This guide to being a better hunting partner comes from our friend Kolin Quick, who heads up the Wild Fish & Wild Game Club of Seattle, Washington. To be invited by a friend (new or old) into the great unknown to engage with the wild is a tremendous honor, and should be treated delicately. Here is Kolin's 10 tips to ensure you get invited back a second time...
From the mountain top highs of success to the brambly lows of failure, few experiences push the limits of relationships and friendship than being—and having—an outdoor adventure partner. Outside of marriage, only your hunting partner will see you at your lowest—no sleep, soaking wet, bruised ego, covered in bug bites, warts, and all. But with these adventures comes also the opportunity for deeper relationships, loyalty, memories, and friendships that last a lifetime.
Below is a 10 step guide for those new and old to the outdoor lifestyle that is a helpful way to be a better partner to avoid the pitfalls, leave camp on a high note, and ensure you always get invited back next year.1. Communication Is Everything
Like every relationship, communication in an outdoor adventure partnership is key. What are the expectations for the trip? Is it a 20-mile backpack trip for high alpine mule deer? Or is it an after-work jaunt to the local bass pond. Being clear on what it is and what it will take is paramount. Being clear on your feelings will help ensure everyone will have a good time. Have constructive criticism on the spot? Share an alternative. Worried about a specific part of gear? Make sure you or someone in your party has it. Where are we meeting at the end of the day and when are we starting the next morning. There’s no such thing as too much communication before a hunt or fishing trip. Set up a few times to talk about the trip a few weeks before larger expeditions to run through tactics, maps, packing lists, weather, water sources, and entrance and exit plans. Also if this trip isn’t in the stars for you due to fitness levels, scheduling conflicts, finances, or just plain lack of desire communicate those hangups early and suggest a replacement buddy that can potentially take your spot. No one wants to share a cold wet tent with someone who doesn’t want to be there.
2. Be Prepared
I was once a few miles in and a couple of thousand feet up in the northern Cascades setting up camp for a late August three-day backcountry bear hunt. I brought two bottles of water (my buddies told me to bring 3 gallons just to be safe). I didn’t... because there was supposedly a seasonal creek near the intended camping spot and bringing camera gear on top of hunting gear is already an extra heavy load and 3 gallons of water is roughly an extra 25 pounds. During the hike, I drank my only two bottles of water to ward off the 85-degree heat. When I reached the top, I ran into two old-timers saying that in fact that you don’t want to try to go to that seasonal creek because it’s “steeper than a goat’s face, and if you fall you’re probably done for”. So my best bet would be to scavenge some snow down in a steep gully 500 feet down from the trail at night by myself in bear country. To top it off, in my rush to get out the door I also forgot my bear tag at home forcing me to pass up a shot at a bear at 30 yards right off the trail. A buddy brought me the tag the next morning and another was gracious enough to pack up another bottle of water that evening. I ended up being dehydrated, of a relatively sour disposition, and frankly a liability for the rest of the trip.
I was the weakest link and had to have my buddies bail me out of a bad situation. I could of not only ruined my own trip but theres as well. Always, make sure you have the basics, and don’t rush out the door too soon.
3. Don’t Be A Mooch
Outdoor folks are some of the most gracious and giving people in the world. On more than one occasion I’ve had them give the shirts and jackets off their back from me in a time of need. They are even more charitable when introducing someone to the sport they love. From lending out spendy flyrods, giving up their favorite fishing spots to letting strangers hunt over their beloved dogs, their generosity knows no bounds. That being said tread the graciousness line cautiously. Borrowing gear however big or small eventually becomes a lose-lose situation for both parties. The lender is out a piece of gear they could supply to someone else and introduce someone new to the sport. While the lendee is tied to only having that experience with the lender with no real skin in the game. Unfortunately, you won’t learn to fish as well as you can when you’re only borrowing my gear and fishing with a dismal angler such as myself.
To combat this I’ve developed the “3-time rule”. A tough-love rule that goes against my better nature and deep-seated sportsmen’s generosity. You can borrow most items from me 3 times on separate occasions. Rods, certain firearms under supervision, tents, bags, camo, waders, the list, and the stockpile of sporting goods go on. For the first time, I explain the before mentioned logic, and by the third time I make a suggestion on what they should purchase if they want to continue pursuing the activity. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule but it sets an understanding.
Of course I’m not going to make friends from out of town, children, and those without the financial means. Or request that if you crab with me that you bring your own crab traps for the boat you don’t own. It’s a rule I’ve made for myself with the hopes that one day an angler that I mentored can potentially lend a pole they bought to a friend who’s never fished before.4. Square and Fair
Gas, beers, fleabag motels, Mcdonalds breakfast, dive bar lunches, guides, and everything else that happens in a weekend excursion adds up quickly. Sometimes a couple hundred dollar bill to a couple of thousand dollars all ending up on the host’s tab. The excuse of not having cash on you, unfortunately, withered away with the advent of a variety of payment apps such as Venmo, Apple Pay and Cash App. If the money isn’t there in these hard times, be straight up, pull them aside, and tell your company that you will get them the cash when you have it. Thus eliminating any wondering why Venmo requests are being ignored and quelling any animosity that can occur.
If a buddy is driving the two of us within two or three hours on a day trip, I make it a point to either pay for breakfast, snacks, or lunch even offering to pay for gas as well. If they refuse I sometimes send them gas money regardless. Do like that guy in the cable tv dragon show that everyone used to love and always pay your debts.5. Mind Your Manners
Different groups have different expectations. Swearing, smoking, drinking, and other good timing, yet degenerate hobbies might not be appreciated with your buddy’s pastor who your sharing camp with. When in doubt air on the side of caution. Unless you know all parties involved, keep it dinner party rules till at least night two. No hard opinions on sex, politics, and religion. Keep the day ending beers to a contained level. No one likes a wasted stranger in the middle of nowhere and no one especially likes trying to wake them up at the crack of dawn.
The quickest way to get kicked out of camp and never invited back again is gun safety. Barrel sweeps, misfires, and drawing down on something you shouldn’t is never tolerated. Be mindful, be safe, be polite, and police your buddies. When you act as an outdoors person, you represent all outdoors people.
6. Time is Opportunity
I’m more often than not the guy glued to his mattress or holding up the morning pushout with me searching for some lost piece a gear. Burning daylight for not only me but the whole party. Prime hunting and fishing hours are limited with most success occurring in the early morning and evenings so “time is hunting or fishing opportunity”. There have been countless times that I’ve blown multiple ducks and deer by being 30 minutes late after shooting light. I’ve started for any serious adventure that involves a car ride giving an hour of leeway time ahead of time. Giving an hour for traffic, bathroom breaks and any other thing that can occur due to Murphy’s law. Showing up at the trial head 30 minutes early isn’t remotely as bad as showing up 2 hours late.
7. Positive Mental Attitude
The fish aren’t biting, you’ve hunted for 5 days in the rain and haven’t seen anything or the ducks are only flying high. Things more often than not can get pretty dismal pretty fast. Resentment breeds and tempers become short. Nothing kills a hunt like a bad attitude. Keeping a “Positive Mental Attitude” or PMA is essential. This is somewhat run of the mill advice that anyone can give you but the often overlooked side of PMA is that optimism is just as fatal as pessimism. Vice Admiral James Stockdale was a Vietnam prisoner of war; surviving hideous torture and starvation for over 7 years. In an interview with Jim Collins for his seminal work, “Good to Great” James offers insight into some of the best hunting advice not about hunting out there.
“Who didn't make it out?"
"Oh, that's easy," he said. "The optimists."
"The optimists? I don't understand," I said, now completely confused,
given what he'd said a hundred meters earlier.
"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by
Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then
they'd say,' We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and
Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas
again. And they died of a broken heart."
I’ve seen people consider hanging up their rifles from a bad season and too high of expectations. Folks muttering daily around the fire they’re going to get the biggest elk the next day in all seriousness talking themselves into a frenzy of self frustration at their own lack of opportunity. Eventually writing the trip off as a massive failure due to their own high expectations.
The philosophy that helps me get through those bad days when my boots are wet is that at the very least I can make the experience the best I can and that I’m going to learn something new.
Just remember nature doesn’t owe you shit.
8. Share The Load
I once decided to scout out some new terrain with a few buddies in which I packed a six-man tent, food, cookware, fishing gear, and also the kitchen sink for the whole party. Wrecking my back and slowing down the trip in the process. Don’t be afraid to offload shared gear into other buddy’s packs, machismo leads to burnout. The inverse is true as well carrying your own weight is the expectation.
9. Spot Talk
Hunting and fishing spots are hard to find. If you ever want to get on someone’s bad side hunt their spot without telling them, spot burn it (tagging/talking about it on social media), or blow it (inviting a bunch of people to it). I remember waking up one day seeing a friend’s post on Instagram. The subject of the picture was a friend who had a rifle over his shoulder “scouting” in the middle of my deer spot with the location tagged. I was furious. I was planning on hunting that location in the upcoming two weeks and now more folks would know about this remote area and disrespected for not getting a heads up about hunting it. The general rule of them is to never tag an exact location on social media or talk about it on social. If you want to hunt their spot or scout their spot ask them beforehand and recognize that “No.” is an acceptable answer. The method that works best for me is to have a clear and concise discussion with anyone when recreating a spot together. Am I allowed to hunt this spot without you? Am I allowed to bring people here? Does this spot even exist? Be respectful and do your own leg work when scouting. If you don’t know how to scout ask a mentor and download Onx maps for an eye-opening experience.
10. Bring (or be) a Day-maker
Maybe you just got invited out for your first time out fishing, camping, foraging or hunting. Or maybe you're flying home for a long standing family deer camp. I always try and bring along a “Day-maker” for folks. A little token of appreciation and thoughtfulness. From a bottle of whiskey (thats a little nicer than rotgut) for a buddy taking you out on his boat for the weekend chasing salmon or some children's fruit snacks to cheer up the long days in the turkey blind. I’ve even given some great Windward Westward gear to my friends and mentors. Outside of gifts even offering (or insisting) to cook a surprise meal or two or waking up extra early to scrape snow and frozen ice off a frozen rig goes a long ways. The little things can make someone’s day and more importantly make some great memories.
I hope these tips and tricks help you have your most enjoyable season yet. Be safe, have fun, and be kind. There’s a lot to learn out there and I hope this adds a little illumination to the murky waters of the outdoors.