“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Finding a hunting partner.
Seems like such a minuscule task. I mean, there’s a million guys and gals who like to hunt. Just pick one off the shelf and hit the woods!
We all know it’s not that easy, though we wish it were. There are a million things that go into a quality hunting partnership, and it only takes a few innocuous things to destroy it.
I met Scott in 2013 through an online forum called Rokslide, and I’d be remiss to note that my wife was more than a little nervous with me galivanting off to the woods with some guy I’d met off the internet. Scott and I had both shared an equally intense, curious fascination with backpack hunting, and it became a common-ground starting point for discourse.
Nearly six years later I can look back and laugh at those two kids sitting around slamming beers at Elk Head Brewery while we contemplated and planned our first trip. How far we’ve come not only as hunters, but as men. Our lives constantly evolving, yet staying the same. We still drink and plan, hashing out increasingly outlandish adventures in our attempted pursuit of new experiences.
I’ve been asked on occasion, “what do you think makes a great hunting partner?”
I have an answer as it applies to my own experience, but I also can’t help but wonder if that seemingly innocent question is too large to answer.
It’s really no different than asking someone, “what makes a good spouse?”
If you ask 100 different people that question, you may get a few generic, overlapping qualities, but the reality is, each situation is different. Those differences may be small in the grand scheme of things, but they are also, infinitely important. Otherwise, dating wouldn’t matter and we would all be compatible based on a few simple things like attractiveness, loyalty, finances, humor, etc. While those adjectives may be a proper descriptive term for a mate, they certainly only scratch the surface of what makes a relationship work.
Of course, you may be shaking your head and saying, “Travis, I’m not here for an esoteric discussion on your bromance with Scott.”
Fair enough, let’s talk about some things that are not only important to look for in a hunting partner, but where you may want to turn the mirror on yourself.
The first topic of discussion is: mental toughness.
Did everyone’s ego suddenly bristle at the insinuation that they may not be mentally tough? Ease off the ledge and let’s unpack this topic a little more thoroughly. Everyone has moments of mental weakness, and those moments can be more prominently displayed in the backcountry. The mental game associated with backcountry hunting can constantly assault your senses, and distract you from completing your goal. Those frustrations can multiply with bad weather, hunter pressure, lack of physical conditioning, etc. Before long, a seed of doubt has taken hold within your psyche and you’re considering packing out a day or three early. The kids miss you, you’ve got some stuff to get done around the house before work on Monday, the weather is going to be nasty, and it doesn’t make much sense to be lounging around the mountain when you can be sleeping in a warm bed.
We’ve all been there to varying degrees. I’d hazard to say that a large portion of us have even cut a trip short, or spent an extra day in camp. But something we’ve come to focus on is recognizing those moments of weakness. If you can overcome the adversity forced upon you by the mountain, it will eventually reward you for your perseverance.
Scott has begun championing the motto, “you only need one opportunity.”
Hunting is one hundred percent about creating opportunities, and those opportunities can’t be capitalized on from your truck. Without fail, regret over your decision usually sets in before you’ve pulled back into your driveway, wheels spinning on what you could do different next time. Most of us don’t get paid to hunt, and so our time we are able to spend in the mountains is relatively short and cherished. My vacation time has to be balanced between hunting and family, and as such, every moment spent on trail has become a precious commodity.
Mental toughness isn’t something that you can upgrade like a new backpack. You have to train it, work it, improve it. Break down the fibers of your spirit and forge yourself into a stronger person. Like lifting weights, it takes time to build, but is something that having a quality partner can help with. It is each of your responsibilities to prop the other person up, and push through.
Mental toughness goes hand in hand with another aspect that is a bit easier to comprehend when talking about a successful partnership: communication.
Seems pretty sensical right? It’s like that in a marriage too, but take a gander at the divorce rate…
An example I like to use is financial obligation. Understanding your own and your partners obligations when it comes to cost sharing on items like fuel, food, and hotels while traveling is important. The most dangerous words in such situations are, “we will figure it out later,” which is a good way to create ire or consternation between hunting partners.
Of course, money isn’t the only issue. Another item that comes up is introducing anyone new to a spot, or to the group dynamic. You’re sitting around on a Sunday afternoon, enjoying a beer (or three) and you get a text from your hunting partner: “Hey man, I invited Johnny to come scouting with us next weekend.” Be upfront with your expectations, and stick to them.
In addition to the above, make sure you think about the fact that you will be spending time with someone in alternatingly high stress and indeterminately boring situations. I’ve been stuck in a tent for 36 hours straight with Scott—so make sure you like the person you’re partnered with!
Of course, there are plenty of people who hunt solo who may be cocking their head while reading this. Maybe even going so far as to scoff at the premise of this article!
I get it.
No hunting partner is better than a bad one. Some of you are wired a bit different, and enjoy hunting by yourself. That is an extremely personal and individual answer each person has to come up with on their own. I’ve spent my fair share of time hunting solo, and have come to the conclusion that I’m way to social a creature to seek out that sort of isolation. I tip my hat to those of you who do.
Hunting is our passion, and sharing those passions with another person, in this wayward adventurer’s opinion, exponentially increases the joy from the moments of success and helps lighten the burden in those moments of frustrating failure.
Some housekeeping notes…
You may have noticed that there are two new tabs at the top of the page: Media and Guest Contributions.
The media page is dedicated to any podcasts we’ve been on and/or media articles associated with our book release. Go check it out!
The Guest Contribution page is a new section I’m really excited about. I’ve got an open submission policy for guest articles for topics YOU may be interested in writing. My goal is to provide an additional platform for new authors and outdoor writers to cut their teeth. All articles are subject to editorial review and approval. Thanks! If you’re interested in submitting an article, please send a draft to Travis@TeamBadDecision.com
Don’t forget that pre-order is open for Team Bad Decision: An Evolutionary Tale In Backcountry Hunting! Click the button at the top of the page to order or the link below! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?