It’s great having a friend who shares your passion for hunting — someone you can not only hunt with, but share in the adventures of running trail-cameras, hanging stands, dragging deer, and especially sharing the bounty of fresh venison on the grill. Unfortunately, not all friends make great hunting partners. If you’ve ever had a hunting partner who delivers more frustration than fun, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, before you decide to invite that friend along on your next hunting adventure, you may want to consider if they have any of these seven habits of a lousy hunting partner.
A good hunting partner has to be dependable, and there’s nothing more frustrating than having one who consistently causes you to be late getting to the deerstand. I have a good friend who’s notorious for being late to everything. He’s one of those guys you tell to be there at 4 p.m. when you really don’t plan to leave until 5 p.m. Chances are, he’ll still be 30 minutes late. When we started hunting together, I quickly learned his morning routine was no different. More than once, I sat in his driveway well before daylight, no sign of life inside, calling his cell phone to see if he was awake. And more than once, I had to leave him behind. For the sake of our friendship, I eventually decided it was best if we drove separately and simply met up after the hunt.
If you have a friend who can’t roll out of bed on time, you better set some expectations up front if you plan on hunting together. Set a firm meeting time and let them know you’ll be going without them if they aren’t there on time. If you’re a really good friend, you can give them an advance wake-up call or text to ensure they get up, but be prepared to go it alone.
They Cancel Plans
Sticking with the theme of dependability, you don’t want a hunting partner who can’t follow through on the plans you make. If you’ve ever had one of those hunting buddies who always seem to have some kind of last-minute emergency and can’t make it out to hunt with you, you know how frustrating it can be. Even worse is when you were depending on them for a ride, or to bring some of the gear or, worst of all, if you were going to their hunting property. Now what?
I once had a hunting buddy bail the day before four of us were supposed to head to Wyoming for seven days. It was a hunt we’d been planning for over a year. Fortunately, he was a good enough friend to go ahead and pay for his share of the gas and hotel, so none of us were out any extra money. But we were all disappointed he couldn’t be there, and it definitely put a temporary strain on our friendship.
Being a dependable hunting partner is not only waking up on time, but also sticking to your word and following through when you make plans. Again, the best way to avoid a hunting partner who’s not dependable is to set expectations up front, and always have a backup plan if they fail to come through.
They Can’t Shoot Straight
If you hunt long enough, sooner or later you will make a bad shot. It happens to the best of us. But the last thing you want is a hunting partner who can’t seem to “hit the 10-ring” — one whose excited texts about shooting a great buck eventually lead to pleas for help when the blood trail runs dry. Inevitably, it is the the poor-shooting partner who always seems to get a crack at the big buck you’ve been watching.
So what can you do if you find yourself with a hunting partner who can’t shoot straight? You can start by scheduling plenty of time to practice together. Pay attention to your partner’s shooting and offer suggestions on their form or shot routine as needed.
They Can’t Sit Still
In today’s fast-paced, I-want-it-now world, it seems most everyone suffers from ADHD. Finding a hunting partner who is willing and able to make an all-day sit can be a challenge. And while it may seem almost comical that your hunting partner can’t sit still in their stand, you probably won’t be laughing when their boredom leads to mid-morning and mid-evening strolls through your hunting area.
This one may be beyond your ability to fix. You should certainly address the issue with your hunting partner, making them aware of the negative impact their excursions may be having on your hunting. You could also suggest some phone apps for them to play during their sit and, if you’re lucky, it will keep them occupied enough to stay in the stand.
They Don’t Pay Their Way
A hunting partner should be someone who can help ease the burden of hunting expenses by pitching in their fair share. Whether that be splitting the cost of a hunting lease, trail cameras and corn, or even splitting the cost of gas getting to and from deer camp. When you’re stuck footing the bill, it results in resentment and also a feeling of sole ownership for the one paying the way. Hard feelings are bound to result at some point.
Be sure to work out these expectations well before the season rolls around. If you are leasing property together, come up with a price that covers the lease and any food plot seed, corn, trail-cameras, etc., and split the overall cost up front. Or, you can simply split the lease cost and each person is then responsible for their own bait, trail-cameras, stands, and any other extras.
The best way to handle a freeloading hunting partner is to cut the cord early on. If they can’t pay their way, they’ll have to hunt somewhere else — and with someone else.
They Bring “Guests”
This is one issue that will end a friendship and hunting partnership quickly. Fortunately, I haven’t ran into this issue personally, but I have heard way too many horror stories from those who have. You take a friend to your hunting land, give them permission to hunt some without you and, before you know it, they are inviting guests of their own along.
Make sure you establish rules up front anytime you take a new hunting partner to your property. Let them know exactly when they can and can’t be there and who they can be there with. If they can’t follow those simple rules, then it’s time to find a new friend.
They Hunt Your Stands
To me, this is another act of betrayal similar to bringing guests with them to your property — hunting your stands when you aren’t around. Now I’ve had friends in the past who I gladly allowed to hunt my stands, or with whom I established shared stands. But in those cases, there were rules and expectations in place before the season ever started.
As with the guest issue, it’s important to establish stand rules up front, as far as if and when they can hunt your stands.
The easiest way to avoid a lousy hunting partner is to sit down together before you ever go on your first hunt to discuss your expectations up front. These discussions should include your need for someone who’s dependable and shows up when they are supposed to. You should also discuss expectations when it comes to your hunting styles, sharing hunting expenses and when and where they can hunt, if you are providing the hunting land.
Of course, the best way to ensure having a great hunting partner is to be a great hunting partner. Don’t get so caught up in the hunt that you lose perspective on what’s important. Also keep in mind that there is no “perfect” hunting partner. We all do things a little differently and any two people who spend enough time together are eventually going to disagree or get on one another’s nerves. Just try to keep it fun and enjoy the bond that only two fellow deer hunters can share.