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Choosing A Hunting Companion
By Kenneth G. Johnson, Supervising Wildlife Biologist
A hunting companion can be the most important single element of a successful hunting trip. This person can increase either the pleasure or misery of a hunt. Hunting is for fun and fun is impossible with a selfish or dangerous companion. We must choose hunting companions with great care and evaluate ourselves by the same measures.
The best hunting companions have the same characteristics as a “best friend” would have. Look for someone who cares about hunting and wildlife as much as you do and wants to learn from you and help you learn at the same time. This person will be genuinely happy for you when you are successful, and knows that you will do the same for them.
If your hunting companion is a casual friend who sometimes irritates you at home, you can bet this irritation will be enhanced out in the field when the going gets rough. A hunting companion should be a close friend whose natural virtues you know and whom you know to be durable under stress. There may be times when Mother Nature is at her worst. A predicted sprinkle becomes an all-day rain, the temperature drops to single digit numbers, or the wind blows hard and from the wrong direction. A good companion expects such things and accepts this unchangeable situation with grace. They will endure adversity and laugh off a case of creeping irritation. Now in your hunting companion’s eyes, how do you stack up? Maybe you’re cold, hungry or just plain tired. Don’t dwell on it; your companion probably feels the same way. If you honestly feel you shouldn’t or can’t go on, face it up front but do this in a cheerful way. Don’t whine! Whining will ruin everyone’s day and mark you as someone who has no business in the field hunting.
A hunting trip may be a harsh trial to endure together or a dream hunt to remember. No matter which, it is a mutual outing to be shared without selfishness including sharing shooting opportunities, hunting techniques, food, equipment, water and something of each other. Hunting opportunities must never be seriously competitive and should not be dominated by one person. The only place for selfishness on a hunt is in taking more than your share of the work, discomfort or disappointment.
Choose a hunting companion according to the depth of their interest. Some companions do most of their hunting over a cup of coffee while others are eager, go-for-broke types who will hang tough until dark. Try to determine the degree of your own interest and match it with your companion’s interest.
It is vital that a hunting companion has good gun sense. You can hand a firearm to a person and evaluate their total experience in a few minutes. The experienced safe hunter will handle the firearm with assurance, ease and respect. They will know the firearm. One owes it to themselves and their family to side with such a person and you owe it to them to return in kind.
Over the years, I have had a few hunting companions who were less than ideal. There have been hunting companions who wanted only to party, some who were afraid of the dark, some that had no sense of direction, and some who would repeatedly tell me why my gun wasn’t the right one and even some that were afraid to be left alone in the woods. I remember the braggarts, the ones who have hunted everywhere, ones that only hunt trophies, wouldn’t think of shooting a doe, have the best of everything and sneer at you when things aren’t done the way they do them. I have even had companions who spill coffee in my truck and never clean mud off their boots before getting in.
Be selective in choosing your hunting companion. Time out hunting is precious. It’s most enjoyable when your companions are hunters who are a pleasure to be around.
A real hunting companion is one who shares without asking something in return, who gives without thinking, and places your well being and pleasure above his or her own. Such a companion may be rich and wellborn or a salty old hunter in bib overalls.