killed an animal or animals in my spots. Granted, I hunt mainly on public land and this land is everyone’s land. That being said, I work my ass off to find the spots that I have found, not to mention, invested a lot of time and money in finding these spots and the last thing I want is to find out that there is another gunman on the grassy knoll.
Rule 3- You must have the same or very similar morals. I have seen many intense arguments arise from shots that a partner would have considered an unethical shot. By saying unethical I am not talking about following or not following the rules/laws, even though that is an important factor. I am actually talking about, what distance you are willing to accept as ethical or unethical. I am also talking about the ethics surrounding a broadside or frontal shot and size of weapon for the game you are hunting.
Rule 4- Willing to teach. We all know those people who seem to know everything about everything hunting and outdoors. A good hunting buddy is one that is willing to teach what they know for the betterment of their partners. They want nothing more than to teach what they know.
Rule 5- Willing to learn. An outstanding hunting partner and overall person is someone who is always willing to learn. We all have to accept that we don’t know everything about everything.
Rule 6- Willing to compromise. There is a ridiculous school of thought that says if you compromise you have to lose something to gain something. That may be true in some instances but sometimes in order to be successful; compromising is what needs to be done.
Rule 7- Okay with taking one for the team. We all want to be the one that gets to notch our tags. A great hunting partner understands that it is not just about notching the tag, it is about capitalizing on success even if it means that your tag is not the one being notched.
Rule 8- Knows what it means to be part of a team. Hunting partners share the weight. The success for one is the success for all. We make mistakes but they are all suffered as a team. When I pulled the trigger on a bull elk the success of the harvest is and was ours. My hunting partner just didn’t get the opportunity to pull the trigger. As a matter of fact, we toiled over my buddy pulling the trigger on a cow elk at about 80 yards but he decided against it so we could get a shot at a bull.
Rule 9- Understands the true meaning of the word “Success”. Notching a tag is great but for me, some of the most successful hunts aren’t the ones where we have harvested an animal. The best hunts are the ones where we got out safely, suffered enough to look back fondly on the great times we had and laughs we shared and experiences that we had. If we get to notch one of our tags, it is icing on the cake.
Rule 10- Doesn’t let you quit. Your buddy is the person that will push you to your true limits and not accept anything less. They know the difference between pushing you to your limits and not letting you hurt yourself.
Finding a hunting buddy or someone to share our outdoor experiences with is like finding a spouse. In order to have the most enjoyable experience in the outdoors, we all want to be with like-minded people. In many respects, my hunting partners are like my wife, not in a Broke Back Mountain kind of way, but in a way that you would expect your spouse to treat you. Sure there is bickering and sometimes arguments but you always come together in pursuit of the common goal of success. You become very close with all of the suffering and hardship and you become each other’s emotional support when you blow that shot of a lifetime. They are willing to suffer along with you through the many miles and long nights with heavy weight on your backs. The search for a hunting buddy is frustrating and hard and filled with trial and error, but if you keep these rules in mind it may help you weed out all of the hood rats and find your true one and only.