SWM-39 seeks hunting partner who enjoys complete silence and long walks in the woods. Must love cooking and cleaning animals. Smokers are welcome, especially if you have a Traeger. Looking for weekend meetups and potentially more!
I imagine you see where I’m going with this, and I’m sure some of you have even heard the old adage, “Finding a good hunting buddy is as important as finding a good life partner.” I’d have to say that from my experience, there’s a lot of truth to that.
If you are as passionate about the outdoors as I am, I’m sure you view it as your escape. It’s your reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a place to be alone with your thoughts, create meaningful lifelong memories and in some cases even have spiritual experiences. It’s your sanctuary. It takes a certain kind of relationship in order to share that level of emotion and be that vulnerable.
I wouldn’t say hunters are the poster children for emotional intelligence, yet the dynamics of a hunting partner relationship will consistently stretch those boundaries. If you have close hunting partners, you probably are already nodding your head. It’s a relationship that takes as much thought and attention as any other in your life if you truly want to get the most out of it.
The older we get, the harder it is to make new friends. We get stuck in our ways. We value our downtime more and the activities that come along with that. We get busy with life and finding folks who fit into that world is challenging. My hunting buddies have become my best friends. We help each other, rely on each other, pick each other up and push each other to be better versions of ourselves. We are there for each other in our day-to-day, just like we are there for each other in the field
So, without further ado, here are seven ways to be the best hunting partner you can be.
1) Know Your Values
What are your values? In my work life, that’s one of the first questions I ask when a hopeful line cook or server sits down for a job interview at our restaurant. If someone can’t answer that question quickly, passionately and honestly, I know they are not going to fit in. In any relationship, sharing the same values and ethics is incredibly important. Be it dating, marriage, or raising kids, being on the same page when it comes to your values has got to be top priority. The same goes for your hunting partners.
There are a lot of emotions and personal beliefs that go into harvesting an animal. Not only are there provincial or state rules and regulations to understand and adhere to, but everyone has an internal compass of what is “right or wrong.” Age, class, gender, shot placement, time, decision-making, pressure, emotions, adrenaline; all these things go into harvesting an animal and the quick second decision-making is where a lot of hunters don’t see eye to eye. It’s better to clear up these ethical and moral-based questions before ever hitting the field together. It’s not fun being in the woods with someone, only to realize you’re stuck hunting with a person who doesn’t value the animal’s life the same way you do, or who wants to take a shot three minutes after legal light. Knowing your potential partner’s ethics is probably Step 1.
2) Build Trust. Move With Integrity.
It sounds simple. It sounds easy. It is. Trust is a huge part of any relationship and the last thing you want to be questioning is someone’s integrity when you’re hunting on the side of a mountain in grizzly country. Integrity and trust go hand in hand in my world and the more you can show up for your hunting buddies in other areas of their life the better. Help them build that deck. Sacrifice some time to benefit their world and you can be sure your relationship in the field will be stronger for it. Trust is something that is earned in my world, so consistently showing up with integrity and positive intentions is something I hold near and dear.
3) Keep a Secret
This rule of thumb plays off #2. Let’s be real. One of the hardest things about sharing new adventures is just that: the sharing part. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard that someone’s spot has been ripped off or blown up by someone that they took hunting the season before. Or you hear about folks who divulge information that is supposed to be hush-hush important intel. The quickest way to assure you’re not invited back to camp is to tell everyone about the honey holes of your new hunting buddies. So, if someone shares a spot with you, it’s meant for you. Shut up. Appreciate the freebie. Oh, and shut up.
4) Know Your Role
The cook. The tech guy/gal. The planner. The cleaner. The mood lightener.
These are just a few examples of spots to fill on your team. Every person in any relationship has a role in it. They all have their part to play. They have their place to add value and contribute. You can’t be good at everything, but there is something you are inherently good at and enjoy. Roll with that! I know I can’t tune my bow to save my life of me, but I can cook up a storm and plan out meals since I do that for a living anyway. That’s one small way that lets me feel like more of the team and add some sort of value to the relationship. Take a few minutes to ponder where you fit into your current hunting relationships, and where your partners fit in, and where they contribute, too. You may just have a newfound appreciation for what they bring to the table. The moral of the story is: don’t sit on your skill set, whatever that may be. Adding value is important to any relationship. Understanding and appreciating the value your partners contribute maybe even more important.
5) Push Yourself
Pushing yourself will naturally push others around you, whether they like it or not. I’m not just talking about the physical aspects, I’m talking about any and every aspect of your hunting game. You owe it to your hunting partners to put in 100% effort when it comes to the hunt and in learning how to be the best hunter you can be. Or not. (But if we are hunting together…you should.)
Honestly, you’ve got to manage expectations with this one and figure out who you are as a hunter first. Just like other relationships in life, you are responsible for your own happiness and growth…not anyone else’s. Pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself as a hunter will not only help push your partners, it will also help push out those who are not willing to put in the same effort.
I’m not talking about having to run ultra-marathons in the desert (though if that’s your version of pushing, Good on Ya’.) I’m talking about continuous improvement. Being a better version of yourself never hurt anybody, that’s for sure.
6) Be Selfless
Relationships take sacrifice. I know I’m starting to sound like the hunting version of Dr. Phil here, but it’s true. You’re not always going to be the shooter on your elk hunt. You’re going to have to give up some evenings to help track or help process an animal and share in the celebrations. Maybe it’s giving up a hunt to let your unlucky partner sit in a more active stand or filming over the shoulder on your partners’ dream hunt. It’s about being the first one they call when an arrow is cut loose…and being the first one to show up. Every relationship is all about how you show up. Selflessness is the ultimate way to show up for any partner.
(Imagine this in the “David Attenborough voice”)
“Usually a solitary being, relationships are found to pose a difficult challenge for the majestic hunter.”
I wouldn’t say that hunters give off the vibe of being great communicators and “Chatty Cathys,” yet being able to openly and clearly communicate with your hunting buddies is a necessary and often overlooked attribute of the hunting buddy relationship. Being able to communicate your needs, wants and expectations serves you well in your home, at work and in the field.
Every single relationship in your life relies on consistent communication. My hunting buddies and I don’t even need to use words to communicate in the field anymore. Eye contact, some hand signals and years of verbal communication have led to this point. We already know what each other is thinking, what role we play in the group, and we can move from communication to action quickly and efficiently. That’s the direct positive influence good communication has had on our hunting, but it’s also had a positive influence on our day-to-day lives. I think that in general, men have a hard time communicating. Having a group of guys whom I feel comfortable being open and honest with is an important outlet. I think everyone needs that.
Man has hunted in groups since the beginning of time. Out of necessity and survival, we are predisposed to do this hunting thing as a group. Taking down a woolly mammoth is not a one-man operation, and neither is breaking down a moose 10 miles from the truck. It’s in our blood to share these experiences with a chosen few. So, choose your tribe wisely.