Spending significant amounts of time in the backcountry can be the most amazing time of your life or it could become a nightmare you don’t want to relive. A key factor in the enjoyment of your trip is going to be the people you head into the mountains with. Once you find a good hunting partner, the jokes will be a little bit funnier, the handshake a little bit tighter and the brotherhood will be forged forever. On the other hand, an incompatible hunting partner will leave you feeling anxious, angry and will almost certainly ruin your trip.
The search for the perfect hunting partner can be long and tedious, especially for new hunters that don’t yet have a connection to the hunting community. Here are a few notes on how to find and what to look for in a life-long hunting partner.
WHERE to find a suitable backcountry partner is a daunting idea for a new hunter or outdoors person. There is a preconceived idea that you must be proficient in your outdoor pursuits before anyone would want to hunt, hike or adventure with you. This is NOT the case. Organizations like the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are overflowing with knowledgeable backcountry enthusiasts that understand the importance of passing the torch down to the next generation. So, join an organization like BHA or a local rod and gun club, immerse yourself in that environment, ask questions, listen intently and meet new people. It won’t be long before you are getting an invite to tag along on an adventure.
WHAT is your ideal hunt? I ask this of all the new hunters I mentor. I try to find what it is they want from their time in the wild. What you want from a hunt is an ideal that you and your partner MUST agree on. If I want to hike to the highest ridgeline and spot game from afar before stalking it, my partner that wants to sit in a tree stand might not enjoy that hunt very much. It is important to have the same ideals before setting off on a hunt. How far are we comfortable shooting, hiking, carrying the meat? Are you comfortable spending a night away from the tents? Are you comfortable hiking in the dark? These and many more are questions that you and your partner should agree on before hitting the backcountry.
WHO you choose to spend your time in the mountains with is the most complex part of this equation. You’ve joined a local club; you’ve even managed to meet someone of similar age that shares all of your interests. What a score! Unfortunately, the search for your lifelong hunting partner is not over. You will need to test the waters with your new friend. Start with a day hunt, something small that you are not crazy passionate about. It’s your right to be a little judgmental at this point, keep an eye out for the small things your potential partner does when stressed or exhausted. This is when you will see their true colors.
We all have our own personality traits and we can all annoy the crap out of each other at some point or another, but on the mountain, 10 miles from anywhere is NOT the place to discover your partner has a temper problem and snores like a train. Spend the time to get to know the people you will rely on a trust in the backcountry. One day your life may depend on it!
For further information on backcountry hunting, Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @chris.pryn