By Pete Rogers
In the modern 21st century, relationships have changed greatly from when I was a young lad. Now there is online dating, snap-chat, Instagram and Facebook. Any relationship you want to enter into you can do by a quick search on the internet. Back in my day, if you wanted a date with a girl, you walked up to her and asked her out. Now it is done remotely through some online matchmaking service or worse yet by some detached text. Nothing is as impersonal as a text and to complicate a relationship at its infancy with a text is asking for difficulty.
As difficult as it is to find a life partner that you want to spend the rest of your life with, it is infinitely more difficult to find one that you are willing to share your tree stand, hunting blind or back forty. Having been married for quite some time, I know that it takes some give and take on both partners for it to work. Never has there been a successful relationship with a hunting partner that didn’t require the same.
Sharing your favorite blind, or covert is much more intimate than sharing your bed. For millennia, men have struggled with infidelity – in marriage. But when it comes to fidelity with your hunting partner, no greater bond has ever been devised by the creator than the one between those who share the woods together.
Having said that, there are some lines that are simply never crossed. These lines are so define, they are never mentioned. It is just known among the chosen where the lines are and never to approach. No one need to remind you of the privacy of the outhouse. No one need to validate your commitment to staying out of the bedding area for any reason. No clergy is needs to be present to encourage commitment to the cause. It is implied and all who participate know that to break the bond of trust between hunting partners is catamount to treason and you are forever banished. No questions asked, no explanation needed or justification warranted. I know if I sit in his stand without his permission, it is paramount to sleeping with his wife and daughter. In many cases he would rather you sleep with his wife and daughter than to sit in his stand without his permission, and a good hunting partner knows better than to even ask. For to ask is treading on the edge that not many men dare to tread.
Yes finding a true hunting partner is one of the more difficult relationships men can enter into and when you find a partner that you allow to hunt with you, you know immediately what a treasure this is and you use it, engage it and enjoy it to its fullest. Few men have ever had a hunting partner that lasts more than a few seasons, and for those that do, it is one of life’s greatest joys.
Hunting with a partner takes on many different roles depending on what you are hunting and how you are hunting. If hunting deer, your partnership is regulated to the before and after. Time spent in camp reminiscing of opportunities lost and those to come. Whiskey is sipped over strategies of a new day afield. If birds are the quarry, it is more social and more inclined to ridicule, conjecture and wise cracks that would demolish the strongest of relationships outside of the out of doors. Walking alongside pointers or setters, hunting partners seldom encourage one another or praise great shots. Instead the time is spent making excuses for misses and complaining about going away being too easy and wanting to preserve the population. Glares are shared when one loads more than two shells in a semi-auto while hunting with a buddy using a double gun.
If it’s waterfowl you are after, blinds are shared as are lies about gauges, shells and methods of calling. It is a team effort from the onset, both are firing at will to get a double limit of mallards or pintails. If rabbits are the quarry, beagles with names of old family friends are released and chased while discussing politics as the dogs chime the chorus of sacred barks and howls. Rabbits are meant to be chased and seldom shot, one for the pot and the rest to breed for future hunts. Yes, hunting with a partner can and does enhance the joy of being afield. When you are so blessed to find one that is worth keeping. Then by God, keep him!
Perhaps the best type of hunting that plays well with a partner is turkey hunting. If ever there was an animal designed for tag team tactics it is ole Tom. No other animal quite gets under my skin as does the bare headed bird that flaunts his paranoia so proudly. Approaching ole Tom as a tandem is often the fastest way to success. A favorite tactic between my partner and I is to designate a shooter and a caller. The caller will set up twenty to thirty yards behind the shooter. As the caller works the turkey, the bird is confused by the distance he hears the hen and walks right to the gun. It is seldom that a bird gets hung up out of shotgun range of the shooter when the caller is set up so far from the shooter. The biggest obstacle is the bird circling out of range of the shooter and as has happened on more than one occasion, with the bird ending up almost in the lap of the caller. In most cases however, the setup works well.
Once a bird is located, we will identify the direction we expect the bird to travel, then set up the shooter with a solid back drop and the caller will setup behind where he can see the shooter and the bird at once. This allows the caller to know how and when to call. As the bird works in the direction of the shooter, it is up to the shooter to make the shot when it presents itself.
Other turkey scenarios when hunting with a partner comes in handy is hunting out of a blind. Again designating one caller and one shooter, the shooter can concentrate on execution while the caller can focus on what the birds are doing and how to get them into gun range.
Bow hunting turkeys is another great method where hunting with a partner works well. When hunting with a bow, it can be more difficult to call in a bird than when using a shotgun due to the amount of movement to get ready to shoot. This is especially true when hunting without a blind. The amount of movement needed to draw a bow makes hunting alone very difficult. Having a calling partner is vital to the success.
A hunting partner has to enjoy not only hunting the same species you hunt, but they must also enjoy hunting the same way you hunt. That does not mean the same methods, just the same way. One of my all-time best hunting partners never shot a bow in his life, never killed a turkey and never hunted from a tree stand. But we shared a lot of commonalities and really enjoyed hunting together. You see, it’s not about the species, or method, it is all about the manner or approach to the art of hunting.
A hunting partner sees the woods the same way you see it. You cherish the same sounds, smells and feeling of being out-of-doors. Hunting for the two of you is more than time afield, it is invigorating, and it is vital. It is as necessary to your existence as individuals and as hunting partners, as breath is to life itself. The time spent moving stands, scouting for turkeys, sitting in cold duck blinds, or trudging across frozen tundra are some of your life’s grandest moments. Memories of the two of you sitting on a bluff talking about life and all it has brought is cherished as few other conversations ever have or ever will. Moments trailing deer by lantern light, or listening to coon hounds hot on the trail are cherished moments that forever linger in your soul. No, a hunting partner is not something you seek online, or through social media. A hunting partner is as rare as thirty pound turkey or a 200” buck. The prize of finding someone to share your adventures, your joy and your sorrow is one of life’s greatest joys and one that few can say they have had the pleasure of finding. Rest assured, that when you find one you will know that God has smiled on you and provided one of life’s greatest joys.
As I write this, I am sitting here at our cabin on the eve of opening day of our youth turkey season. The first two days of the season are designated for youth under 15. I am blessed to be sitting here with my favorite partner who also happens to be my son. From the first time he entered into the woods with me, no greater thrill has ever been experienced than the times we spend alone in the woods listening to nature. Watching a strutting tom, or a rutting buck, it never gets old. So tomorrow, I will enter the woods once more and as night drifts into day and the old Tom announces his intentions, and we will again determine to spend the day trying to convince him that my calling is enough to bring him in close enough for my partner to introduce him to a load of Winchester Long Beard # 5’s and bring to a close a great day spent afield with my favorite hunting partner.