There are people you hunt with & then there are your huntin’ buddies – they are not the same.
Huntin’ buddies are the ones you plot and plan with around the campfire or kitchen table, season after season. They keep you motivated – despite how early the morning or bad the weather. And though you may never admit it, they make you a better hunter because you respect them and their skills – and they, yours. Unfortunately, some huntin’ buddies aren’t truly appreciated until something keeps them from being a part of your hunt.
Huntin’ buddies are important and we have the research to prove it. Studies have shown that as we lose our close hunting partners we are much more likely to find something other than hunting to fill our time. I can attest to this. For the last several years I have been without a duck huntin’ buddy and because of it spend very little time watching the migration over decoys now – you can only sit by yourself for so long before the stories in your head all sound alike.
I’ve been fortunate to have a few huntin’ buddies over my hunting career. Some I still get to hunt with - from time to time. Others I will never get the chance to sit in a blind or walk a field with again. But, I am thankful for all of them and the impact they have made on me both professionally and personally.
My Dad. He taught me the value of doing things the right way and put up with my short-comings as I learned the basics. Dad was not a hunter when I was young so why he ever tolerated my early requests to hunt is still a bit of a mystery. However, by the time my brother was old enough to go Dad was an instigator in the whole affair. To my recollection being “true & fair” was something my Dad always seemed to be concerned with in anything he did – hunting was no different. He exemplified Fair-Chase, years before it became popular.
Uncle Mike & Cousin Bill. Showed me how the social aspect of the hunt added to the experience – as did the food. Hunting with Mike and Bill was a riot. They had grown up hunting together and had many tales to tell – some I know Dad didn’t approve of. They made me realize that at the end of the day it really didn’t matter how full the game-bag was, it was the experience that mattered most and who you got to spend it with. It made all my missed shots bearable.
My Brother. Perhaps Gabe has been my best huntin’ buddy as we just fit together. Let’s face it, we were cut from the same cloth, had the same parental influences, both stopped growing when he we hit the Hershberger-height of 5’10″ and had a nearly unquenchable thirst for hunting adventure of just about any type. We are very like-minded, knowing what the other is going to do in most situations and we hunt for the same reasons. I am not sure what our relationship would be like if hunting wasn’t such a big part of both of our lives – and I am glad I may never know.
My Co-workers & Bosses. I was fortunate in some of my early jobs to find I was surrounded by outdoors-men that were willing to share their knowledge with me and helped hone my skills. Rhett proved to me that there was more to spring turkey hunting than calling. Rolfes taught me duck hunting meant more than opening weekend. Adams proved to me that public hunting areas weren’t as bad as advertised – when you know how to hunt them.
Friends. There were a few of these, too. Devon helped keep me outdoors through my college years and shared a story or two of his days growing up in Nebraska. Mike made me laugh when things didn’t go as planned, unless the Huskers were playing poorly. Larry was willing to share the results of his hard-work – in both birds & dogs. Rich taught me most barriers are self-imposed and that the heart makes the hunter.
My wife. Leslie was willing to see what the sport had to offer and why it took up so much of my time. Her first love was waterfowl. Then came muzzleloader deer – her father’s influence. After that was spring turkey hunting with her kids. Finally archery deer. She has been willing to put-up with me and my “instruction” on things outdoors and hunting – which can be challenging. However, life continues to offer twists that often has one of us ready to hunt, while the other cannot get away from our obligations. But, every once in a while we do find some small piece of time where I get to sneak out with my closest huntin’ buddy.
Huntin’ buddies can make the hunt fun, educational, worthwhile and sometimes they are the biggest reason we head to the field with gun or bow in the first place. So, who are your huntin’ buddies and what makes them important to you?