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Choosing a Deer Hunting Partner

July 14, 2011
By Ralph Scherder
Time spent outdoors is sacred. It’s where we go to clear our mind, rid stress, enjoy nature, and do what we most love to do: hunt. Many of us don’t spend nearly as much time in the woods as we’d like, but when we do, we want to enjoy every minute.

It’s only natural to want to share what you love and share your passion for the outdoors with someone else. Some of my most memorable experiences have occurred while hunting with friends. Unfortunately, some of my worst experiences have also occurred while hunting with friends. In many ways, hunting partners can make or break your outdoors experience, so choose them wisely.

Common Ground

First and foremost, choosing a hunting partner means more than just having a few things in common. It also means having the same goals for your hunting property. Whether you’re setting harvest goals, practicing antler restrictions, or even determining how to hunt the area, you need to be on the same page.

In most cases, it’s a good idea to establish bylaws. This may seem unnecessary in the beginning but as time wears on, they become very important. Once big bucks start appearing on the property, it’s only natural for the competition level to rise accordingly, even between friends.

A few things to consider addressing in the bylaws are these: 1) is it okay to drive deer, 2) should all hunting be done from established treestands or blinds, 3) will still hunting be allowed, 4) road hunting and 5) antler restrictions. All of these things can come into play when you’re a member of a hunting club or lease with multiple members. The goal of bylaws is to give every member an equal chance at successfully harvesting a mature buck.

Share the Work

It’s also important to choose a hunting partner who’s willing to work as hard as you to achieve established goals. Nobody likes doing all the work all of the time while other members sit back and reap the rewards. I’ve experienced this personally.

Every summer I spend a lot of time scouting, hanging stands, planting food plots, and getting ready for the upcoming season. It’s an enjoyable time, but it’s also hard work.

At first I didn’t mind doing all the work myself. After a while, though, it got tiring, and eventually I expressed my views to my hunting partner, expecting it to turn into an argument. I hated to do it. After all, he was my best friend. But you know what happened? He agreed with everything I said. He didn’t offer to do any of the summer work because I never spoke up and said that I didn’t want to do it all myself.

He was right. I’d put those responsibilities on myself until then. After we talked it through, he started chipping in and helping me with the grunt work. We were both happier because of it, too, because now I had him helping me and also now he was involved in the process.

Mutual Respect

Perhaps the most important aspect of fostering a healthy relationship with your hunting partner is mutual respect. You must respect each other. And you must respect each other’s hunting skills, even if those skills are at different levels.

Nothing kills a partnership quicker than jealousy. When you kill a mature buck and experience that euphoric high of accomplishment, you want your hunting buddies to be happy for you. Likewise, you should be happy for them when they succeed. Unfortunately, though, jealousy is an ugly part of human nature.

In college I secured permission to deer hunt on a prime section of farmland and invited a friend to join me. I showed him where I was planning to set up and he then picked out a spot for himself. That fall I had constant action, spotted several nice bucks before finally killing a nice nine point the last week of archery season. My friend, meanwhile, saw very few deer. He moved around, tried various spots, but still no luck. The day I killed the nine point, I took it over to show him and the only thing he had to say was, “Well, you have the best spot anyway.”

Talk about a punch to the gut.

No “congratulations” or “good job.” Instead he tried to discredit my accomplishment. He failed to see that I was very particular about my treestand placement, concealing my stand, placing it according to wind direction, etc. Also, I was meticulous about scent control, which was something he didn’t pay much attention to. His opinion about scent control was “if a deer’s gonna smell you, he’s gonna smell you, it doesn’t matter how you take care of your clothes or which way the wind’s blowing.”

And he wonders why I never invited him to hunt with me again after that.

Life is too short and days in the deer woods are too few to spend them with people who will only try to bring you down. I’d rather hunt alone than with someone who doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the outdoors.

The ideal hunting partner will lift you up, encourage you during hard times and bad luck, and push you to succeed. Their accomplishments should fuel you to achieve greater things. A good hunting partner is one you can learn from and learn with. Above all, a good hunting partner is someone who will share and enhance your joy when you do harvest that buck of a lifetime.

Article Photos

Hunting partners can make or break your outdoors experience, so choose them wisely. Photo by Ralph Scherder

Fact Box

Whether you’re setting harvest goals, practicing antler restrictions, or even determining how to hunt the area, you need to be on the same page.



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